Italy calls. Giorgetto answers.
During the Spring of 1960, Giorgetto Giugiaro was faced with something of a dilemma. Having accepted an offer to replace the recently departed Franco Scaglione as lead designer at Stile Bertone, the 22 year old artist and designer, formerly part of FIAT’s centro stile team was just settling into his new position when he received notification of his compulsory national service. Giugiaro had recently completed the designs for the Alfa Romeo 2600 Sprint and Gordon Keeble GT, Bertone’s studios were abuzz with activity and with a new commission for a compact Alfa Romeo GT, the young designer wanted to get on with work, not play soldiers.
Of course this troubling state of affairs also presented Nuccio Bertone with something of a headache. Obtaining Giugiaro’s services had proven something of a coup, but since military regulations seemingly forbade conscripts to travel for the first three months of their term, his neophyte designer would be unable to return to Turin from where he was to be billeted. How could the workload be addressed? Nuccio however was a resourceful fellow, allegedly pulling the necessary strings to have Giugiaro instead stationed at Bra, South of Turin, where a small room was rented for him in a modest hotel.
Here, over a period of two months the young designer worked on the design each evening. Once to his satisfaction, Giugiaro also completed a scale model for Alfa Romeo management to aid with their deliberations. Unfortunately, this became damaged en-route to Milan, requiring considerable remedial work. But despite these setbacks, such was the warm reception for his proposal at Portello that it was sanctioned virtually unchanged.
The Giulia berlina of 1962 was – technically and strategically speaking – a logical evolution of the previous Giulietta. This latter model had to a certain extent been defined by its more sporting derivative, in export markets at least. But like its saloon equivalent, it was a design rooted in the early 1950s and while its Franco Scaglione penned lines were supremely elegant, a more up to date shape was required as a new decade dawned.
On this basis, carrozzeria Bertone was the obvious choice for stylistic duties. Giugiaro’s proposal was clearly something of an amalgam, employing elements from the outgoing Giulietta, the Gordon Keeble GT and the 2600 Sprint, but the manner in which the young designer combined these now familiar elements, while introducing a more contemporary line was masterful.
While the Giulia berlina’s rather severe style, created within Giuseppe Scarnati’s centro stile Alfa Romeo was almost entirely linear in form, with its tall, upright canopy and high tail, Bertone’s Giulia Sprint was more classical in silhouette. Gone however were the soft forms of both Giulietta and 2600 Sprints, replaced by a more angular dihedral body crease which sharply defined the bodysides, pulling the eye outwards and clearly demarcating the upper and lower extremities of the vehicle.
The tightly drawn canopy was light and airy, with slim pillars and a generous glass area; both front and rear screens being steeply raked and heavily curved. In marked contrast to the saloon, the Sprint’s rear dipped elegantly towards an elegantly cut-off tail. Like its forebear, detail ornamentation was minimised, with a few well-chosen highlights used to provide emphasis and articulation.
The nose was dominated by large, inset single headlamps, with the downward thrusting Alfa Romeo Scudetto jutting ahead of the grille. An unusual characteristic was the distinctive scalino, or ‘stepped front’ ahead of the bonnet’s leading edge. But what could in other hands have appeared awkward was instead wonderfully expressive, although it would appear that Giugiaro himself was not wholly satisfied with the result.
Delicacy was the operative word; the forms, the proportions, the detailing, all were superbly judged; a fine melding of marque tradition and stylistic verve. As a shape, it was one which would prove quite lasting, not just in the marketplace, but with both Pininfarina and Jaguar’s Sir William Lyons imbibing heavily from elements of its style towards the latter part of the decade.
Production took place alongside the Giulia berlina at the newly built Arese facility, and not at Bertone’s Grugliasco plant. The Sprint GT debuted in September 1963 at the Frankfurt motor show, where it was very well received.
Introduced with the 1570 cc version of the Alfa Nord twin cam four, a pretty four place drophead version was added to the range the following year, courtesy of carrozzeria Touring. Produced for only two years, the elegant Giulia GTC was superseded (if not directly replaced) by the two-seat Duetto Spider model in 1966, from the house of Pininfarina. That year, a smaller capacity 1290 cc version was introduced.
