After Racing, A Restoration, And Two Decades Of Unbroken Ownership, This Alfa Romeo Giulia SS Is Staying In Tuscany
Story by Alexander Byles
Photography by Marco Annunziata
The artistry of Italian automotive design is epitomized in Alfa Romeo’s beautiful twin sisters, the Giulietta SS and Giulia SS. Flowing curves on a body devoid of straight lines, the car was seemingly designed by fantasia rather than applied physics. And still, the result of Franco Scaglione’s work on the gorgeous form was one of the most aerodynamically accomplished cars ever produced, with a drag coefficient of a scant 0.28, a figure shared only by Chevy’s Corvette, and not bettered until some 20 years later.
This was in 1957, when the first prototype Giulietta SS, or Sprint Speciale, made its public debut at the Turin Motor Show (though the official press launch of production models took place some two years later at Monza). Though it was designed without the aid of a wind tunnel by Scaglione—the Florentine chief designer at Bertone at the time, and no stranger to a penning a pretty Alfa—Scaglione’s academic career included experience with aeronautical design, which is evident not only in the beauty of the SS’s bodywork, but also in its minimal drag. The two-seat, two-door coupe featured a steel body, accompanied by aluminum doors, bonnet, and trunk lid, so it was also rather light for a street car.
Powered by Alfa’s famous 1,290cc twin-cam four-cylinder, the valves were controlled by dual overhead camshafts and also featured hemispheric combustion chambers. Distinctive sounding Weber DCOE carburetors were also included (DCOE stands for “Doppio Corpo Orizzontale E,” which means “double body horizontal’, with “E” referring to type). The result was right around 100hp to be delivered to the rear wheels, with stopping power provided by drum brakes on all four. The five-speed gearbox was relatively rare for its day, with most sports cars still opting for four-speeds.
Between 1957 and 1962, 1,366 of the Giulietta SSes were assembled before the model was “replaced” by the nearly identical but beefed-up Giulia SS, presented at the Geneva Motorshow in 1963. Since Scaglione’s exterior design was retained for the Giulia SS, the most significant styling differences were relegated to the interior, with tweaks to the dashboard and the addition of the “1600” badge.
Under the hood, capacity was boosted to 1,577cc, helping the car achieve an output of 112hp, good enough to get the Giulia SS to 125mph, according to the factory (and faster than that, according to various owners). To handle the extra power, discs replaced the drums up front. But while the 1600—which was aimed at least partially toward the American market this time around— afforded greater performance, it was never perfectly suited to racing. The steel, rather than all-aluminum body of the top competitors, made the power-to-weight ratio less attractive in the realm of motorsport.
Just about in line with the Giulietta version, 1,400 Giulia SSes were produced in a two-year stretch that ended in 1965. They are quite rare now, and though they are relatively affordable in the grand scheme of good-looking Italian coupes from the 1960s, they aren’t easy to find for sale. This one certainly isn’t on the market. From the stable of a man named Antonio, a collector in Tuscany, Italy, this Giulia SS has been restored back to its original state with a lot of love, time, and of course money invested. Purchased in 1999 from an enthusiast who had entered the car in numerous historical re-enactment races, Antonio bought the Giulia on the spot and has no plans to let it go.
“I had always loved Franco Scaglione’s work, so when a friend of mine spotted the car at a local mechanic’s, I was interested straight away. Luckily, the owner wanted to sell it in order to buy a new car for his daughter, so we met up, and he was looking for around 28M Lire (around €15,000) and I said ‘I’ll give it to you immediately!’”
Antonio knew how the car had been driven hard in its life, and he was prepared for the work involved in a proper restoration. “Because the car had been used for racing, the whole setup had been modified as well as the interior, and needless to say the engine needed attention considering the repeated enthusiastic use it had seen.”
Among the list of tasks in the extensive restoration, the body was removed, repaired and repainted in the original metallic silver. The trim, seats, and upholstery were restored to original spec, and the dashboard was summarily returned to its original color and finish as well. The magnesium wheels are original—these were the lightweight option of the day, at around 2.5kg each, compared to the 10kg steel wheels. The steel exhaust system was completely rebuilt, and the engine was disassembled and restored to complete the mechanical package. Now, this example has an official seal of approval to attest to its correctness, achieving Targa Oro status from the ASI (an identity certificate more or less, but much nicer sounding in Italian, right?).
Antonio is still smitten with the SS two decades into ownership, and he doesn’t take any aspect of it for granted. For instance, he says “It does well over 200km/h, which is extremely fast when we consider the car was made in 1964, but it’s not particularly easy to drive. Despite the front disc brakes, you have to be extremely careful about braking times—especially with the speed you can build on a small road.”
Concerning reliability and efficient maintenance, it’s often said that an old Alfa Romeo will consume more oil than gasoline, but Antonio assures us that his Giulia runs smoothly and isn’t burning or leaking. It sounds like a keeper to us, but is Antonio sure he couldn’t be convinced to sell? He’s quick to answer: “Occasionally someone leaves a note and a phone number on the windshield, or stops me to ask if I’m interested in selling, but for now, I’m very happy that my answer is still ‘no’.”