Courtesy of Centro Documentazione Alfa Romeo, Arese
Which of two Fleron cars actually won the 1967 Fléron race?
Among the clippings from old car magazines, I found the page, chosen who knows why and when, with the photograph of Ing. Carlo Chiti, Giovanni Manfredini and Giuliano Luppi observing a splendid 33.2 car.
The text, an interview with Giuliano Luppi, was filled with passionate praise to the 'firstborn' of the whole lineage of the 33, the "Periscopica" series. In it's debut, it won the 1967 Freron race, forever remembered as the first step of a great return to the world's racetracks for the Milanese brand.
Luppi confirmed that chassis AR750.33.001... the 'eldest daughter' of the Autodelta T-33 series family... won that very first victory and the laurel wreath at Fléron, a suburb of Liège in Belgium.
He wrote this resolute affirmation with firmness and with an abundance of details. His historical text recalls...however another opposite opinion pronounced with similar fervor from the pages of a recently published book...printed many decades later.
I don’t know on what documentary basis the statement AR75033.004 was the car used for Belgian race is formulated, and I think that sources for similar declaration must be produced as a proof.
In contrast with above cited statements, Dasse’s book repeatedly stated that chassis numbers AR750.33.007 and AR750.33.008 were assigned to “Periscopica” and “Mugello” version cars, present in some documentary photos.
Teodoro Zeccoli, Giuliano Luppi and Giovanni Manfredini (all three) estimated the production of the first version of T33/2 to be six units, and and famed Alfa Romeo historian Maurizio Tabucchi, even limited the number of produced T33/2s in the versions known as "Periscopica" and “Mugello ", to only five specimens, excluding the car destroyed in the accident at Monza during the presentation of the model, the car to which Autodelta assigned the number AR75033.002 afterwards.
In contrast with above cited statements, Dasse’s book repeatedly stated that chassis numbers AR750.33.007 and AR750.33.008 were assigned to “Periscopica” and “Mugello” version cars, present in some documentary photos.
In that book two authors are boasting about their long visit to the archive of the Centro Documentazione Alfa Romeo where they proudly rewrote the history of the 33/2.
According to their research based on the invoices and written notes made by Autodelta people, long-sought chassis numbers finally emerged from the mists of uncertain data and confirmed the true story of the cars adorned with the green four-leaf clover on the sides.
But which car really won the race in the gray surroundings of the Liège hinterland on that cold morning of March 12, 1967?
Is it possible that the chassis expert Giuliano Luppi... who knew every Autodelta-built car better than anyone else... could be so grossly mistaken about the actual idenity of the winning car?
The name of the driver and dominator of the race, Teodoro "Dorino" Zeccoli, who replaced the indisposed Andrea de Adamich, was undoubtedly the true protagonist of that first victory on the long road to the World Championship won years later after hard battles in the circuits.
However...in a recently published book dedicated to the 33/2 first series version... the winning car is incorrectly identified as AR750.33.004 a statement based on a claimed race report in the Alfa Romeo Centro Documentazione Archives, although this claim remains without confirmation.
Based on the photographic evidence of the period, there are some evident differences that could be distinguished on both proposed cars.
The actual car used in the Fléron hillclimb event had starting number 215 on both sides, and the other proposed race car.. was most assuredly used two weeks later in the United States for the running of the Twelve Hours of Sebring race. This information was gathered from available data according to Sebring technical race control. The car had the chassis number cited above and displayed starting number 65, for the United States event.
The winning car of the Belgian race (presumed to be AR750.33.001) had the characteristic dynamic air intake ("Periscopia") without any partition in its air intake... while the car with the chassis number AR750.33.004 had the dynamic air intake divided in two parts, closed with netting on the right side.
The Fléron winner had rectangular shaped turn signals, and low-set mirrors, while the Sebring car had round shaped turn signals and added round brake air vents on both sides of the front and mirrors that were mounted in the high position.
On the dashboard, the Fléron race car had a tachometer with a large white dial, while on the AR750.33.004 in the Sebring 1967 event, the tachometer had a black background and a dirrerent dash shape above the tachometer itself.
On the rear, the Fléron race car had an aerodynamically shaped cover for topping up oil cap and lateral tear shaped protrusions near the air intake without openings. The AR750.33.004 raced in Sebring had a cap for topping up oil without any cover, and side protrusions with front openings.
The rear panel of the car used in the Sebring race was different in color in its central portion. On the photographs I've presented as proof both cars have blue dots indicating the noted differences. AR750.33.001 has what appears to be a solid rear panel while the later AR750.33.004 has a screen for ventilation of engine heat.
There are also other facts to point out.
The cars prepared and shipped to the USA for the Sebring race were confirmed by the technical control as AR750.33.004 and AR750.33.005 and this is a certain fact. Free practice in Sebring began three days before the race...held on March 29, 1967 and the two cars arrived in Sebring transported by Cargo Van Co, on March 27, 1967.
The two cars disembarked from the plane two days earlier, i.e. March 25, 1967.
