Think of the Alfa Romeo Tipo 33 as the Greatest Sports Car You’ve Never Heard Of.
After the Ford GT40, Ferrari 512, Porsche 917, Lola T70 and those magnificent Chaparrals had their turns on the world stage, and before the Porsche 956 and 962 rose to dominance, the sports car manufacturers championship saw some really cool, if somewhat less-well-remembered, race cars. These were just as lovely to look at and probably just as much fun to drive as those other, more famous, cars. This middle period of sports car racing included the Alpine Renault A441 and A442, the Porsche Carrera RSR and 908/3, and the Alfa Romeo Tipo 33. Of those, you could argue the Alfa was the coolest of its era.
Two of them will be on the lawn at the ultra-highbrow Salon Privé at Blenheim Palace just north of Oxford, which is just northwest of London, on Sept. 23-26. Organizers are certain their event will go on, with appropriate safety protocols in place.
Alfa Romeo was a player in sports car racing throughout all these eras, of course, but it wasn’t until 1975 that it won the world championship, in a Tipo 33.
One benefit of the Tipo 33 is that it spawned a street version — Stradale — in the 33 Stradale, which itself is The Coolest Supercar You’ve Never Heard Of. The 33 Stradale had a midengine layout just like the Lamborghini Miura of the day but actually cost more than the Miura. Depending on how you look at it, the Stradale is just as gorgeous. While the Miura had a transverse-mounted V12, the 33 Stradale had a 2.0-liter V8. They only made 18 of them and five of those were used to make concept cars for various styling houses. One of the surviving Stradales was supposed to show at Pebble this year, but we all know what happened there.
It’s easy to get distracted when talking about great Italian cars. We’re here to talk about the Tipo 33 race cars that will be at Blenheim Palace. Those were pure racing machines. Salon Privé organizers call them “two stunning ex-works Alfa Romeos — a 1972 Tipo 33 TT3 and a 1974 Tipo 33 TT12.”
“The TT3 was campaigned by Autodelta for two full seasons in the World Championship for Makes, and in 1972 it finished fourth overall at Le Mans in the hands of Alfa Romeo stalwart Andrea de Adamich and Sicilian legend Nino Vaccarella. The result helped the team secure second place in the championship standings at the end of the year.
“The TT12 made its racing debut in the 1974 Monza 1000km, and took a glorious victory on home turf courtesy of Arturo Merzario and Italian-born superstar Mario Andretti. After taking pole position, the stellar pairing dominated the race and finished four laps clear of the second-placed car.
“Merzario raced chassis number ‘008’ throughout 1974, sharing it with the likes of Brian Redman, Jacky Ickx and Vittorio Brambilla. It was used by the factory team again in 1975, and scored four victories—at Dijon, Monza, Enna and the Nürburgring—as Alfa Romeo dominated the World Championship for Makes. Merzario and local favourite Vaccarella even took ‘008’ to victory in the non-championship Targa Florio.”
All owners of GTVs, Giulias and Guiliettas should swell with pride. Never mind that there wasn’t really too much competition at that time.
“Most everyone else had fallen by the wayside by then,” said Italian sports car author and expert Winston Goodfellow, who inexplicably still takes our calls. “Ferrari wasn’t in it any more, Porsche wasn’t doing anymore, Ford wasn’t doing it anymore, but still they friggin’ won!”
And the engine of that TT12 is a standout.
“The TT12 is very cool, it’s got a flat-12 in it, how cool is that,” asked Goodfellow. “They’re very, very cool, and you don’t see them that much. You see the others, you see 917s and Ferrari 512s and 312s a lot more than you see the Tipo 33.”
And the performance is just about on par with F1 cars of the day.
“These things are F1 cars with a body on it, you know, F1 cars made to go a little bit longer with a body on it.”
Salon Privé at Blenheim Palace will host other cars, too. One front runner will be a Ferrari 550 Maranello once driven by WRC hero Colin McRae. That car was raced extensively between 2002 and 2006 with five wins and 14 podiums. Prodrive CEO David Richards is scheduled to be at Blenheim, too.
A 2010 Ford GT1, the racing version of the new Ford GT, will also be on hand. It was raced extensively in 2011 by Maxime Martin.
F1 designer Adrian Newey will also be there.
Motorcycles scheduled to be at Salon Privé will include a 1974 Ducati 750SS “Green Frame,” a bike made for the street to commemorate Ducati’s dominant race bikes of the day. “When it comes to really famous, really collectable Ducatis, it is hard not to imagine the image of a green frame 750ss,” said raresportbikesforsale.com. “Created by Ducati to celebrate the dominance of the 750cc race bikes, the Supersport has become THE streetable icon of a bygone era of brute mechanical setup and rider bravery. Devoid of electronics, slipper clutches, big brakes, sophisticated suspension or even modern tire technology, bikes of this time relied upon the skill of the rider to adjust to conditions — exactly what Paul Smart did to triumph at the 1972 Imola 200. The green frame 750 Supersport was intended as a tribute, but grew to be a tremendous success on its own. Today more people know about the street 750ss than the Italian race (and racer) that inspired its creation.”
Since Blenheim is in England, there are British bikes, too, including a 1948 Norton 500cc Jack Moore Prototype.
“This motorcycle is the Jack Moore Norton Prototype 500cc twin, which Bracebridge planned to put into production in 1948,” wrote the Ardingly Classic Bike Show & Jumble on its Facebook page. “However, it proved too costly to build and was shelved in favour (note authentic British spelling) of the Bert Hopwood design which became known as the Model 7.”
If you can’t afford the Salon Privé, it sounds like the Ardingly Classic Bike Show & Jumble (aka swap meet) would also be a fun place to go. Looks like there’s another one coming up Oct. 25!
More Italian motorcycles: MV Agusta will celebrate its 75th birthday at Salon Privé; a new British bike builder called Langen Motorcycles will launch its two-stroke pocket rocket motorcycle; and a company called EISENBERG (all caps!) will launch what it calls “the world’s most powerful and compact production V8 motorbike ever made.” The 3.0-liter V8 engine alone weighs 176 pounds and puts out a whopping 480 hp. Go easy on that throttle exiting turns!
If you go—and right now it’s looking like you’d have to sneak in by submarine to get by the COVID-19 restrictions on travel—you have to pick which of the four days you want to attend. Wednesday, Sept. 23, is the Concours; Thursday, Sept. 24, is Ladies’ Day by Boodles, which includes the announcement of the winner of the previous day’s Concours; Saturday, Sept. 25, is a whole new field of cars as the Salon Privé celebrates The Super Car; and Sunday, Sept. 26, is The Public Day, which only costs about $47 (36 pounds sterling). The other days are all $368 each (295 pounds sterling).
But, come to think of it, none of us can leave this country, so maybe I’ll just get the photos of the Salon Privé afterward and post them up here for you to see. Since all of us are more or less living vicariously through the internets anyway. Cheers!
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