1975 Alfa Romeo Tipo 33 TT 12
Chassis Number : AR-115-12-012 Horsepower : 500 Displacement : 12-cylinder, 2.99 L Wheelbase : 98"
The first Tipo-33 cars were 2-liter V8’s and the chassis progressed from a tubular form to the later monocoque configuration. These cars were moderately successful coming in 2nd place in the 1968 and 1969 World Championship races, but in 1973 with a new formula, the 3-liter flat 12-cylinder engine was born.
By February 1975, it was obvious that Alfa Romeo Autodelta were going to run a team for the world champion of makes. They could not count on governmental support because racing was so expensive at that time, but fortunately they were able to get sponsorship from the Willi Kauhsen team, who competed in the German-based sports car races and already had experience with the Tipo 33. By transferring the racing management to the German racing team, Alfa Romeo could carry the banner for Italy without taxing the already concerned state of international racing in Italian politics. Even though it was a Kauhsen team, Autodelta mechanics and drivers, still under the direction of Carlo Chiti, were responsible for the bread and butter of the program.
In 1975, with Campari sponsorship and the Willi Kauhsen racing organization, they finally won the world championship series in overwhelming fashion. Our car was one of this series piloted by by Arturo Merzario and Lafitte. With an even more powerful car, the Tipo-33C12, they again won the World Championship in 1977, their last hurrah with racing sports cars. Championship series regulations changed and Alfa never relived the past glories. It ran in 1975 at the Targa Florio, by then a non championship event.
Later on, Derek Bell was to comment that Willi Kauhsen did an excellent job, being supported by Autodelta, to organize the somewhat looseness of the Alfa team. Bell himself did very well, and led the program with four world-championship races, and the Le Mans. He described his experience in the 33 TT12 in Collins and McDonough monograph on the Tipo 33 as follows:
The car was phenomenal. It wasn’t always the quickest, but it won the races. The car was really fabulous, had gotten reliable and never really let us down or certainly not often. Merzario would over-rev it, but it would take it. The car was always very well prepared, and it ran well. I can remember Willi saying that the cars weren’t set up at all, but everyone has that kind of thinking. It’s like going to a new doctor and saying your old doctor didn’t know what to do. I think Willi was a very big player in the 1975 season, and had more of a role than was acknowledged or that he was given credit for. He was the one I dealt with the whole time, and he would speak to me and was at all the races.
The season progressed well for the penultimate iteration of the 33. Progressing from the original T33 chassis of 1967, through the T33/2, the T33/3, the T33/TT/3 to the T33TT/12, there was clearly an evolutionary technical advantage in these generally underrated cars. The final version, the very rare SC model, carried the banner for Alfa into 1977, but the Halcyon year of discovery was 1975.
This car was first seen by me at the August 22, 1993 Christie’s auction in Monterey. It presented with certification from Carlo Chiti himself and was reported to be the car which Arturo Merzario and Jacques Lafitte and Rolf Stommelen drove during the World Championship season. It was completely rebuilt by Ambrosia Motors under the direction of Gambi Marzello and Vittoria Berno, both ex-Autodelta employees, in a no expense spared fashion bringing it to excellent condition, with full mechanical racing specifications.
A notarized letter from Carlo Chiti reads,
The undersigned, Mr. Carlo Chiti, General Director of Motoria Moderni Srl of Novara and from 1964 to 1984 Director General and Administrator of Autodelta SPA of Settimo Milanese, the Association of the Alfa Romeo SPA Group of Milan and the Association of New Development and Construction of Alfa Romeo Sporting Activities. The race car, Type Sport Prototype 33 TT 12 115.12.012 used to belong to Autodelta SPA. This car was specifically for Autodelta SPA which in 1974-1975 participated in Prtotipi del Campionato del Mondo Marche with official drivers from Autodelta SPA.
Ambrosia Moto officers Marcello Berno certified in writing as well that they were former Autodelta employees and that they restored the car completely, from chassis up, completing the work on September 26, 1988.
Convinced that this was the original thing, I examined the car and had a nice discussion with Brian Redman who had gone over it and pronounced it in top shape, with a strong recommendation that we buy it. Christie’s representative, David Gooding, was there to affirm the car’s quality, and it was obvious that this car should represent the collection’s post-war homage to Alfa’s sterling sports racing history.