Featured: After Racing, A Restoration, And Two Decades Of Unbroken Ownership, This Alfa Romeo Giulia SS Is Staying In Tuscany

After Racing, A Restoration, And Two Decades Of Unbroken Ownership, This Alfa Romeo Giulia SS Is Staying In Tuscany

By Petrolicious Productions
November 21, 2019

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’.”

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Allen Dumler
4 years ago

Awesome! I also shot this car back in 2018. Great you had the opportunity to get a bit more backstory on this car! https://petrolicious.com/articles/visit-the-automotive-gathering-in-florence-that-you-wont-find-in-the-guidebook

4 years ago

Maybe someone can provide me with some numbers of this car for the SS Register? This car I don’t think I have seen before. You can see the Sprint Speciale Register at http://www.veloceregisters.net/ss1.html
Yep, hang on to the car, it isn’t always about the money.

4 years ago

One of my all-time fave’s is the 1953 Alfa Romeo 1900 Supersonic Conrero. This particular one took part in the 1953 Mille Miglia. Maybe Petrolicious should do an article on this car? As in, a where is it now and it’s history? Great story and photos by the way!

4 years ago

One of my all time favorite Alfas – this one is such a beautiful example and color.

Sorry folks, but a fond personal SS moment follows:
About 20 years ago, at the end of a day of rallying classic cars, a good friend and I were admiring a beautiful Giulietta SS. The owner came by we chatted awhile about the history of his car. Finally, the owner reached into his pocket, tossed me the key and said take it out for a drive. My friend and I stood there with our mouths open and again the owner said, take it for a drive – be back in a half hour. We happened to be outside of Bend, Oregon with some great mountain roads nearby. I remember the drive like it was yesterday. Early summer evening with the shadows of tall pine trees and snow capped mountains and this incredible little gem of an automobile. Everything was so balanced – the steering, suspension, brakes – and the cockpit with that wrap around windshield. We returned the car in one piece and I’ve had a
soft spot in my heart for the owner and the SS ever since.
Thanks for sharing the story and photos.

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