The pubs of England are wonderful places. Not only do they serve proper, often excellent, warm beer, they also have car parks like this. I guess you don’t see a selection like this outside a Taco Bell.
The pub has been an obvious and natural meeting point in all villages and communities for centuries, and the invention of car clubs has only helped to continue this. This meeting, which I found by chance, is a little different though. It is a gathering of Alfa Romeo enthusiasts, preparing for a road run through some of the best driving country and scenery of southern England – the Cotswolds hills of Gloucestershire and Oxfordshire.
We’ll try and review these cars in as close to chronological order as we can.
Giulietta saloon, 1958
The first Giulietta saloon was launched in 1955, after the coupe Sprint version the year before. Known internally within Alfa Romeo as the type 750C, it had a 52hp 1290cc 4 cylinder engine, with twin overhead camshafts, which for 1954 was quite something. Most (nominally) comparable European cars of the time were still using OHV engines. Paul Niedermayer gave us an outline history of this engine last December. The wheelbase was 94 inches, making it smaller than the BMC Farina saloons for example. In terms of market position, it was probably somewhere similar to that of the BMW 3 series now, but at a considerably lower volume. Alfa was never, and still isn’t really, a mainstream brand – they are almost always sought out by buyers who want something different and are willing to accept the consequences of doing so.
There were some estate versions made also, by outside coachbuilders as Don Andreina showed us recently, including the intriguingly named Promiscua….
Giulietta Spider, 1957 and 1963
I’ve always sensed that many Alfa saloons were a means to justify and effectively subsidise a sports car, and the Giulietta is no different. This 1957 Spider is almost a archetypical Alfa Spider – a red convertible styled and assembled by Pininfarina, with a four cylinder twin cam engine and looks to die for.
Line this up against an MGA and it would be everyone’s pick on any criterion. It has the same 1290cc engine as the saloon, though a shorter wheelbase. And remember, it has a twin cam engine; the MGA (usually) had the engine from a Morris Oxford saloon.
The exterior shot is of a 1957 car; this interior (and what a glorious place it looks to be) is from a 1963 car, distinguished by the raised section and additional inlet in the bonnet
Giulietta Sprint, 1958 and 1962
Visually, another car to die for! The same recipe as the Giulietta saloon and on the same wheelbase, the Sprint was actually the first of the range to be offered, in 1954. The Sprint and the saloon were styled by Bertone, who also assembled the Sprint.
The blue car is a 1958; the red one is a 1962 with the 1570cc engine from the later Giulia.
Giulia 1300, 1965
In 1962, Alfa replaced the Giulietta saloons with the Giulia. As it lost the diminutive “–etta” from the name, it gained size, weight, power and speed. The initial base model was a 1570cc twin cam engine, with around 90bhp initially, later rising to 112bhp. Later versions kept with the 1570cc engine but Alfa also offered the 1290cc from the Giulietta, to create the Giulia 1300 from 1964, as a lower cost option. This was effectively a stripped out base model, missing many of the features that were standard on the larger engined cars, notably the 5 speed gearbox. Yes, Alfa were offering, as standard, a 5 speed gearbox on a family saloon in the 1964, perhaps 20 years before they were commonplace in Europe. And there was no automatic option. 5 speed only; this was a car for enthusiastic drivers, or Italians.
To many of us, this is the classic 1960s Alfa Romeo saloon, and was the basis the enduring Alfa Romeo Spider (Graduate).
Alfa Romeo Giulia Sprint Speciale, 1966
In addition to the regular Sprint coupe, Alfa also offered the Giulia Sprint Speciale, designed by Franco Scaglione at Bertone with perhaps the most gorgeous styling ever applied to a four cylinder a car. Initially built for FIA homologation, a batch of 101 were produced with aluminium doors, bonnet and boot lid before the main production cars were produced with steel doors. The early car used he same 1290cc engine as the Giulietta saloon, but with twin Weber carbuerettors and around 100bhp. Add this to a drag factor of 0.28 (still a great number 50 years later) and you have something that could keep a Porsche 356 on its toes.
In 1963, as with the Giulia, the car went up to 1570cc with 112bhp, and was badged the Giulia SS. This 1966 car is one of these and is, in fact, one of only 25 converted to right hand drive.
The first 101 cars produced were known as the “low nose”–the third from the right in the line above is an example.
Giulia GT Veloce, 1969
The 1962 Giulia saloon, like its predecessor, has a coupe version which is perhaps one of most recognised Alfas and one of the 1960s’ most popular “good times” cars. Known as the Giulia Sprint, and later as the Sprint GT Veloce and the GT Junior, it was one of the last cars penned by Giorgetto Giugiaro at Bertone, before he founded Ital Design.
This example is a 1969 car, with a 1779cc version of the Alfa twin cam engine with around 120bhp giving perhaps 110mph. The styling had evolved only slightly from the 1963 cars, gaining 4 headlights and a re-profiled bonnet. This car remains perhaps the most sought after fixed roof Alfa Romeo, with an attractive balance of looks, performance and usability.
So, not a bad set of reasons to accept a delay on our journey to a restored steam railway!
We’ll be looking at some other Afla CCs over the next few weeks and months, but in the meantime, I’ll take the Giulia SS – frankly if Sophia Loren had wheels, this would be her!
A car park like this? It’s enough to drive a man to drink! Make mine a Riggwelter, served at room temperature please!