Book Review

[The good news is that there's an excellent recent book on the Alfa Romeo Giulia GT and all of its descendants and variants, and AONE Treasurer Peter Walker has written an equally excellent, in-depth review of it. The bad news is that it's currently only available in French and German. However, the author and his French publisher are looking for an English-language publisher. They need to convince one that there is a market for an English translation. So if Peter's review whets your appetite, let your favorite English-language car book publishing house know it! — Ed.]

Book review: Alfa Romeo Giulia GT Coupé Bertone, by Julien Lombard (3rd edition; Antony: E-T-A-I, 2019, pp. 224, 45 euros)

Which Alfa Romeo Giulia GT coupes (known in the US as the GTV) have two headlights and which have four?[1] What is a "stepnose"?[2] Or a GTA? Or for that matter, what is the difference between a GTA and a GTAm? How many different engine sizes did Alfa offer in the cars' engine bays?[3]

If you are a fan of 1960s and 1970s Alfas you probably know the answers to most or all of these questions. But do you know how many 105- and 115-series GT coupes Alfa produced in all?[4] Or could you distinguish a 1966 Giulia Sprint GTV from a 1972 GT 1600 Junior?[5] Or a two-litre GTV built for the European market from one built for the US market?[6]

For readers of French (or of German), a quick and easy place to find answers to these and many more questions about the 105/115 series Giulia GT coupe is in the recently-released third edition of Alfa Romeo Giulia GT Coupé Bertone, by Julien Lombard, a French automobile journalist who has also published books on the MGB, the Lancia Fulvia, and the Fiat 124 (and is currently working on a book on the Alfa 105/115 Spider). Alfa Romeo Giulia GT Coupé Bertone is both an impressive history of the model as well as an encyclopedia of information about the street and racing versions.

The book devotes separate chapters to the original Giulia Sprint GT (built from 1963 to 1966), the GTC (built in 1965 and 1966) and the Giulia Sprint GT Veloce (built from 1966 to 1968), the Giulia GT Junior series (built from 1966 to 1976 and including the Junior Zagato), the 1750 GTV (built from 1967 to 1972), the 2000 GTV (built from 1970 to 1976), and the GTA and GTAm street and track variants. The other chapters summarize Alfa's product line from World War II, through the new 105-series Giulia sedan, to the introduction of the Giulia GT sporting coupes as well as those coupes' racing history (primarily in Europe, with special focus on France), advertising and marketing (again, primarily in France), and sales in France. There is also a three-part annex that a) charts, through original drawings by Giorgetto Giugiaro's former assistant, Piero Stroppa, the body details that distinguish the variants; b) gives year-by-year, variant-by-variant (and left-hand versus right-hand drive[7]) production figures; and c) gives technical figures for each variant (not just horsepower, dimensions, and weight but also details such as rear-axle ratios, fuel tank capacities, and even intake and exhaust valve dimensions).

While researching this book, Lombard had access to the document and photo archives of Alfa Romeo, Bertone, Ital Design, and several private collections. He interviewed Giorgetto Giugiaro (in 2013, for the book's second edition), as well as Giulia GT racers, new car dealers from the 1960s and 1970s, and Gérard Lanvin, who ran the support team during the 1960s for Alfa's French racing and rallying efforts. Almost all of the photos are of the period, and all kinds of unusual information supplements the more familiar parts of the Giulia coupe's history. Giugiaro, of course, was in his early twenties when he designed the original 105 series coupe. He was doing his compulsory military service at the same time, but his boss, Nuccio Bertone, used his influence to get Giugiaro a cushy service assignment, thus permitting him spare time to work on the new model. This part of the car's history is already known, but what is perhaps not known is the critical view Giugiaro has of Alfa's restyling of the car's front for later model years: "I don't understand the re-positioning of the front parking and blinker lights; they could very well have modified the headlights without moving those auxiliary lights to the top of the front bumper."

Along with the hundreds of period photos, such lesser-known parts of Alfa history are the book's highlight. For instance, in the late 1950s, Alfa started work on project 103, a Mini-like 900cc, transverse-engine, front-wheel drive car that would have been marketed below the successful Giulietta series. The project was shelved in 1961 due to tooling costs, although the idea of a lower Alfa product range came to fruition in the 1970s with the Alfasud.

In 1964, Giugiaro designed a prototype Giulia Sprint Speciale on the mechanicals of the Giulia Sprint GT. This car bears no resemblance at all to the series 101 Giulia Sprint Speciale (which was similar to the Giulietta Sprint Speciale). With its fastback and long hood the prototype resembles an Iso Grifo or a Maserati Ghibli.

Alfa had had great success in the 1930s and early 1950s on the track with supercharging. In the late 1960s, Alfa built the GTA SA (SA standing for "sovralimentata," or "overfed"). This car used two compressors turned, not by a belt or gears, like a supercharger, nor by exhaust gases, like a turbocharger, but by a separate, high-pressure oil circuit. This forced induction raised horsepower to 220 DIN, but the GTA SA was not terribly successful on the track.