Significant change took place in 1967 with the advent of the 1750 GT Veloce, which shared its newly enlarged 1779 cc engine with the more upmarket 1750 berlina introduced the same year. Visually, the 1750 GTV received a new, smoother nose treatment, with quad headlamps (the outers moved to the extremities) and the indicators re-sited above the bumper, now fitted with over-riders. A simplified grille completed the changes. Inside, the dashboard was revised, the instrumentation re-sited and the cabin ambience elsewhere enhanced.
In 1970, it was the turn of the Junior model to go under the knife – now brought into line with the larger engined model, apart from single headlamps. Two years later a 1600 cc Junior model was added to balance out the range. 1971 marked the final significant change, when the 1779 cc engine gave way to the larger 1962 cc unit, as fitted to the 2000 berlina, also introduced that year. Cosmetic changes included another new grille design and larger tail lamp units, along with revised badging.
In 1974, Alfa Romeo debuted the Alfetta GT. Once again, Arese turned to Giugiaro for design duties but on this occasion the results would prove somewhat mixed, the Alfetta GT (or GTV in 1976) never quite gaining the level of critical acclaim or marque devotion the 105 Series was to inspire both during its lifespan and in its afterlife. Italian production of the 105 Series GTV was phased out in 1976.
While the passage of time would ensure that the 105 Sprint Series achieved collectible status, inadequate rust protection and the inevitable effects of entropy would see a large proportion of surviving examples being fed to the swine. But as numbers dwindled and the Sprint GT’s somewhat vintage road behaviour, characterful engines and timeless appearance would ensure its elevation to classic car royalty, not only did full restorations become economically viable, but values would move accordingly.
It requires a certain element of alchemy to create an all time, nailed on classic. The right genes, and an element of benevolent fortune is a good start. Longevity helps too, not to mention a timeless style. One of the most emotive names in the business never hurts either. Let us also not forget a sense of proportion. The Giulia Sprint in each of its forms embodied these traits, but one factor stood out against all others, the simple perfection of its lines. There can be little doubt that Giugiaro carried out his national service – in both senses of the term – with distinction.
 Giugiaro came from a family of artists, which may help explain why his drawings were always so well rendered.
 The city of Bra is renowned for its baroque heritage and famed for its gastronomy, in particular, salsiccia di Bra, a renowned veal and pork belly sausage which received the Royal Concession of the House of Savoy signed by King Carlo Alberto in 1847.
 Stylistically and aerodynamically however, it was a very different animal.
 The Bertone bodied (and built) Giulietta Sprint was originally conceived as a stopgap until the saloon was ready, but became the model line’s best known offering and was instrumental in Bertone moving from simply being a design studio to becoming a contract manufacturer in its own right. In 1962, this model was rechristened Giulia to bring the naming into line with the new saloon. Production of the older Sprint model continued at Grugliasco until 1965.
 In particular in the shaping of the canopy.
 Giugiaro later suggested, “It was a first attempt to implement the concept of inwardly placed headlights, but the solution was not ideal.”
 Namely, the 1966 Ferrari 330 GTC and the 1968 Jaguar XJ6.
 Much to Nuccio Bertone’s chagrin, no doubt.
 The GTC was to prove to be the final car design by Touring of Milan before the carrozzeria went out of business. Only 1003 Giulia GTCs were built.
 Like its saloon sibling, the 1300 Junior would prove to be the best selling 105 series Sprint model, by a considerable margin.
 The 1750 berlina was allegedly designed by Giugiaro, prior to his departure from Stile Bertone.
 Over 224,000 were built in total. A small number of cars were assembled in South Africa until 1977.
 Such was the Giulia Sprint’s propensity to rust, that essentially anywhere below the window line was at risk.
Because the Giulia berlina had proved a disappointment in international track competition, the lighter and nimbler Giulia Sprint would form the basis for Autodelta’s motorsport forays, precipitating the (limited) production of lightweight and highly tuned GTA versions. In addition, Zagato produced low-volume 105-Series Junior Z in 1300 and 1600 cc versions. Additionally, the 1968 Alfa Romeo Montreal employed a 105-Series platform. These vehicles however, fall outside the scope of this article.
Sources: bertoneregister.nl/ CNN/ alfa105.org/ Museo Alfa Romeo.