To mark the 50th anniversary of the Alfa Romeo 33 Stradale, we interviewed Giovanna Scaglione, daughter of Franco, the designer who created what many regard as "the most beautiful car ever".
Designing a sports car is never easy, because it takes painstaking precision to adhere to the many fundamental rules, such as overall dimensions, weights, aerodynamics and, last but not least, aesthetics. The task is even more complex if you start out with a racing car and turn it into a road-going car, because most of the choices have already been made, with efficiency the sole priority.
So what Franco Scaglione managed to come up with after being given the job of designing the Alfa Romeo 33 Stradale was nothing short of extraordinary: he masterfully transformed technical restrictions into exquisitely stylish features, avoiding unsightly shapes dictated by the rigid application of aerodynamic principles.
"Aerodynamics were his muse, but he always combined them with elegance," his daughter Giovanna told us. "He reconciled his technical training as an aeronautical engineer with an innate taste for beauty. He was an all-round designer."
The end product was both aerodynamically exhilarating and delightfully functional: the car is less than a metre high and does away with conventional doors, which would have made getting in and out of the car particularly uncomfortable. Instead Scaglione designed ‘butterfly’ doors that cut halfway into the roof and open upwards and outwards, so the occupants of the vehicle can get out easily without having to stoop.
Back then, designing such an aerodynamically avant-garde car was no mean feat. Scaglione didn’t possess all the tools that today’s designers have. In those days he couldn’t count on the support of computers or even wind tunnel tests, which were only used for military purposes at the time. The Florentine designer used a fairly realistic system that involved attaching woollen threads to the car and photographing their movement as the car travelled, the aim being to study the air flows by analysing the photos.
Despite these difficulties, the Alfa Romeo 33 Stradale was born from Scaglione's pencil. A car like no other, it also gave his daughter Giovanna her most thrilling memory: "Every car he designed was like a sister for me. But being able to test drive the 33 was my dream and I didn’t give my dad any peace, until out of desperation he asked the developer Teodoro Zeccoli to take me for a spin in it. We were at the Turin Motor Show and it was the greatest thrill of my life!”