The Stuff That Dreams Were Made of

{analysis} by Pat Braden

Writing about the Giulietta Spring in the Alfa Rome/Sports Car Market Letter is somewhat akin to retelling the Christmas story in a church newsletter.
The essentials are well known to the congregation, as well as the supporting legends. The Giulietta Sprint was introduced in the US 38 years ago: that is more than a generation. Those who were there to greet it as potential buyers are now approaching retirement. I probably cannot tell you anything new about the car itself, but I can recall some events which may make the bare more meaningful.

Brides and Brits

In addition to brides, servicemen returning from the Second World War brought back British cars. With precious few exception, these cars all shared certain features. They taught Americans that real sports cars were hard-riding, somewhat underpowered, wonderfully maneuverable and devoid of serious weather protection. The Morgan, MG and XK120 were the prototypical sport cars of my generation. We learned to make their faults virtues, most especially wind and rain in the face, and tended to look down on the more comfortable cars as effete.
At the same time, I always wondered shy it was only owners of Ferraris and Aston Martins who could enjoy the amenities of a closed car which could also handle. For almost ten years, that is from 1946 to 1956, there was no sporting closed car worthy of the name which was also affordable by the young enthusiast. Porsche was simply too expensive. The Triumph-based Peerless was a good try, but the first postwar car to hit the mark squarely was the Giulietta Sprint. Of course, mine is a purely American view, which ignores cars like the Lancia Aurelia simply because they weren't imported in any numbers.

Call Me Irresistible
The Italian version of the Giulietta Sprint's debut is its own interesting story. Alfa was rescued after the war by the Marshall plan, which financed the production of the 1900 series cars. In a move to build additional sales, Alfa designed a smaller sedan which would appeal to a much larger market than the still slightly exotic 1900. As an advertising ploy, and largely to deflect attention from the fact that the new Giulietta sedan's introduction was running far behind schedule, Alfa decided to build a small run of coupes based on the new platform and raffle one off to the person who could give the car a name. The coupe broke no new styling ground, but it was a wonderfully engaging car, executed in impeccable taste. Thought the sedan never made it to the States, the Spider and Coupe set a benchmark which few marques have ever bettered.
Some cars, like some people, are irresistibly lovable. The Giulietta Spring is one of the most affection-attracting cars of all time. It is not just its diminutive size; if small were the measure of desirability, the Fiat Abarth Zagato would be the world's favorite car. The fact is that the Giulietta Spring also quickly proved that it was a very capable car, every bit the Gran Turismo which could traverse countries as easily as lesser cars cross counties. Though you sit rather high in the Sprint's cabin, with legs stretched almost straight in front of you, there's ample wiggle room and enough in the way of amenities to make the trip truly comfortable.

How Guido Got His Sprint
As a confirmation of the Sprint's desirability, it became a favorite way for the Italian Mafia to reward Good Deeds. Thus, a Giulietta Sprint in Italy became endowed with a special kind of machismo.
In evaluating the Sprint's styling, it's important to remember that we're looking at it through eyes schooled on Ferrari F40s and Acura NSXs. In comparison to the modern car, the Sprint seems bulbous and uninteresting, with large expanses of side panels unrelieved by styling lines. The dash is spare, devoid of cup holders, air conditioning controls or 2-DIN cutouts for megawatt stereo systems. But to the contemporary, and especially in comparison with the 1900 6C2500, the Giulietta Sprint was a trim little machine, indeed. Every line on the car reflected the best styling of the era. To those who are old enough to have seen it new, the Sprint's body is one of the most beautiful ever crafted.

