Whilst some manufacturers choose a foreign setting for the introduction of their new models to the Press, others —perhaps from reasons of patriotism, perhaps not— prefer home ground. Whatever one’s thoughts on how much money ought to be spent on publicity, it was indeed fitting that the latest All Romeos should be introduced to the World’s Press in Italy. Not only were the shores of Lake Garda pleasantly tranquil in late March, but they provided a means of assessing the Giulia Sprint GT Veloce and the 1600 Spider over roads varying from hairpin-ridden mountain ascents to fast autostrada.
Outwardly, the Veloce saloon differs little from the former GT or the GTA, the only noticeable changes being to the grille and to the door handles which are now recessed. Performance-wise, it is intended to strike a mean between the GT and the GTA, its 1,570-c.c. engine said to produce 125 b.h.p. (S.A.E.) at 6,000 r.p.m. It has a 5-bearing crankshaft, twin overhead camshafts and an aluminium block and head. We were unable to take accurate figures (a colleague dropped his stopwatch) but we did achieve an indicated 200 k.p.h. (124.3 m.p.h.), suggesting that either Alfa’s claim of 114 m.p.h. was too modest or, and more likely, the speedometer was a little “happy.” At high speeds, the steering felt a little imprecise and it was only with a conscious effort that the car was kept in a straight line. On the mountain hairpins, it was relatively easy to produce a predictable tail-wag, but difficult to apply the right degree of opposite lock. The 5-speed gearbox was well-ratioed but 5th needed some practice to engage. The interior was indeed comfortable although one felt that one was sitting in the seat rather than on it, and the window ledge rose far too high to facilitate a pukka British hand-signal.
After a 50-mile drive, we returned to the hotel which Alfa Romeo had taken over for the occasion and swapped Veloce for Spider. This boasted an entirely new Pininfarina body with extremely clean lines, although the curved side panels produce a slightly bulbous look and retention of the traditional Alfa grille results in a drooping nose. The car nevertheless has an attractive appearance, with the airflow over the recessed headlamps smoothed by Perspex covers.
On the road, my first impression was of the steering department. This time it was firm, precise and made for enjoyable chicanery in the mountains. The first run along the autostrada was a disappointment until we realised that the probable cause was the wind drag with the hood down. Erecting the neatlystowed hood was simplicity itself and, even at the first attempt, took two of us only 20 seconds. The aerodynamics thus complete, we were able to record 210 k.p.h. (130.5 m.p.h.) on the speedometer, but once again the instrument was undoubtedly optimistic and the true figure was probably much nearer the claimed maximum of “over 116 m.p.h.” Mechanically, the Spider is virtually identical with the Veloce, and disc brakes are fitted all round. There was an acceptable degree of flexibility and handling was extremely good, although I will reserve final judgement until a right-hand-drive version comes our way. Among the things I liked were the three separate horn buttons, one in each spoke of the wheel.
Making the acquaintance of the Veloce and the Spider was indeed pleasant, the latter more than the former, and we can see no need for ashtray tactics when they appear on the British market very shortly. U.K. prices have not yet been announced.—G.P.