The history of four world-leading Italian motoring brands
From the most emblematic models to the most successful, revolutionary people, and the most significant events, this section illustrates and celebrates the cornerstones of Alfa Romeo, Fiat, Lancia and Abarth.
In 1955 the Giulietta twin-cam engine formed the basis for a barchetta-style sportscar designed to enter competitions in the 1500 cc Sports class. Abarth was tasked with tuning the engine and created the sheet metal chassis, while Boano developed the original bodywork.
The great transformations taking place at the Portello plant in the 1950s prompted Alfa Romeo to quit Formula 1 after winning the first two Drivers’ Championships. But despite this withdrawal, the Milanese automaker never lost the racing heritage in its DNA. While the 1900 and Giulietta epitomised the concept of the “family car that wins races” by beating off competition in the touring category, Alfa was secretly developing prototypes to compete in the sport category.
After the outlandish, futuristic 1900 C52—nicknamed the Disco Volante or “Flying Saucer”—came the 750 Competizione. Whereas the former was unique for its ogival cross-section body, the latter was equally unconventional compared with the prevailing Alfa Romeo cars of that period.
The 750 prototype (whose number did not refer to engine displacement, but was an in-house code representing the Giulietta) was actually developed in conjunction with Abarth, which tuned the engine, built the chassis and assigned trusted coachbuilder Boano to develop the original bodywork, which differed from the style of other Alfa cars of the time.
The characteristic three-lobed grille expressed the Alfa Romeo identity. but the barchetta harboured a host of new solutions, including the double exhaust on the left side and rear fins.
The 750 Competizione was a traditional, open two-seater sportscar with right-hand drive, but with a partition running down the middle of the cockpit, between the driver and passenger seats. Each occupant had separate plexiglass windshields connected to small side windows. Under the small left-hand door was an openable bay containing a pair of four-to-two exhaust mufflers. At the rear, two fins led to the small rear lights, while another fin higher up merged into the driver’s headrest.
Abarth, bucking the widespread trend of using tubular frames for racing cars, created a load-bearing body with steel sheets, plus classic features such as a front-mounted engine combined with rear-wheel drive, as well as independent suspension at the front and rigid axle suspension at the rear.
The twin-cam Giulietta Sprint engine was tuned up, boosting displacement to 1488 cc and adopting a dual ignition cylinder head, which increased power output to 145 hp at over 8000 rpm. The gearbox had five forward gears and the top speed exceeded 220 km/h.
Although the car was successfully tested and demonstrated good dynamic qualities, the project was abandoned because Alfa decided not to return to competitive racing. The 750 Competizione on show is therefore a unique example, which belongs to the FCA Heritage collection and resides in the Alfa Romeo Historical Museum in Arese.