(First posted Dec. 1, 2013) The 1963 Alfa Romeo Sprint GTV is indisputably one of the finest and most enduring designs of the century. It’s just brilliantly beautiful, clean, and has aged splendidly; it was the car that really put Giorgetto Giugiaro on the map. But it was really just a scaled down evolution of his first ever design as head designer at Bertone, the 1961 Alfa 2600 Sprint. These cars are very rare, as the 2600 series was not a success except for the Sprint’s influence on the GTV.
The 2600 line was problematic for Alfa. It marked a return to the inline DOHC six engine that had been Alfa’s mainstay before the war. But because Alfa’s resources were limited, and those resources rightly went more towards the four cylinder Giulietta/Giulia range, the 2600’s superb new engine sat in a chassis that dated back to the 1900, which originated in 1950.
The 2600 range was really just a re-engined 2000, the larger four cylinder cars that had their roots in the 1900. Adding the larger six cylinder gave them more performance, but the chassis was showing its age. The Beriline’s (sedan) design was also showing its roots in an earlier period stylistically, and was a particularly poor seller, with lower volumes than the Sprint and Spider.
The 2600 Spider certainly was a handsome car, but not as inspired and clean as the Giulietta Spider. And it suffered disproportionally from the old chassis’ limitations. Only some 2200 were built.
Strictly speaking, the Sprint first appeared as a 1960 version of that Alfa 2000 range, built for one year with the old four cylinder engine before the new six was ready in 1961. The Sprint quickly became the most successful version of the 2000/2600 range, as it made a fine high-speed tourer. But because of its undersized tires and old chassis, it never had the handling prowess of its smaller four cylinder sibling. But it sure was a looker.
I found this one at the Sports Car Shop in Eugene, and it obviously had its engine out at the time. Only a few thousand of these were ever built, and they are exceedingly rare nowadays, except in the hands of their loving owners. Despite their chassis limitations, their engines are excellent, and its 145 hp afforded a 120 mph (200 kmh) top speed. When the engine is installed, that is.
Very nice cars but very rare here, they were horrendously expensive new.
The “greenhouse” is very similar to the Gordon Keeble, which was first shown on Bertones stand at the Geneva Motor show in March 1960 as the Gordon GT. I wonder which one Giugiaro actually did first. The Gordon was under-funded and didn’t enter production intil ’63, so Bertone might have thought it was stillborn.
The Gordon was one of the best looking cars Giugiaro designed. It goes to show how a couple of millimetres here and there can take a design from ‘dumpy’ to ‘svelte’. I think you’re right in terms of questioning which one was first, but its possible he was handling simultaneous briefs.
CC effect strikes again,I’ve just seen a Gordon Keeble in an episode of Waking the Dead.A beauty of a car with many similarities to the feature car.Strangely it had a tortoise for the car ‘s symbol,with a 327 Corvette engine it was anything but!100 were made in a 4 year production run,many survive but I’ve never seen one despite attending car shows since the 70s
Same here. I have seen a Gilbern Invader that had similar styling themes but boxier and less grace than a Giugiaro original.
This was a theme he worked over several times, let’s just say the 2600 was an early version, the 105 Giulia coupe was better.
What a diverse auto market we used to have. *sigh*
I often wonder what would have happened if Alfa had made more of these cars. Would we have got an I6 engined BMW E3 and E9 competitor?
I also wonder what it would take to solve the shortcomings of the 2600. Take a particularly ratty one, build some more stiffness into the shell, wider tyres and more a slightly more polished suspension setup.
Also, if the 2600 I6 is related to the I4 you should be able to punch it out to 3.0l.
Sacrilege maybe, but sacrilege I can live with 🙂
A beautiful car. I only wish you’d gotten a shot of the red leather interior 🙂
Although we owned a ’66 Duetto once, an GTV or GTV Jr was always our most desired Alfa after seeing them race at the Cumberland Nationals in ’69. The ethereal Sprint Speciale was even more an object of lust, but was virtually non-exsistent in the US even then, while standard GTVs remained attainable into the ’90s. However the right one never came along, and now never will, thanks to the escalation of prices over the last 20 years. Ah well, we can still admire these automotive Venus de Milos from afar…one never gets tired of looking at them, and driving one is even better, as it’s one case where beauty is more than skin deep.
Wow, something I am completely unfamiliar with.
