Alfa Romeo 164 Pro-Car

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For the record, as a car enthusiast, you should already know about the Alfa Romeo 164 Pro-Car. Not only because of how awesome it is but also to give you some insight into why the company has been a bit, how you say, out to lunch for the last few decades. 

I mean that in the nicest possible way, but on any company ledger, the line items for a unsuccessful Formula 1 program, the fallout from quality concerns, and this stillborn race car for a series that never got off the ground would have started to add up.

As an enthusiast, it's encouraging Alfa Romeo spent so much energy on creating things just for us (hello, 75 Turbo Evoluzione!) but while we get to talk about all of these fun artifacts of its engineering prowess, they certainly didn't help the bottom line.

Would you rather a great line of production models…or a sexy one-off 3.5-litre V10-powered 164 that is really a purpose-built race car underneath?

Alfa Romeo had been enticed by one of Bernie Ecclestone's ideas to spice up Formula 1 by having manufacturers race cars as fast as F1 cars, but resembling everyday sedans. But who to make a chassis for the car? Formula 1 constructor Brabham. 

Brabham had used Alfa Romeo engines in the past, and the company had just mothballed a V10 unit originally designed for a different team. Interestingly, the engine would have worked perfectly for the 1989 rule change that led to the 3.5-litre normally aspirated formulae that led to, eventually, 3.5-litre V10 engines being the piece of choice. Hmm. And who sold Brabham in 1988? Ecclestone.

So on top of this car's Nomex aluminum and carbon fibre construction was a lightweight body fitted on top. Weight? 750 kg (1653 lbs). Power? More than 600. Even better is that its shape may look boxy, but it's far more aerodynamic than a Formula 1 car, and so top speed was something like 349 km/h (217 mph). 

Problem? It wouldn't have anywhere to race. As topgear.com says: "So, in a bid to rally enthusiasm, Ricardo Patrese was called in to do two demo laps in the 164 Pro-Car during the 1988 Grand Prix weekend at Monza. Thing is, the Michelin slicks it wore were quite old, so bosses told him to take it easy, apart from a sprint down the main straight. The result? It looked rubbish. And a bit slow. The crowds weren’t into it, the other manufacturers decided to syphon off their surplus cash elsewhere, and Bernie canned Formula S."

Ciao!