In the autumn of 1964, Alfa Romeo began working on the construction of a sports-prototype race car. The project was subsequently transferred to Autodelta, which assembled the first prototype using a Giulia TZ2 engine, but in the end it was decided to develop an all-new V8 engine: the first Tipo 33 was tested in 1965.
Chief engineer Carlo Chiti—the saving grace of Autodelta, Alfa Romeo's racing department—moved the V8 engine behind the driver and created a lightweight car with an aluminium tubular frame to which magnesium castings were attached. With its mid-engined chassis and rear-wheel drive,the 33/2—whose name was formed by combining the car’s project code and two-litre engine capacity—was perfect for racing and immediately started racking up victories.
Chief test driver Teodoro Zeccoli won the Fléron hillclimb on 12 March 1967 with the first version of the 33/2 Sport Prototype, which was nicknamed "Periscopica" because the ram air intake behind the driver looked like a periscope.
The 33 featured a two-litre V8 engine capable of producing 270 hp at 9600 rpm, complete with distinctive twin-plug per cylinder coil ignition and coupled to a six-speed gearbox. Before long, the car underwent an aesthetic upgrade aimed at improving the aerodynamics, giving it a tapered front end and wider rear fenders to expand the air vents.
In 1968, Alfa Romeo decided to enter it in the World Sportscar Championship, which at the time was a great success with the public. Gruelling endurance races drew the biggest crowds in motorsport, including legendary events such as the 24 Hours of Daytona and Le Mans, the 12 Hours of Sebring, the Monza 1000 km, the Nürburgring 500 km and the Targa Florio.
The 33/2 racked up numerous victories in the sub-2000cc class, first of all in the 24 Hours of Daytona, where it took all three podium places thanks to the crews of Vaccarella-Shütz, Andretti-Bianchi and Casoni-Biscardi-Zeccoli. Following that victory, the Alfa Romeo 33/2 was nicknamed the Daytona.
The newly-christened Daytona also achieved outstanding results in the 24 Hours of Le Mans, securing another 1-2-3 finish in its class, and in some events even placed higher in the overall standings than overwhelmingly more powerful cars, such as at Mugello, where Vaccarella-Bianchi-Galli took top spot on the podium.
Another good result followed that same year in the Targa Florio, where the Galli/Giunti crew drove the 33/2 to a class victory and finished second overall, just ahead of the twin car driven by Casoni/Bianchi.
The car also competed in many hillclimb events, with aerodynamic modifications to adapt to the different courses: the 33s were fitted with a long tail or short tail version according to need. The car evolved and the engine displacement was increased to 2.5 litres, producing 315 hp at 8800 rpm and portending the arrival of the 33/3, which would clinch important victories in the 1970 and 1971 racing seasons.
Unlike many race cars, the 33 had the advantage of being developed initially as a competition car. This later formed the basis for a road version designed by Franco Scaglione, of which only a handful of splendid specimens were produced. Alfa Romeo also granted a number of chassis to design studios for the production of prototypes, namely the 33 Carabo by Bertone and the Iguana by Giugiaro, as well as the Roadster, Spider and Coupé Speciale by Pininfarina.
Andrea De Adamich—historic Alfa Romeo driver—takes a 33/2 from the Historical Museum in Arese onto the asphalt in the Targa Florio, on the Madonie circuit. Watch the video:
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