The history of the 164 Pro-Car has its origin in 1985, when Alfa Romeo decided to return to Formula 1 World Championship, and the management decided that they would build a new 3.5 liter engine, which would be installed in the French F1 Ligier.
At this time, Pino D’Agostino, one of the world’s most famous engineers, was convinced that it was possible to balance a 72 degree V10 engine. He reasoned that if 8 cylinders had been the best engine in the Formula 3000, a V10 would be the best engine for the new Formula 1. After receiving the necessary authorization, in November 1985 the V10 project officially began.
Engineer D’Agostino was the head of this project and had a great team: Bodini, Bordoni, Flor, Giani, Mazzoleni, Rossetti, Teruzzi and Turina. In an amazingly short time, the Alfa Romeo V1035 (10 cylinders, 3.5 liters) engine became the first modern F1 V10 engine (Honda presented a model of the engine only one month after the introduction of the Italian V10 while Renault produced its V10 the following year).
On 1st July 1986, the V10 engine was started for the first time, and developed 583hp. Thanks to its technical parameters, which are still used in Formula 1 engines, the Alfa V10 became the reference point for other project managers.
Technically the 10 cylinders are formed by two banks of five with an opening of 72°, the block is in aluminum-silicon alloy. The connecting rods are titanium, moulded pistons with high density silicon, with two ring segments, and are cooled with oil jets. Initially, the heads featured four valves per cylinder but later the engine was equipped with five valves per cylinder. The valves are titanium, activated by spring in tappets, action is transmitted to the valves by four camshafts with phase variations, two for each head. A titanium flywheel was connected to the crankshaft.
In its last version, the fantastic V10 Alfa Romeo engine produced 620hbp at 13300rpm, with a max torque of 39kgm at 9500rpm.
Unfortunately, some time later, Vittorio Ghidella (Fiat's General Manager) broke off the relationship with Ligier and the dream of returning to F1 with the Alfa Romeo engine vanished.
For some time the V10 remained abandoned in an corner of the workshop, then, some time later, the top management of the Fiat group decided to use the V10 for their new program, the Pro-Car project.
The Pro-Car (or Production Car) series was a formula for competition cars designed to look exactly like the version of the standard road car. But these were to be hot rods--perhaps more like Funny Cars, which could use the mechanics and technical solutions that derived from F1, thanks to the regulations which permitted a lot of freedom in the construction.
Among the few restrictions contemplated by the regulations; the car could had a weight no less that 750kg (1650 lbs) and the use of a 3500cc engine with no more than 12 cylinders (the last clause of the regulations was a way to involve the big car companies in the supply of engines destined to F1).
It was expected that major companies would participate in the Pro Car series because of the high tech nature and obvious advertising opportunities, given that the series would have featured all-out racing cars, yet that had a bodywork exactly like the standard cars.
Alfa Romeo now had a fantastic V10 engine but would have had to develop a new, rigid and lightweight chassis. That problem was solved by giving Brabham the order to construct a chassis composed of a central cell with beehive structure, realized in Nomex aluminum and
covered in carbon fiber panels. The choice of the Brabham factory made use of a synergy which had already existed since the mid-1970’s, when the Milanese company supplied “boxer” engines for the F1 BT45, and from the fact that the English factory had a great deal of experience in the field of composite materials.
After many technical meetings, fifteen engines and two cars were completed by September 1988. One these cars was given to Giorgio Francia for a test on the private track of Balocco. Francia tested the car about ten days before the Italian Grand Prix and was impressed by the speed and the acceleration of the car, which also demonstrated that it was well balanced. During the tests, the 164 Pro-Car reached a top speed of 340km/h, (211 mph) and was possible to drive a quarter of a mile in only 9.7 seconds, and to reach one kilometer from a stop took 17.5 seconds.
A few days later, 9th September 1988, during the weekend dedicated to the Italian Grand Prix, the 164 Pro-Car made its debut into society on the Monza track. It was an exceptional debut, just a few unforgettable laps, but which showed all the potential of a fantastic car.
Driven by Brabham driver Riccardo Patrese, it reached a speed of 329 km/h, a speed much higher than that reached by the F1 cars entered in the Grand Prix! It was an impressive debut; in which the performance was easy reached, thanks to aerodynamics that had a CX value much less than that of a single seater.
Unfortunately this was the only ‘dance’ for the 164 Pro-Car, for aside from Alfa, there was no other company which was willing to take the risk and front the costs for developing a car for the championship. The Pro-Car series never got underway, and the 164 Pro-Car became a research laboratory. A championship similar to the Pro-Car series was held only years later, called World Touring Championship ITC. Alfa Romeo, Mercedes and GM-Opel developed cars which were so interesting that they almost overshadowed the F1 Championship, with the consequence that the FIA cancelled the very popular World Touring Car Championship.
Today, the fantastic Alfa 164 V10 can be see at Museo Alfa Romeo in Arese.