Born to Run Hard
A Sprint in busy at speed. I remember a trip back to Detroit from Chicago with a British friend in my '57 Sprint t a steady 4000 rpm. "Don't you get nervous," he asked, "holding such a high engine speed for so long?" I understood his concern, having recently personally demolished the engine of my MG-TF trying to hold expressway speeds without giving the valves chance to cool. But the Giulietta was good for a steady 4000 rpm for as long as you cared, and the Veloce's 7000-rpm redline - not to mention the twin Webers - was the stuff that dreams were made of.
The Sprint wasn't cheap, but it was a lot less than a Jaguar and a whole lot less than a Ferrari or Maser. And, when you lifted the hood, you saw the twin-cam covers which announced that this engine was a serious exercise in power production which did not resort to the crudity of cubic inches. In an era of incredible Detroit claque, there was something transcendentally believable about the Giulietta. It was a vision of Pure Truth, evidence that a few dedicated artisans could make a car which was nimble and comfortable at the same time.

Our Cubic Inches Are Bigger
I was never awfully impressed with the Giulietta's competition successes. Those Giuliettas which were really competitive were typically heavily modified, using traditional hot-rod techniques. Trained on MGs and Triumphs to equate handling with lack of body roll, I found the Giulietta's willingness to wallow outward in a turn especially disconcerting. The Giulietta's limit straps, however, served a real function, allowing a supple ride while reining in weight transfer at a precisely determined loading. And, it was true that a stock Veloce could be driven to the local track, collect trophies, and then motor home without changing anything. Its brave 1.3-liter engine was the match of virtually any 2-liter the Brits could offer. We used to say that the Italians built larger cubic inches than the English.
It's hard now to say whether it was the Giulietta which endowed Alfa with the respect I hold for the marque or vice-versa. What I do know is that the Giulietta Sprint was a pinnacle of styling and engineering at a time when a few people in the US were discovering that there was life outside Detroit. The Giulietta gave an unmatched combination of performance and comfort without compromising either. And it was one of the trend-setting bodies of its time. It can honestly be said that the success of the Giulietta in America gave Alfa a marketing impetus on which it still depends for its survival. When the ads used the word "heritage," for most of us they mean "Giulietta" and the progeny of that halcyon model.

Contributing Editor Pat Braden is a noted authority on Alfa Romeos. His most recent book, the Alfa Romeo Owner's Bible, is the definitive "hands on" companion for every Alfisti or wannabe Alfa owner.

Current Values
by Keith Martin

Giulietta and Giulia Sprints have the same type of value determinants as Spiders. Mechanically, Sprints were produced as 750 series Normales with floor and column shift levers and four-speed transmissions, 750 lightweight Veloces with aluminum body panels, 750 Veloces with steel bodies, 101 series 1300cc Normale and Veloces, and 101 series 1600cc Normales with 5-speed transmissions and at the end of the production run, front disc brakes. To complicate things further, a few 101 1300cc Sprints with five-speed gearboxes and disc brakes were assembled in Paris in 1964.
Visually, Giulietta Sprints fal into two categories, the 1955-early 1958 "eyebrow" front grille cars, whose chrome has an appearance similar to the Giulietta Spider, and the alter "egg-crate" grille models that followed them.
The most desirable Sprints are the lightweight Veloces, with their higher performance engines, lightweight body panels and sliding Plexiglass windows. A lightweight in daily-driving condition should bring about $35,000 in today's markets, with prices ranging up to $50,000 for restored examples.
Eyebrow Veloces are rare and in demand. $15,000 would be a very fair price for an unmolested car. Finding someone who will pay substantially more will be a chore, as Sprints have never commanded the following in the US that the Spiders have.
Sprint Normales are a tough sell, as are Spider Normales. Whether 750, 101-13-or 101-1600, $10,000 - $14,000 seems to be the absolute peak of the market, regardless of condition.
The best drivers are the 1600, five-speed, disc-brake cars upgraded with Weber carburetors. The 1750 engine is an easy installation, and doesn't affect the value. Even better, get rid of the buzzy 5.12:1 1600 Normale rear end (vintage racers should pay you several hundred dollars for it) and replace it with a more relaxed 4.5:1 ratio.{/analysis}

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