Before World War II Alfa Romeo had built itself a reputation for producing small agile cars with excellent handling characteristics. Nearly a decade after the end of the war it was time to build on that reputation and produce a small car that was economic to buy and run but which also looked good and had decent performance. The Giuletta range, which is still very much alive even today after a rebirth, began with the Sprint 2+2 Coupe which was first shown at the Turin Motor Show in 1954.
The engine may have been small at just under 1300 cc and the output reasonably modest at 80 brake horsepower but the motor was very advanced for it's time with a cast-iron sleeved cylinder block and head, and twin overhead camshafts. Transmission was the traditional front engine, rear wheel drive format with, initially, a four-speed manual gearbox. This was a fairly light car however and despite the seemingly low engine power it could still zip up to a shade under 90 mph whilst carrying two adults plus a couple of small adults or children in reasonable comfort. It was what many potential buyers, particularly in economicaly depressed Italy, were looking for.
The Sprint was followed very shortly by a four-door saloon, a spider, an estate car and then an open two seater roadster; then in 1957 a more powerful saloon called the Giulietta TI capable of 96 mph was unveiled.
Towards the end of 1965 an example of a variation called the Sprint Veloce with a larger 1251cc engine was involved in a crash which severely damaged the bodywork. Coach building company Zagato took it away and rebuilt the bodywork in aluminium; further weight reductions resulted in a car which was about 260lbs lighter than the original, and the Giuletta 1.3 litre engine was tuned to give 116 brake horsepower. It was an immediate hit on the racing circuit. A production version based on a rolling chassis provided by Alfa Romeo was launched in 1960 and, as the Sprint Zagato, was capable of a top speed of 120 miles an hour. As a very successful racing car it took the top spot at the 1957 Tour de Corse, a very difficult (and extremely dangerous) race around the twisty mountain roads of Corsica; then it helped Alfa Romeo to the top in the World Sports Car Championship 1.3 litre class in 1962 and 1963.
Very light, very fast and very expensive about 225 were built, including a number of existing Sprints that were modified.
Overall, between 1954 and 1965 around 178,000 Giulettas were built making it their biggest success to date.