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.
Alfa Romeo BAT5, BAT7, BAT9 by Bertone (BAT- Berlinetta Aerodinamica Tecnica)
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.
Mike Butts found one in Portland a while back along with a lot of other Alfas
Roger Carr also found one down at the local pub mixed into another batch of Alfas
Don Andreina goes into depth on Bertone, Alfa, and Mazda in a piece that touches on these cars’ history
It’s frustrating that we have a beautiful car like the Sprint Speciale with that wonderful drag coefficient number (the mass produced Karmann Ghia had about the same number) and yet today’s typical angry transformer car doesn’t have one as low or significantly lower to make up for the way they look. It’s a shame.
The number I see referenced for the Karmann-Ghia is 0.37 which is nowhere near as low as 0.28. What number do you see and what source?
I’ve seen estimates from 0.37 to 0,32 (a claim that the Ghia exactly matches that of the 356)
Hundreds of used car dealers in NZ are happy the Japanese drive on the left, Samoa changed the side of the road they drive on so their people can source cars cheaply from NZ rather than expensively from the US, dont be wishing things that would make the world more awkward, Great find though and not really the place such a car would be expected to be seen on the street, I see a post on FB this morning where my cuzzy in the UK is parking his V6 Alfa spider up for the winter his diesel Alfa remains in use as his commuter car and open air travel can be done on any of his motorcycle collection that runs.
Wow, that is a super sweet find in any country. As utterly and exquisitely beautiful as it was, it was still a point of contention between Franco Scaglione and Nuccio Bertone – related to the difficulty in actually producing the bodies. It pretty much marked the end of their relationship despite it being Scaglione’s finest hour.
For ages, I thought these were slightly gaudy things, all a bit too long in the oven, until one day I saw one in the metal. Oh dear me. I simply could not stop staring at it, to the point of feeling unseemly. Gorgeous.
I didn’t know till this post opened a brief hole of rabbitry that the first 100 versions from ’59 into ’60 have a different, lower front. I think it may look even finer.
Surely William Lyons had a glance at these for his E-type? With the Kamm end, the rear is mightily similar to the later XJ6. Legend has it that Lyons improved an XJ6 E-typish prototype by ordering the chopping off of the long tail. The earliest Scaglione effort of this car looks to have had a similar ectomy closer to production.
Hell of a catch, Mr K. Feel obliged to point out that though you may wish Japan drove on the other side of the road, with yours free to stroll upon, it would make that other side awfully crowded and hairy.
What a catch, Jim.
Wait for T87, get a rare ’60s Alfa in the meantime. The CC effect, sort of.
I know there are a few other awesome goodies in store from you as well. It seems central Tokyo is prime CC hunting grounds…
And here I was, thrilled at catching a glimpse of a 1977 Olds 88 Pace Car edition.
A seriously cool find, and you made the best of your very limited photo opportunity.
Nothing else necessary….
Not sure why some countries insist on driving on the wrong side of the road. Doesn’t make a heck of a lot of sense. (Sweden used to, but wised up over 50 years ago and switched to driving on the correct side of the road.)
Not too long ago (for lord-knows what reason) I added up the number of right-hand drive vehicles made annually, and it was about 20 million, or about 15% greater than the entire US vehicle market! Mostly seems to be the British Empire once shaded the world map, with the intriguing exception of Japan.
I believe British engineers built the first railroads in Japan, which apparently had something to do with it. Probably why there’s tea all over the place here as well 🙂 Yes, I know tea isn’t native to Britain…
I was being very tongue in cheek and hoped (in vain, as it turned out) people would realize that when I wrote “wrong side” as it was merely happenstance that the car was on that side of the road and I was on the other in this case. There is no right or wrong side of the road. As far as Sweden goes it was likely more convenient for Sweden to change as its direct neighbors as well as many farther afield were all LHD and they were the odd man out, so to speak.
Whichever side you happen to learn on becomes “normal” to oneself but that doesn’t make the other way “wrong” at all as long as the car is designed for that market, i.e. the wheel on the left for driving on the right side of the road and on the right for driving on the left side of the road. And the word “right” in this case isn’t used to mean “correct” 🙂 I’ve driven both and been comfortable in both situations, it’s irrelevant to me.
You are aware that on modern vehicles the wheel and controls switch sides too, it’s not just the same exact cars that are physically on the other side with the driver near the sidewalk? That is what was happening in Sweden and the reason they ultimately switched.
Also, Iceland switched in ’68 after watching Sweden, although they don’t have a land border. Same thing.