history of the
Long-time AONE member and Giulietta owner/racer
After WWII, Alfa Romeo switched
from being a small volume manufacturer of fast, expensive luxury and racing cars
to a volume producer of midrange cars. The 1900 Series were the first volume
produced Alfas, followed in 1954 by the Giulietta.
The Giulietta was a "jewel" (Americanese pun intended).
It featured a smallish 1300 cc engine made from lovely aluminum
castings, with a double overhead cam head just like the racing
Alfas of the past. Even the gearbox and rear axle center section
were aluminum to save weight. The body was "unitized",
a stressed component, with state-of-the-art suspension design
and giant Alfin drum brakes, looking all the while like their
Grand Prix ancestors!
At the Paris Show, 1955, from the left, a Bertone Sprint, 1900
Supersprint and Giulietta Berlina
The first Giuliettas were the Berlina and the nicely rounded Bertone
Sprint, even with a rear window that opened, like today's hatchback.
The hatchback never made it to production, but the coupe was a
solid "GT" with many fans and a envious competition
history in Sprint, Sprint Veloce and SZ (by Zagato) form.
I vintage raced a coupe for
five years myself and can attest to their
potential; the aerodynamics alone helped immensely. I often passed
Spiders at the end of the straights because the better aerodynamics
of the coupe gave me 10-15 mph higher speed even with lots less
The Spider was introduced at the Paris Show in 1955. The photo
above is #7, now owned by John Louraine in Tacoma Washington.
John and his car are shown below.
Styled by Pinin Farina (when the name of the design house was
still two words), the Giulietta Spider set new standards for sports
cars. Roomy. Comfortable (even a soft ride). Rollup windows. Good-sized
trunk. Easily stowed top that actually sealed. Wonderful looks,
not just on the outside, but on the dash and under the hood.
The #7 prototype was hand-built; file and saw marks are everywhere
and the details differ markedly from the production cars. Number
7 had a number of unique features, including the bumper overriders
you can see above and a 3-pod dashboard.
The actual production spider was chosen from a number of prototypes.
Bertone did two: one a chopped-top Sprint, and the other a design
with prominent fins, slightly along the lines of the BATs. (Ah,
another good story!)
Bertone's Cabriolet (left) and Spider (right)
The Giulietta was a best-seller for Alfa,
but the Spider was more of a US phenomenon. Thanks to Max Hoffman,
a large number of Alfa Spiders made it to the US. One of the earliest
was #2304, the '57 Spider I once owned, shown below. Note the
differences in the bumpers and dash from the #7 prototype above!
From their "humble origins" (if
you call 1 HP/cu in or 60 HP/L humble), in 1956 Alfa started producing
Veloce Spiders (also called Super Spiders in the US) with progressively
higher HP and beautiful castings for air ducts for the dual Weber
carbs. For many, these are the most desirable Giulietta Spiders.
Although in America we think of "sports car racing"
with roadsters, in Europe, Coupes were normally used for racing.
But Spiders were used occasionally, like Alfranco Pagani's entry
in the '57 Mille Miglia, shown here passing through Ravenna:
Sometime around 1959, the Spider transitioned from the 750 series
to the 101 series, with a longer wheelbase for more room in the
passenger compartment and a revised engine with a stronger crank
and better-breathing head. Cars of this era became "parts
bin" cars, with mix-and-match components of 750 and 101 series.
Don't be surprised at whatever you find in this era.
By 1962, the options for a 1600 engine and 5 speed became available,
as the changeover to the Giulia Spider began. The Giulia Spider
can be identified by the "fake scoop" in the hood, actually
with an opening blocked off, but providing clearance for the single
carb of the "normal" Spider. This is my old '63, one of the earliest Giulia
(You may hear the term "normale" to refer to these cars,
but that is a made-up name, not Alfa's official designation. Dual
Webers made Veloces; otherwise they were "Spiders" -
no more!) Again, there are lots of "parts bin" cars
here. I've owned a 1300 (my current yellow racecar) and 1600 only
60 serial numbers apart during this period of transition.
The Giulia Spider lasted until the mid 60s, as the new Spider,
named the "Duetto" in a contest in Italy, replaced it.
Over the years, more than 17,000 Giulietta Spiders and 10,000 Giulia
Spiders were built (that must be about ten minutes of today's
output at all of Fiat's divisions!).