Monday November 21, 2016
Written by Andy Roberts
Watching The Italian Job for the 3,569th time last week was a further chance to appreciate one of the most significant European cars ever made, in the company of several Austin Mini Coopers, Benny Hill, Noel Coward and Michael Caine saying ‘bloody’ approximately every five minutes.
In June of last year Alfa Romeo launched their Tipo 952 Giulia but many of us recall the original car to bear that name, a vehicle that was the automotive embodiment of the post-war Italian ‘economic miracle’.
The 105 series Giulia Ti debuted on the 27th June 1962 and it initially appeared to be an innocuous four-door saloon that was the perfect transport for a respectable accountant, from the strip speedometer to the front bench seat and gear lever mounted on the steering column. But then those who cared to look a little closer would note how Dr. Orazio Satta Puglia’s styling incorporated a cam tail, a lip over the rear screen and a curved front windshield, which helped to give the Alfa Romeo a drag factor of just 0.34. Opening the bonnet revealed the 1,570cc engine that was the world’s first mass production twin-cam power plant while a conventional looking steering column lever operated a five-speed transmission. A brief test drive along any Autostrada would be enough to display the Giulia’s 103 mph top speed at a time when the 2.5 litre six-cylinder Mk. III Ford Zodiac would have struggled to make ‘the ton’.
1964 saw the column shift replaced by a floor lever and the introduction of RHD versions, although swingeing import duties meant that it would be a rare sight in the UK. By contrast, the home market Giulias were the cars favoured by those smart young drivers who modelled himself on Marcello Mastroianni, in addition to being the staff transport of choice for junior Mafia foot soldiers and the nation’s definitive police car. The 1300 was ideal for those who would have otherwise considered a Fiat and, from 1965 onwards, the Giulia Super, with twin Weber 40DCOE carburettors and a discreet serpent crest on the C-pillar, was a BMW rival that was more than capable of reaching 110 mph. At a British price of £1548 the Super was more expensive than a Triumph 2000 but for a select group of enthusiasts every detail, from the servo assisted disc brakes to the aluminium spoked steering wheel and the hand throttle, was worth that extra £sd. In the words of Car magazine in 1969 - ‘British manufacturers ought to be turning out something as good but cheaper. They aren’t’.
Giulia production lasted until 1978 and in the last stages of its career, it gained further publicity via its stardom in approximately 4, 859 ‘Poliziotteschi’ B-films. Most of these epics bore titles along the lines of Squadra Bastardos and all featured an olive coloured police Super in hot pursuit of a Fiat 2300 Berlina filled with overdubbed and overacting villains. Naturally, the Alfa Romeo triumphed, for this was a gloriously predictable world where, by ancient law, justice would prevail and master criminals would all sport glue-on moustaches.
Today the number of surviving 105s is limited even in its homeland, partially due to corrosion and because so many saloons were scrapped to assist in the mechanical restoration of the more ostensibly ‘glamourous’ coupe versions. The few examples that remain on the road represent a keynote model in Alfa Romeo’s history.
And, as their proud owners will doubtless tell you, a sports saloon that was more than capable of overtaking any Mini laden with gold bullion…