On the other side of the Atlantic ocean, the car transporter with the two cars (AR750.33.001 and AR750.33.003), left from Fléron the day after the race, March 13, 1967 and were directed to Zolder to carry out the further already booked track tests.
The tests (documented) took place on March 15-16,1967 and the cars are then brought back to Settimo Milanese where they arrived in the late afternoon of March 17,1967.
It remains highly unlikely that within a few days remaining before the Sebring race, the two cars could be rechecked, changed in listed details, and shipped from Italy to the USA.
There is no evidence or an existing shipping invoice to confirm similar transport. There also remained other technical details to consider.
In the "closed park" after the race in Fléron, the talented Belgian photographer, Eric della Faille took a series of photos that day that are the precious testimony of that event.
In the photo with the opened engine area, the data plate regarding the gearbox set-up, differential and type of oil used is clearly visible. The plate reports the extremely close differential ratio 7/37, already tested on AR750.33.001 as remembered by Zeccoli.
And what is important, the number AD 105 33 * 001 * engraved on the gearbox body is visible too... which unequivocally links the gearbox unit to the engine and to the car, according to the traditional way of assigning (where possible) the same numbers for the assembled car. This number is visible and legible in the attached photo, and original photos can be consulted at the Smithsonian Museum in their car history archive.
During the racing calendar in 1967, the presence of both T33/2s was sporadic and without notable results...sometimes only in tests.
At the end of the 1967 season, the fate of the two cars also followed different paths.
The AR750.33.001 remained the property of Alfa Romeo until 1986, when it was purchased by actual owner Marco Cajani and restored to its present state. The AR750.33.004 previously dismembered was composed from remaining parts and sold to Peter Kaus’ Rosso-Bianco collection, later sold to Louwman Car Museum, and finally offered for sale in 2008 at Kidston.
The AR750.33.001 car was recognized and confirmed in official documents (now in the Alfa Romeo archive at Arese), by Ing. Carlo Chiti ex-CEO of Autodelta as the first assembled car that won Fléron event in 1967.
The car is autographed by its test driver, developer and official race driver at Autodelta, Teodoro Zeccoli (photographic evidence).
Is this the same car he triumphed with back on March 12, 1967...the subject of two conflicting opinions?
At AutodeltaGoldenYears.com it has been our duty to undertake research in an attempt to solve the mystery, while respecting good sense... with the hope of finding the right connection and put an “end” to this controversy forever.
Ed McDonough, a refined connoisseur of Alfa Romeo racing mysteries and noted Alfa Romeo authority, wrote in one of his texts:
“Explaining the evolution of Alfa Romeo racing models is, at best, challenging and most of the time exasperating. After about 25 years of working on it, I almost succeeded, but I never trust my memory without referring to the right experts. "
What better indication is there than seeking the answer at the source? With that thought in mind I consulted the architect Marco Cajani, an expert on the Alfa Romeo cars, as well as the owner and keeper of the AR750.33.001, the mythical car from our query.
In Seregno, among the many jewels from Cajani’s collection, lies a figure in plain sight... the “Periscopica”, the “Fléron type”... lying lazily with its impalpable and elusive, almost divine charm.
Marco is a friendly eternal man, an excellent driver and tireless conversationalist on Alfa Romeo issues, with an immense knowledge. When I explained to him the motive for my visit, he thought for a while then with a disarming smile told me:
"You are a painter. If one day some art critics, as good and well-known as you want, would attribute one of your works with a certificate to some other author, and the owner of that painting, prompted by some doubt of them, came to ask your opinion, which of the judgments expressed would be the right and accepted one?"
The author's paintings, when doubts are raised about their originality, are authenticated by the artist, if he/she is still alive ... the 001 has the signature of those who handled and used it.
Marco Cajani continued to tell the story of his acquisition of the Fleron car:
"I personally went through the Alfa Romeo labyrinth touching everything with my hand, and I learned everything in that world must be challended and proven."
"When I encountered a evidentuary document put forth by Lino Cogliandro (the man in charge of Communications at Alfa Romeo, S.p.A.), I learned that AR750.33.001 had been lying under a tarp in the courtyard in Settimo Milanese. As a reference, I was immediately told the car had been the winner of the Fleron race in Belgium, as well as being the very first 33/2 ever produced".
"It was intact and only the hood and rear tail section were missing. It took patience and a lot of diplomacy to buy it, but in the end it came. I received it dismembered – this modality of giving the cars was a habit of the Company at that time – and all the numbers and pieces were right, but the restoration took time."
"Upon the advice of Ing. Carlo Chiti, I decided to keep the original configuration with single ignition, and the restoration of the engine was entrusted to Carlo Facetti, while the body panels are the work by Giovanni Giordanengo, who had the authentic wooden forms made by Raineri."
This is AR750.33.001 with Teo Zeccoli at the controls. Courtesy of Centro Documentazione Alfa Romeo, Arese
This is a true copy of the original letter addressed to the owner of the T-33 "Fleron" car, Mr. Marco Cajani, prepared by its' designer...Ing. Carlo Chiti, President of Autodelta S.p.A. dated January 10, 1986 and mailed from the Autodelta factory grounds located at 7 Via Enrico Fermi, Settimo Milanese, Milano.
