In 1954, Alfa Romeo introduced its new Giulietta range of compact 1.3-litre models including a Berlina saloon, a 2+2 coupé and this – the Giulietta Sprint.
The Sprint was a low-roof two-seater coupé that had a fairly modest 95bhp – but the power output meant nothing because the car’s appeal lay in its absolutely stunning styling. The proportions were perfect and that led to a huge demand from customers, many of them young men who wanted something that was inexpensive to run but at the same time achingly cool. Within weeks of the car’s reveal, the waiting list was so long that Alfa Romeo had to draft in a selection of coach-builders to help it keep up with demand.
At one stage, the car was assembled in three stages – the bodies by Bertone, the engines and running gear by Alfa Romeo itself and the final trimming and interior fit-up by Ghia, though by 1959 the vast majority of work was carried out by Bertone alone in a bespoke facility in Grugliasco, nine miles west of Turin.
This car is one of those Grugliasco cars (hence its Carroserie Bertone logo’d kick panels) – all of which were finished by hand - and comes from a period when Alfa Romeo changed the model designation from 750 to 101, making this one of the earliest Giulietta 101s still in existence.
It’s an incredible rarity, as although it has been repainted it has never been welded or rebuilt. It’s one of the most original Sprints left, a fact backed up by a comprehensive history file documenting its life with just two previous owners, both based in South Africa where the climate has been kind to it.
The Alfa is a recent arrival in the UK and while it still awaits British registration – a fairly simple process given that it is tax exempt – it has recently passed a UK MoT test, something it is also exempt from but which the owner has had carried out as reassurance that it meets all legal requirements and safety expectations for our roads.
Some remedial paintwork was carried out in 2008, but before that this Alfa never saw anything other than routine maintenance from two fastidious owners.
It was delivered new to its first keeper in Johannesburg, South Africa, in July 1960 and was then owned by an enthusiast from the mid-1970s until last year, with limited use. The 50,237 kilometres on the clock can’t be proven to be correct, but given the car’s easy life and the condition of its interior, it’s highly unlikely to have covered more. The condition of the cabin also points to a cherished existence, as there is none of the sun damage you’d expect on the cabin of a car that has spent its life in South Africa.
The UK MoT tester is on record as saying he’d ‘never seen anything like it’ when presented for test.
The Giulietta comes with full registration details and paperwork, which will make it straightforward enough for the new owner to re-register in the UK. All import duties have been paid on this vehicle. The existing owner says he is happy to register the car in the UK for the buyer if preferred, but would like to leave the option open to the next owner to be the ‘first’ UK keeper.
While the exterior is evidently the most beguiling part of a Giulietta Sprint, the cabin isn’t short on style – indeed, the three-dial instrument binnacle is still a feature of modern Alfas, with a large central dial and two smaller ones either side and below – such is the importance of heritage to the Italian brand.
As well as the striking painted dash and delicate steering wheel - complete with horn ring – the Giulietta has a feature that would have been ridiculously expensive in its day. That is a Sanyo Transworld radio, integrated into the dash in a lozenge-shaped head unit that is every bit as stylised as the car’s bodywork. It’s a feature that really adds to its appeal.
The rest of the cabin is stunning, not least for its originality. The seats are trimmed in red leather and grey cloth, with no signs of cracking or wear, while the door cards are trimmed to match, with neat pop-out pockets for storing maps and similar. Aside from some wear to one door card caused by the window winder, it’s in exceptional order.
As the MoT tester stated, the Giulietta is in astonishing condition both on top and underneath, the latter being especially remarkable as there are no signs of rot anywhere, nor of the car having been welded. It really is incredibly solid and unrestored, which for a 60-year old Alfa Romeo must make it almost unique.
The same goes for the outer bodywork, though this was given a repaint in 2008. It’s a quality job, though, and has clearly brought back the shine to a car that had lived for almost 50 years on its original paint. There’s no evidence of any rust, and while close inspection shows up a couple of tiny paint chips that have been touched in, there’s absolutely nothing that detracts from the paintwork’s overall appearance. Put simply, it’s lovely.
The only minor negative is some pitting to the chrome-work on the bumpers, on the top surface of both the front and rear bumper bars. As these are the original parts it would make it a tough decision to replace or re-chrome them, which would make this car very close to concours but would also result in it losing some of its natural patina. Maybe the happiest medium would be to source a second pair of bumpers to chrome up and fit and then retain the originals as part of the car’s history.
Under the bonnet, the Giulietta is in fine order. The engine bay is exceptionally clean and well-detailed, suggesting a lifetime of fastidious maintenance.
The 1,290cc four-cylinder unit fires up easily on half-choke and settles to a steady idle. The clutch is a little sharp until you get used to it, not helped by the typically Alfa offset pedal position, but once you get used to it and the long, spindly gear-change it’s a delight to drive, feeling instantly responsive and much more eager than its 95bhp would suggest.
Quite apart from this car’s historic significance, as a commercially successful hand-built coupé and one of the most iconic models ever made by a brand that’s steeped in heritage and romance, it’s also almost unique in its originality.
We doubt you’ll find another Giulietta Sprint of this vintage that’s never seen the sparkly end of a welding torch nor been subject to a full restoration – it’s simply a lovely car and one that deserves an owner who will not only appreciate its historical significance but will also value its astonishing originality. It’s an incredible car and one that deserves to go to a home where it will be loved and cherished.
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