That speed line coming from the rear wheel opening fascinates me. There are a lot of ways to mess those up and I am still not sure if I find this one successful or not.
And am I alone in thinking that the car needs just a bit of length added to the rear deck? Or perhaps the greenhouse extends to the back just a wee bit too far.
Those small nits aside, it is a lovely example of late 50s-early 60s Italian design.
I agree with you, J P, on the length of the rear deck. Being an inline 6, the hood is quite a bit longer than that of the GTV, which had an inline 4. This makes the 2600 resemble an Italian pony car, and it doesn’t work too well. Perhaps if the greenhouse were a bit shorter aft of the doors, the design would look more balanced. My favorite of this era has always been the Sprint Speciale, done at Bertone by Franco Scaglione, of BAT fame. A friend has one, and it’s always a treat to see it out and about. The first time I saw an SS was in 1962 on an Italian Autostrada, where the Polizia Stradale used them as pursuit vehicles. When you’re trying to overtake a FIAT Cinquecento on the highway, the Alfa SS four-cylinder is the equivalent of a U.S. Police Interceptor big-block V-8! When you got pulled over on an Italian highway, at least it was done with style and class!
While you are probably more correct than I might be, it seems that the issue with the rear deck may be due to the glass. In my mind, the glass, although invisible, lends the line needed to make this more of a fastback design. The photos contain enough glare to make it hard to say, but for some reason, my mind “reads” the line created by the glass as much as one done with steel. As such, the proportion on the rear deck seems quite nice to me. YMMV, of course.
The speed line is definitely more subtle than a Studebaker’s. 🙂
I’m finding both wheel arches a little awkward, but I think that is just the engineless car sitting a little too high.
“The 2600’s superb new engine sat in a chassis that dated back to the 1900, which originated in 1950”. Thank you Paul for inadvertently giving me an incredible funny, tear streaming uncontrollable laugh when I misread your sentence as “…new engine sat in a chassis that dated back to 1900” . Ah my unintended miss of a vital word, “the”, gave me an amazingly satisfying laugh at the irony, the juxtaposition of a modern engine mounted in an ancient chassis from turn of the century 1900. An obvious error, but a funny error.
Only after I stopped laughing, cleared my eyes of tears, I reread the sentence correctly and then felt deflated by my mistake realizing that the idiot was me. Paul, I owe you an apology for initially wrongly attributing an ironic error to you. But thanks for the best laugh that I’ve had in weeks.
I first saw a woeful rusting Spider 2600, parked on a cobble stone street, with a torn top in 1974 in the little downtown of Nantucket, Mass. while on the way to visit a friend’s parents who lived in Siasconset. The Cape Cod sea air and weather had already taken their toll on the Spider, likely living out its last days as a vacation place car before being junked.. I remember circling around the Spider at least twice in awe looking at and scrutinizing this exotic appearing car, realizing that it was an Alfa, with count ’em, six cylinders, not a Ferrari, Wow. What a realization, that Alfa had made a post war modern six, intriguing.
I remember that the two young women with me, one of whom was my girl friend, became really impatient with me spending time looking at “just a car’. I guess that I was a CCurbivore already, and I never forgotten seeing this neglected, sad appearing exotic to this day. Now we would recognize the encounter as a CC treat to be imaged with a phone camera. I had no camera with me to document that day in Nantucket, unfortunately. Ah, memories, priceless memories.
Wow! Two enclosed phone booths in one shot.
Small block Chevy time! Just kidding. I also initially misread that it had a chassis dating back to 1900. That would be a bouncy ride. What a classy and beautiful car. Without the motor it looks like it is taking off from a stop. There is no mistaking this as anything else from any other country. The wheels look big to me like an optical illusion because I never see cars this small in real life. I once saw a Ferrari Berlinetta on Lake Shore Drive in Chicago and it was dwarfed by everything around it, and this seems smaller still. I would have to fold myself in half to fit into it and it would be totally worth it. Even just sitting in the driveway. Without an engine. Headlights just looking aspirationally to the sky.
Very nice car. A few years later Alfa introduced the dramatic 2600 SZ styled by Zagato. That styling house has a spotty record in terms of looks but this time they got it pretty much right.
That Zagato is an attractive car. It looks very clean, and like they didn’t waste one square inch of material they didn’t need. Is that what minimalist means? I’m serious. I am not cultured except for when I occasionally eat a yogurt.