When I bought the Giulietta I also started sourcing books about the car, and I couldn’t avoid reading about Giuseppe Busso, reading interviews with Giuseppe Busso, reading other people’s opinion on Giuseppe Busso and reading his opinion on everybody else. Obviously I already knew him from the 1980s 2.5-liter V6. People call it the Busso Engine; but when you start investigating his life and experience , you realize that the Vu Sei is the least of his accomplishments.
I am a mechanical engineer myself, but I am nothing like the character that Busso was. I know his kind of engineer and I do share some of his quirks though. It became very evident when I read his blunt answers to questions about Alfa Romeo top management during the gestation of the 1900 and Giulietta models immediately after the second world war. Giuseppe Busso was a very self-confident engineer and apparently he either respected other people or absolutely despised them; you had to win his respect, and that could only be achieved by doing proper engineering work. He didn’t seem to have had any patience with sloppy work and half-cooked decisions. I love it.
I have spent long time examining pictures of him - young and old. At work among colleagues and friends, at race tracks and with his project cars. I think I know him - but obviously I don’t have a clue; do not think this is a concise description of the man! It is just my interpretation - secondo me.
Just to get the periods in place and to draw an overview of his career: He was born in Torino in 1913, got a mechanical engineering education and spent two years at FIAT before starting as a junior engineer in the race engine department at Alfa Romeo in 1939 - 26 years old. This was after Vittorio Jano had left for Lancia and during the period when Enzo Ferrari was forced to work out of Milano in the Alfa Corse department. Wifredo Ricart (40 years old) was the dynamic and very intellectual Chief of Design for Special Projects at Alfa Romeo and Orazio Satta Puliga (age 29) was Technical Manager. And then came the war.
We all know that the Portello factory was bombed twice by the U.S. Air Force and that the engineering department and all the race cars were transferred to the Orta region where all was hidden away from the Nazis, who by then practically was occupying the north of Italy.
Immediately after the war Enzo Ferrari was free from his obligations to Alfa Romeo and started the design of his first proper Ferrari, the 125S. It is well known that it was developed by Gioachino Colombo while moonlighting from his Alfa Romeo day job. He only just made the car come through and then he was summoned back to Portello for the preparation of the Tipo 158 Grand Prix racer. That was in 1946 and Ricart had fled back to Franco’s Spain, Dottore Satta took over as Head of Design and Giuseppe Busso who had been one of the leading engineers in the restoration of the 158 project was suggested as a replacement for Gioachino Colombo at the Ferrari works in Modena.
Busso lept at the chance and stayed at Ferrari as Technical Director until 1948 while he specifically stood for the development of the supercharged 1500cc Grand Prix engine, and he also did the four-cam model with two-stage supercharging. But it never really worked, they couldn’t transfer the knowhow from the Alfa 158; the devil is in the detail, as they say. It never got the same horsepower output and it continuously blew up.
During that period, as we know, Aurelio Lampredi convinced Enzo Ferrari that a bigger 4.5-liter naturally aspirated engine was much better. It is obvious that Busso was genuinely irritated by the fact that the Ferrari 1.5-liter supercharging never really worked. He couldn’t cope with the bullshit and he hated Aurelio Lampredi. It is also interesting to read Colombo’s memoirs where he talks about Busso in kind words - it was actually he who suggested that Busso took over his position at Ferrari. But neither Busso nor certainly not Lampredi thought much of Gioachino Colombo; all because he was a much more hands-on technician and always seemed to do his development in a very casual way. Busso hated that.
Back at Alfa Romeo in 1948 (age 35) Giuseppe Busso immediately felt much better. And although he had given Scuderia Ferrari their first GP victories it is evident that it annoyed him that the story was that he had ruined Colombo’s V12 and that Lampredi had saved the glory with the big block 375. Gioachino Colombo didn’t seem to mind; he returned to Ferrari and started expanding the small block 125 to eventually the fabulous 250-series, positively ignoring the arrogant Lampredi. It should be said that Busso had done the first increases and had made a 159 and 166 (2-liter) which Colombo brilliantly utilized for Formula 2 and sports car racing.
At Alfa Romeo in Milano Ingenere Busso soon was in charge of all engine, driveline and suspension design and was in fact Orazio Satta Puliga’s right hand until he took over that job when the Alfetta was developed. It was also in the early 1970s he designed the famous Busso V6, but he retired in 1977, two years before the Alfa Romeo Sei came out with the engine. He died in 2006 a few days after the last V6 ran off the assembly line at Arese.
Okay, the stage is set. I will try to illuminate Giuseppe Busso by cutting quotes and remarks from what I have read. See you next time.