2011 HCOTY Nominee: The Alfa Romeo 33 Stradale|Hooniverse

4 Jun 2014 | Author: | Comments Off on 2011 HCOTY Nominee: The Alfa Romeo 33 Stradale|Hooniverse

Alfa Romeo 33

2011 HCOTY Nominee: The Alfa Romeo 33 Stradale

On the face of it, the reasons for this nomination should be obvious. This is a breathtakingly gorgeous car. It has curves that defy description.

It is built for performance, it is built for speed, and it is built for pure sex appeal. It was designed to be Alfa Romeo#8217;s shot across the bow at Ferrari, and it achieved each of these goals with aplomb. But the Hooniversal Car of the Year is not just about being an awesome car; it must be much more than that.

But let#8217;s come back to that. Let#8217;s talk about the car for just a moment. This car was a road-going version of the Tipo 33 race car, with a powerplant unlike anything else in the Alfa lineup. It used a 2.0L V8, with fuel injection, 16 spark plugs and chain-driven dual overhead cams, producing 260 horsepower, and with a redline of 10,000 RPM.

In 1968. It was mid-engined, with a six-speed transaxle, and a 0-60 time in the 5 second range. Again, in 1968.

It weighed just 1500 lbs, was constructed largely of magnesium alloys to save weight, and cost over $17,000. To put that in perspective, the average house in 1968 cost about $15,000, the average annual income was around $7,000, and the average car cost about $2,800. In the world before mega-dollar supercars, this was the prototype.

They built 18 of them.

But even at that, you have to think it was worth it. Its beauty simply cannot be overstated. It is the Jessica Rabbit of cars.

Exaggerated curves, almost cartoonish in proportion, but with real substance under the skin, it is the sort of car young car guys dream of, and carmakers aspire to.

But still, for all its beauty, why is it worthy of being the Hooniversal Car of the Year? After all, despite all its glorious curves, it is just another old supercar.

Meet the Alfa Romeo 4C concept. This is the car that is expected to herald Alfa Romeo#8217;s return to the North American market. With pricing just less than a Porsche Boxster or Audi TT-S, it will pack a 2.0L direct-injected turbocharged engine in the 260 horsepower range, and a 0-60 time in the sub-5 second range.

And, even with all the extra safety equipment required for a modern car, it#8217;s still expected to weigh only 1800 lbs.

To say this new car was inspired by the 33 Stradale is unfair; in fact, the designers were given the task of breathing some new life into the tired and flagging Alfa Romeo brand, of building a link between the phenomenal 8C Competizione and the rest of the Alfa lineup. And the 33 Stradale is the model they grasped to launch their revolution.

In many ways, Alfa Romeo had become the Chrysler of Europe. They produced nice cars. They were attractive, and in many ways were pleasant cars to drive. But in reality, nobody wanted one.

Their reputation for quality or reliability was tarnished, just like Chrysler#8217;s. They had lost their way. They were priced comparable to a BMW or an Audi, but they lacked the fit-and-finish of the Germans.

They didn#8217;t drive as well as the Germans. They didn#8217;t have the features or the engineering of the Germans. But hey, they had soul, even if saying so would cost you a few coins in the jar.

Alfa Romeo 33

Sadly, in recent years, they had even lost that. They were a brand without a direction, without an identity. Much like most of the offerings from the FIAT Group, in fact.

So Sergio Marchionne set them the task of regaining their mojo. And in seeking motivation, it is the 33 Stradale that jump-started their hearts, and reminded them of what an Alfa should be: gorgeous, powerful, fun, gorgeous, fast, gorgeous, and with just a tiny dose of full-out bat-shit crazy.

It#8217;s worth noting that the designers were only given a very tiny window of opportunity to create the car. If they couldn#8217;t do it in the allotted time, the project would be scrapped #8212; and, it was rumoured, Alfa Romeo would be sold, lock-stock-and-barrel, to Volkswagen who had privately indicated that they would be willing to acquire a brand they felt FIAT was squandering.

This had less to do with any financial urgency, than with Marchionne#8217;s desire to test his staff, to see if they had the ability. The narrow timeframe meant that there simply wasn#8217;t the possibility of the project getting mired in committees and corporate politics. The number-crunchers could set their restraints, but they couldn#8217;t micro-manage, attempting to penny-pinch the passion out of the project.

The goal was met, and their reward for a successful concept was that Marchionne gave the car the green light, without allowing the committees and number-crunchers to touch it. Sure, some tweaks were needed, but all sources report that the finished concept is almost exactly the production car we will see on the road.

This is exciting, but it#8217;s all the better since Marchionne has indicated quite clearly that this will be the strategy used to reboot all the brands in the FIAT household #8212; including Chrysler, Dodge and Jeep. Each will be given a very specific task, even a direct inspiration, and a very tight timeline to come up with a viable product. And the people whose job it is to design these cars will be trusted to do their jobs without micro-management and hand-holding.

If they can#8217;t do it, they will simply be replaced with people who can.

So, in a way, the Alfa Romeo 33 Stradale could very well be the car that brings about the return of Alfa Romeo to North American shores with a product we might actually be willing to buy, and even breathes new life into the flagging Mopar brands. Of course, it#8217;s too early to tell, but to be perfectly honest, for the time being it doesn#8217;t even matter. Suddenly, we have a car returning the old fire to the car industry.

A car reaching through time to slap us across our discouraged, disenfranchised faces. A car that reminds us, forcefully, of a time when automobiles were things of raw, unbridled passion, of lust, of a sheer love of the automotive form.

Will it succeed? Only time will tell. Maybe we#8217;ve fallen too far, maybe we#8217;ve sinned too badly to be redeemed. But this breathtaking swirl of colour, curves and barely-restrained sex appeal from 30-odd years ago is doing everything it can to reignite our love of the automobile. It may be our best hope of salvation.

If that#8217;s not reason enough to give it the nod for our Car of the Year, then perhaps we aren#8217;t worth saving.

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Alfa Romeo 33
Alfa Romeo 33
Alfa Romeo 33
Alfa Romeo 33
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