Carlo Chiti: Modern motor man

I first learned about Carlo Chiti when I read my second Classic & Sportscar magazine – again an article by Mick Walsh. This time Mr. Walsh was in Connecticut driving the Tipo 33 Stradale originally purchased by Henry Wessells from the factory in 1968, and the story told that Wessells had met Chiti on an airplane – and was so lucky to be able to speak italian … because Carlo Chiti spoke no english! That made an impression on me.

One of the 1968 Daytona-winning Tipo 33-2 racers, here with a roof panel

One of the 1968 Daytona-winning Tipo 33-2 racers, here with a roof panel

I like the fact that italian motor cars – back then – were made by italians. They spoke their own language and they had their own heritage; their own way of doing things. And they were quite good at it.

The most pretty of the 6c3000CM cars is this one - once restored and owned by Phil Hill

The most pretty of the 6c3000CM cars is this one – once restored and owned by Phil Hill

Carlo Chiti joined Alfa Romeo in 1953 and took part in the development of the 6C 3000 CM; the 3,5-liter racer that was entered in the World Championship for sportscars inaugurated that year. Not a particularly succesful car. And not particularly beautiful either. It’s as if Alfa Romeo was about to loose some of their Alfa Romeo-ness by then.

Phil Hill and Dan Gurney chats with Carlo Chiti during the 1959 Portugese GP - presumably in italian

Phil Hill and Dan Gurney chats with Carlo Chiti during the 1959 Portugese GP – presumably in italian

Graf Berghe von Trips listens carefully to Carlo Chiti on a summer afternoon at Monza

Graf Berghe von Trips listens carefully to Carlo Chiti on a summer afternoon at Monza

The succesful and pretty Ferrari 156 'sharknose' formula one racer of 1961

The succesful and pretty Ferrari 156 ‘sharknose’ formula one racer of 1961

Alfa Romeo withdrew entirely from racing a few years later; leaving it to privateers to buy cars from Conrero, Zagato and other small-scale tuning offices. Carlo Chiti went to Ferrari where he joined the Formula One team and was manager during the Dino days – both front and rear engined. Those cars were more successful – and more beautiful as well.

He was part of the 1961 ‘Mutiny in Maranello’, after which Enzo Ferrari fired everybody; including Bizzarini, Chiti, and Tavoni. This allowed Chiti to have a go at designing ‘the ultimate sportscar’ with Bizzarini in their newly started and well sponsored ATS company: The 2500 GT.

But they didn’t succeed – I think they just didn’t have what it took, not like Enzo Ferrari or Vittorio Jano or other instigators of great things.

 

All the skills sublimed into an V8 mid-engined 2,5-liter sportscar in 1963

All the skills sublimed into an V8 mid-engined 2,5-liter sportscar in 1963

 

And that’s my point today: Chiti (as well as Bizzarini) was a skilled engineer and he was certainly charismatic – but neither of the two really made great designs on their own. They thrived under Enzo Ferrari, but didn’t really do as well – as for instance Jano did – in their later careers. In fact, ATS failed big time when they tried to enter a new design in F1 with Phil Hill as a willing and excited driver. And everybody were excited – just read articles from period motor sports magazines.

After one year ATS folded, and Chiti joined his old friend Chizzola and formed Auto-Delta in 1963 – and were duly usurped by Alfa Romeo, because chairman Luraghi had decided that the milanese company would re-join motor sport now that the Arese factory was finished and the new 105-series Sprint GT has ready.

Great Alfa men: (from left) Dottore Satta, Busso, Luraghi, Chiti. Photographed at the (also) newly laid out Ballocco test facility. Those were the days!

Great Alfa men: (from left) Dottore Satta, Busso, Luraghi, Chiti. Photographed at the (also) newly laid out Ballocco test facility. Those were the days!

