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  • Matteo Licata

5 Stunning Vintage Alfa Romeo Concept Cars

The low-slung, mid-engined 33 chassis was an ideal platform for advanced design experiments, some of which would become true landmarks in the history of automobile design: here's their story.

The production of Franco Scaglione's ultimate masterpiece, the Alfa Romeo 33 Stradale, amounts to just 13 examples, including the two prototypes. However, Alfa's racing arm Autodelta built a total of 18 Stradale chassis, and the remaining five were handed to Italy's most prestigious design houses to become spectacular show prototypes.

One: Bertone Carabo (1968)

Penned by Marcello Gandini for Bertone and first displayed in October 1968 at the Paris Motor Show, the Carabo's revolutionary wedge shape, sharply truncated rear end, and origami-like surfaces changed the course of automobile design forever, inspiring countless other prototypes and cars made throughout the 70s and 80s.

The Carabo, whose name and metallic green color were inspired by a family of ground beetles, was also the first car to feature the "scissor doors" that Gandini later implemented in the Lamborghini Countach and have remained a staple of the brand ever since.

The Carabo has been well preserved and occupies pride of place in the Alfa Romeo museum near Milan, and rightfully so, as it's arguably one of the most influential designs of the 20th century.

Two: Pininfarina P33 Roadster (1968)

The second prototype based on the Alfa Romeo 33 Stradale was made by Pininfarina and broke cover a mere month after Bertone's Carabo, at the Turin Motor Show held in November 1968.

Penned by Paolo Martin and known as the P33 Roadster, it somewhat unconvincingly mixed subtle curves with sharp surfaces, but its most prominent feature was a large spoiler positioned right behind the cockpit.

However, the car no longer exists in this form, as Pininfarina reused the same Alfa Romeo chassis, and to a much better effect, in 1971.

Penned this time by Leonardo Fioravanti and presented at the Brussels Motor Show as the "33 Spider," this Pininfarina prototype has been nicknamed "Cuneo," which is the Italian for "wedge," and for self-evident reasons: it is perhaps the purest wedge shape in the history of car design.

The Pininfarina 33 Spider is preserved in the Alfa Romeo museum's collection, but it's not on permanent display.

Three: Pininfarina Coupé Speciale (1969)

Pininfarina presented its second prototype based on the 33 Stradale exactly one year later at the 1969 Turin Motor Show.

The 33 Coupé Speciale was an adaptation to the Alfa Romeo chassis of Leonardo Fioravanti's Ferrari P5 design, which had been favorably received by the public and press alike at the 1968 Geneva Motor Show.

This was done at the request of Alfa Romeo's president Giuseppe Luraghi, who appreciated the P5's design and, upon learning that Ferrari wasn't going to do anything with it, approached Pininfarina for a version of the same design on a 33 chassis. However, Alfa Romeo itself didn't do much with the idea either, as the pale yellow prototype remained a one-off that can be seen at Alfa Romeo's museum near Milan.

Interestingly, the Coupé Speciale's paint color became available on the Alfa Romeo Spider between 1970 and 1977: it was aptly named "Giallo Prototipo," or "prototype yellow."

Four: Ital Design Iguana (1969)

The 1969 Turin Motor Show saw another prototype based on the 33 Stradale chassis, the Iguana from Giorgetto Giugiaro's Ital Design.

Giugiaro is perhaps the most influential automobile designer in history, but the Iguana shows that even geniuses sometimes have "off" days.

Aside from the genuinely horrendous attempt at a metal flake paint job, the Iguana seems uninspired at best, and visual trickery like the stainless roof pillars and glass roof just can't save it. The Iguana is on permanent display at Alfa Romeo's museum, but it definitely isn't my favorite exhibit.

Five: Bertone Navajo (1976)

The final 33 Stradale-based dream car was Bertone's Navajo, which debuted in March 1976 at the Geneva Motor Show.

By then, the underpinnings of the 33 Stradale were pretty much obsolete, but Marcello Gandini's design for Bertone certainly was bang up to date for 1976, with its dramatic wedge profile and cartoonish stylistic excesses. While one can hardly call it beautiful, the Navajo exudes a science fiction movie charm that speaks to the ten-year-old inside each of us.

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