A delightfully charismatic car that proved a highly successful seller, the Alfa Romeo Giulia replaced the outgoing Giulietta beginning in 1962. Alfa Romeo produced the Giulia in myriad configurations, some drastically different from other models in the series but all with a unifying thread of polished driving fun.
The name 'Giulietta' means 'little Giulia' in Italian, so the Alfa Giulia title was a play on words identifying the new car as a grown-up version of the Giulietta. The wittiness of Alfa's naming strategy was representative of the Giulia's personality as a whole. The car bristled with clever touches, and was a superb example of world-leading engineering packed into a small and stylish automobile.
The first Giulia sedan, or Berlina, models were introduced in June of 1962 and belonged to the 105 series of Alfa cars. The Berlinas were boxy and fairly conservative in appearance, but their design was nevertheless attractive, modern, and, surprisingly, quite aerodynamic with a coefficient of drag of just 0.33.
Initially, Alfa Romeo offered only the Giulia TI (or Turismo Internationale) to buyers looking to purchase a new Berlina. This model used a 1,570cc version of Alfa's respected twin-cam four, which proved far more tractable than the 1,290cc unit used in the prior Giulietta. The Giulia TI had a 5-speed transmission, albeit with column-mounted shifter, and most were equipped with power disc brakes all around (though the earliest models still used Alfin drums). The TI was an entertaining car to drive with fine handling and a sophisticated demeanor, but details like its drab steering wheel, functional but mundane instruments, and column-mounted shifter did little to inspire owners to wring out the potential of the chassis. Alfa Romeo provided buyers with a Giulia Berlina of more obviously sporting intent by introducing the Giulia Super.
The Super, introduced in 1965, featured twin Weber carburetors to replace the TI's single Solex, and it had a lovely dash with big dials for the speedometer and tachometer. The column shift was replaced by a floor shift, and power was up slightly compared with the TI. Not to be confused with the Super, a truly racy Giulia Berlina derivative called the TI Super was offered for homologation purposes in 1963. With just 501 produced, it was substantially lighter and more powerful than the initial Berlinas.
The last Giulia Berlinas brought to the U.S. came over in 1967, but the charming sedans continued in production throughout other parts of the world. Though Americans were only offered the 1.6-liter engined TI and Super, other countries could also order Giulia Berlinas with 1.3-liter versions of the all aluminum four. A minor restyling in 1974 saw a name change to Giulia Nuova (or new in English), and there was even a diesel version introduced to some markets for 1976. In the U.S., where the Giulia name disappeared from the market after just a few years, enthusiasts could still purchase what was essentially a Giulia Berlina with larger engine by buying a later 1750 Berlina or 2000 Berlina.
The Giulia Berlina proved that Alfa Romeo could follow up its successful Giulietta Berlina with a worthy replacement that continued to define the term sports sedan as it battled with BMW. The more famous automobiles of the Giulia series, though, were not sedans at all.
Like the Giulietta before it, the Giulia was offered in Sprint (coupe) and Spider (convertible) configurations in addition to the bread-and-butter Berlina models. While the 105-series Giulia sedans offered an all-new car for 1962, the transition from Giulietta Sprint and Spider to Giulia Sprint and Spider was gentler.
The later Giuliettas belonged to the 101-series of Alfa Romeos, and the earliest Giulia Sprints and Spiders also belonged to this series before the coupe and convertible versions of the 105 body were finalized. The transitional 101-series Giulias were essentially Giuliettas with 1,570cc engines installed. The 101 Giulia Sprint looked identical to the 101 Giulietta Sprint, while the 101 Giulia Spider could be distinguished by the raised area of its hood (disguised as a fake hood scoop) needed to clear the slightly taller engine.
In 1963, the 105-series Giulia coupe arrived, named Sprint GT and styled by Giorgetto Giugiaro during his time at Bertone. The primary features of the chassis, including its disc brakes, front A-arm suspension, and live rear axle, were all shared with the 105 Berlina models as well as the Spider models that were still a few years away. Much like the Berlina, Alfa Romeo sold the Sprint GT in many different trim levels, with both 1.3-liter and 1.6-liter engines, though all U.S. cars used the 1.6-liter engines. Also like the Berlina, production of what was essentially still the Giulia Sprint continued even after the Giulia title was dropped.
In the United States, the Sprint GT became the Sprint GTV in 1967. Alfa Romeo did not import cars to the U.S. for 1968, but in 1969 the importation of a lightly restyled Giulia coupe continued as the 1750 GTV and later 2000 GTV.
In addition to the regular production versions of the Giulia Sprint, several specialty models were produced. About 1,000 examples of a Sprint-based cabriolet with four seats, called the Giulia GTC, were produced by Touring beginning in 1965 before the two-seat 105 Spider was introduced. For the track, Zagato created highly successful racing cars with the 105-series platform by building the tube-framed TZ (Tubolare Zagato) and later TZ2 with its fiberglass body.
The TZ and TZ2 were excellent racers with stunning and low-slung bodies, but perhaps even more remarkable than these purpose-built racing machines was the GTA, which was almost identical in appearance to the Sprint GT yet proved itself as one of the most successful sports cars raced during its time. The GTA used lightweight aluminum body panels, twin sparkplugs per cylinder, a higher compression ratio, and bigger Weber carburetors to create a supremely capable vehicle. The Giulia GTA won the European Touring Car Championship in 1966, 1967, and 1968. Variations of the GTA included a smaller-engined 1300 GTA and the later GTAm, which had a downright frightening appearance thanks to its menacing fender flares and fat tires.
The Spider version of the 105-chassis finally arrived in 1966, with somewhat controversial styling by Pininfarina. Never officially labeled a Giulia, the Spider was the longest-running model of the 105-series despite its late start. Incredibly, Spider production didn't end until 1993.
It can be difficult to keep track of all of the different Giulia models and 105-series derivations. Open and closed cars, two-doors and four-doors, bodies made of steel, aluminum, and even fiberglass, designs from Bertone, Pininfarina, Touring, Zagato, and Alfa Romeo itself—clearly, the Giulia's history was rich and complicated, full of superb family sedans and successful racing cars. All of these disparate models had something in common, though: they were pure, honest, unfettered Alfa Romeos. And they were some of the finest and most successful postwar cars, both on track and in the showroom, that the company ever produced.Sources:
'Alfa Romeo models.' CarsfromItaly.net n. pag. Web. 21 Dec 2010. http://carsfromitaly.net/fiat/index.html.
Benson, Joe. Illustrated Alfa Romeo Buyer's Guide . 2nd. Osceola, WI: MBI Publishing Company, 1992. Print.
Braden, Pat. Alfa Romeo Owner's Bible. Cambridge, MA: Bentley Publishers, 1994. Print.By Evan Acuña