Not many car companies have the brand reputation as Alfa Romeo. This Italian car manufacturer definitely stands out as a company that always puts an additional dose of passion in their vehicles. I’m sure that many enthusiasts will agree that the most passion can be seen in the iconic V6 Busso engine. And the reason I’m mentioning this engine today is because exactly 106 years ago, the creator of this magnificent engine was born.
Giuseppe Busso was born on 27th April 1913 in Turin, where he studied engineering at the Turin Polytechnic University. His career started in 1937, when he was sent to work at Fiat’s technical aeronautical engine division (Ufficio Tecnico Motori Aviazione). Later, he was transferred to Fiat’s technical experimental locomotive division (Ufficio Tecnico Autoveicoli Ferroviari Sperimentali), where he worked until 1939. That’s when he was recruited by the head of Alfa Romeo special designs Wilfredo Ricart, and Busso’s adventure with Alfa began at their Servizio Studi Speciali.
At the new job position, Busso’s task was to create racing engines for this Italian brand, under the supervision of his friend Orazio Satta Puliga. But, the Second World War put a halt on his job, and when the design department moved north to Lago d’Orta, Busso’s job was to work on a 28-cylinder Tipo 1101 aeroplane engine. After the war, he thought he would go back to work for Alfa, but his position was given to Gioacchino Colombo.
Enzo Ferrari supervising (from left to right): Gioacchino Colombo, Giuseppe Busso and Luigi Bazzi working on the V12 engine. Credit: MotorAuthority.com
When Colombo started working for Alfa, he got a call from Enzo Ferrari to develop a new V12 engine for the model 125 S. Since that could result in a huge pay cut (because Ferrari was just starting the business), Colombo decided to work on the engine in his spare time, and recommended Busso to be his supervisor.
Busso came to Maranello in 1946, and helped Colombo with the 1.5-litre V12 for the Ferrari 125 S. But, when Alfa Romeo found out about Colombo’s “side job” with Ferrari, they sacked him immediately and re-hired Busso. So, his adventure with Alfa continued.
Busso (with his colleagues) testing an early prototype of the Alfa Romeo 1900. Credit: UltimoStile.com
He was in charge of all mechanical designs, and thanks to him, Alfa evolved from a producer of low volume sports cars to a mass producer. His first brainchild was the 1.9-litre DOHC straight-4 engine used in Alfa Romeo 1900. He developed this engine from his previous experience with Fiat’s aircraft division, and the 1.9-litre heart could be found in all Alfas, from the legendary Disco Volante to the Matta jeep (pictured below). The engine is also known as Bialbero (Italian for “twin cam”), and it remained the heart of many Alfas until the mid-1980s, when it was discontinued.
Even though that engine was great, that was not Giuseppe Busso’s best work. In the early 1970s, few years before his retirement, Alfa started to develop a new, bigger model to increase their production line. Busso took a final trick up from his sleeve and introduced his masterpiece; something that petrolheads know as the “V6 Busso”.
The first car to feature the new engine was the Alfa 6, which was introduced in 1979. It was a symphony of silky smooth revs and its sound was so divine it was nicknamed “Arese’s violin”.
The original version of the engine was a 2.5-litre, which could produce 156 HP, and had two valves per cylinder with a single belt-driven camshaft per cylinder and 6 carburettors. Other variants of the Busso V6 were:
- 2.0-litre with 130 HP
- 2.8-litre with 188 HP
- 2.9-litre with 174 HP
- 3.0-litre with power between 185 HP and 189 HP
- 3.2-litre with power between 237 HP and 247 HP
In 1986, Fiat took over Alfa Romeo’s production plant in Arese, and many enthusiasts were worried that it could signal an end of the mesmerizing V6. But, Fiat knew better than discontinuing this sensational engine. Instead, the engine survived and it was a heart of many amazing models such as the: 164, 90, 155, SZ, Spider, GTV (1993) and of course the iconic GTV6, among others.
Evo Magazine said that the Busso V6 is the best-sounding V6 engine ever made, and I’m sure that many petrolheads will agree on that. The engine was not just a masterpiece by the way it worked; it was also a masterpiece by the way it looked. Its chrome runners on the intake manifold are just pure pornography for anyone who is into cars, giving a certain “racecar look”.
This legendary creation kept roaring for 27 years. The very last Busso V6 was produced on December 31st 2005, and was installed on January 1st 2006. Only two days later, Giuseppe Busso passed away at the age of 92 in his home in Arese. I'm amazed how Giuseppe's heart stopped beating only 2 days after his beloved engine retired.
His funeral was on January 7th in the church of San Pietro and Paolo in Arese. After the ceremony, many Alfa Romeo enthusiasts spontaneously showed up with their V6 models on the square near the church, and started their engines to honour this genius.
Busso’s legacy remains, not only in thousands of engines which he helped create, but also in hearts of many petrolheads around the world who know the meaning of 'passion'.
Happy birthday, Giuseppe Busso! And thank you for your hard work! Alfa Romeo would not have been the same without you.