Model history: Now officially Alfa Romeo's competition department, Carlo Chiti's Autodelta began the development of the replacement of the highly successful 'TZ' and 'TZ2' GT racers late in 1964. Dubbed the type '33', the new Alfa Romeo was an altogether more ambitious machine as it was intended to run in the small displacement prototype class where Porsches reigned supreme. Very few existing parts could be used on this project so it took over two years before the first car was actually raced.
In order to keep pace with the competition, Chiti's men designed Alfa Romeo's second ever mid-engined chassis. The first was the stillborn type '512' Grand Prix racer of 1941. Unlike the TZ, which used a multi-tubular 'spaceframe' design, the 33 featured a simpler chassis built around three large diameter tubes constructed from riveted sheet aluminium. Two were used as side-members with the third connecting the two in the middle to create an 'H' shape. On both ends more conventional magnesium cross-members were also used to add further rigidity. The two side-members also housed the rubber fuel tanks.
The 33's suspension was more conventional with double wishbones at the front and lower wishbones, top links and twin trailing-arms at the rear. Ventilated discs were used on all four corners, with the pair the back mounted in-board. A six-speed gearbox was also developed specifically for the 33. Towards the fall of 1965 a first, very rough prototype was ready. It was still powered by a four-cylinder engine, while the proposed V8 was still under construction. The prototype was extensively tested and up to three chassis complete with suspension were supplied to OSI and later re-appeared as a closed and open show car.
While the chassis was submitted to rigorous tests, the Autodelta engineers put the final touches on the all-new V8. Chiti had learned valuable lessons developing the ATS V8s, so much was expected from the new Alfa Romeo engine. Constructed from light alloys, it featured a twin-cam head with two valves and two spark plugs per cylinder. The earliest examples still sported Weber carburettors but by the time of its debut a more modern fuel-injection system was fitted. Despite its modest displacement of just 1995 cc, the high revving V8 produced a hefty 270 bhp at 9600 rpm. This was about the same as Porsche's similarly sized flat-8.
Completed late in 1966, the first Alfa Romeo 33 was not shown to the media until March of the following year. The car sported a 'Spider' body with a periscopic engine intake that earned it the nick-name 'Periscopica'. The new car made a victorious debut at the Fleron hill climb in Belgium. Despite the long gestation period, the new 33 still proved fragile and failed to impress in international events that year. Additional victories were scored in hill climbs and also in a minor race at Vallelunga. Meanwhile development continued at Autodelta, focusing mostly on reliability and a more efficient body design. At Mugello a differently styled Spider was used but this remained a unique machine.
Over the winter, Autodelta worked diligently to ready the updated '33/2' not only for the works team but also for privateers. The mechanical specification remained virtually identical as in 1967 with reliability still the biggest concerns. The 33/2 did sport a brand new coupe body, which has gone into history as the 'Daytona' following the updated 33's debut at the March 1968 Daytona 24 Hours. Rule changes had caught Alfa Romeo out as a new three-litre prototype class was introduced, which replaced the earlier under and over two-litre classes. Porsche had responded and fielded 2.2 litre cars at Daytona, which duly won. The three Alfa Romeos that started did finish and in a promising 5th, 6th and 7th.
Over two dozen 33/2s were built in 1968 and raced with considerably more success than the original had done a year earlier. Meanwhile, larger versions of the V8 were developed by Autodelta. A 2.5 litre, 315 bhp was introduced halfway through the season and was also made available to some of the customers. The 24 Hours of Le Mans was not held until September and four special coupes were readied with long tails and the original two-litre engines (Le Mans still had a two-litre class). Three of the works cars reached the finish in 4th, 5th and 6th, sweeping the class podium in the process. VDS also entered two cars but they, like the fourth works car, retired with mechanical failures.
For 1969, Chiti and his men started with a clean sheet and developed the 33/3, which featured a full monocoque chassis an a full three-litre version of the V8. Many of the privateers continued to race the 1968 vintage 33/2s for several more seasons all around the world. Sweeping the two-litre class podium was the crowning achievement for the first generation Alfa Romeo 33 prototype racers. The name would be applied to several further evolutions, culminating in the flat-12 engined variant that clinched the 1975 World Championship. Today these early mid-engined Alfa Romeo prototypes are highly sought after and most of the survivors are part of prominent collections.
Chassis 75033.012 is believed to have been sold new to 'Racing Team VDS'. This Belgian operation was one of the most privateer teams running Alfa Romeo 33s. As with most of the 33s, the early history of the car is not very well documented but it could have been one of Team VDS' 1968 Le Mans cars. Following its contemporary racing career, the car was bought back by Alfa Romeo and is now part of the fabulous Museo Storico collection. It is seen here during the Goodwood Festival of Speed in 2007 and again in 2008.
One of the Autodelta works cars, this 33/2 Daytona was driven to victory in the 1968 Imola 500 km by Teodoro Zeccoli and Nino Vaccarella. For the 1969 season, it was sold to Antonio Zadra, who raced the V8-engined Alfa Romeo extensively but with little success. In 1970 Hubert Ascher acquired the car and he entered it for Austrian Klaus Reisch in several more events until it was retired from contemporary racing halfway through 1971.
Boasting a remarkably well documented history for an Alfa Romeo 33, chassis '029' was owned for many years by prominent American collector Sid Herman. He had the car looked after by British Alfa Romeo expert Paul Grist, who eventually buy the Imola winning machine from Herman in 1999. The current owner acquired the 33/2 in 2006 and has since brought it to many prominent events like the 2009 and 2010 editions of the Goodwood Festival of Speed where it is pictured above. He has now decided to part with the car and it will be offered at RM Auctions' 2012 Monaco sale in May of 2012.