White is rarely the best colour for cars, in my opinion. Just my luck, it’s extremely popular in Asia, but never mind. The challenge is to find a car that actually looks better in white than in its usual colour. And I think I found it in this Bertone beauty, which thankfully eschews the usual Alfa red in favour of a whiter shade of pale.
Just like that famously incomprehensible Hammond-laced earworm mentioned above and referenced in the title of this post, the Alfa Romeo 1750 GT Veloce came out in 1967. It was a new and improved version of the Giulia-based Bertone coupé that Alfa Romeo had been peddling since late 1963 (cue Oh What A Night by the Four Seasons) and could probably be called the definitive version of the breed.
These Bertone coupés are tricky to pin down, in a way. First, there’s the matter of how to name them. If you call them “GTV” or “GT Veloce,” you run the risk of confusing these with their successors, the wedgier fastbacks of the ‘70s’ and ‘80s. Besides, not all of these were of the Veloce kind. You could go full-on Alfista and call them “105/115 coupés,” but that’s quite a lame name. Some call them Giulia GT coupés, or Bertone coupés, but what of the GTCs?
Part of the issue is that over its relatively long life, the Alfa Bertone GT (that’s how I like to call these) came in a bewildering array of versions. The original cars (top left), officially named Giulia Sprint GT, initially had a 105hp 1.6 litre, but soon a Junior model with a 1.3 was added to the range. Said Junior (bottom left) evolved in its own corner, apart from its fraternal twin, and kept the dual headlamps for a long time after the senior model switched to quads and the 1.8 litre engine for MY 1968. Finally, the coupé graduated to 2 litres and bigger taillights circa 1971 (top right) and carried on till 1977. The rarest of the lot was the 1964-66 GTC cabriolet (bottom right): only about 1000 units were built by Touring before the coachbuilder went bust. To top it all off, aluminium-bodied GTA versions of some of the above were also made for racing.
So even calling these “Alfa Bertone GT” is kind of wrong, in that the drop-tops were made by another carrozzeria. But if we focus on the 99.5% of cars that were indeed made by Bertone, and ignore the Junior Zagato (top left), which were technically identical but stylistically completely different, not to mention the immortal PininFarina Spider (top right), the Giulia saloons and their rare coachbuilt wagon versions (middle), as well as the handful of specials, racers and prototypes using the same platform, such as the Zagato TZ (bottom right, about 100 made) or the one-off 1968 Italdesign study that would eventually lead to the second-gen GTV (bottom left). Not shown here, but the 105 floorpan was even used for the sexy and flawed V8-powered Montreal.
The berlinas were never my cup of espresso; if pushed, I’d prefer the 1750/2000’s less fussy styling and better performance. All the other iterations of the Tipo 105 were lovely to behold, and thanks to the famous Alfa twin cam engine, all were spirited performers. The 105’s underpinnings were an evolution of the Giulietta, which debuted back in 1954. Given that the Spider lasted all the way to the ‘90s, the platform’s longevity is impressive.
So what do we have on the 1750, which timeline-wise is kind of smack-dab in the middle of the genus Giulia? Something of a happy medium. Disc brakes on all four corners, wider 14-inch wheels than the previous models’ 15-inchers and the suspension was overhauled compared to previous Giulias. It was still the same coil-sprung double-wishbone independent front end and coil-sprung live rear axle, but now an anti-roll bar was added to the driving wheels. This all helped make the car feel more sure-footed than previous iterations.
The chassis’ improvements were called for because of the bigger and more powerful engine, which went from 1570cc and 109hp @ 6000rpm on the 1965-67 Veloce coupé to 1779cc and 118hp @ 5500 rpm on our feature car. The five-speed manual gearbox did not change – it did not need to. The extra cavalry helped turn the Bertone coupé into a true ‘60s GT, with a max speed just shy of 200kph and a 0-100kph time below 10 seconds.
Another place where the 1750 showed a marked improvement was the interior. The earlier cars had a fine dash, but Alfa completely revamped it and made this classic woodgrain-clad twin dial / console affair that looked so good, even a missing door card couldn’t ruin it. New bucket seats were also part of the deal.
Facelifts, whether automotive or other, are rarely a good thing. When Giugiaro penned the Alfa coupé’s shape in the early ‘60s, he had done Bertone proud. It was a thoroughly clean and cohesive shape that aged very well. The only slight oddity was the front end, which had that intriguing “step” feature just above the grille. I’m not sure who smoothed out that crease from the Bertone GT’s face, as I don’t think Giugiaro was no longer involved by that point, but it was a masterfully done piece of ironing. Repositioning the turn signals to the bumper also eliminated some of the original design’s finickiness. The quad headlamps help in giving the car a more purposeful look, though the Junior 1300’s simpler two-eyed gaze is not unappealing.
And so we come back to the matter of colour. From what one can empirically glance at on The Google, red and ochre yellow are the most popular hues for these cars – at least these days. One of the metallic grays is also pretty common, unfortunately. To my eyes, that’s the least effective of the bunch. Darker tones, such as navy blue, pine green or maroon, suit the car very well too. But dark colours almost always work well on older cars.
White Bertone GTs like this one are not as usual, though this is not necessarily the case for Giulia saloons, for instance. Assuming the car came from the factory this way (and given the interior shot we saw, that’s pretty likely), it’s a true survivor: many were repainted resale red or obvious ochre.
This one remained untainted and un-tinted, pristine. Could this be one of sixteen vestal virgins Procol Harum sang about? How prescient of them. Obscure psychedelic rock lyrics aside, it’s a testament to Giugiaro’s talent that this car, at first just ghostly, still manages to look this gorgeous in this most unforgivingly pale of shades.
Cohort Classic: 1969 Alfa Romeo Giulia 1300Ti – Nice Alfa!, by Roger Carr
Dash-Cam Outtake: Alfa Romeo GT 1600 Junior, by Yohai71