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GDP Collection
1970/1971 Alfa Romeo T33/3 AR.750.80.009

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by GDP

Apr 2022

The Alfa Romeo Tipo 33 is one of the jewels of the GDP Collection. Having been acquired in 2008, little was known about this particular car as with many Tipo 33, the history of each car was notoriously poorly documented and with much of the information remaining in Carlo Chiti's head. However, this car had a continuous ownership history, and had spent some 30 years in the Rosso Bianco museum in Germany so was a perfectly preserved example. When purchased the car bore the chassis plate: 115.72.009 which was obviously incorrect as the prefix was that of a later '72 tubular chassis 12 cylinder car. At the time Kidston who brokered the sale believed it was a good candidate for chassis AR 750.80.003, but during its restoration and with time, research and a bit of luck, we were able to  prove the identify of this car as chassis AR.750.80.009 and have unearthed some fantastic pedigree along with some nice surprises along the way. More explanation about erroneous chassis numbers is at the end of this article but first, a small introduction for those who may not be familiar with the mighty Tipo 33/3.

Model history

Alfa Romeo, a marque defined by its illustrious racing pedigree, reached worldwide acclaim back in the 1920s with the some legendary drivers including Tazio Nuvolari and Louis Chiron. In the early 1960s, Autodelta S.p.A, a racing company established by ex Alfa-Romeo and Ferrari engineer Carlo Chiti, formally joined forces with the Italian marque with the focused objective of restoring Alfa Romeo’s motorsport credentials to the former levels of success experienced before the war. 

The first Tipo 33/3 was released in 1969, following some considerable successes enjoyed with the Tipo 33/2. The new engine was also significantly different and the 90-degree three-litre V-8 engine produced an additional 130 horsepower over its predecessor. These were the first 3-litre cars and first raced at Sebring, with much development work and testing done by John Surtees. The Tipo 33/3 had open bodywork as opposed to the closed body type of the Tipo 33/2 and a new chassis was made from titanium reinforced avional-boxed steel.  The first cars had a rounded front nose section in two configurations, one with an open front and one with a closed front. However, 1969 proved to be an unrewarding year for Alfa Romeo, three examples were entered in the Sebring 12 Hours but struggled both with pace and reliability. A single car was tested at Le Mans but none were raced due to reliability concerns. 

 

The 1970 season was an improvement, as during the winter subtle improvements had been made to the T33/3 focusing on improving reliability and reducing weight. A victory in Buenos Aires and a third place overall at Sebring showed progress but unfortunately, the five-litre Porsche 917 and Ferrari 512 'GT' racers had made their mark, relegating the three-litre prototypes back to chasing class wins. These were scored at Imola and Zeltweg and one of the four T33/3s entered in the 24 Hours of Le Mans ran as high as second before retiring with an alternator failure after 18 hours.

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1969 Alfa Romeo Tipo 33/3                                                                                                                  1970 Alfa Romeo Tipo 33/3 (AR.750.80.009)

During the 1970 season, it became apparent that the three-litre cars could not be competitive with the bigger 917s and 512s on high-speed tracks. Autodelta redeveloped the T33/3 during the latter part of 1970 to be more competitive at events like the Targa Florio and shorter technical circuits and the cars created for the 1971 season finally showed some outstanding results. Horsepower was increased again to 420, a new five-speed gearbox was fitted and the weight further reduced. Smaller, 13" wheels were fitted and the nose was redesigned to accommodate for the revised wheels. The scene was set for much better overall performances and the Tipo 33/3 had a very successful 1971 season, with numerous wins including a one-two finish at the Targa Florio, and a win at the Brands Hatch 1000kms, Alfa Romeo’s first championship win since 1951, beating the seemingly invincible 5.0L Porsche 917s.

Class wins were also scored at Monza, Spa and Zeltweg, while the T33/3 won Watkins Glen 6 Hours outright. By the end of the season, Alfa Romeo was placed second in the fight for the World Championship, with Porsche first and Ferrari in third.

