GALLERY: Go Behind The Scenes On Our 1956 Alfa Romeo Giulietta Spider Film Shoot
Ask someone on the street to name an Italian automaker and chances are your question will be answered with “Ferrari” or “Lambo,” but there would be no Miura without the 250, and no prancing horses to speak of without the cross and serpent of Alfa Romeo. The Milanese marque has a history that spans over a century of ingenious engineering, triumphs on the track and the street, and evocative styling from the greatest names in coach building. From humble but charming city cars to Grand Prix podiums, Alfa is arguably the purest embodiment of everything that we love about Italian romanticism and ingenuity, and for Petrolicious founder and CEO Afshin Behnia these cars are the perfect vessels for Driving Tastefully. Join him this Christmas for a drive along the Angeles Crest Highway in his 1956 Giulietta Spider.
Like so many good Alfas, this car found him instead of the other way around; shortly after his purchase of the white Giulia SS seen in the beginning of today’s film (and in its own feature, here), Afshin’s friends found this Giulietta listed for sale in Florida. They implored him to add the pert little Spider to his burgeoning collection of Alfa Romeos, and not being one to say no to those close to him, Afshin wired the money and bought the car sight unseen. It arrived in his driveway ten days later. It looked like it had a solid body, it presented itself well enough—it was “all there”—but the joys of the first drive didn’t last long before the motor lost its power, and its oil. It turns out the piston rings weren’t doing the best job of sealing things up inside the twin-cam inline-four.
We all know how this goes, engine failure or otherwise: once you find some major faults in your car you begin to doubt and scrutinize the rest of it with a more critical eye. In this case, the painted-over VIN tag on the firewall became cause for concern, the car’s identity called into question. Sandblasting reveals all sin, but once the layer of heat-resistant crinkle paint had been removed the tags were revealed to be one, present, two, correct, and three, quite early on in the car’s production timeline that began in 1955. With the Alfa’s identity confirmed and its bay fitted with a fully rebuilt motor there have been no complaints since.
And who could slight something like this? The Giulietta Spider is the kind of car you might expect an upscale Harrod’s-type department store to co-opt for its holiday catalog cover—red and brimming with gifts in the passenger seat next to a Santa with particularly good taste. It can be described as adorable, sure, but this car was and remains a uniquely sports car experience. It doesn’t have the power to print 11s on the pavement, but it will make you a better driver for it.
It’s a momentum car through and through, one that doesn’t cover up your errors with gobs of software and power. You need to be in tune with this roadster to get the most from it, but like all things that we’d call “pure,” the rewards are that much more enjoyable for the knowledge of your part in reaching them. For better or worse, there’s nothing in the way of the car doing what you tell it to, and there’s no need to explain how special this feels to those of us who value being a part of the sports driving experience rather than a spectator who happens to be sitting in the driver’s seat.
And once you’ve finished the drive, it all but compels you to look back and admire its static charms. A mixture of sorts between Franco Scaglione’s original design for the Giulietta Sprint (the coupe version that predated the Spider by a year and some change) and Pininfarina (which was brought in to adapt the Sprint into the Spider), the car occupies a narrow figurative space—it’s undeniably cute and sweet, but not saccharine. It’s shape is more feminine than masculine, but the delicate lines are not without prominent musculature nearby.
The design is aging well, so well that you can argue it’s not even aging in a sense. That’s not to say modern, though. Crash-testing standards and the ever-swelling proportions and comforts of our automobiles preclude something like this being born in our future, but we are thankful to have a past to pull them from.