Giulia to Giulia – A Comparison

By J. Michael Hemsley


I am now the owner of two Alfa Romeo Giulias. I’ve
had my 1973 Giulia Super 1.3 (with a hot 2-liter) since
about this time in 2008. Thanks to my long-time friend
Skip Jones at Jake Sweeney Alfa Romeo outside Cincinnati,
I’ve had my 2017 Giulia 4Q Sport for six months.
My Super had been in the shop for a number of months
with some serious head issues. Now that I have it back
(I can recommend Mike Mefford at Mefford Motors in
Columbia, TN), I thought I’d do a comparison of the
two Giulias.
The similarities between the two cars can be summarized
as four – four cylinders, four doors, four wheels, and
four passengers. Yup, that’s about it – four. Oh wait,
they’re both serious FUN, although in very different
ways. Let’s take the old girl first.
My Super was born in Arese, Italy, in February 1973. It
was sold, probably to a family, in Sevona, Italy, in April of that
year. I know that thanks to the good folks at Alfa Romeo. The car’s
history gets a bit fuzzy until it finds itself in Holland, where some serious changes were made to the car. It had an engine transplant, receiving
a 2-liter Alfetta engine, which means it got a
different crankshaft. That crankshaft was attached to an
aluminum flywheel. Camshafts were quite radical – very
peaky. The intake side of the engine received Dellorto
carbs – two of them, and 45s at that. A 22-gallon fuel
tank was added, probably from a TI Super, and competition
belts were installed. I have no idea what the person
who did the mods had in mind for the car, but since
there was no rollbar, probably not racing. Vintage rallying?
Maybe. The 22-gallon tank indicates long journeys.
The Super came to the US as property of another Dutch
fellow who married an American and decided that the
DC area was a fine place to live. He was a member
of Capital Chapter. I knew him, but I had no idea he
would be selling me a Super in 2008. He knew of the
modifications but had no idea why they were made. I
bought the Super as my retirement gift to myself after
deciding that my third retirement would be my last
one. The Super became the 15th Alfa I’ve owned since I
bought my first, a Berlina, new in 1971.
The arrival of the new Giulia was a bit of a disappointment
for me. Very sexy, but an automatic? Who wants
to drive an Alfa with an automatic? Still, I was interested
enough that I spent a day with friends in their new
Giulia at the AROC convention in Montreal. I decided
I did not need a new Giulia. Over the next couple years,
I drove my 2013 Ford Focus ST a lot of miles. There
were times when I found myself wishing for an automatic
when stuck in traffic with my left leg complaining of
having to work the clutch so much.
I’ve known Skip Jones since 1983, and when he told me
he had gone to work selling Alfas, I let him convince me
to come visit him and try one. After a few hours driving
a Giulia on some very nice roads near the dealership, I
decided to have Skip watch for a car coming in off lease
that was eligible for Alfa’s Certified Pre-Owned program
and the extended warranty. That came together in
December of last year, and I traded the Focus ST on my
Giulia 4Q with an exterior sport package. My 16th Alfa
since 1971.
Both of these cars are so much fun to drive and so
different. The similarities are few – the fours. But the
outcome is so much the same. The Super, with its hot
2-liter is hard to handle from stopped if you’re not used
to it. First time my son-in-law drove it, he inadvertently
chirped the tires in three gears. With the big carbs, it
does not like being lugged and will cause you to dump
the clutch in low gears at constant throttle. A change to
stock cams has helped this, but the car really wants to go.
It is a good handling car in stock form – there’s plenty
lean, but you get used to it. The driving position is the
standard Italian long arm-short leg position that leaves
your right knee bent over to the right. Not great for long
distance driving, but I’ve managed a number of trips
of several hundred miles. I just limp a little when I get
out. Rear end gearing is not great for the highway. You
get to interstate speeds quickly, but, once there, 80 mph
is at 5000 rpm in fifth gear. With the air conditioning
(aka vent windows) blowing at full speed, the car is quite
noisy. There’s a radio in the Super but no speakers. I’ve
not been tempted to install speakers, since I doubt they
could be heard through the road noise. With K&N air
filters providing a song from the intake and the great
exhaust note, it’s all the music I need when driving the
Super. I might limp when I get out of the Super, but I’m
smiling.
The 2017 Giulia with its turbo 2-liter four probably has
well over twice the horsepower of the Super. It is much
quicker than the Super and has surprisingly little turbo
lag. I once owned a 1978 SAAB 99 Turbo, so I know
about turbo lag. So far, I’ve kept the DNA selector on A
to get the best gas mileage, but when you want speed, it’s
there. The Giulia will jump when you stand on it, and
the eight-speed automatic shifts through the gears just
right. The car is surprisingly fast – maybe that’s another
similarity between the cars, since people are always
surprised at how fast the Super is. The big difference is
that the Giulia does it in comfort. It is one of the most
comfortable cars on a long drive that I’ve had in years.
It’s really easy to sit back with the a/c on and listen to
music while doing 80 mph. It’s also a lot of fun to drive
it through the mountains taking the twisties way faster
than the other cars on the road. I was looking forward to
my trip to the AROC convention this year then on to the
NW Classic Motor Rally in Oregon – it will be my first
serious long trip, but it will have to wait until next year.
One of the benefits of living in east Tennessee is that I
can set out in the morning, drive for a couple hours to
the Tail of the Dragon, have lunch at the Tapoco Lodge,
then drive the Cherohala Skyway back home. I’ve done
that in the Focus ST and in my ’91 Lotus Elan M100.
I can’t wait to do it in the Giulias. I think I’ll do it on
a weekday this fall when the leaves have color and the
motorcyclists are few.
Bottom line – I am loving my Giulias both for their
similarities and their differences.