By now, we’ve probably all heard the famous quip that tells us “every car enthusiast should own at least one Alfa Romeo”, and most likely, our minds wander to thoughts of the exotic pre-war 8C, or maybe the rough-and-ready Giulia GTAm or the iconic, open-topped Duetto and Graduate spyders. But particularly in the post-war period, Alfa Romeo made their bread and butter by selling mass-produced berlinas (that’s a much more pleasing way to say “sedan”) built on a unibody platform and powered by the family of twin-cam engines.
Prior to WWII, Alfa was building high-end sporting cars and competition cars, often with coachbuilt bodies and complex supercharged engines. In the post-war recovery period, the old designs were dusted off and polished up with new bodies, but the 6C2500 was a very expensive car to build and few buyers were able to afford such an exclusive automobile. Alfa Romeo needed a car they could produce in much larger numbers, and they achieved that with the unitary-construction 1900. While certainly a much more efficient car to produce, the 1900 was still comfortably a mid-market car, available in a variety of expensive coachbuilt variations, and what Alfa Romeo needed was more volume.
The 1900 paved the way for Alfa to move further into the volume market with a four-cylinder coupe and sedan. This came in the form of the Giulietta; a 1300-cc class family car that was cheap to build yet still retained Alfa’s sporting character thanks to its twin-cam engine and well-tuned suspension. Designed from the onset to be a flexible platform, the Giulietta debuted as the beautiful Bertone-designed coupe, which was soon joined by spyder, berlina, estate and eventually coachbuilt specials such as the Sprint Speciale and Sprint Zagato. This inherent sportiness, combined with four-door practicality helped the Berlina model become the sales leader of the line. Of the 177,600 Giuliettas built, over 130,000 were Berlinas or the hotter four-door T.I. The Giulietta proved that practicality did not have to come at the expense of driving pleasure.
This 1963 Giulietta Berlina T.I. is a fabulous little gem that is very well-sorted and ready for fun. Starting life as a proper T.I. floor shift car, it was built as an historic rally car by the previous owner back in 2001. After achieving some admirable results in several events over the past several years, it has since traded the rigors of rallying for fast-road duty. In the early 2000’s the shell was restored, strengthened and the car prepped for rally duty with upgraded fuel tank, a rebuilt engine, 5-speed gearbox, and many other trick parts – yet it manages to retain a period correct look and feel. The body was repainted in correct Alfa Sky Blue in 2003 and much of the chrome was restored at the same time. The paint remains in excellent condition, as does the delicate brightwork. Panel fit is similarly well executed, and the whole car possesses a high quality, well-constructed feel.
At just 1290cc, the jewel-like Alfa twin-cam punches well above its weight. This engine was built by marque expert Jim Evans to be tough and reliable but still deliver good grunt. As part of the rebuild, the block was fitted with new liners along with Sprint Veloce high-compression pistons. The head was ported and polished with a 45 degree valve job done and custom Jim Evans cams fitted. Before going back on the block, the head was skimmed to give a further boost in compression to 10.3:1. It breathes through a single downdraught Weber carburetor and is fitted with a tubular exhaust header to give a great sound. The engine presents beautifully in the engine bay, with period correct detailing that barely even hints at the hotted up internals. The addition of a five-speed gearbox lends additional flexibility to these famously revvy engines and allows for more relaxed high-speed runs. This car is an absolute delight.
The chassis has been suitably uprated to match the increased power, and again, extremely high quality components were incorporated into the build. Adjustable AVO shock absorbers, uprated springs and sway bars and reinforced trailing arm brackets keep things under control. Brakes are the original yet highly effective finned drums, but are supplanted with high-performance liners and Aeroquip lines for better fade resistance and pedal feel. Again, all of the modifications are subtle and the car has a purposeful and sporty stance without appearing heavily altered, especially riding on the fabulous D-slot steel wheels that fill the arches just so.
The understated and tidy cabin looks great, maintaining the original simplistic feel with black leather seats and door cards, excellent black carpeting and clean, restored original instrumentation. It all appears fairly standard down to the original style steering wheel and switchgear. Alfa Romeos of all types are not the meant for static collections. Whether it is an 8C 2900 or a humble Giulietta Berlina, an Alfa is a car meant to provide joy to the driver. Thanks to the careful but comprehensive modifications that have been done to this wonderful example, the driving experience has been enhanced exponentially. While it was built for the rigors of historic rallying, it presents in remarkably good condition and does not appear abused, and it is far from being a tired old race car. As a testament to the quality of the build, it remains tight and well sorted, very attractive, and above all, fabulous fun to drive.
May 22, 2018
Mar 8, 2018