Notes and Comment
Greetings. I wrote the first Berlina newsletter in March 1997, 18 years ago. Yikes! Plenty of Alfa action as usual, rescued and sold two white 1977 Spiders in a row, the second being the best-driving 105/115 chassis car ever. Had one longtime owner who kept on top of maintenance; brakes, steering, suspension, all as on-the-button as you could wish. Duetto is back from paint, now in original blue. Race Super enjoyed both Thunderhill and Sears Point since last newsletter, hangs in there and just runs. Finally got my daily Super’s headlights and dash lights sorted out, proved to be a poor ground from the dashboard. Bought a 240Z, keeping the Duetto company in the garage. For now the Giuliettas are banished to Hayward Airport, sharing a hangar with a Piper Apache and a 1942 Ford Army Jeep. Also bought a Fiat 128 wagon; have you ever seen one? Has a 1500 X1/9 motor, moves along pretty good; so fun and cute.
The keeper of the Berlina Register, North American Giulia Sedan Register, and Giulietta Sedan Register is Andrew Watry, email firstname.lastname@example.org. Send corrections to your information or any other Giulia- and Berlina-related facts, rumors, tips, or needs. Always seeking articles for the newsletter. The keeper of the international Giulia Sedan Register is Barry Edmunds in Australia, email Giulia105@optusnet.com.au
Dear Abby, Which Sedan Is Right for Me?
Gentili Lettori: I get a fair number of questions about whether to buy a Berlina or a Giulia, and if a Giulia, which model, what year, what specification, do modifications matter, affect price and resale value, etc. Here are some general thoughts on buying and owning a 105/115 sedan. I cover this topic in the original material on the Berlina Register site, which I wrote in 1995 (see http://www.berlinaregister.com/opinions.htm), but it comes up a lot, so it can’t hurt to revisit 20 years later.
First, Giulia or Berlina? The first and biggest question is whether to get a Giulia sedan or a Berlina. Considerations here include looks, potential use, and cost. As to looks, most folks feel the Giulia is charismatic and interesting looking with a lot of character. The body details were polarizing when new, mostly generating complaints. Nowadays, there’s really nothing like a Giulia and most people find them cute, charming, unusual, in a good way. A Giulia interior generally has more style than a Berlina, and seems older looking, especially a Giulia TI. The Berlina is regarded as cleaned-up, plain, boring (“Is that a Volvo?”), but if you look at the design closely, Bertone did a mature, restrained cleanup on the Giulia shape, the only major difference a wheelbase stretch, all in the rear door. Thematically it matches the GTV styling changes made at the same time. If the Giulia had never existed, no one would call the Berlina boring.
As to potential use, the Giulia, being shorter and lighter and with a carbureted engine, feels peppier and is easier to throw around on back roads or race tracks. The Berlina is just enough longer, heavier, and more luxurious to have slower responses. One difference I feel is the Giulia front seats seem more forward, like I’m sitting on the front wheels and can feel the suspension better than in a Berlina. All US Berlinas were Spica-injected. Many have been converted to carbs, like non-US cars. The injection gives a tiny bit less instant response, but overall is not slower, and is much smoother. Plus, Giulias came only in 1300 and 1600 form, whereas Berlinas were all 1750 and 2000, so you have more power with a Berlina. For a car to toss around on canyon roads, club drives, occasional track events, I’d go with a Giulia. For real-world use, especially highway and long-distance driving, I’d go with a Berlina, whose longer wheelbase, roomier interior, and soundproofing make it a better over-the-road car. If you’re concerned about rough and tumble real-world use, go with the lower-value car. In most cases, the larger the engine, the faster the car, but the differences in the actual driving (other than an extreme example like a Giulietta-engined Giulia 1300 Berlina compared to a strong 2000 Berlina) are not that great. And 40-50 years after these cars were new, they’re now all in different condition, different configuration, etc. You really have to judge each car on its own merits, because few are factory-stock and factory-fresh.
