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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 …
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.
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!
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.
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!