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1971 Alfa Romeo Tipo 33/3     AR.750.80.009 winning Brands Hatch 1000km                      

Identifying AR.750.80.009

The car was purchased believing this to be a 1970 built car, campaigned by Autodelta in the season of 1971. The ownership history was well known and documented as car was sold by Autodelta in 1974 to well known Alfa historic racer, Richard Pilkington, who then sold the car to Peter Krauss of the Rosso Bianco Collection in 1976. The Alfa remained in time capsule condition for a incredible thirty years within the collection before it moved on to the Louwman Collection in 2006. The car was acquired the car 2008 and undertook a complete nuts and bolts restoration by acclaimed Alfa restorer, La Fenice. During this restoration, the original fuel tanks were removed and had been date stamped August 1970 which was believed to confirm the date of production of this car.

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2008 Simon Kidston Brochure

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The first major development into the identification of the the car came by a small coincidence while discussing with the second owner during a historic race meet, who indicated that he still may have some documentation of the car from when in his ownership. Mr. Pilkington kindly supplied a copy of a period letter addressed to him directly from Carlo Chiti confirming the chassis number and the race history of the vehicle in 1971. The car is clearly identified as chassis #009 with its indisputable race history in 1971 including the famous outright win at Brands Hatch beating the mighty 5 litre Porsche 917s and Ferrari 512s. This was the first championship win for Alfa Romeo since 1951. Other notable achievements included 2 other class wins and a second overall at the Targa Florio of that year. Full race results are listed further down in this article. 

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Letter and race history sent to Mr. Pilkington directly from Autodelta's Carlo Chiti confirming the identification of the chassis purchased as #009

1969 - 1970

Having now established that the car was indeed chassis #009, much time was spent confirming and verifying the race history that was supplied by Autodelta. During this research, we stumbled onto the fact that chassis AR.750.80.009 had reportedly raced and crashed at Le Mans in June 1970. It is very rare to have the chassis numbers of the cars that raced at Le Mans in period but luckily a lot of attention was given to the 1970 edition as it is when Steeve McQueen filmed his infamous film. German motorsport magazine had recorded the chassis numbers of the four Autodelta entries into the race that year, of which #009 was one of them. 

This information brought into question the date of construction and prior history of the car prior to 1971. Was it possible that #009 had been campaigned in 1970? We already knew that the car's fuel tanks were dated August 1970 which would support the theory of a re build following the accident in June. 

Many of the earlier 33/3 cars evolved and the same chassis were used through the period, acquiring newer bodywork, until very few cars remained exactly to the early design. In the latter part of 1970, some cars were modified to feature a shorter wheelbase than the earlier 3-litre car by moving the engine forward. The wheelbase was measured on this car and resulted in 2320 mm demonstrating that #009 is a chassis according to 1971 specifications. This car also has the slightly later Tipo 33/3 feature of leather covering over the fuel tanks in the cockpit. It has the angled instrumentation which was carried forward from the 1968 cars unlike that of some other 1971 specification cars indicated also that this car may have been built earlier at Le Mans in 1970. All mechanical and electrical components are period correct..

In order to clarify this, through research we approached Robert Little from Autodeltagoldenyears.com. Robert and his team have an amazing knowledge and first hand experience of everything Autodelta having been fortunate enough to be a member of the Autodelta team during these formidable years as well having access to files and images held in their private collection. Incredible information is available on his website.

 

A request was made to understand more about the 1970 season and the origins of Chassis #009. 

The research provided by Robert and his team confirmed that the story of AR.750.80.009 started in 1969 as a car built late in that year to 1970 specification. The car was indeed campaigned  the 1970 season by Autodelta. 


