For some years now, the Italian company has returned to being a great protagonist of the scene thanks to the arrival on the market of the Giulia: a true return to the origins, to the Alfa Romeo spirit, with that rear-wheel drive that the fans of the brand have dreamed of for almost thirty years, driving pleasure that has made it a true reference in its segment. This sports sedan also brought to the fore a name that is closely linked to the most important successes of these 110 magical years.
Since I am the veteran of the HD group, I can tell you from direct experience what it meant to have a Giulia in your garage: having a car enthusiast dad, who loved to drive and above all a great “alfista”, I had the luck as a child of daydreaming with some of the most beautiful models derived from the legendary Giulia.
The first one I saw coming to the family is perhaps the one that made my heart beat faster: the Giulia Sprint Gt Veloce.
Many have heard of the sporting successes collected by the “queen of tourism”, who for years has won on the most prestigious circuits in the world. We talked about it on the occasion of the launch of the new Giulia GTA and GTAm. The Gt Veloce is the most prestigious, powerful and improved version of the first Giulia Sprint Gt made by Alfa: it was recognized for some external details, including the legendary enamel round badges on the rear uprights depicting the green Quadrifoglio, just to make it clear that it wasn’t just any coupe. Even inside it was more refined and also had wraparound front seats.
It was powered by an elaborate and revised version of the legendary 1570 cc twin-shaft Giulia, an engine to say the least extraordinary that, in various versions, has equipped some of Alfa’s most prestigious cars.
Numbers aside, he was able to give a great driving pleasure, with a very sporty set-up as standard and many technical details that made it clear that it was designed for those who loved driving, including a braking system suitable for performance.
In its segment it had no rivals: to do more you had to have other budgets and turn to cars of the caliber of the Porsche 911.
Defects? Yup, it consumed a lot: it was powered by 2 Weber carburettors horizontal 40 mm double body which made it very “thirsty”. And in addition, every now and then, you had to bring it to regulate the carburation, because it was starting to to whim.
If you were lucky enough to find a “right” mechanic, you could also make it a little worse: at the time my father had discovered a workshop in the province of Bologna managed by a former Autodelta mechanic who, with a lot of patience and a lot precision work, he had managed to give her some more horses. Already, there were still no control units, “maps” and miraculous tuning that today in a few hours transform your car …
It was, for example, one of the first in the world with a differentiated deformation bearing structure: the front and rear were designed to absorb shocks and the passenger compartment was extremely rigid to protect those on board. These were solutions that would become mandatory only a few years later.
Even its design was revolutionary: the launch advertising was acting “Drawn by the wind” and, in fact, his style was the result of aerodynamic studies and innovative wind tunnel development work. Compact, well proportioned in volumes, the low front and the truncated tail were its characteristic features.
It was powered by a 1.6 twin-cylinder four-cylinder, with the aluminum base with unpublished technical solutions, which made it extremely sophisticated, performing and very long-lived. It also was among the first large series cars equipped with a five-speed gearbox. We are talking about a real sports sedan, with outstanding performance and dynamic characteristics, which will become the most important of Alfa Romeo production. There were few competitors in the same class who could even approach its performance.
In confirmation of his temperament, after his debut in 1962, the following year he presented himself in the TI Super version, ready for racing, with a “streamlined” bodywork, with the emblem of the Quadrifoglio on the sides and on the trunk lid, with 112 hp that allowed it to fly up to 190 km / h. It will prove particularly suitable for road racing, but also on the track, and will allow many Italian drivers to stand out in Motorsport.
Giulia will become an Italian icon, with a very long commercial career, until 1977, and a huge success. In the various bodywork variants, about one million units have been produced, making it one of the best-selling cars in the history of the company.
Many still know it today as “that of detective films” in Italian, born as “B-movies” and then become objects of worship: criminals and law enforcement often challenged each other in breathtaking pursuits with the same car, the Giulia.
The memory I have of the family Giulia is of a car capable of grind many kilometers with good comfort but also ready to give satisfactions behind the wheel, with excellent road behavior. At the time I understood little or nothing and it was explained to me that the former had a gearbox at the wheel while it had a cloche on the floor and also four disc brakes. What I always remember about Giulia is that aggressive muzzle, with large headlights at the ends and small ones inside, which reminded the expression of a person with frowning eyelashes.
