Alfa Romeo Giulietta Essential History
Prior to World War II, Alfa Romeo was a low-volume manufacturer focused on motorsports and technically advanced, stylishly coach-built cars for the wealthy. Following the war, with Italy and the majority of Europe’s economy floundering, Alfa Romeo began producing volume production cars with smaller yet still advanced engines that could sell for lower cost to more people. The Alfa 1900 was the first of these new cars, but the Giulietta was a larger sales success, and greatly solidified Alfa Romeo’s new ethos.
Alfa Romeo Giulietta: Body Styles, Engines
The Giulietta was produced primarily in “Sprint” two-door coupe, “Berlina” four-door sedan, and “Spider” two-door convertible forms. The Sprint arrived first with Bertone styling in 1954, with the Berlina and Pinin Farina (then two words) -styled Spider arriving months apart in 1955. Each Giulietta featured monocoque construction, drum brakes all around, independent control-arm front suspension, and a solid-axle rear end.
The Giulietta’s engines were all-aluminum, 1.3-liter dual-overhead cam inline-fours with hemispherical combustion chambers and two valves per cylinder. In standard form, now referred to as “Normale” by Alfa enthusiasts, a single Solex carburetor was fitted, but “Veloce” spec for Sprint and Spider (and T.I. for the Berlina) gave twin Weber carburetors, a factory-designed cold-air intake, more aggressive cam profiles, higher-compression pistons, and other performance-oriented features.
Alfa Romeo Giulietta: 750-Series, 101-Series, Differences
Early cars are referred to as 750-series until 1959, when the 101-series Giulietta started production. For the most part, the 101-series Giuliettas look nearly identical to 750-series cars, but Spiders received a slightly longer wheelbase, the camshafts and crankshaft were made larger and stronger than before to handle future displacement increases, and the gearbox was redesigned.
The cars soldiered on largely unchanged until the introduction of the all-new Giulia Berlina in 1962. From 1963-on, Giulias received more powerful 1.6-liter engines—the most significant change to Sprint and Spider models for several years into production, aside from a raised hood bulge on the Spider.
Alfa Romeo has produced two series of newer Giuliettas in the late 1970s and from 2010-on, but those cars bear little resemblance to the original, and are related in name only.
Alfa Romeo Giulietta Highlights
While the Giulietta was a production car built for a wider market segment, that didn’t stop Alfa from making a couple special variants. The Sprint Speciale was an exotic-looking coupe designed by Franco Scaglione while working at coachbuilder Bertone. Dubbed SS for short, the car borrowed heavily from Bertone’s advanced aerodynamic concepts known as the B.A.T. cars and achieved an amazing 0.28 Cd drag coefficient. Two prototypes were shown in 1957, but production didn’t begin until 1959 after a debut at Italy’s Monza race track. While some cars were built with all-alloy bodies, most SS models were clothed in steel with aluminum doors and hoods. Like the rest of the Giulietta lineup, in 1963 the car became a Giulia Sprint Speciale with the new 1.6-liter engine. Sprint Speciale production ended in 1966 with nearly 2,800 built, split just about evenly between Giulietta and Giulia.
There was also a high-performance Giulietta Sprint Zagato (or SZ, as it is commonly abbreviated). This was launched in 1960 and intended mostly as a competition car with lightweight aluminum coachwork by Zagato, disc brakes, and a 1.3-liter engine tuned for racing. Costing far more than the rest of the Gulietta lineup, just 217 early “round tail” cars were built, plus another 30 or 40 Kamm-tail cars with truncated rear ends (referred to as “Coda Tronca”). The Alfa Giulietta SZ won the 1.3-liter GT class championship in Europe in both 1962 and 1963.
Alfa Romeo Giulietta Buying Tips
As volume production cars, many Giuliettas were sold new, and many survive today. As is typical of cars of this period, rust is a major concern, and most restored cars will have had corrosion damage repaired in the past. Because of confusion around the similar-looking 750- and 101-series cars, it is imperative to make sure that any potential purchase has correct-type components for its series—many parts are not designed to interchange between the two. Additionally, there are many faux T.I. or Veloce-spec cars that have been updated since they left Alfa’s factory, so if originality is a concern, be sure to find an expert that can help definitively identify the car’s original specification. In particular, Sprint and Spider Veloces are worth significant premiums over “Normale” Giuliettas.
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Alfa Romeo Giulietta Quick Facts
- First year of production: 1954
- Last year of production: 1962
- Total sold: 177,690
- Designer: Bertone (Sprint, Sprint Speciale), Pininfarina (Spider), Zagato (SZ)
- Characteristic feature: As the car that solidified Alfa Romeo’s post-war market presence, the Giulietta today offers classic Italian design and performance at a fraction of the price of larger, more powerful models from Ferrari and Maserati.
Alfa Romeo Giulietta FAQ
Is Alfa Romeo Giulietta reliable?
Classic Italian cars do not suffer fools gladly and rely on regular scheduled (and unscheduled) maintenance to be at their best. As with buying any classic car, be sure to look for a knowledgeable and engaged seller with detailed service records.
Is Alfa Romeo Giulietta a good car?
The original Giulietta, whether in Berlina, Sprint, or Spider form, is one of Alfa Romeo’s most popular cars for enthusiasts. Each is fun to drive, with real motorsports pedigree, though none could be considered quick today—the most powerful road versions topped out at around 100 hp.
How much does an Alfa Romeo Giulietta cost?
Today, Berlina (sedan) models are the most affordable to buy, with prices for excellent examples under $20,000. Those are mostly to be found in Europe, with Sprint (coupe) and Spider (convertible) being more popular with U.S. buyers. Sprints begin at roughly $30,000 for a scruffy driver and $40,000 for a similar Spider. The best examples of each can bring over $100,000, as do even average Sprint Speciale models. Rare SZ race cars will command several hundred thousand dollars with ease.
What is the fastest Alfa Romeo Giulietta?
The SZ models were the most powerful, the nimblest, and the lightest Giuliettas built, but as race cars, they aren’t particularly well suited for serious road use.
1962 Alfa Romeo Sprint Veloce Specifications
|ENGINE||1.3L DOHC 8-valve I-4/79 hp @ 6,500 rpm, 80 lb-ft @ 3,500 rpm|
|LAYOUT:||2-door, 2-passenger, front-engine, RWD convertible|
|L x W x H:||153.5 x 62.2 x 49.6 in|
|TOP SPEED||119 mph|