Long before BMW offered a four-door 3-Series and Mercedes, the C-class, Alfa Romeo was selling “The Family Sedan That Wins Races.”
It was the Giulia Super.
More than 475,000 Giulia sedans were produced from 1962-78. While they came in a bewildering array of configurations (see http://www.berlinaregister.com/gul.htm), the only model officially imported to the US was the 1967 Giulia Super.
They are built on a 105-series chassis, which is shared with the coupe (GTV) and convertible (Duetto/Spider Veloce) of the same era. All three cars have the same twin-cam, dual-carbureted engines, five-speed gearboxes and four-wheel disc brakes.
Every year, the Alfa Romeo Owners of Oregon celebrate the Super by hosting “The Old Super Tour.” This year, seven Supers participated, a remarkable turnout for a model more than 50 years old.
I was fortunate to ride with good friend Chris Bright, who owns a 1974 Super that was imported from Europe. It has a 1.3-liter engine, with dual Dellorto carbs.
I’ve ridden in Chris’ car before, and always find it delightful to watch him match his skill set with the limited output of the engine and the demands of modern traffic.
The picturesque route, created by long-time club member David Beach, wound from near Ridgefield, WA, just north of Vancouver, to Astoria on the Oregon Coast.
By the time the day was over, we had covered 215 miles.
When we were in the multi-colored string of Supers, on a two-lane road at 50 mph, the year could easily have been 1976. The 80-cid engine of the Super produces about 88 horsepower, which was enough for us to keep up with the gang.
Chris is the founder of Collector Part Exchange, a new business that connects buyers and sellers of classic parts in a modern and efficient manner. (My personal collection of stuff – from Dinky models to a 1966 GTV dashboard to a 750-series, 4.1 differential from a 1958 Sprint Veloce – will be offered for sale there in the near future.)
I told Chris I am becoming more set in my belief that it doesn’t take more than 125 horsepower to keep up with traffic. Any more than that and you need a track to make use of the additional potential.
I’ve owned a large range of cars, from a 440-cid, four-barrel 1970 Plymouth Superbird to a 603-cc Citroën Mehari with a 29-hp air-cooled twin.
If I had been on the tour in my 2004 Mercedes SL55 AMG, which makes 493 easy horses, the drive wouldn’t have been nearly as much fun.
Like being the skipper of a small sailboat watching the wind, Chris had to anticipate every hill, turn and braking point. If he was in the wrong gear or waited too long to apply the brakes, the Super wasn’t going to do anything to help save him from his error. He was “driving” the Super, not the other way around.
If we had been in the SL55, the prodigious capabilities of the Mercedes would have flattened and straightened out the road. Our tour on twisty back roads would have turned into one fast, flat lap to the coast and back. There’s not much fun in that.
Being with the “Super” gang reminded me that part of the reason we like our cranky old cars is that they require us to have some skin in the game to enjoy them. If we can’t match engine shift points to transmission gear ratios, the car will shudder and jerk. If we come into a turn too hot, we may find ourselves in the weeds.
Every Super driver on the tour was drinking this same Kool-Aid. These cars represent an era of driver involvement that is gone forever. It’s more of a treat every year to enjoy them.