A suprise day in the life of the original Autodelta test engineer...a reunion of Teodoro Zeccoli with his original AR750.33.001 Fleron T-33 2 liter car...this very first T-33 in a long series of championship cars.
At the suggestion of the editor of AutodeltaGoldenYears.com and through the cooperation of the present owner of the car and Mr. Zeccoli's son, Teodoro "Dorino" Zeccoli was driven to this gathering of Alfa Romeo racing oldtimers and enthusiasts of the Autodelta days in total secrecy that was closely held even from those who gathered at the Imola circuit to witness this monumental event held in conjunction with Minardi Day in 2017.
Mr. Zeccoli recognized this car at once to be his original car and attested to this fact to all who could here his voice on that day. He signed the car and numerous autographs for everyone.
The original AR750.33.001. The first one produced by Autodelta. Nopte the very large tachometer and the different dash covering. Courtesy of Centro Documentazione Alfa Romeo, Arese
The fourth Fleron T-33 in a series, AR750.33.004. Note the different interior treatment and equipment installed. Courtesy of Centro Documentazione Alfa Romeo, Arese
AR750.33.001. Note the different side marker lights, the different "Pericopica"" air intake and the short stalk side mirrors. Courtesy of Centro Documentazione Alfa Romeo, Arese
AR750.33.004: Shown at Twelve Hours of Sebring 1967. Note the inset side lights, the long stalk mirrors and the two section "Pericopica" air intake. Courtesy of Centro Documentazione Alfa Romeo, Arese
AR750.33.001: The rear upper valence panel is solid on this first prototype. Note very large white faced tachometer and the two different oil filler cap treatments. . Courtesy of Centro Documentazione Alfa Romeo, Arese
AR750.33.004 at the Twelve Hours of Sebring.
AR750.33.004: A close-up on the "Pericopico" air intake and the notable shape and opening of the rear air intake. Courtesy of Centro Documentazione Alfa Romeo, Arese
"There are also other memories and documents, direct and indirect, which confirm that it is the AR750.33.001 that took to the track in Liège. On the chassis AR750.33.001 there are the signatures of Carlo Facetti, Nini Vaccarella, Nanni Galli and Arturo Merzario, all drivers who used it during its racing life and also afterwards. From the ample overview of photographic documents, it can be deduced without a doubt that the car photographed in Fléron is unique and clearly recognizable, different in several details from the AR750.33.004, which is called on as the possible car used for that race."
Without the intention of suggesting solutions, I leave it to everyone to draw conclusions.”
Well, I've already made mine. Indeed, long before that meeting with Mr. Cajani, and as further confirmation, I would like to add a clarification, and call again Ed McDonough's reliable testimony:
“…both Alfa Romeo and Autodelta kept very poor records of their competition cars and no comprehensive (official factory) written record exists which identifies which Tipo 33 chassis raced at which event… The chassis numbering system has always defied understanding”.
The technical data concerning the use of Alfa Romeo racing cars should have been combined with documentation produced by Autodelta concerning the test sessions on the racing circuit, a list of fixed checks to be carried out on each car before the races (the list is made up of 160 entries!), and the specifications of the tests carried out at Balocco track for each car reporting the chassis number and the engine number.
So, a whole dossier of documentation used to decide on the use of the car for the race exists. After the race, the car was retested with the report of the anomalies found. In the absence of this documentation (and the Autodelta documents were, alas, lost in the unfortunate move from Settimo Milanese to Senago in 1983), the only ones who could say which car was used in that specific race was the general manager engineer Carlo Chiti, track engineers, the test driver and the pilots.
It is well known and documented, the consolidated practice of using pre-filled in documents of a racing car for administrative purposes on several racing cars (not only for Italian customs!), and based on this it is clear that in the vast majority of cases the data were only and exclusively the results of administrative management acts between Autodelta and Direzione Generale Alfa Romeo S.p.A.
These forms were generated to satisfy the financial accounting between the two companies, regarding the work carried out by Autodelta to justify the expenses and obtain financing from Direzione Generale, based on the relative technical and sporting report about the activity undertaken by Autodelta.
Attempting today to rewrite the well-known history of the Alfa Romeo 'Golden Years' means that anyone with such intention would have had plenty of time to ask for clarification and a declaration useful for purpose to the direct actors: general manager, and test drivers. Only in this way would similar statements have had the validation of what they wanted to affirm.
The sterile controversies must be closed without further comments.
The Father and his first T-33, the "Fleron type" project he was given by Experimental Engineering Department in Arese...a unfinished, unproven design, a prototype engine in pieces that had never run on a test stand much less a testing circuit. The creation of Ing. Carlo Chiti. Courtesy of Centro Documentazione Alfa Romeo, Arese
Teodoro Zeccoli: Courtesy of Michael Keyser, Autosports Marketing ASsociates, Ltd., The Speed Merchants Collection taken at Sebring 1970
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