 

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During the 1970 season, chassis #009 had early success during the Sebring 12hrs with a 3rd overall and class win driven by Gregory and Hezemans. A few months later, #009 was also one of the four Le Mans entries by Autodelta in 1970. Cars were numbered sequentially 35, 36, 37 & 38 featuring yellow, white, blue and red noses respectively. Chassis #009 was the red nosed car number 38 driven by Facetti and Zeccoli which was retired after 43 laps following a collision in the rain with the Porsche 917K number 22 driven by  Hobbs & Hailwood. 

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Following the incident at Le Mans, where the car sustained damage to both the front and rear, the Autodelta’s technicians assessed the chassis to be sufficiently intact to be successfully restored back to ready to race condition.

During the reconstruction carried out by Autodelta personnel over the summer of 1970, updated techniques planned for later versions up to the final car of the series such as the replacement of inner chassis structural pieces and chassis stiffeners using ‘lightening’ holes and replacement titanium panels wherever possible on the structures of the renewed. Chassis #009 was presented in its new updated form for the first time at Balocco for testing in September 1970.

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Chassis #009 was therefore restored and upgraded to 1971 specification during the summer of 1970 following the Le Mans incident. During the recent restoration of the vehicle by its current owner, the original fuel tanks were found to be dated August 1970, further supporting the unique history of chassis #009.

1971

Following on from its interesting 1970 campaign, chassis #009 in its upgraded form was one of the most successful 33/3s for the 1971 season. Highlights are the overall victory at Brands Hatch 1000km race driven by De Adamich and Pescarolo, beating the significantly more powerful Porsche 917s and Ferrari 512s. Chassis #009 was also second at the Targa Florio. Other races included 2 other class wins at Sebring and Spa.

Autodelta have certified that #009 achieved a number of significant race achievements in 1971, the full details of which are certified by Autodelta in the car’s history file including the notable race win at Brands Hatch

20 March 1971                       Sebring 12hrs                       Galli/Stommelen                                   2nd overall, 1st in class

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4 April 1971                            Brands Hatch 1000km           De Adamich/Pescarolo                         1st overall, 1st in class

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9 May 1971                             Spa 1000km                          De Adamich/Pescarolo                        3rd overall, 1st in class

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16 May 1971                           Targa Florio                        De Adamich/ Van Lennep                    2nd overall, 2nd in class

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30 May 1971                           Nuerburgring 1000km           De Adamich/Pescarolo                        4th overall, 4th in class 

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27 June 1971                          Zeltweg 1000km                 Stommelen/Galli                                   3rd overall, 2nd in class 

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Life after Autodelta

AR.750.80.009 was sold to Richard Pilkington in 1974 where it was campaigned. In 1978 it was sold to the Rosso Bianco collection where it stayed for 30 years on display. Since acquiring the car in 2008 and following the rebuild of the car the car was driven as a display at the Targa Florio in 2016. It has also been tested a couple of times privately. 

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GALLERY

Note: It is well-known to Alfa Romeo enthusiasts and confirmed by the authors of the definitive Alfa Romeo Tipo 33 text, Peter Collins and Ed McDonough, that the marque’s chassis records are notoriously difficult to track. In fact, many records were kept only in Carlo Chiti’s head, and he died in 1994. There is little ‘proof ’ of what the identity of many of the cars may be. What evidence exists comes from limited sources: notes in a dated diary by one of the long-term test drivers, recollections by a small number of drivers and team members about the identity of certain cars, and continuous history on certain cars where chassis were identified and kept track of.

Chassis plates were occasionally changed for various reasons, mostly administrative and it is very common to find cars with erroneous plates. There are at least two cases where the chassis on the vehicles carried the chassis prefix of a road car (105.80) which is also detailed in the race pedigree of the car supplied by Chiti to Pilkington. However, in the case of #009, it is with the proof of continuous ownership in conjunction with the letter directly from Chiti to Pilkington confirming the chassis number of his acquisition along with the list of race results that mean this particular car has a very robust and successful history.

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