Revisiting the 1967 Alfa Romeo Tipo 33 ‘Stradale’

Less well known than many of the famous Italian automotive designers, Franco Scaglione was responsible for some of the most original designs of the 1960s and 70s. I plan to prepare a separate piece about his work in the future.

Franco Scaglione's Alfa Romeo Tipo 33 Stradale

I was recently asked for my opinion about the design of the 1967 Alfa Romeo Tipo 33 ‘Stradale’ road cars, which were the work of Turin based Scaglione. Only 18 cars were built, 14 as ‘Stradales’, all based on the Autodelta Alfa Romeo Tipo 33 sports racing car — Autodelta was the official racing arm of the Alfa factory. The prototype car made its debut at the 1967 Turin motor show and was then offered for sale at the Monza Sports Car Show in September 1967.

The ‘Stradale’ was the first production vehicle to feature dihedral doors with side windows that curved into the shape of the roof. Both the tube frame chassis and the body were hand made in aluminum, each car differing from the others, in the Italian way. The engine was a race-derived two-liter V8 producing at least 230 horsepower. Top speed was around 260 km/h and 0-100 km/h took just 5.5 seconds.

The first prototype was the cleanest design with a beautiful curvaceous form and simple details, but the screen wiper looked like a poor afterthought being mounted above the screen. The twin headlights were set behind rounded Perspex covers, and the front air intake was a simple ellipse with a bright horizontal bar and small delicate Alfa heart shaped grille ornament.

Alfa Romeo Tipo 33 Stradale - prototype 1, 1967

It is possible that either a second prototype was built for Monza or the original was modified with twin air outlet vents behind the rear wheel openings, a repositioned screen wiper and a single air outlet on top of the tail. The opening lines for the pivoting one-piece nose and tail, body sections formed neat dividing lines between the panels. Sliding Perspex side windows were added to the doors.

By the time the car was in production there were also air outlets behind the front wheel openings and many other small changes, particularly to the now single unit headlights and air intake, but the car was still one of the most sensuous forms of the period. Scaglione worked with Marazzi, a small carrozzeria in Milan that was, and still is, better known for police car conversions and funeral cars. The larger air outlets and the requirements of simplifying the front and rear panels for production unfortunately meant that the opening lines became plain vertical lines, at the expense of the stylish early versions.

The late 1960s was a time when the major Italian design houses were looking for a new more ‘modern’ design language, the fluid forms of the mid-sixties were no longer considered fashionable. Four Tipo 33 chassis were delivered to Pininfarina, Bertone and Ital Design, who were to ‘clothe’ the chassis with new body designs. All three companies produced much more angular cars, two from Bertone and one each from Ital and Pininfarina. This was the beginning of the ‘folded cardboard’ period of design; although Pininfarina’s ‘Cuneo’ roadster was more of a transition from organic to folded design language.

The Bertone ‘Carabo’ was one of the cars that convinced me that vehicle design was what I wanted to do, although the brutal Bertone ‘Navajo’ might have caused me to think again! The Carabo was a very complex shape with many overlapping surfaces. The Ital design solution, the ‘Iguana’ was certainly not one of Giugiaro’s best pieces of work and, like the Carabo when it was first shown, the Iguana had a truly appalling paint job. The Italians had just discovered the American specialist paint finishes such as ‘Metalflake’ but they had no idea how the paint should be applied nor any understanding of what a painstaking process that was, which made the results embarrassing to look at.

Alfa Romeo Tipo 33 Stradale - prototype 1, 1967

Franco Scaglione looks to be a tough and single minded man judging by his photograph, but he must have been a sensitive designer because although it is now more than 45 years since Scaglione’s little masterpiece first appeared, for me it has actually dated significantly less than the ‘modern’ versions of the Alfa Romeo 33 from Ital, Bertone and Pininfarina. Sure, it’s not perfect and some of the details are a little crude, but it is still a sensuous and arresting form.


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