Alittle red Italian convertible, an unoccupied winding road that passes through an idyllic valley and not a cloud in the sky. Like the opening sequence from a classic film, that scene was recently my reality for a couple dreamy hours.
After donning my favorite pair of dark tortoiseshell sunglasses and lamenting the fact that I’d carelessly forgotten my Dents driving gloves for a second, I slid into the driver’s seat of one of the sexiest cars of the 20th century. I ran my hands over the thin-rimmed steering wheel, wiggled the gear lever to make sure it was in neutral and adjusted the dash-mounted rear view mirror. (I may or may not have uttered “damn, I look good” upon catching my reflection.) Then, finally, I reached for the key — and came up empty handed. Apparently I’m not, in fact, the smoothest guy in the world.
Now keenly aware that the ignition is on the left in these cars, I lightly twisted the key and the 60-year-old vehicle came to life. The 1,290cc dual overhead cam inline-four cylinder idled smoothly. It was clear this thing was ready to stretch its legs. I was more than happy to oblige, but first I had to get comfortable with the quirks and peccadilloes associated with a classic Italian vehicle.
The brake pedal is Mariana Trench deep, gear lever action is vague. And, man, you’d better be patient with those synchros; otherwise, CRUNCH — suddenly you’re the jackass who’s ham-fistedly driving a classic car. Thankfully, this particular Giulietta has lived a charmed life, well maintained and cared for since it rolled out the factory door on June 17, 1957 in San Giorgio Canavese.
As you might imagine, the Giulietta is not a fast car by modern standards; still, I’ll be damned if the process of acceleration isn’t one of the most dramatic I’ve experienced. A curb weight of 1,896 pounds allows its 80 horsepower to feel like much more, especially coming out of corners. Then there’s the fact that this particular car has one of the most raucous exhaust notes ever to grace my ears.
It was clear this thing was ready to stretch its legs. I was more than happy to oblige, but first I had to get comfortable with the quirks and peccadilloes associated with a classic Italian vehicle.
That such a pretty little thing makes such a ferocious noise is rather hilarious. When people hear the sound from a distance I imagine they’re shocked when a lithe convertible comes into view — it could honestly put some Group-B cars to shame. I couldn’t get enough of it.
In fact, that’s true of the Giulietta Spider experience altogether. Leaning with the body through corners, processing the mountain of feedback provided via the seat and steering wheel, frequently glancing at the mod typeface on the gauges — I could have done it all day. And the day after that, and the day after that.
Though not as accessible as they once were, Giulietta Spider prices are hardly stratospheric, so my advice is to start a sunny-day fund soon as possible. There are faster and more reliable classics out there, but you can’t beat the personality of an Alfa. Just looking at it will fill you with joy and once you’ve driven it you’ll understand why people have lusted after the Pininfarina-designed convertible since the 1956 Turin Auto Salon. Truly a car that stays with you, the Alfa Romeo Giulietta Spider is a 20th-century masterpiece.
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