Tom Wood ©2016, courtesy of RM Sotheby’s
  • Alfa Corse Works car
  • Presented in correct Works livery
  • Highly competitive historic racing candidate

SCM Analysis


Vehicle:1987 Alfa Romeo 75 Turbo Evoluzione IMSA “Ufficiale”
Years Produced:1987
Number Produced:Six (factory racers)
Original List Price:N/A
Chassis Number Location:Tag on right front underhood
Engine Number Location:Boss on right front of block
Club Info:Alfa Romeo Owners Club
Alternatives:1987 BMW M3, 1987 Ford Sierra RS 500 Cosworth, 1987 Toyota Supra Turbo
Investment Grade:B

This car, Lot 296, sold for $355,891, including buyer’s premium, at RM Sotheby’s Duemila Ruote sale on November 25–27, 2016.

Alfa Romeo and automobile racing have always been inseparable. Starting in 1911, going as fast as possible — and faster than the competition — has been the soul of the company.

Enzo Ferrari learned the racing business working for Alfa Romeo before World War II, as did many of the best engine designers and racing technicians of the 20th century.

Through the 1920s and 1930s and into the early post-World War II years, Alfa Romeo considered itself to be the de facto Italian national racing team. Although Ferrari adopted that mantle for Formula One and purpose-built sports racing cars in the mid-1950s, Alfa never stopped racing. They found their niche in production-based racing, starting with the Giulietta Sprint and Berlina of the mid-1950s.

Win on Sunday, sell on Monday

By the late 1950s, there was a well-established set of national championships for “saloons” (sporting sedans). Over the years, this evolved into what became called Touring Car Championships. These were very successful race series, which provided excellent competition and crowd appeal with relative affordability for participants — and “Win on Sunday, Sell on Monday” marketing for the participating manufacturers. Alfa was in the middle of it all.

Starting in the 1960s, the primary venue for this kind of racing was the European Touring Car Championship — a continent-wide series that pitted the best drivers, teams and manufacturers against one another on the best tracks of Europe before huge crowds.

Alfa caught its stride in the late 1960s with the legendary Giulia GTA, an aluminum-skinned, fire-breathing variant of the Giulia Sprint GT (GTV). Alfa won the Division 2 (1,600 cc) in 1966, 1967 and 1969. This was followed with Alfa’s upgraded GT variant, the 1750 GTAm, which won the driver’s title in 1970 and the manufacturer’s championship in 1971 and 1972.

By now the front-engine, live-axle GTA concept was getting seriously dated, so Alfa came up with an entirely new design for all their cars. It was called the “Alfetta” in honor of the legendary Alfa Grand Prix car of the early post-World War II years.

Alfa Romeo engineers moved the clutch and transaxle to the back as a unit, and they introduced de Dion rear suspension and inboard rear brakes in a new and much stiffer chassis design with near-perfect front/rear weight distribution.

Introduced in 1974, the Alfetta GT was the sporting 2-door hatchback version that was appropriate for touring car competition, but it utilized the old Giulia engine in 1.8- and 2-liter formats that didn’t make adequate power to be competitive.

Alfa resolved this by homologating a turbocharged version of the 2-liter that won its class in 1976 and 1977. In 1980, Alfa squeezed the 2.5-liter V6 from its luxury sedan into the Alfetta GT (now called the GTV6), and in that form, won four consecutive championships from 1982 through 1985.

Are we starting to see a pattern here?

The automotive world moves forever forward, however, and by the early 1980s the Alfetta GT and 4-door Giulietta were showing their age and, frankly, not selling very well.

Enter the 75

Alfa had its own set of financial and managerial issues at the time and really didn’t have the resources to develop a whole new model. So Alfa Romeo decided to perform a major restyle and upgrade on the existing Alfetta platform.

It was called the Alfa 75 in honor of Alfa’s 75th year in business, and it was marketed in the United States as the Milano. Designed in house by Ermanno Cressoni, the new car was aggressively sharp-edged and wedge shaped in keeping with the zeitgeist of Italian style of the time. But Alfa also made some concessions, such as using the same doors as the previous Alfetta Giulietta sedan to save money.

