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Alfa Romeo Giulia & Berlina

Published: 30th Oct 2012 - 0 Comments - Be the first, contribute now!

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You can fit up to six in an Alfa Giulia and all of their luggage, too and while it lacks the style of a GTV it may be the right Romeo for you

The glorious Giulietta was a hard act to follow: the Italian Sixties were more conscious than ever about beauty and agility, yet with memories of the war firmly in the past, a car which combined exciting performance with the practicality of a ‘berlina’ for the newly blossoming family was Alfa Romeo’s priority. The Giulia (chopping off the ‘etta’ from the name automatically gave the word a more ‘grown-up’ meaning, in Italian) grew two extra doors and got bigger. It would add coupé and soft-top versions to its range later, but the saloon’s practicality was the very reason for the model’s existence. It had the same kind of engine as the outgoing car, a four-inline, light alloy block and head, DOHC unit, and the same mechanical layout. However, it was roomy inside, had a large boot and an oddly alluring style, all angles and sculpted indentations. It’s the Alfa we’re concentrating on here as they are rarer than a GTV but remain better value and ideal for up to six to enjoy!

History

The Monza autodrome must have shimmered under the summer sun in 1962, when the Giulia 1600 ti was introduced to the Italian public and press. It was modern in styling and in performance, with long-distance cruising fl air, plastic or rubber bushes (no lubrication/little maintenance), uprated suspension (front oblique links were added at the front, rear longitudinal struts were lower than in the Giulietta); a year later, it was already sporting all-round disc brakes.

In true Alfa Romeo fashion, the Giulia Berlina series 105 had many names, versions and upgrades over its long life (1962-1978). Alfa intended to produce Giulias on a significant scale, and conceived a car whose basic features would endure over time. As the ideal family car, the Giulia’s maintenance and running costs were supposed to be reduced to a minimum. The original line up (’62-’71) was the 1300, 1600Ti and the Super, the latter which had twon DCOE Weber carbs. The plain 1600 boasted 92bhp against 78bhp for the 1300 (82bhp for the rare Ti) from Alfa’s evergreen twin cam unit that served the company brilliantly. It was tied to a five-speed close ratio gearbox (although some pre ’67 1300 had four-speed) and rear wheel drive of course. However early cars had drum brakes all round and a column gear change, would you believe, for six-seater potential.

In 1965 the range had a makeover, which saw an 82bhp 1300Ti introduced although with other improvements. Two years later an enlarged Giulia was introduced as a range fl agship. The 1750 Berlina was essentially a 1750 GTV for the family guy which was upgunned in 1970 to become the 2000 Berlina; a formidable 131bhp sports saloon in anybody’s language.

The 1300/1600 range received bigger wheels in ’69 and a retuned rear suspension. A year later the 1300 was called the ‘1300 Super’ and then the ‘Super 1.3’ in ’72! A range realignment two years later saw a singleton spec with a choice of 1.3 or 1.6-litre power, the latter which was now rated at 98bhp. Around this time a 55bhp Perkins diesel model joined the range. All Giulias were replaced in 1978 with the wedge shaped Giulietta offering nicer sleeker looks but less character.

Driving

It is rare for an Alfa Romeo to provide a sedated, bland driving experience and happily despite its more practical design the Giulia had too much in common with the Giulietta to break that rule. A sports saloon for six people was how Alfa saw it and apart from looks and image, the saloon gave little away to an equivalent GTV. In a range round up in 1970 Autocar said that the Super “is still a highly satisfactory machine for the enthusiastic driver who needs four seats”. Of the 1750 it said it was quieter and softer than the Giulia “with a noticeably better ride at the expense of greater roll angles”. It reckoned that the larger car possess “an air of greater spaciousness and a more sober atmosphere” over the smaller, perkier Giulia, which remained in production.

However this family friendly Alfa was never better revealed than in the rare Ti ‘Super’ version. With its twin Webers, 109bhp 1.6 engine from the Giulia Sprint Speciale coupé, five-speed gearbox, single headlamps and 100kg lighter, it was worthy of the Cloverleaf on fl anks and tail. There were 1.3 litre versions too, of course, precursors of today’s hot hatches: light and lean, with sporty wheels, hydraulic clutch and all-synchro gearbox.

This saloon had all the elements to make it an unassuming sports car for the family, equally at home on the race track and on a family outing. As time went by, and Alfa Romeo churned out newer versions, the model improved in out-and-out performance, but became blander in looks. “Of all versions, the Super was always the more soughtafter, the sportier, and the one which was more likely to get tuned,” Jano Djelalian of Autodelta London recalls.

“Even the Italian Police used the Giulia Super, of course after modifying it for the purpose with 45 Weber carburettors and hotter camshafts (so how come the Cooper S Minis outran them in The Italian job then? –ed).”

The Giulias were – and still are – formidable racing cars where as the later Berlinas are better tourers. So of you want sport over space then the earlier car is the better choice while the Berlinas are nicer if more sober. Common to all however is Cortina-like practicality and roominess.

Improvements

Although it’s an Alfa these saloons are hardly hot trods in today’s terms with 60 coming up in anything between 22-10 seconds. So pepping up is worthwhile but not after fitting electronic ignition and an uprated rad. For a mild tune, the first step is a session on a rolling road to optimize the carbs and ignition (fit an electronic set up if possible) followed by a tubular 4-2-1 manifold. Next step are a change of cams, but a nice cheap tweak on the 1.3 and 1.6 is to fit ones from the 2000 engine. Then its head work – or fit a 1750 or 2000 engine; they’re easy swaps. Harder and adjustable damping along with better springs and a thicker (29mm) front antiroll bar are the best mods but not poly bushing the rear as some ‘give’ is essential. As standard there’s discs all round anyway and providing the system is in tip-top shape perhaps just harder pads will suffice. You can, for more than £700, fit Classic Alfa’s complete braking kit which consists of better four-pot calipers, discs etc. but if you have a 1300 or 1600 then using brakes from the Alfa 75 is a cheap upgrade.

Prices

Giulia Saloons go for less money (at least 30 per cent) than their two-door and roofl ess stablemates. Prices have increased over the years, although not as fast or as substantially as with many other classic Alfas. Giulia Saloons are still the runt of the litter, and only around 10 per cent of the Giulias sold are of the Berlina variety. Modifications abound: usually the 1.3 or 1.6 litre original unit could be substituted with the gutsy 2.0 litre, or developed for better performance. Around £5000 buys a set of wheels which will not let you down straightaway; the 1.3 litre is the trickiest to shift (c.£10k/12k), but a 1.6 Ti will change hands for anything between £15k and £19k. Early cars usually command higher prices, and a mid-Seventies Berlina 2000 is worth around £4000. A race-prepared Giulia ti Super can go for around £50k, as it is in the same league as Lotus Cortinas (and their contemporary rival too). In the ‘90s it was possible to get a decent Giulia for around £2000. Nowadays that money will buy a restoration project.

We Reckon...

If you need a car with a split personality, a classic which will do the school run yet show its true colours both on the race track and during spirited driving, the Giulia Saloon is for you. It has the right DNA, running gear from the immortal Giulietta, and even an automatic transmission as an option. It is still a ‘niche market’ choice, and the angular look is not for everybody. Simon Whiting of Gran Turismo Engineering has raced both coupes and saloons, and admits that the former are lighter and nimble, handling well. However, with some upgrades the Berlina is a deserving choice, perhaps still quite undervalued in the Giulia range. The Super, then as now, is more desirable than the Berlina, even though the rear legroom is cramped. A classic worth having whatever you go for we reckon.



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