Wanted: a new car for an 18-year-old.
Does this call for a trip to the local Vauxhall dealer? Or a used car supermarket, perhaps? Well, for me, it was a trip over the English Channel, through France and into Italy, where I found my dream car: an Alfa Romeo Giulia. Yes, a 46-year-old family saloon car – the obvious choice.
Modern cars are all very well, of course, but I admire classics, relishing the need to contend with unassisted steering, the absence of driver aids and skinny tyres with little in the way of adhesion. You get the idea.
When I began my search for such a thing, I was looking for a relatively cheap, usable car with a lithe, athletic chassis – of which there are many. I soon became enamoured by Alfa Romeo's 105 series, which was in production in many forms from 1962 until 1978. It seemed to tick every box and came with a dose of style and character that only the Italians can seem to muster.
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.