We can all thank Enzo Ferrari’s truculence for the emergence of the mid-engine road car. In late 1961 he had a rancorous falling out with his company’s top managers, so a group of them left and formed Automobili Turismo e Sport, better known as ATS. Among those who departed Ferrari was the chief engineer, Carlo Chiti, who had been pushing Enzo to produce a mid-engine car. In 1963, for ATS, he developed Italy’s first mid-engine road-going gran turismo, the 150 mph 2500 GT.
I considered showing an ATS here, but Lamborghini’s Miura, which arrived three years later, was the true breakthrough design that made the auto industry stand up and take notice of the mid-engine configuration. Alfa Romeo’s luscious and considerably rarer 33 Stradale also fits the bill.
After ATS went under in 1964, Chiti founded Autodelta, which served as Alfa Romeo’s competition arm. Chiti knew he had a good thing in the 2500 GT, and he told me that the 33 Stradale, which debuted in 1967, was basically a second generation of that car. Like its predecessor, the 33 Stradale was designed to be a road car and a racer. In addition to a mid-mounted V-8, it had a sophisticated chassis with independent suspension all around and the industry’s first 6-speed gearbox.
The stylist who designed the ATS 2500 GT, Franco Scaglione, also penned the 33 Stradale. He was Italy’s preeminent automotive artist in the 1950s and early ’60s. His portfolio at Bertone and as an independent designer includes Alfa Romeo’s Sportiva and BATs and Lamborghini’s first-ever car, the 350 GTV. The 33 Stradale is a purposeful yet still sensuous design that could come only from Italy—only Italian stylists create such curves. This car is among the most beautiful I’ve ever photographed.