1961 Alfa Romeo Giulietta Sprint ($79,500)
Photography by Sannie Celeridad
- Location: Emeryville, California
- Chassis: 149321131
- Engine: 1,700cc DOHC inline-four
- Transmission: Five-speed manual
- Mileage: 68,105 shown
- Color: Red | Black with red piping
- Production Run: 24,084 Sprint models
ALL THESE ROMEOS BUT NO GIULIETTA
The Alfa Romeo factory was a target for the Allied forces in WWII, leaving the marque on the verge of extinction after the war. With half their factory in ruins and surrounded by a crippled economy, Alfa desperately needed to pivot away from their low-volume sports cars and find a new sweet spot in the market. The 1900, priced around $4,500—still quite expensive for the time—was the first application of this new thinking, but more volume was required.
The order of operations for the inception of the Giulietta was nothing short of Italian. First, the name (legend has it, inspiration was found in a bar or nightclub), then the engine, and finally the body. The twin-cam was Alfa’s signature dish leading them to victories at Le Mans, the Mille Miglia, and dozens of Grands Prix, which was the source of inspiration for engineering and design chief Orazio Puliga. A new engine was built; all-aluminum, water-cooled (unheard of for mass production at the time) with similar bore and stroke, and a hemispherical combustion chamber and cross-flow design resulted in a simple, but quite advanced motor which became the soul of marque from that point on.
Due to production and cashflow issues with the Giulietta Berlina, Alfa Romeo decided to organize a lottery to finance the Sprint (again, quintessential Italian philosophy of putting the cart before the horse). While ambitious, the immediate success of the model made fulfillment an absolute frenzy and had a larger impact on the role and business model for the carrozzerias who would be tasked with handling much of the output.\
Alfa Romeo’s Technical Manager, Rudolf Hruska, requested design proposals and issued mules to both Bertone (Franco Scaglione) and Carrozzeria Ghia (Boano) for a prototype model and 1,000 units (which became far, far more). While Boano’s submission was an interesting design and Ghia was bettered tooled to handle the large amount of orders for the Sprint, Hruska found Bertone’s creation to be more elegant and true to Alfa Romeo, and so awarded them the business of production.
This required Bertone to retool and rethink their entire operation. A brand new workshop, new tools, and additional staff meant output of the coupé went from four bodies per day to 34 (consider that for a moment on a percentage basis) which were then delivered to Portello to receive mechanicals. In total, Bertone ended up building over 27,000 units, and was now left with a massive factory and assembly line, a huge departure from the low-volume craftsman workshop they started with. The Sprint was not the only car to have placed the inevitable strain on the carrozzerias, but it was certainly one of the last cars born in their transition period.
This 68k-mile 1961 Alfa Romeo Giulietta Sprint is in excellent above-driver condition car with tasteful engine, gearbox, and suspension modifications. The 1,300cc block has been bored to 1,700cc with a 40mm Weber carb conversion, an upgraded five-speed transmission, and adjustable Koni shocks and front disc brakes are now in place of the original units. Much of the work has been completed by Alfa guru and Petrolicious film star Conrad Stephenson and the team at Dino Motors.
Subtle hints to the car’s personality help tell the story: Talbot racing mirrors, Lucas fog lamps, a beautiful Nardi wheel, and upgraded racing lap belts for instance. The result is a Giulietta Sprint that is an absolute delight to drive and one that presents very well—a great candidate for canyon drives or local car shows. We break down the car below.
Body – The body is straight, rust-free, and solid with all panels displaying exceptional fit with no dents or damage to note.
Paint – The paint has been resprayed and is in very nice condition, displaying only minimal scratches and chips in the typical places.
Trim & Glass – With the exception of some pitting on the passenger’s door handle, all of the chrome is in beautiful condition. The headlamps and remaining glass are in very nice shape, apart from a few marks found on the windscreen. All badges are present and in great condition too. Talbot racing mirrors were fitted and remain in fine condition, as well as new Lucas 573 fog lamps. It should be noted that there is a small trim screw missing from the passenger’s grille that needs possible thread repair, but rest assured that the grille is still safely in place.
Wheels – The wheels are original with only minor wear. Period-correct 155/sr/15 Vredestein Sprint Classics with new Michelin tubes have been added. The spare is also present and in good shape.
Steering Wheel – Though not original, the classic wood-rimmed Nardi steering wheel is handsome and in excellent condition.
Dashboard & Instrumentation – The black leather dash appears in lovely shape with no cracks or scratches to report. The car is equipped with early style gauges, in addition to an auxiliary water temperature gauge. The gauges appear a little faded, as is typical on these cars. All other switches and controls are in nice shape, with the added bonus of the dome lights being in proper working order.
Seats, Trim & Carpet – The seats, to which racing-style belts have been added, are in excellent condition with black leather and striking red piping. The door cards follow suit and appear in nice shape, free from scratches or tears. The trim and cream colored headliner are all intact and in very good condition, as are the black carpets.
Engine – Bored to 1,700cc, the DOHC four-cylinder also has upgraded dual 40mm Weber carburetors and a hotter cam fitted.
The engine bay has been meticulously maintained and is highly polished from the valve cover, brake reservoir, voltage regulator cover, throttle linkage, carburetor hardware, radiator valve cap, and all the way to the backing plate for the hood latch. The car is complete with stainless steel lines from the oil filter housing, and a coated, tubular exhaust header. A recent compression test showed great results ( 1/185 2/185 3/170 4/185 ), and several maintenance items were buttoned up, including: a new heater valve, rear engine mount, driveshaft balancing service, and a check of all fluids complete with an oil change. The cabin heater was also fixed when it was discovered that the heater hose required replacement.
- Original Motor – The motor is a non-original 1,600cc that has been bored to 1,700cc.
- Engine Number – AR00536*01239*
- The Drive – The engine fires up beautifully without hesitation and feels strong and healthy. With the boost in performance from the increased capacity, it is excitable, responsive and makes all the right noises.
Transmission – five-speed manual
- Original Transmission – No
- Gearbox Number – Available upon request
- The Drive – Smartly converted to a five-speed, the transmission handles the additional power with ease and has no grinding or pop-out issues.
- The Drive – Front disc brakes were added, as well as a more balanced stance thanks to adjustable Koni shock absorbers. If you’ve had the opportunity to drive a stock Giulietta, this particular example will shine in comparison with its immediate turn-in and response.
Significant and Stunning – As discussed, the Sprint’s historical significance is attributed to the fact that it shifted the craftsman approach in Italy, making it the first and last of its kind in a sense—a sweet spot in design and importance alike.
Adventure-mobile – A compact 2+2, a fairly simple motor, and a wide availability of parts means this is a classic you can use more regularly than others, and we absolutely encourage you to do so.
Tastefully Modified – A bone stock Giulietta Sprint is a thing of beauty in its own right, but this example has just the right touches to amplify the best qualities of the car. Even more rev-happy than standard and with sharpened handling components and characteristics added by names like Conrad Stephenson, it’s a driving experience with a lot to offer in the name of performance. The fog lamps are a nice hat tip to the Sprint’s racing pedigree as well.
MEET THE SELLER
This car is for sale by Bruce and Spencer Trenery at Fantasy Junction. You can learn more about them here.