A revvy twin-cam engine, five-speed manual gearbox and rear-wheel drive sounded perfect. Less perfect are the soaring values of 105 Spiders and Coupés, as I soon discovered when I delved into the classifieds, but it seemed that the regular Giulia saloon had been left behind somewhat.
It’s an unusual-looking thing, the Giulia. So faithful to the three-box shape, it stands on soft, long-travel springs and looks somewhat ungainly, despite sharing its underpinnings with the stunning Bertone-designed Coupé and Pininfarina-penned Spider variants.
But I immediately fell for it. I loved the deep, concave sweep along the flanks, the slash across the rear arches and the strakes running down the bootlid (about the only thing the Giulia shares with one of my favourite modern-day cars, the Porsche 911 GT3 RS). The appeal of turning this practical old box into a road racer was irresistible.
And so the hunt began for a rust-free, mechanically strong Giulia, but finding these attributes in an old Alfa is tricky. Those that were sold in the rain-sodden UK have usually long since rotted. These cars last better in warmer, dry climates, and there’s surely no place better to search than in the car's home territory of Italy.
I searched through the Italian classifieds and found a few contenders. I enlisted the help of my Italian-speaking sister, who chatted to some charismatic sellers over the phone, and then flew over to look at some cars. There were cheap rot boxes, then some expensive rot boxes... and then the car: a 1972 Giulia Super 1.3 with twin Dell’Orto carburettors, finished in the unusual Indigo Grey paint colour and oxblood hide inside.
The unibody was free of rot, the interior was in good condition and the mechanicals seemed decent. The salesman was an old-school mechanic who generously brought the price down to €11,000 (roughly £10,000), and I returned home delighted with our purchase. I did want to drive it home, of course, but going 1000 miles without incident seemed highly hopeful at best.
When the car arrived on the driveway of my family's home, it looked alien, so small, yet so bold in its new environment. I was itching to jump in and go for a drive, although when I did, I inevitably discovered a number of issues.
The car's delicate, wooden steering wheel was lovely to hold, but there were at least three inches of play in the system, while the engine idled at 3000rpm and the suspension groaned over bumps and lurched over when pushed. But even so, there was an engaging chassis beneath. There was also the obligatory breakdown – outside a prison, no less.