Happy 50th birthday, Alfa Romeo 33 Stradale

Published: 01 September 2017

► Alfa 33 Stradale turns 50
► We salute the Italian great
► An icon was born in 1967

There were two types of supercar by the late 1960s. There was the swaggering new breed of road cars as epitomised by the Lamborghini Miura, which looked like it could score a podium finish on the Targa Florio without breaking sweat. And there were the cars that actually could finish on the podium at the Targa, like the Alfa 33 Stradale, whose lines influenced the 8C supercar, and later, the 4C.

Okay, that's slightly disingenuous, because the Stradale, as its name suggests, is a road car. But only just, because the Alfa was closer in spirit to Ford's GT than to the Lamborghini, being developed from a bona fide endurance racer, the Tipo 33.

Celebrating its 50th anniversary in 2017

Just 18 were built between 1967 and 1969, values sitting somewhere in the £2m region today. Sounds like small change once you clap eyes on what has to be among the five most beautiful shapes ever committed to aluminium. Designed by Franco Scaglione, and crafted by Milanese coachbuilders Marazzi, the Stradale's alloy body is a great case for banning straight edges in car design altogether.

Alfa Romeo 33 Stradale

It’s a car of contrasts, the low, spoiler-less delicacy of the nose, its headlights bulging like a child's blown bubbles, running into a macho swollen rear, with its near horizontal engine cover, jutting exhaust pipes and those huge vents that give the whole thing the look of an engineer's cutaway drawing. And we haven't even got to the doors, McLaren-style dihedral doors that cut deep into the roof in one continuous sweep.

Open both and there's barely a Rizla's-width of roofskin between the two slices of fresh air. Construction was handled by the Autodelta racing outfit, who slotted in a version of the Tipo 33 competition car's V8, a four-cam all-alloy motor that revved to 10,000rpm.

Its teeny 250cc bores meant the racer struggled against bigger Porsche rivals on the track, but 227bhp in a car weighing 700kg gave the Stradale the same power-to-weight ratio as a current 911 Turbo.

Alfa Romeo 33 Stradale rear view

There was even a six-speed manual gearbox, years before it became the norm.

Of the 18 built, one remains with Alfa, and six were sent to Italian design houses to become the basis for a series of futuristic concepts. Pininfarina’s evolutionary 33.2, Bertone's wedge-shaped Carabo, the Alfa Navajo, which looked like a prop from Thunderbirds, remain striking designs, but none has stood the test of time like the original 33 Stradale.

Alfa 33 Stradale: specifications

  • Production: 1967-1969 
  • Engine: 2,0 V8, 227bhp, 152Ib Ft 
  • Transmission: 6-speed manual, rear-wheel drive 
  • Performance: 0-62mph 5.5sec (est), 163mph
  • Weight/made from: 680kg/aluminium

All our Alfa Romeo reviews in one place

By Chris Chilton

Contributing editor, ace driver, wit supplier, mischief maker