Cohort Classic: 1969 Alfa Romeo Giulia 1300Ti – Nice Alfa!

The CC Cohort is a gift that keeps giving. Staxman has recently posted these shots of an Alfa Romeo Giulia 1300Ti which he saw in Seattle on Milan registration plates, to which I immediately sang out “Nice Alfa!” to an otherwise empty room. You do that sometimes and if you drive an Alfa, you get used to hearing it.

The 1300Ti was a version of the Giulia Berlina (saloon) Tipo 105 series, first seen in 1962 as the Giulia Ti, with a 1570cc twin cam four cylinder engine producing some 92bhp, which was an impressive output for the time. The body was completely new, and was designed internally by Alfa. There are some contemporary features, even Edsel like shapes,  in the deck lids, window shapes and grille shapes, and maybe you could suggest that the Corvair is in there somewhere. Equally, you can also identify some contemporary European styles there also, with a roof line not dissimilar to that of the Ford Cortina and an upright stance and screens not unlike the BMW Neue Klasse or the larger Mercedes-Benz W110 for example. A characterful shape that has aged better than you might expect?

If you consider it tricky to identify a definitive influence on the shape of the Giulia, here’s something to consider. This is the Alfa Romeo Tipo 103, built as a prototype in early 1960 and linked by some to proposals for Alfa Romeo to build the Renault 8 for the Italian market.

Alfa and Renault had a partnership building and distributing the Dauphine in Italy, which later included the Renault 4 and was expected to include the Renault 8.

The Renault 8, as launched in 1962, the same year as the Giulia, was a rear engined four door saloon, based around the previous Renault Dauphine platform.  The Alfa Tipo 103 was planned to have a four cylinder front engine of 896cc driving the front wheels and clothed in a body that looks like a down sized Giulia, and with a strong resemblance to the proportions and volumes of the Renault 8.  Did the Alfa proposal come from one of the Italian styling houses, and was it then adapted by Pierre Charbonneaux for Renault? Tatra87 discusses this further (and better) here, in his biographic piece on Philippe Charbonneaux.

The 1959/1960 Tipo 103 has many of the styling features that are visible in the Giulia, such as front and rear screen shapes, the dip in the bonnet, the recess in the rear deck lid and the upright stance of the glasshouse. Who originated these features is not clear – most accounts record that the Tipo 105 project was internally accomplished by Alfa Romeo without outside design assistance.

What is undeniable is the aerodynamic efficiency of the Giulia – the drag coefficient was surpassed in 1962 by only the Citroën DS and Porsche 356, although the upright stance would add to the cross-sectional area of course. Details like the generous radii around the windscreen, running the upward sloping bonnet, and on the screen itself, around the front corner of the car, the high sharp rear end of the roof and the almost flat rear deck all add together to generate a Cd of just 0.34, a figure that twenty years later was trumpeted as a major achievement by Audi.

In addition to the aerodynamic efficiency, the car also had big windows to aid the spacious interior. Early cars were fitted with a column gearchange and a split bench front seat, giving capability to accommodate six people, albeit rubbing shoulders.

The Ti was soon followed by the Super Ti, which added more power from twin Weber carburettors and a weight reduction programme with plexiglass rear windows, the heater was deleted along with some of the comfort features, but discs brakes came in. These cars are now highly sought after. Visually, they can be spotted by single headlamps and grilles where the inner lamps would have been.

More mainstream was the 1964 Giulia 1300, visually distinguished by single headlamps and no dummy light grilles. This had the 1290cc twin cam engine, giving 78 bhp at 6000 rpm. Suspension, as it was on all Giulias was unequal length control arms with shocks, coil springs and anti-roll bar at the front; a live axle with trailing arms, shocks and coil springs at the rear.

Steering was by recirculating ball and there were four wheel disc brakes. There was a four speed gearbox, which was only fitted to the Giulia 1300, with a floor shift.

Next came the 1965 Giulia Super – you can see this as a more everyday take on the more highly strung Super Ti, if you wish. Think Ford Cortina GT and Ford Cortina Lotus, if you like.The engine was tuned more for torque, there was a new dashboard with the twin round dials in individual binnacles and minor trim equipment and mechanical changes. This car became the default Giulia for many buyers and was the most numerous version.

Also in 1965 came the Giulia 1300Ti. This was fitted with the engine from the Giulia GT1300 Junior coupe, a five speed gearbox and a plusher interior than the regular 1300. Our feature car, seen by Staxman in Seattle and wearing Milan (where else?) number plates is a 1300Ti, and based on the presence or absence of certain changes (centre handbrake, Giulia Super dash) I’m putting it as a 1969 car. If you want to correct me because it’s your car, please do!

The Giulia was officially replaced in 1974 by the Giulia Nuova Super 1300 and 1600. The main differences were the black plastic grille and a boot lid without the distinctive central recess. In 1976, Alfa added the Giulia Nuova Super Diesel, with a 1.8 litre Perkins diesel engine (is this the only British engine ever fitted to an Alfa?) with all of 54bhp and 86 mph. Still, the 1970s were a tough time and few knew that better than Alfa Romeo.

