A few weeks ago we presented the Alfa Romeo 33 Stradale to you. Undoubtedly one of the most beautiful automobiles of all time. This beauty was of course already revognized when the sports car was still new. However, due to the high price and the comparatively martial racing car technology, there were apparently still unused chassis left at Autodelta, Alfa Romeo’s racing department, which were sold to external coachbuilders. One of them including a working drivetrain went to Bertone, where a certain Marcello Gandini, at the ago of only 30, already held the position of chief designer. In contrast to the organic-round 33 Stradale, he now wanted to create a futuristic sports car with a strictly geometric shape. In this way, the Carabo was created as a wedge-shaped concept car that could hardly have been more different from its technical basis. The Alfa Romeo Carabo celebrated its world premiere on the Bertone stand at the Paris Motor Show in 1968.
Technically, Bertone made no changes whatsoever to the delivered chassis. The suspension, the six-speed Colotti gearbox and the two-liter 230 hp V8 engine came directly from the 33 Stradale, where they allowed a topspeed of 162 mph as well as an acceleration time of less than six seconds from zero to 62 mph. The Bertone Carabo, on the other hand, has a slightly flatter body with a pointed snout that is just about ready to break up the airstream. For the first time Gandini experimented with so-called scissor doors that open upwards and to the front. This design feature was later found on the Lamborghini Countach. On the Carabo, he even immortalised this detail in the model lettering. Its name was taken from the golden tread beetle (carabus auratus), whose iridescent green was imitated in the paintwork of the body by Bertone. At the front there is a stripe in bright orange, while the rear end is dipped in neon green. Above the headlights, three narrow flaps open on each side to let light out at night. The taillights are embedded in a field of strictly geometrical rectangles.
The interior, directly in front of the racing engine, is both spartan and futuristic. Driver and passenger take their seats on fixed seats, which, like the door panels, the center tunnel and the dashboard, are upholstered in black suede. Behind the low-slung two-spoke steering wheel, Gandini chose an unusual arrangement of the instrumentation. While on the far left of the dashboard the rev counter was angled inwards, the speedometer was positioned opposite it at the other end just outside the passenger door. Five additional instruments are located centrally under the windscreen. Ventilation nozzles were integrated between them and the outer instruments. The front section of the center tunnel was designed as a console and houses a total of six switches and the ignition lock. The golf ball look of the gearshift lever was reflected in the VW Golf GTI about a decade later.
Today the Bertone Carabo is one of many unique vehicles in the Alfa Romeo Museo Storico collection. The museum is located in the old Alfa Romeo plant in Arese. Our picture galleries show old factory photos as well as our own photos from the Bremen Classic Motorshow, where the Carabo made a guest appearance in 2010.
Images: Alfa Romeo, Matthias Kierse