1962 Alfa Romeo Giulia Spider: Simpatico was never more Italian

1962 Alfa Romeo Giulia Spider

1962 Alfa Romeo Giulia Spider

There is something there that loves an Alfa Romeo Giulia Spider. There is an aura, a certain magic, even in the words, that arouses emotion, a definable affection that can be spoken only in Italian: Simpatico.

One not need speak Italian to know the meaning of that one word. (Assuming, of course, that it is Italian. If it isn’t, it should be).Even for those whose fluency in the language is limited to gestures—which is admittedly half the battle—the meaning comes across clearly, even when attempts at definition fail. It is this same primal understanding that is embodied in an Alfa. And nothing says Alfa like a Giulia Spider.

The Giulia (say “Julia”) Spider, which first appeared in 1962, had an origin dating back to 1954, with the introduction of the Giulietta Sprint. The “little Giulia” sedan was the first of the modern generation of Alfa Romeo, a new era of modern realities that made the glorious but limited production supercharged racers and road cars of the 1930s legends of the years that were, and not a part of Alfa’s postwar Italy. Production was the key to survival, and the Giulietta was the key to that strategy.

The Sprint was a coupe, and the Giulietta was also available as a Berlinetta, or sedan. Both were powered by a 1290cc aluminum alloy engine with classic double overhead cams and hemispherical combustion chambers, and engine with feet planted firmly in the past and the future. And, of course, in the rear of the Giulietta was Alfa’s best-in-the-world live axle.

1962 Alfa Romeo Giulia Spider interior

The tachometer of the 1962 Alfa Romeo Giulia Spider is positioned centrally. (click to enlarge)

Then came the Giulietta Spider. Pininfarina designed the elegant roadster body on a wheelbase five inches shorter than that of the Sprint, and in 1956, the first full year of production, more than a thousand were sold, out of a total for all Giuliettas of 9,477. The same year saw the Sprint Veloce variant, with more compression, carburetion and horsepower. Other improvements came during the following years. There was the sexy Sprint Speciale, an aerodynamic Bertone variant, and the Sprint Zagato, an aluminum-bodied racer. But through it all, it was the Giulietta, Little Giulia of the 1300cc.

Eventually it came apparent to Alfa Romeo that one and a third liters wan’t enough. The competition was beginning to catch up. So Alfa did the natural thing. It made a bigger engine. Boring out the DOHC four to 78mm (from 74mm) and stroking it from 75mm to 82mm, Alfa came up with a displacement of 1570cc. The first chassis to get the new, bigger engine was the Giulia TI sedan, the “etta” diminutive having been dropped as the Giulietta came of age. It was 1962,

Naturally, Alfa wasn’t long in installing this new engine in the Spider, whose Pininfarina-designed body was unchanged as the engine displacement grew. Alfa spotters, however, could quickly note the difference. The Giulia Spider received a bogus hood scoop, actually a chromed embellishment of a power bulge made necessary by the greater deck height of the 1570cc engine. Actually, with care it is possible to put the bigger engine in older cars, even without the bulge, but for production the reshaped medal was necessary to allow for manufacturing variances.

The engine came in two guises. The first was the 92-hp “Normale” version, with a progressive two-barrel downdraft Solex carburetor and 9.0:1 compression. The second was the “Veloce”—veloce (say veh-LOW-chay) means “fast” or “quick” in Italian, and in Italy, there’s always a Veloce version. It didn’t appear until 1964.

1962 Alfa Romeo Giulia Spider engine

This 1962 Alfa Romeo Giulia Spider has the single-carburetor “Normale” engine. (click to enlarge)

Those who waited, however, got 112 horsepower from their engines, thanks to dual-throat Webers, hotter cams and a 9.7:1 compression ratio. Regardless of engine, the car came with a five-speed transmission.

The 1962 Alfa Romeo Giulia Spider shown is a Normale, which is not the quickest but it’s what most folks had. Alfa made 9.250 Giulia Spider Normales, compared to 1,091 Veloces. It’s not red, as Italian cars are always supposed to be, but rather white, like the Giulia in all he Alfa ads of the time.

What a marvelous engine. Of course, it’s a delight just to look at, with its double overhead cams connected at the front by a bulge for the cam chain, neatly lettered with “Alfa Romeo” in raised script in aluminum. The air cleaner, a cylindrical canister, resides on the left side of the engine and is connected to the downdraft Weber carburetor on the right by a pair of pleated hoses. Why two hoses were necessary is anyone’s guess, since they leave from the same place and go to the same place. Perhaps an accommodation for dual carburetion?

Not only does the engine look good, however, it sounds and feels good as well. The Giulia engine—any Alfa engine, actually—simply sounds like an engine should. It makes not noises it shouldn’t, and makes all the noises it should. If that seems trite, like you’ve heard it before, it’s only because it’s true.

Underway, the engine pulls willingly and revs freely. It’s an engine that requires that one observes the tachometer, because it’s all too easy to spin it right past the 6200 rpm redline. But then, the redline is just another excellent reason to use the gearbox. For the Giulia, an extra gear was added atop the Guilia’s four-speed, with fifth a 0.79:1 overdrive. The gearshift has that peculiar-to-Alfa long shaft that doglegs back from a rather far-forward floor mount. After a moment’s readjustment to the up-and-down shift pattern, one is ready for any excuse to shift gears, such is the feel of the lever.