This year at the Los Angeles Auto Show, Alfa Romeo unveiled arguably the most polarizing car of the week: the 2017 Giulia Quadrifoglio.
The car has a triangular nose, squared front fenders, a carbon-fiber hood, and sport-tuned, 505-horsepower rear-wheel drive. Critics called it alternatively “pricy," “hotness," and “interesting … from some angles."
This new incarnation, though, has a precedent that didn't look so odd. The Alfa Romeo Giulias that were made in the mid-1960s and early '70s paved the way for the world’s first sport sedans. They were the Italian marque's first attempt at making an economical family car, which Alfa achieved with ease. But they were also sanctioned for international racing.
“The Giulias have that sense of the dolce vita era in Italy,” said David Swig, the car specialist at RM Sotheby’s. “They were four-door sedans, but they did also have great driving characteristics and were used in racing against all the other great European sports cars of the day.”
Although it was discontinued in the late 1970s (in favor of the then-new Alfetta Berlina), the Giulia is a strong option for a collectible car these days, one that you can drive on a daily basis and expect to appreciate. The superior, race-tuned "Super" variation is not overly common on auction blocks, but you can find one if you know where to look. Swig said he foresees no "wild shifts" in value for them anytime soon.
"The trend will be upward, with appreciation more on a linear scale than on a conventional one," Swig said.
Back in Vogue
That fervor for the marque wasn’t always the case, even for what became somewhat of a rally racing star. Four-door cars, in general, are not valued as highly on the vintage market as coupes or convertibles, and for a long time most Giulia owners considered it disposable at best. “A lot of them got used up and thrown away,” Swig said. “A Giulia Super in the early '80s was worth virtually nothing.”
Now, thanks to the normal 20- to 30-year cycle that brings certain vintage cars to the forefront of pubic interest, the average value of the Giulia has skyrocketed. According to numbers from classic car insurer Hagerty, the average value of a vintage Giulia has risen 85 percent since 2010 (from $16,300 to $30,200). Prime examples can take even more: An upcoming RM Sotheby’s auction in Arizona lists a 1966 Super "Polizia" with an estimated value of $50,000-$60,000, according to its sale director. That's considerably more than last year, when it sold a 1971 Alfa Romeo Giulia Super for €31,360 (nearly $34,000). Another Super is expected to take much more, up to $75,000, at a Bonhams sale on Thursday in the U.K.
That there are a few decent Giulias up for auction is a change, according to Jonathan Klinger, a spokesman for Hagerty, and helps account for the increased value. Previously, they'd be rare (people threw them away, remember?), with very few Supers sold at all. He points to a number of Alfas sold at recent Artcurial and Bonhams auctions as evidence of the market shift toward collecting.
It helps that the Giulia looks weird.
“The Alfa Giulia has an enthusiastic following because it has funkier styling than most 1960s sedans,” Klinger said, mentioning the squared-off, cool and boxy BMW 1800 TI and the long-nosed, more elegant-looking Lancia Flaminia as contemporaries.
The original Giulias descended from the first-generation Alfa Romeo Giulietta sedan, which from 1954 to 1965 was Alfa's first real foray into the small, 1.3-liter engine class. Like the Giulietta, they had a very square engine bay, cabin, and trunk. They also had a similar front-engine, rear-wheel-drive layout with little twin-carburetor engines, advanced disc braking systems, five-speed manual transmissions, Pirelli tires, and an extremely low drag coefficient.
The general idea behind such then-progressive accoutrements was to achieve sports car performance on a family-friendly four-door body. (It’s no coincidence, too, that they were created in the same initial year as the original BMW "neue klasse" sedans and cult-classic 2002 model that eventually became today's BMW 3 Series; Alfa needed something to compete.)
Early on during production, Alfa made 90-horsepower versions of the Giulia, with rear-wheel drive and only a 1,540-kilogram (3,395-pound) body weight. Later versions had improvements like 113 hp and a lighter 1,300kg body weight (1963), new twin headlights (1967), and diesel engineering (1976).
“Super” variants introduced along the way were higher-tuned than the rest and were exceptional on the track.
“In comparison particularly with Porsche, Alfa Romeo has always been more affordable and arguably more technically advanced for racing,” Sotheby's Swig said. “It was really on the forefront.”
Many early Supers had a 1.6-liter engine that got just over 100 horsepower and had a top speed of 106 mph. Zero to 60 mph took 12 seconds—and that beat most of the two-door sports cars of the era. The TI Supers, an even-more-rare variant of the Giulia introduced from 1963 and 1964, had higher-compression engines with more power than their siblings and weighed less than them, too. Alfa made only 500 or so, and they’re still raced successfully abroad, especially in Pan-American races in Mexico and South America.
The Best Find
That racing cred makes the TI Super top dog of the Giulia variants when it comes to collecting, with a greater appreciation curve than a standard Super, according to Sotheby's Swig. So if you're considering the quirky looks of an Italian sedan-cum-rally car, go for the most hotted-up version you can find.
California-based enthusiast Anthony Rimicci knows the deal. He is only the third owner ever on his stock/original blue street Giulia Super that he bought five years ago and has raced to satisfactory results. Rimicci describes his '67 as a "wolf in sheep's clothing" because it does everything smaller coupe models do but "without the bling" and a lot more room.
“I've done a bunch of rallies with mine that put me in the middle of nowhere for days—it makes you have total confidence in your car,” said Rimicci, who declined to divulge how much he paid for his but said he "bought it at the right time ... when there was no love for these sport sedans."
Now, 49 years later, his car is still going strong. And no surprise, Rimicci's father, who immigrated from Sicily in 1969, set up an Alfa garage 34 years ago and "never looked back."
"Whenever [Dad] had something exotic, he'd drive it home at night so my brother and I could see it," Rimicci said. "It didn't take long for us to realize that these cars are very special."
Swig agrees, both from a collecting standpoint and from an emotional one—his father owned an Alfa Romeo dealership in the U.S. for decades.
"The Alfa has every bit of the style and performance, for a lower cost, as so many other good racing cars," he said. "And once you drive one, it's easy to get pretty devoted."
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