Production of the Giulia finally ceased in 1978; production numbers seem harder to verify than you might expect but around 960,000, probably including the later 1750 and 2000 Berlinas, seems credible.

Alfa Romeo, being Alfa Romeo, made the Giulia the keystone of a large and slightly bewildering family of cars, three variations of which are well known and deserve an overview here.

First, as mentioned above, the Giulia was stretched in 1968 to create the 1750 and 2000 Berlina – a much more graceful word than saloon isn’t it? Bertone was tasked with the redesign, and effectively reskinned the Giulia to remove many of the character lines and personality from the car. Some may say that it made less of an acquired taste; it was certainly less memorable, with a lower body almost totally devoid of the creases that had made the Giulia so recognisable. The car though was clearly built on the same base. Think Triumph 2000 Mk1 to Triumph 2000 Mk2 – sleeker, maybe more modern but definitely less distinctive. The car also gained 2.5 inches in wheelbase and 9 inches in length, all clearly at the rear.

Power came from the same twin overhead cam engine, though in 1779cc 118bhp and, from 1971, 1962cc 132 bhp forms. Twin headlights were fitted, with the inner unit being slightly smaller on the 1750 version.

As a measure of where the Alfa driver fitted in the spectrum, of 90,000 Berlina 2000s produced, just 2.5% had automatic transmission. The 1750 Berlina was superseded by the Alfetta in 1972, the 2000 Berlina by the Alfetta 2000 in 1977.

The transition from Giulia family to Alfetta family was one of Alfa’s many confused moments. The larger 2000 Berlina was superseded by the Alfetta in two stages, and then the smaller, older Giulia was nominally superseded by the 1977 Giulietta – a shorter Alfetta on the same wheelbase as the donor car and with the same engines. It’s still one of my favourite Alfa saloons though, even if my Dad didn’t buy one in 1979.

Perhaps my favourite Alfa Romeo Coupe is the Giulia Sprint GT and its derivatives, under a quite bewildering and seemingly inconsistent series of nomenclature – Sprint GT, GT Veloce, GTV, 1750 and 2000GTV, GT 1300 Junior, GT 1600 Junior, GTC, the list goes on.

What does not vary, except in minor detail, is the Giugiaro styling, accomplished whilst he was working at Bertone.

The earliest and perhaps the purest is the 1963 Giulia Sprint GT, with the 1570cc twin cam engine. Fitted with twin Weber carburettors, it gave around 105bhp and in the shortened light weight body could reach 112mph. The wheelbase was trimmed by 6 inches, and the rear accommodation pretty marginal for larger passengers, but, frankly, do you care about that? I don’t. It’s why I buy lottery tickets.

This car continued until 1977; it grew into the 1750 and 2000 GTV versions with twin headlamps by which time the styling was arguably dating, albeit gracefully. Arguably, Alfa have never been able to truly replace it. We hope that one day they will.

The other famous and greatly remembered derivative was the Alfa Romeo Spider, also known as the Duetto (unofficially) and the Graduate, in North America. This car was based on a further cut down wheelbase, just 89 inches, and styling by Pininfarina, which in the early versions with the sweeping tail, bore certain Jaguar E-Type cues.

The Spider (the most commonly used name used for it) came originally in 1966, with the sweeping tail (known as the boat tail or dove tail); the more familiar square tail came in 1970. The first series had the 1570cc engine, tuned for 108bhp. In 1968, the engine was opened up to 1779cc, for the Spider 1750, with 118 bhp and close to 120 mph. Comparisons to the MGB in the British press started to look a bit forced, even, frankly, embarrassing, except for the price – closer to a Jaguar E-Type. Blame import tariffs and production volumes – there were 124,000 cars in 27 years compared with 500,000 MGBs in 20 years.

This example is actually one of the rarer versions – the 1300 Junior. Visually, the biggest difference is the lack of fairings over the head lights, though they were some other minor differences. Mechanically, little was changed other than the engine.

From 1970, the more familiar square Kamm tail was introduced, a style that endured until 1994 when the Spider was finally allowed to retire. The final series of cars were not helped by the bulky black spoilers added to the tail or the body kit like bumpers. Classic styling will remain classic if it’s left alone.

However, this remains one of the most charismatic cars produced in Europe during the 1960s and 1970s (its heyday, in reality), and is the reason I will continue to buy lottery tickets. A good car is surprisingly good value for money; here in the UK you can spend £12-15000 and get a well prepared and maintained MGB or an Alfa Spider? No, it’s not a contest is it?

The Giulia was also the basis, albeit it at a slight distance, for the Alfa Romeo Montreal, with its F1 based V8 engine. Not many 1960s family cars could claim a lineage to match that.

And, not many 1960s family cars can claim a lasting influence and admiration that has kept the manufacturer, and enthusiasts, on edge for over 40 years trying to produce a follow up with the same appeal and capability.  We trust that one day Alfa will get there, subjectively and, crucially, objectively.