The Alfa Romeo Tipo 33 made its first appearance in 1967, but so sound was the basic design that developments of it were raced by the company until 1977, when it won all eight rounds of the World Sportscar Championship. Early cars which appeared under the designation "Tipo 33" had V8 engines, but in 1973 a new three-liter flat-12 engine was introduced. This was a very powerful unit indeed, a fact which led to Bernie Ecclestone signing a deal with Alfa Romeo to use the engines in his Brabham F1 cars.

In terms of power, they were a match for anything, as John Watson and Niki Lauda demonstrated many times. Although fragile at first, Lauda and Watson took two wins, four seconds, and four thirds and a total 69 World Championship points. Brabham-Alfa Romeo was on a charge, but then the engine became obsolete through circumstances which could not be foreseen. Lotus introduced ground effect in 1978 and to utilize its full extent, you needed a narrow engine: a flat-12 was at a distinct disadvantage. Brabham responded with the BT 46B "fan car" which won on the only occasion it was allowed to race. In a more conventional BT 46, Lauda won the 1978 Italian GP by which time the engine was producing 520 bhp. This was more than the Cosworth DFV, but cars with Cosworth engines could exploit ground effects.

It was Brabham which showed the engine's potential because, at first, it had disappointed and this was largely due to Autodelta which built and ran the cars. Carlo Chiti, the designer, was a major figure in motor racing design for a long time, he was the man behind the immortal "sharknose" Ferrari, but he could not organize a team.

Chiti was a softhearted man who would take pity on stray dogs and bring them into the Autodelta works and feed them. Now there was no shortage of stray dogs in Milan, and every ambitious young employee at Autodelta who wanted to catch the boss's eye went out and found a stray dog to foster. One reliable witness reckons there were over 60 strays being tended in a factory which was supposed to be competing in world class motor racing.

The engineering ideas were sound, but it is no wonder that things took a long time to get done. This fortunately does not affect the modern buyer of the cars who has the benefit of later development and the advantage of being able to use preparation shops which are not overrun with stray dogs. The above story does explain why, when the Tipo 33-12 appeared in 1973, it was not quite right.

The spaceframe chassis was sweet and the aerodynamics were good as it had been Chiti who had pioneered wind tunnel testing at Ferrari, and had the package been passed to another outfit to prepare and develop, it would have been a step forward. In fact, this happened in 1975 when the cars were run by Willi Kauhsen's team and took wins at Dijon, Monza, Spa, Watkins Glen, the Osterreichring, the Nurburgring and in the Coppa Florio at Enna.

Having won the World Championship, Alfa Romeo had a relatively low-key presence in 1976, as it prepared for Formula One, but it returned in force to sports cars in 1977 and won all eight rounds of the Championship. By then Formula One, both with Brabham and later with its own car, was taking all of the company's attention, and it bowed out on the highest possible note.

The car pictured here was one of the highly successful team of cars which were slow to find their feet, yet dominated when they did. We are still researching the early racing history of this car but can confirm that its present owner purchased it directly from Autodelta about 15 years ago.

This is a highly developed, reliable and well-sorted car which is ideal for events such as the Historic Tour de France and will grace any important collection.

{analysis} This 33-12 is still gracing its former/current owner's collection, as it remained unsold at a high bid of $181,200 at the Coys 3 August [1996] Silverstone Auction.

According to Contributing Editor Keith Duly, "This was easily a $250,000 to $300,000 car. It was superbly patinated, and the final bid was just too low."

T33s are more often seen in Europe than the U.S. They represent a high-water mark for Alfa Romeo in the post TZ period, and are significant cars in any discussion of '70s sports racing. - ED.

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