Cara Mia: A Love Letter to My Giulia

September 27, 2021

By Chris Bright

This isn’t a “my car is better than your car” piece, but it might seem that way. I was inspired to tell you more about my 1974 Alfa Romeo Giulia Super 1.3 after having been reminded of how much I love it. Since it’s a car that may not be familiar to many, I thought it deserved some attention.

Last weekend, our local Alfa Romeo club held its annual Old Super Tour, which featured these quirky berlinas (aka saloons or sedans). We had great weather -- which can be iffy at this time of year -- and an even better turnout with seven Supers present as we cruised along the Columbia River. I don’t always attend this tour (when we’re on the soggy end of iffy) but it really is special to see a gathering like this.

Our line-up of Supers on the Alfa Romeo Owners of Oregon Old Super Tour on September 25, 2021

For those not conversant in Alfa, the Giulia Super is a four-door sedan produced from the mid-60s to mid-70s. Unlike their brethren, the GTV and Spider, Giulias were only imported into the U.S. in 1967, so they are very rare here.

I have owned mine since 2014 and since I’m a bit of a purist, it is bone stock. I purchased it from an importer who had shipped it over from Sicily. I did not ask any questions, if you know what I mean. Once the car arrived in Oregon, I had to have all of the documentation translated into English in order to get it titled. The DOT didn’t ask questions either, thankfully, so it was legal in the eyes of the local authorities.

Seeing mine get to “play” with a few others reminded me of how unique and genuinely special the Giulia Super is, because it does so many things well. So here’s a list of a few characteristics that set it apart:

It’s practical. My Giulia Super is my daily driver, although I don’t drive it every day because it’d be overkill for my 30-foot commute. It’s remarkably roomy trunk holds groceries and even my entire bicycle, wheels and all. Oh, it can do that and carry four people comfortably, so it makes a run to the wine country or the big box store a bit more special.

It’s charming AF. She is an unconventional beauty, petite but well-proportioned -- and always catching people’s eye. While not a supercar, it gets more double-takes and smartphone pics than any car I’ve owned. It’s an unending chorus of: “What is that? It’s adorable!”  

It’s strikingly sculpted body is not for show, it’s for aero. The Giulia Super was one of the first production cars designed in a wind tunnel and, despite it’s boxy appearance, has a slippery drag coefficient of 0.34, respectable even by modern standards. For comparison, a Ferrari F40 and 360 have the same drag.

The Giulia Super is not pretentious, but it is unusual, rare, and decidedly not showy. A winning and disarming combo!

It’s a real driver’s car. Arguably Alfa Romeo’s greatest contribution is that willing twin-cam, inline 4-cylinder engine. I have the smallest one in the range: a whopping 1.3 liters rated at 88 hp. I’ve never measured 0-60 because I broke my hourglass. On the other hand, it has a 5-speed transmission, a pair of Dellorto carbs, disc brakes all around, and an impressive racing heritage.

The net result: it’s a kick to drive because you have to actually drive it, not just mash the loud pedal. You have to strategize about how to carry momentum and make sure you’re in the right gear to keep it in the proper rev band. You are constantly active and engaged to make sweet downshifts and hit apexes. It reminds me of how Paul Newman purposely raced in similarly under-powered sedans (Datsun 510s, fyi) when getting started because it taught him how to carry speed through corners. 

Best of all, it’s maximum fun without ever breaking the speed limit. (Check out the video below to see what it's like!)

It’s dependable. Not once have I ever been let down by my Giulia. It’s the one car I haven’t loaded onto a flatbed. When something gives up, it tends to do it slowly so you can get it seen to long before it’s a nuisance. Plus, I drive it often which keeps it happy. Since parts are plentiful and affordable, repairs tend to have one less zero than other cars I’ve owned.

It’s Italian. I’m an unabashed Italophile, but you just look at this car and you know where it’s from. It’s got panache. Since mine is an import, all of the controls are in Italian and metric, so I have to translate and convert constantly. Every drive is a mini Duolingo lesson! (Did you know that fari means “lighthouses”? That’s the word for “high beams” in Italian.)

I could go on but by now you get the idea. I think we get too enamored by performance and price. My Giulia Super is slow and not too valuable, but in terms of a car to own, use, and enjoy to its fullest, it is truly one of the best!

Bonus Video

Following is a video by Ashraf on Cars that does a great job of explaining the thrill of driving a Giulia Super -- plus this car is the exact color combo of mine. Enjoy!

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