However, Biscione had neglected the segment of high-end cars: it was difficult to compare with brands from the premium world, such as Mercedes and Jaguar, for example. For reasons of image, however, Alfa could not give up offering prestigious cars and, with a targeted commercial strategy, decided to use the now tested Giulia chassis, making technical and aesthetic changes that would allow it to accommodate higher displacement engines.
Thus was born the new high range, the 1750 Sedan with a flatbed derived from the Giulia, a more important bodywork signed Bertone and the legendary four-cylinder double overhead camshaft engine with a capacity of 1779 cc. Worthy heir of the Giulia, it was presented in 1968, ready to face the Italian and foreign competition of those years, thanks to a beautiful design with an unmistakable front, the refined mechanical scheme of the Giulia further improved and very interesting performances, with 114 horses and 180 per hour of maximum speed.
It was nice to be scarrozzato around with the 1750, it was comfortable and fast: pity that age still did not allow me to drive it. Just remember that, in addition to the sedan, you could also choose the coupe, 1750 Gt Veloce, with the bodywork of the Giulia Gt, or the spider on the bodywork of the legendary “Duetto”, the 1750 Spider Veloce.
The last of the species, of the large rear-wheel drive sedans of that period, was the 2000 sedan, with which I was finally able to drive too, or rather learn to drive: in 1971 Alfa Romeo replaced the range of the 1750 with that of the 2000.
On the outside, little changed: the grille with a single chromed bar, the shield with the unmistakable larger Biscione brand and the four front headlights had the same dimensions. The rear lights were divided into four sectors.
When it was driven by Villani senior, it was a completely different story, but in my own small way, while I was trying to learn to lead it in a decent way, I realized it was pretty bad, with a true sports heart: less than 9 seconds to reach 100 per hour and over 190 km / h top speed. Let’s not talk about consumption: it was terrible. But something had to be given up …
Although I had obtained my driving license with the “beast”, by the strange laws of the time I could not have driven it. In fact, Alfa Romeo in the last series, in addition to adopting the electronically controlled phase variator, had lowered the power to 128 hp to make it fall within the legal limits for new drivers.
GOODBYE GIULIA, END OF AN AGE
At that point in the family the Giulia era was over and the next was an Alfetta Gt 1600: a coupe that already belonged to another cycle in the history of the brand. Signed by the great Giugiaro and intended to replace the legendary Giulia Gt, it offered four comfortable seats and a nice trunk.
But something had already changed: while on the one hand the Alfetta marked a great step forward in terms of handling and performance, however, it had abandoned some technical solutions very dear to the old alphists. For example, the Giulia and her heirs were distinguished by the rear-wheel drive-gearbox block, which over the years had achieved excellent perfection and a functional balance.
This scheme was in fact abandoned precisely with the Alfetta: the gearbox had been moved to the rear deck, thus increasing stability but losing that sweetness in the engagement of relationships that was the pride of the old Alfa cars.
I confirm it: the change of the Alfetta Gt was nothing short of woody and scaling, for example, in second quickly, in a fluid way, for ordinary mortals it was a challenge.
But apart from that, the Alfetta will also play an important role in the history of Alfa Romeo and will prove to be a great success. In the following years there are many stories to tell, from the period of 164 and 155, up to the great step forward marked by 156, 147, and then again Mito and Giulietta, up to the most recent past that has seen FCA relaunch the brand in great style.
Aside from my life with Giulia, if you want to know the fascinating history of the Italian brand, on June 24th the Alfa Romeo Museum in Arese will reopen to the public to celebrate the best of 110 years. For this historic anniversary, Alfa Romeo offers the possibility of for the first time access the deposits that house the hidden Collection, a real treasure made of 150 cars, engines, models and much more.
Also on display is the new Giulia GTA, the iconic limited series designed specifically for the 110th anniversary. To learn more, click here. In the meantime, these days I am driving a beautiful Alfa Romeo Stelvio my 2020 with pleasure, but this is yet another story …