Finally, let’s talk about money. It has been true as long as I’ve paid attention that a 1600 Giulia Super is roughly twice the price of a comparable Berlina. Giulias other than first-series Supers have less value, coming in at about the same price as a Berlina or a bit higher. So, if in late 2014 a solid 1967 Giulia Super is worth $28,000, a comparable 2000 Berlina might be $16,000, give or take. A 1750 Berlina will be worth maybe 10-20% more than a 2000 Berlina. A Giulia TI or one of the 1300 variants coming from Europe in great numbers will be maybe 65-75% of a Giulia Super. These are very rough ranges and there will be $2,500 beater Berlinas as well as $40,000 restored Supers. But that’s not the major part of the market now, which dipped bigtime during the 2008 recession and prices have not really recovered. Nonetheless, the days of the storied “free Berlina” are largely past.
OK, but Which Giulia? There were 500,000 Giulia sedans built over 15 years in a bewildering variety of individual models, most of which are hard to tell apart. At the grossest level, you have 1600s, both TI and Super, and 1300s, both TI and Super. A TI will have a single carburetor with mild tuning and cheap, simple trim. A Super will have dual carburetors, peppier engine internals, and better exterior trim and nicer interior. In the US, we got only the 1600 TI and the 1600 Super, at most a few thousand cars. The 1300 TI was the most common model, cheap and small-engined to take advantage of tax laws; about half of all Giulias were 1300 TI’s. I don’t have good specs on the Giulia survival rate, but I’d guess in the range of a few thousand left. I have 350 on the Giulia Register.
In addition to specific models, you have specific eras. There is the first series, roughly from 1962 to 1968, then the second series, through the mid-70s, then the Nuova era, a heavy restyle. There will be many detail differences in engine spec, trim, interior fitting, brakes, etc. Everyone seems to want a first series Giulia Super with one-piece stainless grille and cushy interior. A 1965-67 1600 is generally considered the cream of the crop, but many folks favor the “Biscione” early 70s Super with hanging pedals, suspension improvements, interior changes, and better electrical components. In terms of looks, you like what you like. The early Giulia TI’s were old-fashioned and kind of cheap looking, with rubber door panels, a strip speedometer, and an “Edsel” style steering wheel, very uninspiring. The Giulia Super, introduced in 1965, came with hugely improved seats, a great steering wheel, and one of the sportiest dashboards ever. The Biscione-era cars are a bit more luxurious, and feel a bit like Berlinas inside. Eventually there was a single rationalized dash, a standard five-piece grill, and other across-the-board changes. There are a couple good threads on the Alfa BB on the zillion differences; here’s one: http://www.alfabb.com/bb/forums/sedan-1962-1977/27397-super-differences.html
And you have engines to consider. These engines are basically and architecturally the same, but there are differences. A stock 1300 TI (or even slower, a 1300 Berlina) has a lot less performance than a good 1600 Super, so prepare for that. But virtually everything on these cars is interchangeable, so they can and have been modified; not many are purely stock 40+ years after they left the factory.
What About Special Giulias? There are some special-interest Giulias, beyond the scope of this article but worth mentioning. A true Giulia TI Super (tipo 105.16) is one of 500 cars made in 1963-64 for racing, fast and special, and coveted and expensive now; see Berlina Register Newsletter 36. Expert help should be involved in inspecting and checking the history and modifications on a TI Super. As old race cars, they will have had colorful histories, both good and bad, compared to street Alfas.
There were several makes of Giulia wagons and panel vans (known as “Collis,” after a body maker); see Berlina Register Newsletter 37. These are rare, expensive, very complex to fix, and most will have had serious bodywork by now to deal with rust issues, worse than other Giulias. In all cases involve someone who knows what to look for, if you don’t.
Finally, Alfa built 6600 Nuova Super Diesels during the gas crisis with an 1800cc Perkins diesel engine. I had this engine in an F12 van, I wouldn’t recommend it even if you can find one.
