There’s nothing more frustrating than seeing something special approaching from more than a block away and realizing there is no way to get any closer as it passes by. Sometimes you just hope for the best and often you just have to give up and pray you see eventually another one which is unlikely in this case. I spotted it not ten minutes after seeing yesterday’s Maybach as I was back on the sidewalk of the main road, waiting for Tatra87, and saw this little red car approaching from quite far away, the chrome glinting and the shape standing out somehow amidst all the amorphous plastic moderns surrounding it. I was too far from the light to get over there that quickly on my blistered feet, and really wasn’t keen on dodging traffic to get to the center divider. So I just snapped away and confirmed it was an Alfa Romeo as it got closer.
But not just any Alfa! This one is a Sprint Speciale produced between 1959 and 1966 (really 1965 but one car was finished in 1966), first named a Giulietta and then a Giulia after a refresh that really didn’t change anything of note externally. Looking up both versions reveals that the biggest “tell” is the way the leather covers part of the lower dashboard, not something I was privy to from my vantage point.
There was a little rabbit hole regarding the rear taillight configuration, which finally revealed no change between versions of the SS models. The side marker light and side badging supposedly changed from round to oblong and a certain script to different type but it doesn’t seem consistent even between pictures of purportedly same-year vehicles and the road barrier is exactly at the height at which some of those details might have made themselves definitively obvious, so I shan’t make any definitive pronouncement (yet).
What is beyond dispute, however, is that this is considered one of the most desirable post-war Alfa Romeos. There were an almost exactly same number of Giulietta SS’s produced as there were Giulia SS’s for a total of right around 2,800 between the two. These were the end production result of the “BAT” aerodynamic study cars which are pretty much the holy grail of Alfas.
Having been fortunate to have seen those three cars in the metal years ago at an exhibition in Danville, California at the Blackhawk Museum I will say I agree, they are absolutely stunning and without compare. Between those and this car were a few more prototypes that were more production ready; or perhaps production feasible is a better descriptor.
Designed by Franco Scaglione at Bertone (who also did the BAT cars), the original Giulietta SS was powered by a 1290cc twin cam Alfa engine. The successor Giulia SS from 1963 on after being displayed at the ’63 Geneva Motor Show featured an engine displacement of 1590cc, for a top speed in excess of 120mph for the road cars. The cars weighed right around 2000 pounds, were generally steel-bodied with some aluminum panels (hood, doors, trunk lid) and were exceedingly aerodynamic with a drag coefficient of 0.28. The Giulia name change also supposedly marked the move from 4-wheel drum brakes to discs at the front, however there were apparently some early cars that still had the drums.
So I’m not really sure which year this one is or if it’s the Giulietta or the “grown-up” Giulia, and it doesn’t really matter as it was an exciting moment to see it driving by for this Alfa fan. I just wish that Japan drove on the other side of the road.