Alfa Romeo 164 ProCar When you hear “ProCar,” a BMW M1 will probably come to mind, if anything. The M1 ProCars raced in a short-lived, two-season series that was designed with the dual purpose of giving the not-yet-homologated Bimmers a means to compete prior to their inception into Group 4, while also providing another source of entertainment during Formula 1 weekends (the races initially took place in the days leading up to the Sunday event, and featured a mixture of F1’s top contenders and anyone who could foot the bill/qualify to keep up).
So where does this humble and slightly homely looking Alfa come into play? As the story goes, Bernie Ecclestone began hashing out plans to develop the ProCar series into a multi-make affair sometime in the mid-to-late ‘80s, with the idea being more or less: “Put Formula 1-level engines in production car bodies and let them race each other.” This was the aborted idea known as Formula S.
It sounds much more intriguing than the open-wheelers if you ask me, but unfortunately it was not to be; a pair of 164 ProCars were the only efforts made, by anyone. But what a car. Packing a 3.5-liter V10 good for 620-plus-horsepower and a redline somewhere above or below the 13k mark depending on who you ask, it was a screamer if there ever was one. The fact that it was mounted amidships in a lightweight aluminum chassis developed by Brabham and then sheathed in the unassuming bodywork of the ho-hum 164—albeit here it was a three piece shell made from an ultra-light composite of carbon, kevlar, and Nomex—just makes it flat-out cool. If you didn’t poke your head inside to see the single seat and otherwise barren interior, the only giveaways that this wasn’t your typical sedan were the huge slicks and the relatively tiny rear wing. Besides making this one of the most unique sleepers, it also meant there wasn’t all that much in the way of downforce, which allowed the 164 ProCar to achieve speeds above 210mph. 0-60 was reported at a few fractions over two seconds.
That’s all thanks to the featherweight reading on the scale—roughly 1,650lbs—and that wild V10. The motor was intended for Formula 1 though, and its development can be traced back a few years prior to the first tests of the ProCar in 1988, when Alfa began developing a new V10, its first and only, to be placed in the French Ligier chassis for use in Formula 1, before that partnership folded as a result of Fiat purchasing Alfa.
Back to the motor. The project began in earnest near the end of ‘85, and the quad-cam was ready for dyno testing not long after in ‘86, which made it the first of the new breed of F1 “power units,” and the first working V10 ever built for the top-spec of auto racing. Pino D’Agostino and his team of engineers beat both Honda and Renault to the punch in the V10 game, but sadly, like the 164 ProCar, the motor never got to see its fair shot at competing. Few videos exist of the brief on-track demonstration at Monza with Riccardo Patrese behind the wheel, and though it’s a clip worth watching, it’s a bit bittersweet—can you imagine a full field of cars like this one bumping doors like touring cars and drafting down the straights at 200-plus? If only.