(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.