The fallen stars Alfa Romeo Scarabeo

  • 13 November 2021
  • 3 min read
  • 9 images
The fallen stars Alfa Romeo Scarabeo image

In the mid-60s, the use of rear engines in racing cars was becoming ubiquitous. Alfa Romeo’s technical team had studied the Tipo 33 with this very solution, a car that was successfully developed by Autodelta, the company’s sports division. Alfa Romeo subsequently felt the need to offer its racing driver customers a Berlinetta with this same configuration, and the engineer Giuseppe Busso and his team set to work, starting from the successful four-cylinder GTA, on a model with a transverse rear-engine. The name chosen for the car was Scarabeo. 

1-first-Scarabeo-conceptThe first Scarabeo concept. Note the panoramic windshield which had to be tilted in order to grant access to the passenger compartment

Three prototypes of this model were built, which promised extremely impressive performance, one of which was never completed. The demise of this car, however, was marked by an internal conflict between the technical direction of Alfa Romeo and Autodelta, a separate department dedicated to racing and led by the engineer, Carlo Chiti. The team over at Autodelta, which had won everything with the GTAs, did not like the idea of the new model being created outside their jurisdiction and when they received it for final development, they quite literally abandoned it. And although the Scarabeo had been presented at the Paris Motor Show in 1966 and was later proposed a second time in a simplified version that was nevertheless still a high-performance machine, it remained a dream. 

2-kamm-tail-scarabeoThe idea to move the driver’s seat as far back in the car as possible was a very original one, made possible by the transversally-mounted engine. Note the very particular truncated “Kamm tail” rear end

To put this into perspective, consider that the car had a tubular frame, it was just over one metre high and weighed just 700kg, giving it a truly outstanding weight-to-power ratio. The construction of the bodywork was entrusted to OSI from Turin, and often the car is in fact referred to as the Alfa Romeo Scarabeo by OSI. Its maximum speed was 200 km/h.

3-scarabeo-sketchA transparency that reveals the technical details of the car: central brakes and rear engine, the latter mounted transversely. Rational, although not entirely safe, were the petrol tanks installed in the door sills

4-scarabeo-frontThe prototype destined for production was simplified with traditional door openings and numerous details designed for racing. The rear was also tidied up

5-scarabeo-profileJust over one metre high and perfectly profiled, the Scarabeo had a very low drag coefficient and weighed just 700kg, guaranteeing exceptional performance

6-sport-barchettaThe third model intended as a faired sports barchetta was never finished, although it was used for a series of tests and experiments. It is conserved at the Museo Alfa Romeo

7-open-top-scarabeoThe undeniably spartan interior of the open-top version of the Scarabeo, confirms its role as a development mule. A development that never reached its conclusion

8-scarabeo-backThe beautiful mechanics of the Scarabeo reveal its conception as a racing car. Note the long 4-in-1 exhaust system