The 75 sold impressively in Europe and the United States, and along with the by-then-almost-antique 1966 Duetto-based Spider sports car, it kept Alfa’s doors open for a crucial number of years.

Due to marketing — or more likely financial — constraints, Alfa abandoned the 2-door GT concept in 1985, and thus had only the 75 to race.

From the stock 75 to the Turbo Evoluzione

Racing the new Alfa 75 posed some challenges, mostly because the 4-door Berlina was a substantially larger car than the GTV6. The 75 had almost six inches more wheelbase, a heavier body and more frontal area to push through the air.

Alfa had been getting 280 horsepower from the 2.5-liter V6, but that was about all they were going to find, and it wasn’t a lightweight, so the turbocharged 4-cylinder approach seemed more promising. Alfa was already selling the 75 with a turbocharged 1.8-liter, 4-cylinder engine (same horsepower as the 2.5-liter V6, but cheaper in Europe for tax reasons), so that was the logical place to start.

To have a legal production car that could be turned into a proper racing vehicle, Alfa created the “75 Turbo Evoluzione.” It was a 500-car run of very special turbos that had all of the air dams, rear spoilers, wide wheels and flares, suspension modifications, strengthened block and head and other modifications that were needed for competition.

The engine was sleeved down to 1,762 cc, which didn’t change street power — but got it just inside the turbo equivalency rule as an FIA 3-liter. The resulting package was distinct from the normal turbo, and it has become a minor collectible in Europe. This model was never imported into the United States.

The next step was to create a proper racing car, which was a job for the Alfa Corse racing department.

They built six cars: two for the factory team and four for closely associated “independent” teams.

Although documentation on our subject car was either unavailable or nonexistent, it appears that this car was one of the two factory cars for the 1987 campaign. This is why the formal description of the car is “Turbo Evoluzione IMSA Ufficiale” — the latter term suggests that it is a factory car.

I have absolutely no idea what the “IMSA” was supposed to denote. IMSA is a U.S. race-sanctioning body, but the cars never raced in the United States, and IMSA never operated in Europe, so it remains a mystery.

At any rate, Alfa and its associates fielded six cars for the series (that year called the “World Touring Car Championship,” with the last third of the series run in Australia and New Zealand).

Not a big winner

The cars quickly proved uncompetitive. They won the first race on a technicality (the six cars in front of them were all disqualified) and then settled into mid-pack obscurity.

There were multiple problems, the biggest of which was that BMW had introduced the E30 M3, a design that was newer and faster than the 13-year-old Alfetta concept.

Horsepower was also an issue, as the cars seemed to be stuck at around 280, down at least 30 from BMW’s new engine.

Although nobody appears willing to discuss it in print, there was apparently classically Italian political chaos in team operations as well. The head of Alfa Corse shut everything down just after mid-season and walked away. A couple of cars soldiered on privately, but it was over.

Fiat bought Alfa. Alfa then returned to its winning ways a few years later with a different platform, but this was the end for the old Alfetta design.

In the end, big money for a very rare Alfa

So what are we to make of our subject car?

On the negative side, it is relatively obscure and was uncompetitive in its day. Unless you are a diehard Alfisti, you are unlikely to know or care that it exists.

Although the car is welcome at appropriate historic racing events, it is unlikely to win, place or show, which limits its value.

On the other hand, it is a true Alfa Romeo factory team racer — and extremely rare to boot. A serious Alfa Romeo collection needs one to be complete.

They are reportedly a joy to drive and relatively easy to maintain.

Also, consider the options: A street GTA sold at the same auction for the same money. A team GTA or GTAM would be at least $50k to $75k more. Any BMW E 30 M3 with international racing history will be substantially more as well.

The sale price seems like a lot of money, and the car went for way above estimate, but it is a very cool, rare and important bit of Alfa racing history. I’d say it was fairly bought. ♦

(Introductory description courtesy of RM Sotheby’s.)

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