Which Berlina? Choices are more limited with Berlinas than with Giulias. You have 1750s and 2000s, about 200,000 over 10 years (1967-1977). In the US all were injected, elsewhere all had dual carbs. Early 1750s were not far removed from Giulias in appearance and feel, but by mid-1970, handing pedals had come in, new taillights were added, and the cars felt more modern. In general, the 1750 is preferred for what is regarded as the best engine, handsomer grille, and the better dashboard, compared to the 2000. A good 1750 can be a great engine, happy to rev and with good mid-range torque. At the same time, a 2000 is easier to drive, with more torque and less shifting. Over the road the difference is minimal. The 1750 dash has “frog eyes” for the main instruments, much like the 1750 GTV, with the lesser instruments on the console. The 2000 instruments are in a binnacle, oddly with black lettering on white faces. The 2000 has a few mechanical improvements, including longer (all RH) wheel studs, limited slip axle, larger driveshaft, and nitrided crankshaft. Much more than with a Giulia, which Berlina you prefer is chiefly an aesthetic issue.
US cars have extra considerations. 1969 US Berlinas have a unique dual brake system that is pricey to rebuild, and a one-year-only injection system. 1971 is generally regarded as the best US Berlina. Also, glued-in windshields, hard to find and expensive to change, came into use in 1971. Finally, in late 1973, US Berlinas got rubber bumpers with body reinforcement in the trunk, and door impact beams, to meet US safety regs. These add weight and detract looks. It is possible to convert to stainless bumpers, but it’s not a bolt-on job.
In terms of availability, there are way more 2000 Berlinas available. Canada got some carbed 1750 Berlinas, but once US Berlinas showed up in 1969, Canada got the same specification (Spica, US lights) as the US.
Are Modifications a Big Deal? Each model has its own standard specification. Some items, like drum brakes on the first Giulia TI’s, are very different from what came later (four-wheel ATE disks with vacuum booster). Other things, like the power difference between a 1600 TI and 1600 Super, are not that great. Some things are hard to change (the bench seat on an early TI, column shift on a TI, the three-rail bucket seats on first-series Giulia), while others can be updated without undue effort (changing engines, especially on hanging-pedal cars).
The newest of these cars is 37 years old, the oldest is over 50. So they’ve been through the mill, repaired over and over, modified as required or desired, and cobbled and jury-rigged, especially when they weren’t worth anything. All by way of saying that few cars will be in perfectly original stock condition. Some modifications will have been intentional (wheels, brakes, interior, color change) to suit the owner, others will have been more expedient (a 2000 Spider engine in a 1969 Berlina was a cheap and easy fix when the 1750 blew up). Most were real-world cars, and only recently have values gotten to where it makes economic sense to restore one. Good Giulias have reached this stage of life, Berlinas are not there yet. Folks do restore them regardless, but it’s a labor of love or desire to use. Rarely will you, or a seller, recoup the cost of restoration on one. So most cars, especially Berlinas, are going to be in some state of original/maintained condition. I’m speaking more for the US here than overseas. In Europe, much more serious work is undertaken. In part this is Alfa fanaticism, and in part it’s a safety inspection requirement. In most US states, no one cares or checks.
As to big changes, these are not Giuliettas or Porsche 356s; thus straying from stock does not have a giant impact on value or desirability. Color changes are not uncommon; as long as it’s a decent color (preferably an Alfa color) and done well, it isn’t that big a deal. Cheapie jobs and bad colors are a different matter. Engine changes are the most common difference, whether a replacement engine of the same size and type (dropping in a known-good engine when the original engine gives up) or an upgrade for more power (putting a dual-carbed 1750 or 2000 in a Giulia). On the show/concours circuit you may get dinged for that. But in the real world, most folks like more power, and a sanitary replacement with original style carbs and air cleaners can be invisible except to a certified Alfa nut. Also, unlike in the Giulietta era, Alfa did not track engine or other component numbers to the chassis, so there is no way to say what a Giulia or Berlina’s original engine is unless you have the original sales receipt with the engine number, or you keep a register and track number ranges. Alfa Storico (email@example.com) will give you the chassis number, build date, sales date from the factory and which distributor it sold to (e.g., Alfa Romeo USA in Newark, NJ), exterior color, and if you’re lucky, interior color. That’s it. You can make educated guesses but to tie a specific engine to a specific chassis is tough; the notion of a “matching numbers” Giulia or Berlina is in most cases BS.
