Evoking The Alfa Romeo Giulia Super’s Giallo Film Fame With An Evening Sprint Through England
Photography by Virgiliu Andone
What do you think about when you hear the word super? Superpowers and men in colorful tights, the superjumbo? What about an Italian four-door that all but created the modern sports sedan market?
For the Alfa Romeo faithful, it means one thing: the desirable high-performance version of our beloved Giulia. What started as a homologation special (the Giulia TI Super), later became synonymous with the 105 series saloons, albeit without the Turismo Internazionale initials, a reference to a motorsport class of the time.
Although it’s a car that held its own on a racetrack, the Super did not make its entry into the pantheon of mythical Alfas by means of its trophy cabinet. It had a completely different card to play. While the extra set of doors were more of a hindrance in competition, the car’s functional shape came into its own on the streets.
The car is synonymous with getaway drivers and car chases, with nearly every giallo film of the period featuring at least one Super in its automotive cast. Most likely you will see a fleet of them. The bad guys driving. The good guys chasing them down in Supers of their own. And as crime often happens at night, that’s when you’ll see most of them in action. Whether it’s the flashing blue lights of the Polizia or the searchlights of the Carabinieri, or perhaps the battered headlights of desperate bandits who’ve literally stopped at nothing as they’ve evaded the long arm of the law—as darkness falls over Italy, the lights of the Supers keep the streets alive. It’s through these films that the Giulia Super made its mark as a pop culture icon, spreading its influence well beyond the borders of its native land.
Recently in the UK for instance, we celebrated with Notte del Super, the night of the Super. We knew that we had to skip the daylight hours to try to connect to essence of this car and the environments that made it famous. The ever inspired Charles Evans came up with the name. John Darter put together a route, as he only knows, meandering through the hills of Surrey, before returning us to London. I chipped in, creating a visual for our trip, although, to be fair, all our Giulia drivers were up for it before I even picked up the pen. And so it began. Nine Giulias. I took the tail gunner position in David West’s white Super in a bid to capture some of the night through my lens.
Our group was a mix of old friends and people who’d I met for the first time a few minutes earlier. The cars were just as varied, ranging from the very stock grey 1300 ti to the Alfaholics-infused grey rat, from the matching numbers to the various Nord engine swaps. Needless to say, before we set off, bonnets were up and we all indulged in our shared hobby—talking about cars. I can’t think of a better icebreaker than an open hood between people like us. Discussing Alfa’s twin-cams has often proven to be a good catalyst for long-term friendships, in my experience.
As the daylight faded around us with the Super’s personality shining brighter, it was time to get on with it, and as we rushed through the darkening forests outside of town I got a sense of what it felt like to be an Italian bank robber, or a member of the Polizia in pursuit for that matter. We weren’t really going all that fast, but the quick succession of corners and the bumpy B-road made for an entertaining route for out imaginations to play out across.
The rapid direction changes over less than smooth roads was not ideal for car-to-car photography, and with England being England, it started to rain. Living here, you tend to disregard rain as a minor nuisance that fades into the background, but we still register the biblical storms. We got one such downpour, but rather than go into hiding from the weather we pressed on with the wipers feebly doing their best. Pizza fresh from a stone oven, baked by a guy whose father used to race 33s—we had no clue beforehand—helped push the meteorological woes out of mind. We savored our hot food under a providential marquee that some inspired villagers erected for just such an occasion. Speaking of providence, completely out of the blue, one of the rugby players from the local village team, fresh from finishing a practice session, approaches us to tell us he just left a little gift in each of the cars. It turns out we’ve run into a fellow Alfista, Tom Bouet, from Classic Alfa. Completely out of the blue. Or, should I say out of the dull and wet grey.
The storm made us wish that Tom had left us bus passes as gifts, the road back home becoming steadily more treacherous. Pools of water formed in almost every dip of the pavement, and the only light to guide us was the dim halogen of our headlights. We went from San Remo to Twin Peaks in the course of an evening. I put my camera down and commenced screen defogging duties in David’s car, so we stood a chance of picking up John’s tail lights ahead of us.
After what seemed like an eternity of picking our way along, we made it to the safety of the street lights of London’s suburbs. Time to reflect on our Notte. Was it all we hoped for? Well, we never wished for this kind of weather. And all my lavish plans for more photography options were washed away with the relentless rainfall. I was glad to have started shooting when the skies were a little more forgiving.
On the other hand, we wanted to recreate some of that sense of dusky menace that the Super is famous for. The sense that the streets are full of danger, that adventure—and a car chase across the streets and sidewalks—is just around the corner. We will soon forget being soaked to the bone, fruitlessly smearing condensation around fogged-up windscreens, but we will remember the good parts of our night out, the shared stories of race weekends and garage builds, the warmth of the pizza oven and the unbeatable deliciousness of fresh dough, tomato, and cheese. We’ll remember meeting Tom, with his own warmness of heart, and we’ll remember the trees whipping past our windows, blurred in the crepuscular light between day and night. Unlike the outcome of the gangster films, all nine of our Giulias made it home intact.