Chiti and Autodelta developed some fabulous 4-cylinder racers based on the Nord engine and the 105-series layout, but what he really wanted, was Prototype and Formula One racing, and the experience from the Dino and ATS days then became the Tipo 33 engine. It was combined with a crazy Alfa Corse concept: The ‘Scarabeo’ that had a novel but too flexible H-shaped chassis and they used a 1950’s V8 experimental engine to develop Chiti V8 dreams upon.

Heureka! The Tipo 33-2 car was launched in 1967.

I have all Motor Racing issues from 1967, and in june they were very excited about the new Alfa Romeo 2-liter racer. The picture is from Le Mans testing

I have all Motor Racing issues from 1967, and in june they were very excited about the new Alfa Romeo 2-liter racer. The picture is from Le Mans testing

My point is that the whole Tipo 33 project was not really succesful – certainly not very elegantly executed. Apart from very good results in 1968 – with the 2-liter cars, and brave drivers, at Daytona and Le Mans – they never really had the edge over Porsche’s 908, Ferrari’s 312PB and the Matra 3-liter racers. It bugs me to read how Autodelta seemed to be loosing because of bad discipline and strange ideas from Carlo Chiti.

Henri Pescarolo gets ready for racing in the 1000-kms at the Nürburgring in 1971, when he drove the Tipo 33-3

Henri Pescarolo gets ready for racing in the 1000-kms at the Nürburgring in 1971, when he drove the Tipo 33-3

They did have great drivers, and Alfa Romeo still had a name in motor racing; just as well as Ferrari or Porsche. And they were always contenders for wins – class or outright. But …

The Tipo 33 12-cylinder in the hands of Andrea de Adamich during the 1974 Nürburgring race

The Tipo 33 12-cylinder in the hands of Andrea de Adamich during the 1974 Nürburgring race

Yes, of course victory came in 1975, when Alfa Romeo were World Champions in Sports Car racing – and again in 1977. During that period Autodelta also contemplated formula one, and when they were approached by Brabham chief designer Gordon Murray in 1976, they leapt at the chance to get inside the F1 circus. Martini-Brabham team boss Bernie Ecclestone didn’t want to pay the price for a Cosworth DFV deal, and in fact got the 3-liter flat 12-cylinder engines for free from Alfa Romeo.

The 1976 Brabham F1 car with twin engine intakes for the flat-12 engine

The 1976 Brabham F1 car with twin engine intakes for the flat-12 engine

But they were bad quality; power output was not constant and Murray even had to have mounting brackets made because the engines came with different mounting holes and threads when they returned from overhauls at Autodelta. Sloppiness again?

Alfa Romeo eventually entered cars in F1 themselves. Not very succesfully, but always visible – much like today’s Force India or Sauber, I suppose. And the name ‘Alfa Romeo’ always sounds good over the PA – a lot of people think!

1985 Minardi formula one racer with Chiti V6-turbo engine

1985 Minardi formula one racer with Chiti V6-turbo engine

Carlo Chiti left Autodelta when Alfa Romeo withdrew in 1984, after Fiat took over and found no reason to have two teams in Formula One. He started the Motori Moderni consultancy and produced a V6-turbo engine based on the Alfa Romeo formula one turbo unit. It was fielded by Minardi, but they didn’t have much success before turbo-charging was removed from the formula a few years later.

Chiti also made a 3,5-liter boxer engine for the naturally aspirated formula and managed to sell it to Subaru, who made it available for the italian Coloni team during the 1990 season – but again, it was retired before the end of the season.

The very impressive 3,5-liter B12 engine that Subaru hoped would boost their own Boxer sales. they had been at it making Boxer engines since 1972, and this was not an internal Subaru effort at all

The very impressive 3,5-liter B12 engine that Subaru hoped would boost their own Boxer sales. they had been at it making Boxer engines since 1972, and this was not an internal Subaru effort at all

So, I must admit that I am not a fan of Carlo Chiti. He lived through an exciting period in time, and he worked with – and competed against – some of the greatest men in motor racing. But I think somebody should have supported him more in his decision-making. Alfa Romeo could have done so much better … Secondo me!

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