Classic Cars

Alfa Romeo Giulietta Sprint (1954-1962)

June 10, 2012

Alfa Romeo Giulietta SprintAlfa Romeo Giulietta Sprint’s shape was designed by Carrozzeria Bertone, but more than one stylist contributed to the creation of the this coupe. The initial configuration was the work of Giuseppe Scarnati, an Alfa Romeo designer who created and produced the first prototype at the Alfa Romeo Special Bodywork department between 1951 and 1953. But it lacked something in the eyes of Francesco Quaroni, general manager of Alfa Romeo, who then brought in the stylists Mario Boano from Ghia and Franco Scaglione from Bertone. Both designers collaborated jointly on the first prototype. But during the preparatory stage Boano moved on to run the newly set-up Fiat Style Centre and gave up the commission. After this, Giulietta Sprint was designed by Bertone alone.

Despite its small size (3980 mm in length, 1540 mm in width and 1320 mm in height) the car was striking for its clean, uncluttered external shape that was truly revolutionary for its time. The Giulietta Sprint’s profile made it look as if it was born to race. The only decorative detail on its streamlined body was a chrome strip on the doors. This sporting vocation was reflected inside the car. A steel dashboard included the speedometer, tripometer, rev counter, pressure gauge and oil temperature gauge, fuel level gauge and water temperature gauge.

Giulietta Sprint’s 1290cc, four-cylinder in-line engine was made out of aluminium, as was also the gearbox and differential casing. The 1.3-litre engine produced 65 horsepower at 6000rpm. Engine’s power was delivered to the rear-wheels through a four-speed manual gearbox. With the top speed of 165 km/h, Giulietta Sprint was the fastest car in its category. The front suspension was independent with coil springs, wishbones and stabiliser bar. The rear suspension was independent with coil springs, upper wishbones and struts. Braking was assured by four drums produced using a special Alfa Romeo casting procedure.  With its performance and excellent on-road behaviour, the Giulietta Sprint was the best that the car industry could offer at the time.

A range of options were offered for Giulietta Sprint that were absolutely unique for the time; Radio, fog lamps, leather upholstery, a three-spoke aluminium steering wheel with wooden rim and a set of suitcases with straps to fasten them to the rear seat. The colour range was also extended by new names: Iseo Blue, Capri Blue, Alfa Red, Gardenia White, Black, Pale Green, Very Pale Blue, Very Pale Grey, Banana Beige and Winter Blue. When the customer chose one or more options, the car was customised with a chrome ring inside the Alfa Romeo badge on the boot.

Alfa Romeo Giulietta Sprint was unveiled to the public at the 36th Turing Motor Show On April 19, 1954. Only very few cars were produced at this point, because according to Alfa’s plans, this appealing, sporty car was to act as a teaser to prepare people for the advent of the Giulietta saloon planned for the following year. However, Giulietta Sprint received such a warm welcome that Alfa Romeo had to change plans. More than 700 orders were collected in the days of the Turin Motor Show alone, and after the Show the Alfa Romeo dealerships literally came under siege.

Now Bertone was faced with a difficult task. Bertone’s bodyshop in Corso Peschiera in Turin certainly was not able to satisfy a demand of this magnitude, but the master still decided to take up the challenge. To face the extraordinary demand, Nuccio Bertone called on master panel beaters working at small Turin workshops who provided him with bodies partly beaten by hand on wooden dies and partly made up of pressed panels. For this reason, the first Giulietta Sprint units – only 12 vehicles were registered in 1954 – were truly one-off items because no two cars were the same. The demand rose to unprecedented proportions and craft workmanship started to cost too much. For this reason, in 1960 Bertone opened a new plant at Grugliasco on the outskirts of Turin and turned his acclaimed body shop into a world renowned industry. In the new Bertone plant the body panels were produced entirely in presses and assembled using electric spot welding.

The Alfa Romeo Giulietta Sprint coupe was followed by a Spider (convertible) and Berlina (sedan) models and numerous special models, like the lightweight Sprint Veloce. On June 24, 1958 the Giulietta Sprint Series II was presented at the Monza racetrack. This restyled model was created by Giorgetto Giugiaro, by then established at the Bertone Style Centre. Giugiaro added few but telling aesthetic details that particularly affected the area at the front. The air intakes were taken into a single grille, the headlamps were bigger and side turn signals were added. New tail lights were added with a separate reflector and the number plate lights were included in the bumpers. The engine was the classic 1.3-litre unit upgraded to 89 hp due to the addition of new exhaust manifolds, a strengthened cylinder block and oversized valves. The gearbox also adopted Porsche type synchronisers and a clutch control. A few months later, at the official launch in 1959, the workers discovered certain changes had been made to the Monza prototype. The seats came in a new shape and were upholstered in a checked cloth fabric. In the production model the engine delivered 80 hp at 6300 rpm. With the upgraded engine, the Giulietta Sprint could reach a top speed of 170 km/h.

A total of 24,084 units of the Giulietta Sprint were produced before the production ended in 1962. Giulietta Sprint, along with the Spider and Berlina, was very important car for the company. It established new parameters and reinforced Alfa Romeo’s status as a major car manufacturer.