Alfa Romeo Giulia Super

Courtesy of Alfa Romeo Automobile Henry DeKuyper

Yes, it's tall, narrow, boxy, and not particularly nicely detailed, but it was an enormously successful and influential design. When the Alfa Romeo Giulia body shape was introduced in 1962, the only cars in production with lower aerodynamic drag were the Porsche 356 coupe and the Citroën DS four-door, as listed by Britain's MIRA (Motor Industry Research Association) in a little technical paper on aerodynamics. Maybe Panhard's 24 CT was better. But not by much.

As Alfa Romeo's second mainstream unit-body car, the Giulia benefited from everything the company learned from the Giulietta, which moved Alfa Romeo into volume manufacturing in the 1950s. The Giulia's structure was really stiff, despite the car's low, 2200-pound-plus weight. The 1570-cc engine did a fine job, and in the Super version with two Weber twin-choke carburetors it made 112 hp, enough for a top speed of 109 mph.

Obviously, the roof is rather flat and parallel to the ground, not at all like the raindrops cited as perfect low-drag shapes, but notice the huge radius in plan view for the bottom of the windshield and the rounded cuff at that base, and then imagine the path of a single air molecule striking the glass. Whether it goes upward or sideways, it will have diverged a minimum amount from its longitudinal path. This was a very clever design, in that it offered excellent interior accommodation, solid if not elegant appearance, and outstanding performance.

Alfa Romeo, then a government-owned entity, had a deal with la Régie Nationale des Usines Renault, also government-owned, to assemble Renault Dauphines and R4s. The French tie-up gave the Italians a lot of experience with cheap and simple body construction. The Tipo 103 with a front-wheel-drive, 896-cc mechanical package developed between 1959 and 1961 was a vague equivalent to the Renault R8. Its styling was a mix of Renault and Alfa themes, leading to the bigger, more luxurious Giulia in 1962. Europeans loved American practice in those years, and almost all builders adopted column-mounted gear shifts-even Aston Martin-and Giulias so equipped had bench seats so that six (small) people could fit in the car.

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Jim Cavanaugh at made an interesting observation about this car. The C-pillar, back window, and trunk-lid all share a startling similarity with those of the 1959 Edsel Ranger sedan.

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