ALFA ROMEO 1600 SPRINT GT

The combination of the “Italian touch” and a perfectly styled body lifted the name Alfa Romeo to new heights and guaranteed the Bertone-bodied coupe a spot among the greats.

ALFA ROMEOS ARE not made to be driven. Rather they are worn smooth and preened like a well-pressed shirt.

The relationship between an Alfa and its driver is a personal, sensual one with loving respect standing out as the dominant feeling. And when forgiveness is due it comes from both car and driver.

“Alfa magic”—the best way to describe this car-driver raport—is of course nothing new. It is not measured in terms of power curves and G-forces, nor in beauty, comfort or silence.

Only an Alfa owner feels the magic.

ALFA ROMEOS ARE not made to be driven. Rather they are worn smooth and preened like a well-pressed shirt. The relationship between an Alfa and its driver is a personal, sensual one with loving respect standing out as the dominant feeling. And when forgiveness is due it comes from both car and driver.

“Alfa magic”—the best way to describe this car-driver raport—is of course nothing new. It is not measured in terms of power curves and G-forces, nor in beauty, comfort or silence.

Only an Alfa owner feels the magic.

The incredibly pretty Giulietta Sprint coupe of the 1950s and early 1960s brought the magic to the masses in Europe. With its smooth Bertone-styled two door, two seater bodywork and 65 bhp 1290cc twin overhead camshaft four cylinder engine, it became a classic in its own lifetime

So perfectly styled was the car that the first Bertone wooden body and the first metal shell are honored with a place in the famous Turin auto museum among other motoring greats.

Unfortunately for Australia and other right hand drive countries, the Giulietta models — spider and sedan versions followed — were produced only in left hand drive. This initially led to Sales resistance in Britain, in particulr, but Rudd’s of Worthing did a right hand drive conversion. to the models at considerable expense.

Only a handful of the cars ever came to Australia, all through private importers. They are now treasured possessions. Australia had to wait until 1964 for first hand experience of Alfa magic “en masse”.

It came with the new-look Bertone- designed 1600 Sprint GT coupe, a sleek, perfectly balanced occasional four seater which had caused a minor sensation in Europe when it was announced in 1962.

It took the Giulietta look a stage further and brought it completely up to date. The lines were generally rounded with crisp highlights on the mudguards, bonnet and boot.

The engine was a logical development of the long-standing 1300 power unit with a bore and stroke of 78 x 82 mm as compared with 74 x 75 giving a total capacity of 1570 cc. With a single double throat Solex carburettor and a compression ratio of 9:1 the power output was 97 bhp at 6200 rpm. The

The engine was a logical development of the long-standing 1300 power unit with a bore and stroke of 78 x 82 mm as compared with 74 x 75 giving a total capacity of 1570 cc. With a single double throat Solex carburettor and a compression ratio of 9:1 the power output was 97 bhp at 6200 rpm. The speed gearbox gave the car both excellent performance and frugal economy.

The 1600 Sprint GT was capable of 107 mph, would split a standing quarter Top left: Giulietta Sprint Coupe of the late ‘50s and early ‘60s was a logical predecessor of the 1600 Sprint. Few came here. A bove centre: Heart of all the Coupe A Ifas has been this superb twin cam engine which is almost as beautiful as the car itself.

Left: Sprint 1300 GT in now superseded form — the front end has been changed on the latest models — is perhups closest to original car. mile in just 18 seconds. Thirty miles a gallon was normal.

With a two-inch longer wheelbase than the Giulietta and basically the same track and suspension system, the model soon earned a justifiable reputation as an excellent handler.

The characteristic understeer of the Giulietta was replaced by more neutral handling and the combination of a new parking speeds.

This was at the expense of a fair amount of steering feedback from bumps and road irregularities, but Giulia owners being a fairly enthusiastic lot did not let this worry them unduly.

That the Giulia Sprint GT was a great car of the 1960s cannot be in dispute. Now in its latest model variation in two-litre form as recently announced overseas, the basic Bertone shape has weathered the past decade with ease.

The car is still one of the prettiest around and its look is still as modern today as in 1962. And how many cars have stood the age test that well?

Certainly it was a styling trend-setter when it first came to Australia in 1964. The car’s lithe looks and large glass area contrasted with the more rounded lines of the Alfas before it.

Actually the original 1600 Sprint GT is a comparatively rare bird in Australia and the 1600 GTV Veloce models which followed it in late 1966 sold in considerably greater numbers. It is estimated that perhaps only 150 of the Sprint GT models came to Australia.

The original scheme in scheme in Austrlia was that the cars would he produced by the South Australian Lightburn factory — the Zeta manufacturers but the arrangement never came to anything and the first cars were only trimmed here.

In Europe, initial production of the car was on a sub-contract basis, too, as demand was hard to meet. Bertone’s Italian factory actually built the early cars using the mechanical components sent across by Alfa. And this time right hand drive was incorporated in the production schedule.

The 1600 GT Veloce model which superseded the Sprint in Australia was sold in two versions during its two year model run and to many minds was the best Giulia Alfa of them all. Certainly in its final form with its 112 bhp engine it was a rapid, 120 mph car — quicker in fact than the first of the taller-geared 1750 cc cars which replaced it in 1968.

This situation has since been rectified with the latest 1750s which with 132 bhp and better final gearing are the quickest Alfas yet offered on general sale in this country. During the decade of the current Bertone body there have been many other variations on the theme. The GTC convertible model was a notable version which only dribbled into this country in small numbers — and with an all too healthy price tag. A small production run of these handsome vehicles was made and they were available in a limited color range of red, blue, green and white.

Another offbeat Alfa was the sporty GTA model in which Italian Dr Roberto Businello surprised many Australians during his race campaigning ot the car in 1965/66 Willi 135 brake horsepower, a lightweight body and factory handling mods, the GTA was a formidable machine in production car circles in the pre-Holden, Falcon, Valiant supercar days.

Finally, when discussing the Alfas of the ‘60s, we must not overlook the superb little 1290 cc GT 1300 Junior model which was introduced here in 1968 and still enjoys considerable popularity. This model captures the original Giulietta spirit in the way that the 1600 Sprint did. It is a very guiding band.

Finding a suitable 1600 Sprint GT Alfa for photography was not easy, but I finally tracked down the green example illustrated to Melbourne printer Mr Bill Patterson. He is the car’s second owner.

But the biggest surprise about the Alfa is that it drives very much like the latest 1750. And when you can spread a decade between models and still call the latest offering a modem car, that says volumes about the original.

But unless you have driven or owned an Alfa, you could not appreciate that this is a matter of course with the marque.