2022 marks the 60th anniversary of the presentation of the original Alfa Romeo Giulia saloon, one of the Milanese marque's most significant commercial successes in the period and perhaps its most popular model among collectors nowadays. And here's its story.
Work on the Giulia started in the late 1950s, a period of rapid economic expansion in Italy during which Alfa's Giulietta had become a coveted symbol of newfound economic prosperity for thousands of small and medium entrepreneurs.
With a seemingly insatiable demand for automobiles and rapidly improving living standards, the Giulia was designed to go "beyond" the Giulietta in every respect: larger, more powerful, and, of course, faster.
The existing all-aluminum twin-cam four cylinders engine was enlarged from 1290cc to 1570cc and, equipped with a double choke 32mm Solex carburetor, it made 92HP at 6000Rpm.
Power went to the rear wheels via a brand-new five-speed manual gearbox, a highly unusual feature for any family saloon at the time.
As disc brakes were still a novelty in the early 1960s, Alfa Romeo's engineers retained drum brakes for the first Giulias until 1964, when all production finally switched to the four-disc brakes the model deserved.
Form follows function
While the Giulia's basic engineering can be considered an incremental improvement over the Giulietta it replaced, its exterior design was a complete revolution, born out of pioneering aerodynamic wind tunnel research carried out using Turin's Polytechnic facility.
It must be pointed out, though, that the 0.34 Cd figure that's often quoted for the Giulia Berlina is actually a misprint, with the actual figure being around 0.43, according to a 2007 interview with former Alfa Romeo engineer Domenico Chirico.
Although that makes things somewhat less impressive, that 0.43 figure still placed the Giulia among the most aerodynamically efficient production cars available at the time, beaten only by some Citroen and Porsche models.
Ti and Ti Super
Such a radical design caused some concern even within Alfa's management, but they needn't have worried, as the Giulia 1600 Ti was readily embraced by the market. 1963 saw the introduction of the rarest, most coveted Giulia variant: the Ti Super, built in just 500 copies until 1965.
Equipped with four disc brakes, 90 Kg lighter, and fitted with 2 sidedraft Weber 45 mm carburetors, the Ti Super could pass 180 Km/h and was Alfa's new weapon in the European Touring Car racing scene. However, it proved significantly less competitive than expected against the Lotus Cortina, and its racing career was cut short by the advent of the GTA.
All the Ti Supers made were painted white, with only two exceptions: one red example and one ordered in grey by its first owner.
The Giulia entirely replaced the Giulietta in May of 1964 with the presentation of the smaller displacement entry-level model Giulia 1300.
Initially equipped with a four-speed gearbox, the smaller Giulia fully hit its stride in 1966, when the Giulia 1300 Ti was introduced: better appointed and fitted with the five-speed 'box, it rapidly became the most popular model of the range.
So much so, in fact, that Alfa Romeo sought to better distance the 1.6 liters Giulia from the 1.3 model with the creation of the 1600 Super, equipped with a slightly detuned version of the Giulia Sprint GT coupé and sporting a completely redesigned interior.
Squashed between the cheaper 1300 Ti and the faster and better appointed 1600 Super, sales of the single-carburetor Giulia 1600 Ti slowed down to a trickle, and this version was phased out entirely by 1967, on the occasion of a restyling of the Giulia range.
The Golden Age
The restyled Giulias introduced in September of 1967, easily recognizable by their black mesh grille with three horizontal chrome bars for the 1300 Ti and five chrome bars with quad headlights for the 1600 Super, marked the model's commercial peak, with Alfa Romeo's yearly sales crossing the 100.000 units for the very first time in 1968.
The new range also included the short-lived single-carburetor 1600 "S," manufactured in just over 2000 units and replaced during 1970 by the 1300 Super, equipped with the double-carburetor engine from the GT Junior.
Following the Alfasud's launch in late 1971, the entry-level Giulia 1300 and 1300 Ti were dropped, and the model's range was reduced to the Super 1300 and Super 1600 from 1972. The two models were aesthetically identical, differing only in engine size and final drive ratio.
By then, the Giulia was a decade old, but thanks to its advanced design, it still managed to look contemporary in the early 70s. It had become a fixture on Italy's roads, driven by proud new owners, the police, or the thugs running away from it.
The twilight years
The Giulia was relaunched one final time in 1974, with the so-called "Nuova Super" range, featuring a raised front bumper, a new black plastic front grille with a wider Alfa "shield," and four headlights of equal size. The bonnet and trunk lid pressings were new, with the latter losing its characteristic lowered center section.
Although the "Nuova Super" arguably lost some of its personality because of these changes, that was nothing compared to what happened in 1976, when the Giulia Nuova Super was given the dubious honor of becoming the first Alfa Romeo passenger car equipped with a Diesel engine.
Unfortunately, the Giulia Diesel was a rush job, equipped with the same Perkins unit Alfa used in its F12 panel vans. Although the company would later enjoy great success with diesel engines, the Giulia Diesel proved to be a false start for Alfa Romeo in this market sector: slow and severely lacking in refinement, just over 6000 Giulia Diesels found buyers.
After fifteen years of service, some of which have arguably been the company's best, the Alfa Romeo Giulia was replaced, on the market but arguably not in the hearts, by the striking "Nuova Giulietta" in 1977.
However, that's a story for another time...