If you mention the name Alfa Romeo to commoners you will likely get a blank look on their face. It is the kind of look you see on the face of our local wild pet deer as you almost run it over. Que non-car guy or gal as to what an Alfa Romeo is and “isn’t that an over-priced cookie that comes in those cute little white bags” will most likely be the response. Well, Alfa Romeo is not a fancy cookie from Pepperidge Farm but rather a well-known (in Europe anyway) Italian car builder with quite the pedigreed racing history. Albeit the Giulietta Sprint is as sweet looking as Pepperidge Farm’s finest it is an excellent example of what Alfa Romeo was producing in the late fifties.
As with most European car manufactures Alfa Romeo had a storied beginning. In the early part of the last century a French car builder with a few Italian backers decided to build cars under the name Anonima Lombarda Fabbrica Automobili (A.L.F.A.), which in translation is Lombard Automobile Factory, Public Company. That’s the Alfa part. Then in 1915 an entrepreneur by the name of Nicola Romeo took control of the company and used it to make military hardware. That is the Romeo part and in 1920 the first car with the Alfa Romeo name rolled off the assembly line. By the late twenties the military contract dried up and Romeo packed his bags. “Oh Romeo, Romeo where for art thou Romeo” but the company name lived on in spite it becoming almost bankrupt. Italy’s Mussolini bailed the company out and, as with most European post war high-end automobile manufactures, Alfa Romeo started to build small cars for the masses. Alfa Romeo struggled over the years and eventually ended up in the hands of the Italian car giant Fiat in 1986. Although the brand is famous in Europe where they still make fabulous looking and performing cars the love affair with Alfa Romeo never took here in the United States. That is probably why the name is confused for an exotic cookie.
This beautiful example of Alfa Romeo’s Giulietta Sprint Type 101 was adorned by anyone who set their eyes on it while visiting Aaron’s Autowerks. Its powerful 1800cc twin cam engine, that Alfa Romeo became so famous for, was transplanted into this Giulietta’s engine bay to replace the 1300cc original poweplant. No plastic dashboards or cheesy cup holders in this car and the instruments look like they were made by a fine watch maker. When the engine revved it was like the angels of engine nirvana were singing or screaming from up above. Every time I took this wonderful car for a drive it was as if I became possessed by its Italian heritage. I found myself yelling out the window in my best Italian accent “Buon Giorno”, “Ciao Bella”, “Ciao Bello” “Espresso” “Ducati” Aprillia” which happens to be the only Italian I know. Its owner Lars assured me the car’s carburetors were all Italian and just as temperamental. He was right. I struggled with them for weeks but oh what a beautiful car she is. Thanks Lars!
So if you are still in the dark about what an Alfa Romeo is then go to your favorite video supplier and rent The Graduate with Dustin Hoffman. The cute little red convertible he was using as a wedding crasher getaway car was an Alfa Romeo Spider.