The Alfa Romeo 750 Competizione Is the Racecar That Never Was
We'll never know how this purpose-built competition machine would have fared against Porsche. But we can dream.
See the 1955 Alfa Romeo 750 Competizione on /DRIVE on NBC Sports: Italy Returns, Thursday, November 2 @ 9:00 pm ET on NBCSN.
In the years following the end of WWII, Alfa Romeo had returned to Grand Prix racing, brought a successful new car line to market and was becoming a key player in Italy’s great, postwar economic miracle. The only thing left to do was to build a competition car.
For Alfa Romeo, the early 1950s belonged to the Giulietta. It was the company’s first major car model line wholly created after the armistice. The Bertone-designed Sprint 2+2 coupe arrived in time for the 1954 Turin motor show; one year later, the Berlina sedan and the Pininfarina-modified Spider roadster joined the Sprint, rounding out a line that was both visually appealing and exciting to drive.
Simultaneously, sports car racing had exploded in Europe and the U.S., and 1,500cc modified (where the Porsche 550 Spyder would eventually dominate) was becoming the most popular, and hotly contested class. An Alfa Romeo race car, created from the bones of the Giulietta, might be just the ticket.
By late 1955, Alfa's motorsports engineers had worked up a candidate: The Alfa Romeo 750 Competizione. “Competizione” meant it was made for racing and “750” was the body code for the Giuletta on which it was based. Sports and GT-car designer and coachbuilder Felice Boano developed a bespoke, lightweight aluminum “speedster” body, and famed racecar wrench, and later Fiat racing collaborator, Carlo Abarth cooked up a boxed steel chassis. The running gear, comprising an independent front suspension with twin wishbones and coil springs and dampers, and a rigid-axle rear suspension, was state of the art.
The engine, a glorious high-compression mill, was pure Alfa Romeo: A 1.5-liter, double-overhead cam inline four based on the 1.3-liter in the Giuletta Spyder. It produced 145 hp at 8,000 rpm, or nearly 100 hp per liter, a big number in 1955. A close-ratio five-speed transmission and gear-driven, racing-spec cams made the 750 Competizione an amazingly responsive car to wheel around a racecourse. The whole car weighed 1,528 pounds, more than Porsche’s 550 Spyder, but that blaster under the hood promised to balance the extra heft with brute force and heavy breathing.
The story of why only two of the 750 Competizione cars were ever built has been, at least partially, lost to history. While the original plan had been to build 50 cars, technical problems during testing have been cited for the project’s cancellation. Some say the engine was too finicky, others say it was Alfa’s business-focused management that put the kibosh on.
Either way, we’ll never know how the 750 Competizione would have fared in real competition. But by most accounts, it could have been a contender.