A brief history of the

Giulietta Spider

By Jim Hayes
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 HP!
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 Spiders built:

(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!).
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