One last fascinating tidbit: the GTC served Bertone in an apparent effort to acquire the contract for the successor to the 101-series Giulia Spider. In 1955 Bertone cut the roof off a Giulietta Sprint and built a prototype Giulietta Sprint cabriolet. And in 1960 Bertone did the same thing to a 2000 Sprint. In late 1961, Giugiaro (still working at Bertone) took the GTC a step further, by creating a prototype Spider Biposto: a shortened-wheelbase, two-seat GTC. The Spider Biposto was then delivered to Alfa, where one of the company's own designers, Ernesto Cattoni, changed the front to make it resemble the 2000/2600 Spider series. Giugiaro's original Spider Biposto exists only in period photos (mostly from Bertone's archives), but the car still exists, in its Spider Cattoni form, in a private collection, and among the very few new photos in Lombard's book are four color ones of this one-off car. Lombard concludes that when Alfa was planning the replacement for the 101-series Giulia Spider the company kept two irons in the fire: a possible two-seat convertible from Bertone, with additional styling input from Alfa's own styling office, and a competing project by Pininfarina, the one that would eventually win out, the Duetto.

So what is the difference between a GTA and a GTAm? Both models were intended for the track. The A of GTA stands for "alleggerita," or lightened, as the car's many plastic and aluminum panels reduced weight by 25%, from around a thousand kilos to just under 750. There were 1600cc GTAs and 1300cc GTA Juniors, and 500 of the first and 492 of the second were street versions, built for homologation purposes. The "Am" of GTAm stands, according to Lombard, for "America" (and not for "alleggerita maggiorata," as some sources claim). The GTAm was built to race in European Touring Group 5 competition. While the rules allowed for considerable changes from stock, they did not permit changing carburetion to fuel injection, or vice versa. Autodelta, Alfa's racing wing, wanted to build a fuel-injected racer, and there was a fuel-injected GTV in the Alfa catalog: the US-market 1750cc GTV. This is the car upon which the GTAm was built. The rules allowed boring out the stock 1750cc engine to almost two litres, but the stock car had to have fuel injection for the Group 5 race car to have it too. So even though just about everything in the GTAm's motor is different from stock—even the fuel injection is completely different, a Lucas system, not a Spica one—it is the 1969 US-market GTV that made the GTAm possible.

Unless you can read the 2006 German translation of the first edition,[8] you will need to be able to read French to get the most out of Lombard's Alfa Romeo Giulia GT Coupé Bertone. It would be nice if there were an English-language edition (apparently it would take convincing a publisher that there is a potential demand for at least 2000 copies). But readers in the US would be even better served if the pages devoted to French racing results, the success in the 1960s of French dealerships, and a resumé even of how many French clients traded a Peugeot 404 versus a Citroën DS versus a Renault for a new Alfa could make room for an equal attention to Alfa's history in the US. Lombard's racing section does mention Horst Kwech and Gaston Andrey and their Trans Am success, but for American Alfisti, that Trans Am effort—and the epic rivalry with the Datsun 510—is an important part of the history of the Alfa Giulia GT. Were such an English-language edition to appear, it would be a very worthwhile addition to any automobile book library.Tiny Quadrifoglio
 



[1] All Giulia GT variants had two headlights until the introduction of the 1750cc GTV in 1968. Only the 1750cc GTV, the 2000 GTV, and the fourth series of the GT Junior, introduced in 1974, have four headlights.

[2] On the original design, the front of the engine hood is not flush with the horizontal strip above the top of the front grille. The gap, called "scalino" (staircase step) in Italian and "mail slot" in French, gives rise to the "stepnose" name in English. The stepnose disappeared when the hood and front were made flush for the 1750 GTV (1968) and the 3rd series GT Junior (late 1970).

[3] Engines of 1300, 1600, 1750, and 2000 cc. In France, in any case, the four engine capacities were never all offered at the same time, though for most of the product run, three were, either 1300, 1600, and 1750; or 1300, 1750, and 2000; or 1300, 1600, and 2000. 1600s, 1750s, and 2000s were imported to the US, but not simultaneously.

[4] Total production of all variants, from 1963 to 1976, was 212,325 units, according to Lombard (citing Fusi). 2,476 US-model 1750 GTVs and 6,337 US-model 2000 GTVs were produced. Nearly half of all production, 91,994 units, consisted of GT 1300 Juniors and GT 1600 Juniors (the latter available only 1972 to 1976). The percentage of GT Juniors sold in France was much lower than overall, where the larger displacements were in greater demand, and of course the model was never officially imported to the US.

[5] The Giulia Sprint GTV was built from 1966 to 1968 and the GT 1600 Junior from 1972 to 1976. Mechanically they are very similar (both with 1600cc engines), but different body details set them apart, primarily at the front. The earlier car is a stepnose, the later not. The front grille is different, the height of the Alfa shield is different, and the headlights and front auxiliary lights are placed differently. The very last GT 1600 Juniors, from 1974 to 1976, have four headlights and the same front grille and bumpers as a 2000 GTV.

[6] The principle difference is the European carbureted engine versus the US fuel-injected engine, but there are noticeable differences as well in the side marker lights, the placement of the front parking/blinker lights, and the size, shape, and placement of the rear license-plate lighting. The car depicted on the book's cover is a European market, first series, 1750 GTV.

[7] According to Lombard (again relying on Fusi) right-hand drive production was 14,727 units total.

[8] Which is out of print and available at an exorbitant price online.
 


Book Review