My Car Quest

August 19, 2019

Designed By The Wind – The Alfa Romeo Giulietta Sprint Speciale

by Giacomo Arosio (including the translation from Italian) –

Alfa Romeo Giulietta Sprint Speciale

The Giulietta was probably one of the greatest cars ever made by Alfa Romeo and it was very much appreciated by the Alfisti. The “project 750” led to many other derivatives, including both road-going and racing cars. The chassis and the renowned DOHC light alloy engine were a perfect starting point to develop different models and they didn’t need major upgrades, so in the second half of the 50’s Alfa Romeo decided to modify the bodywork only to increase the top speed.

Alfa Romeo Giulietta Sprint Speciale

Some short wheelbase chassis (the same used for the early Giulietta Spider) were delivered to Zagato and Bertone to receive a new aerodynamic body. They did their best to build a new bodywork but each one chose a different way. With no doubt the cars bodied by Zagato won more races but Bertone’s body was perfect to create a beautifully shaped street-legal granturismo, the Alfa Romeo Giulietta Sprint Speciale (often shortened in Giulietta SS).

Alfa Romeo Giulietta Sprint Speciale

Alfa Romeo Giulietta Sprint Speciale

The first Sprint Speciale prototype made its debut at the 1957 Turin Auto Show. The bodywork was styled by Franco Scaglione, a very skilled designer employed by the Piemontese coachbuilder. His aim was to build simply a racing car with aerodynamic body, so at first there were no bumpers and the nose didn’t display the typical Alfa Romeo shield. The front and rear overhangs were long, giving the Giulietta a unique side-view. The long tail abruptly cut off was probably the most distinctive feature of the Sprint Speciale and it was intended to increase the top speed, according to Professor Wunibald Kamm’s aerodynamic theory.

Alfa Romeo Giulietta Sprint Speciale

Alfa Romeo Giulietta Sprint Speciale

In spite of the new body panels, the Giulietta used the same engine of the Sprint Veloce model but the horsepower was now increased to 100 hp.

Zagato stylistic choice was diametrically opposite to Bertone’s: the Milanese factory designed a short-tailed bodywork with minimal rear overhang to improve the handling around the corners. The Giulietta SZ (Sprint Zagato) was also about 220 lbs lighter than the SS, so it soon became the favorite choice of many racing drivers of the period.

Alfa Romeo Giulietta Sprint Speciale

Even though the Bertone Sprint Speciale was faster in a straight line, it did not have a successful racing career so Alfa Romeo planned to turn it in a road-going sports car. The bodywork was slightly modified and new chromed bumpers were added before they put the car on the market.

Sales started in 1959 and the main strength of the new model was represented by high performance. The Sprint Speciale was a refined car, fitted with a 5-speed gearbox (when most of contemporary opponents had a 4-speed transmission) and vented drum brake system. Thanks to the aerodynamic bodywork and the 100 hp engine, the Giulietta SS could reach a very impressive top speed of 125 Mph.

Alfa Romeo Giulietta Sprint Speciale

Maybe impressed by this result, Zagato himself started to build new Kammback models, like the beautiful Giulietta SZ Coda Tronca and the Giulia TZ that both had a remarkable racing career.

Alfa Romeo Giulietta Sprint Speciale

It’s very interesting to discover a little known anecdote concerning the birth of the Speciale. At the time the wind tunnel didn’t exist and there was only a little knowledge about aerodynamics, so the designers often used empirical ways to do their work.

Alfa Romeo Giulietta Sprint Speciale

Alfa Romeo Giulietta Sprint Speciale

For example, they placed a lot of short woolen yarns on the body panels, then the test driver drove the prototype on the highway between Milan and Turin at full throttle. Through pictures and videos it was possible to understand where they had to modify the bodywork to optimize the airflow.

Fast and with a unique sporty look, Alfa Romeo produced 1,350 Giulietta Sprint Speciales until it was discontinued in 1962.

In 1963 it was replaced by the Giulia SS that was basically the same car fitted with a new 1.6L engine and front disc brakes. Despite the higher output (112 hp) the top speed remained the same because the car was heavier than the previous model. However, the bigger engine had more torque and it was more suitable to everyday drive. Another 1,400 cars were made with these second series specs, then the production ended in 1965.

Alfa Romeo didn’t produce a successor to the SS, counting on the new Giulia Sprint GT. A very nice prototype of a next-generation Sprint Speciale designed by Giugiaro was shown by Carrozzeria Bertone in 1965 but unluckily it remained a one-off, now stored in the Museo Storico Alfa Romeo.

Let us know what you think in the Comments.

About Giacomo Arosio

Giacomo Arosio

Giacomo Arosio

Born in 1982, Giacomo Arosio is first and foremost a classic cars enthusiast. After spending about 4 years in a well known Italian internet company based in Milan, he chose to follow his main interest and founded Auto Classiche, a website entirely focused on vintage cars. He usually writes articles and reviews about classic and collectors cars published on his own website and occasionally on My Car Quest.

You can contact Giacomo by email at giacomo@auto-classiche.it

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Summary
Designed By The Wind - The Alfa Romeo Giulietta Sprint Speciale
Article Name
Designed By The Wind - The Alfa Romeo Giulietta Sprint Speciale
Description
Fast and with a unique sporty look, Alfa Romeo produced 1,350 Giulietta Sprint Speciales.
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Comments

  1. Areopagitica says

    Greater weight would not alter top speed directly, but any effort to recover a loss in acceleration would probably force a change in final drive ratio and peak revs would be reached at a lower speed.

  2. Peter Marshall says

    Although I was looking for a photo showing the tufts of wool on the car being tested ~ I notice 3 good shots taken early on. As I have run the Alfa Romeo 1900 Register since 1977, I naturally noticed that third pictures (in colour) showing a Touring bodied 1900 Super Sprint in the background. Have you any idea of the location?

    Peter

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