Keith’s Blog: Happy 59th Birthday to the Sprint!

On April 3, 1958 my Alfa Romeo Giulietta Sprint Veloce rolled off the assembly line. Six days later it was sold to a dealer in Switzerland. Its history is lost from then until about 30 years ago when it was found sitting, not running and with the nose punched in, at the side of the road in Southern California. It had a “For Sale” sign in the window.

Somehow it had crossed the Atlantic to the U.S; how and why we will never know.

Eventually it found its way to Concorso Italiano. I purchased it there in 2012.

It’s now 59 years old.

Some of the top music hits in the year it was built were “Summertime Blues,” “Tears on my Pillow” and “The Purple People Eater.”

“Gunsmoke,” “Father Knows Best” and “The Ed Sullivan” show topped the television ratings.

The little Alfa was surely an oddity in the United States — just think of the chrome-bedecked 1958 Chevrolet Bel Air.

For the Alfa anoraks amongst you, its chassis number is 1493*06524, and engine number 1315.31015. It is a rare model called a “Confortevole.” Less than 200 were built. They have the mechanicals of the earlier lightweight Sprints — but with an all-steel body.

The Sprint is 34 years older than my daughter Alexandra, and it is exactly half a century older than my son Bradley.

There aren’t many items that we use that are 59 years old. Certainly not our stoves or refrigerators — and dishwashers had barely been invented in 1958.

We sometimes wear vintage clothes that are aged, and certainly china and tableware can be well over a hundred years old.

But none of those things have the mechanical complexity of a car. When cruising down the freeway, the 59-year-old engine in the Sprint is turning over 5,000 times a minute.

Further, I expect the Sprint to have a heater that heats, and wipers that wipe. I expect the brakes to stop me as best they can, and the transmission to shift smoothly.

Cars are unique among collectibles as they are the only items that destroy themselves slightly each time they are driven. Bearings, rings, valve guides and throw-out bearings all have a lifespan determined by how often they are used.

Old cars are no longer suitable for daily traffic. Compared to modern cars, they stop very poorly. And they have no safety features.

This Sprint has been restored and given a second life. Given how little we use our old cars, chances are it will not need an engine or gearbox rebuild during my lifetime. Further, as it is kept in a heated garage and not driven in the rain, it should never rust.

In essence, the Sprint has had its metabolism slowed down. Fifty-nine years from now, in 2076, assuming the car is properly cared for, it should be possible to turn on the ignition key, pump the throttle a few times to squirt fuel into the dual Webers, and fire the car up.

None of us can predict what driving conditions will be like that far in the future, or whether cars you can drive yourself will even be allowed on public highways.

But chances are, in 2076 this Sprint will be ready for a spirited drive down your favorite two-lane road.

 

Keith Martin

Keith Martin has been involved with the collector car hobby for more than 30 years. As a writer, publisher, television commentator and enthusiast, he is constantly on the go, meeting collectors and getting involved in their activities throughout the world. He is the founder and publisher of the monthly Sports Car Market and bi-monthly American Car Collector magazines, has written for the New York Times, Automobile, AutoWeek, Road & Track and other publications, is an emcee for numerous concours, and has his own show, “What’s My Car Worth,” shown on Velocity.

Posted in Blogs, Keith Martin

4 comments

  1. I have a 1958 Fender Bandmaster amplifier, tweed finish, with a single 15″ speaker. Formerly the property of the late Danny Gatton, possibly the greatest electric guitar player who ever lived. I don’t play it out very often- it is so loud that there is too much volume for most clubs- but every time I play it, I am aware that I am playing something that used to belong to a living legend. Old guitars and amplifiers have soul, just like old cars do. And they don’t rust.

    1. I just got off the phone with a fellow tuning up my early 64 Bassman head. He said “this is the most untouched white tolex Fender I’ve ever seen! And you are a follower of Gatton! He’s on regular circulation from the IPod in my 59 Alfa Touring.

      I won’t claim the old stuff is always better. I may have lived in Richmond, VA for a while, but I wasn’t born there. But sometimes the old stuff is a more unadulterated, distilled experience.

  2. HAPPY BIRTHDAY little sprint !! i had a 59 in college , now a 64 spider my dad bought new and a new 4c but the old alfas are still my favorites. always thought of them as baby ferraris .

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