Old Alfas are like film stars. They wait until the sunset hour to go out and parade on the strada, basking in the adulation of the cognoscenti (and the occasional paparazzo) and using the dimming light to their advantage. We’ve had a look at these before on CC, but this moss green early model Super appeared before me, on a fine Sunday afternoon, so we’re going to get to know Miss Giulia in a bit more detail.
The Alfa Romeo Giulia Tipo 105/115 (i.e. with the famous DOHC 4-cyl. engine, either in 1.6 or 1.3 litre guise) berlina was made in a bewildering array of trim variations, in quite large numbers (about 475,000 units) and for a relatively long spell (1962-77).
There were many related models, including the slightly larger 1750 / 2000 saloon, the scrumptious Bertone coupé and the immortal PF Spider, the latter lasting until the mid-‘90s. But you’ll have to click on the links if you want to know more about those, or read Roger Carr’s comprehensive piece on this family of cars. This post will focus on the standard berlinas, as there’s plenty to pick at on those alone.
The Giulia came on the heels of the Giulietta, which was Alfa’s first foray in the mid-range market (mid-range for ‘50s Europe, that is) and showed that there really was no reason to leave the huge demand for sexy, sporty and sophisticated Italian compacts to Lancia.
The Giulietta’s basic recipe was spruced up for the ‘60s, but kept pretty much the same: the famous 4-cyl. mated to superb a 5-speed manual, driving a coil-sprung live rear axle (to keep costs down, unlike those mad engineers over at Lancia), wrapped in a stylish unit-bodied four-door saloon. The styling was very different, moving from the modestly-finned, high-beltline Giulietta to the decidedly boxy and deceptively slippery Giulia. Disc brakes, initially only on the front wheels, completed the package.
The ‘50s influence is still present in this early ‘60s design, though. As this essential Paul-penned post perceptively pointed out, the Alfa’s rear end and C-pillar seems to echo the 1959 Edsel. Actually, it’s more of a called-down carbon copy in some ways, but it works quite well on the much narrower Italian car thanks to the tasteful rectangular taillights and less contoured flanks.
It seems the chap in charge in Milan was Giuseppe Scarnati, head of Alfa Romeo Centro Stile from 1957 to 1975; credit for the Giulia saloon should go to him. The boxiness of the berlina’s styling, aside from being a fairly fashionable choice after the Googie ‘50s, also improved cabin and boot space. The Giulia was born as a 1600cc car and, compared to its European rivals, was still on the smaller side, though it was a lot bigger inside than the Tipo 101 Giulietta it replaced. Early cars even had a column change that enabled them to be rated as a six-seater.
Sportiness ended up commanding that the gear stick migrate down to the floor, where it stayed for the rest of the car’s life. The handbrake similarly moved to the floor in the late ‘60s, but our feature car still has the umbrella-handle type under the dash. This Giulia even has an aftermarket A/C under there! The ambiance of this cabin is quintessentially mid-‘60s, in the most pleasurable way. Alfa interiors of this era were nothing short of sublime.
Legroom is none too generous, back here – the 98-inch wheelbase is a little on the limited side, and those biscuit-coloured seats are rather plump.
I’ll admit to a few lingering misgivings about the Giulia’s overly boxy exterior, though it has been growing on me these past few years. But one look at that gorgeous interior and I’m back under the Giulia’s spell. This one is particularly well restored, though the lack of seat belts is the one stock shortcoming I would address if this were my car.
As indicated previously, there were a lot of variants – a confusing array of overlapping trim levels and series that is hard to summarize in anything but a table (like this one). The specific trim we have here is the Giulia Super, which appeared in 1965 as a deluxe twin carb version of the 1.6 litre model and was made, in two distinct series, until 1973. Series 1 cars (1965-69) like our CC were made in just over 77,000 units, making it the most popular of the 1600cc models. With 98 hp (DIN) under the hood to push around 1000kg of Alfa, the Giulia Super is also a spirited performer. I guess it’s redundant to call an Alfa Romeo a “spirited performer,” but there are some clichés that are hard to pass up.
The first Giulia saloon was the TI, which was made from 1962 to 1967. From 1964 onwards, a junior model sporting the Giulietta’s 1300cc engine always accompanied the 1600 range. The 1.3 litre cars were extremely popular on the domestic market, eventually selling even better than the 1.6 litre cars. In 1974, a major facelift provided a distinctive plastic grille; the henceforth Giulia Nuova Super went on until 1977, even gaining a Perkins Diesel version in the last couple of years.
Even with its black nose and smoky tailpipe, one can imagine how outdated the Giulia must have seemed by the mid-‘70s, sharing the same dealership forecourts as Alfasuds, GTVs and Alfettas. Nevertheless, the old Giulia was surprisingly hard to kill, especially on its home market, as it became better value in its advancing years and kept the Alfa mystique – and that jewel of an engine – until the very end.
Still, the earlier cars like our CC are definitely the better ones of the breed. A lot of detailing changed over the years, both inside and out, and the mid-‘60s ones, with their cool chromed nose, period-perfect cabin and nifty rear longhand script. The green paintwork seals the deal – I realize some of our distinguished CCollaborators (looking at you, Roger!) are of the opinion that Alfas Must Be Red, but on this we may have to agree to disagree.
Ready for your close-up then, Miss Giulia? Che bella!
Cohort Classic: 1969 Alfa Romeo Giulia 1300Ti – Nice Alfa!, by Roger Carr
CC Outtake: Blue Jewel, by Robert Kim