Why the Alfa Romeo Sprint Speciale Is Collectable

Photography by Afshin Behnia for Petrolicious

The Collector is a weekly series produced in association with Gear Patrol, where we discuss the car, and Gear Patrol discusses the essential gear inspired by the car. (Click here to see the rest of The Collector Series on Petrolicious.)

Alfa Romeo originally introduced the 1900 series in 1951, an important milestone for the company because it was their first monocoque design. Perhaps more important still, is that its production numbers and economies of scale would be large enough to finally allow the company to become profitable. And the recently developed 1900cc motor (for which the series was named) made as much power as the supercharged racing 1750 motors of the 1930s. Although downsized for use in the wonderful Giulietta, the architecture of the remarkable 1900 remained.

And even though the resulting 1290cc motor weighed twenty percent less than a 1900 it made only ten less horsepower. This is due to a higher compression ratio, and still allowed the Giulietta Sprint Coupe to exceed the 100mph mark.

Concurrent with the Giulietta’s development, Alfa Romeo collaborated with Bertone to produce a series of Berlinetta Aerodinamica Technica (or Technical Aerodynamic Berlinetta) studies, based on the Giulietta, that produced three concept cars: the BAT 5, 7, and 9. Amazingly, the BAT 7 had a coefficient of drag of only 0.19!

More than likely inspired by (and the result of) this partnership, the Bertone-designed Giulietta Sprint Speciale appeared in 1957. This rocket-like interpretation of the Giulietta Sprint Coupe was penned by Mr. Franco Scaglione and achieved a record (for a production car) .28 coefficient of drag, not bested for over twenty years. It was capable of 125 mph and about 2800 Sprint Speciales were ever produced, including about 100 'low nose' Giuliettas. In 1963, disc brakes were fitted and the engine grew from a 1300cc to a 1600cc, which accompanied a name change from Giulietta to Giulia (the ‘grown-up’ Giulietta). Some small interior changes were made also but the exterior remained unchanged, save for the name badges.

Somehow, the Giulietta and Giulia Sprint Speciales were long overlooked by collectors. Mr. Brian Rabold, Hagerty’s Valuation Services Senior Manager, explains that the Speciales were, “long ignored by Alfisti because of their wild styling and heavier weight.” But that “Sprint Speciales came on strong in the market four years ago and values are now more than 140% higher than in 2010. And with roots going back to Alfa’s arresting BAT show cars, this is no surprise. Today, cars in excellent condition cost in excess of $150,000, which could have landed 5 or 6 similar examples 10 years ago.”

As with all other matters, timing is everything.

Special thanks to Mr. Brian Rabold and Hagerty for their contribution. If you'd like to check out current values on Sprint Speciales, or other cars, click here.

LOW NOSE, THE POLAR OPPOSITE OF LOW BROW

Only a handful of Giulietta 750 Sprint Speciale “Low Nose” cars were built, the first production run of the now very collectible Sprint Speciale line. They were distinguished by a sleeker hood and a lower roofline made possible by dropping the floor pan and radiator. Though the differences aren’t immediately apparent to the layman, when placed side-by-side against the more common SS, the Low Nose has an elegance all its own. Even rarer were the aluminum bodied versions, of which only about ten were produced. You’d consider yourself lucky enough to get a “normal” Sprint Speciale, but get your mitts on a Low Nose, and you’ll be one of the few owners of this incredibly rare automobile. Watch even vintage Ferrari owners give you the nod of approval. 

Written by Amos Kwon of Gear Patrol