Is Importing the Way to Go? This article is directed mainly at North American buyers, where there were not a lot of sedans sold. Other countries, including those in Western Europe, and Australia, have more to choose from. An increasing number of US buyers have looked to the Netherlands, Germany, Italy, to import a Berlina or Giulia. I have not done this, but I would say be prepared for more expense, and the need for more due diligence in who you deal with including sellers, customs and shipping brokers, inspectors, and the like. The AlfaBB Sedan forum has a number of experienced owners who found people to inspect and act on their behalf in Europe, and have successfully brought cars in. I have heard good stories and bad; it seems to me to come down to doing your homework in advance on who you are dealing with and what you are getting. A local friend brings in Lancias, and counsels that getting a car from Italy to the West Coast costs $5000 regardless of what transpires. Factor in an amount like that. I wouldn’t expect an imported car to be cheaper, but you will have more choices and may end up with a better car.
Be aware that at times there has been an active industry that’s good at prettying up rusty cars for North American, not fixing them right but rather to sell. Rust bubbles and unhappiness result when such a car lands at your feet. Again, do your homework and have a trusted, qualified person inspect it. Also, recall that half of Giulia sedans were 1300s, so that’s what you mostly find in Europe. Finally, I’ve heard that regulations on importing old cars has changed in 2014, so check not only with your state DMV about what you can register, but also with Homeland Security about what the feds will let you bring in. I haven’t done it, I don’t know. Never seemed worth the trouble to me.
Can I Use It Like a Real Car? I own my cars to use them, not to polish, store, or look at them. If I can’t use an Alfa in some definition of the “real world,” I don’t see the point. I realize that’s not everyone’s view. Some folks don’t want to risk damage in use, some want to show a car, and use creates risk and requires more cleaning. Others have classic insurance policies, which can have limits on mileage and types of use. That all makes sense, and you have to figure out what’s right for you. But I have a daily-use 1967 Super and a street-legal vintage race 1971 Super. I will and do take them anywhere. The race car regularly goes on 750-mile weekends to and from the track plus track miles.
These cars are strong and reliable once brought to a basically sound condition. Of course things will fail like any other car. But they are not weak or breakable, and with normal upkeep will stand up to any sensible use. Most mechanical parts are available. Learn to do the work yourself or find a competent Alfa mechanic. They were always intended to be driven hard like their coupe and spider siblings; they share running gear. So you can use the engine, brakes, steering, suspension like it was intended, commensurate with your skill and road conditions.
But How Do I Decide? I’m generally not one for categorical answers. I have had many Berlinas and a fair number of Giulias. I like and see the advantages of both. But for me, when push comes to shove and I have to pick, I will choose a Giulia as more fun to drive and better looking. That’s it in a nutshell for me. That said, I have happily used Berlinas as daily cars for years. I’ve done track events in Berlinas, including a school at Streets of Willow.
Consider what’s most important to you: looks, use, value, what? For daily use, a Berlina makes more sense. For occasional and fun use, and considering the appreciation factor, a Giulia can make better sense. It’s probably the better show car due to its charismatic looks. By way of comparison, I’ve used my 1967 Super as a daily car since I bought it in 1997. If I don’t use it, I don’t see why I have it, is my thinking. I have used one or another Giulia or Berlina as a daily car since 1977, when no one wanted or liked them.
As to a particular car, what’s paramount is to buy the best car you can, regardless of the specific model, as long as you like how it looks and feels. I don’t care that much whether I drive a Giulia Super or 1300 TI; I’ve had enough cars to appreciate the differences and to understand that the basic structure and completeness of the car is key. And that they all basically drive the same. Go for condition over specification. Want more power? That’s easy, drop in a 2000 from Alfa Parts Exchange over a weekend. Want bigger brakes? Bolt on Berlina brakes. Don’t like the seats? Reupholster them or add ones from a later Giulia. But the tough stuff such as rust, missing trim, accident damage, bad paint, will drive you nuts and cost big money to get right. It pays to read up in advance, learn as much as you can, ask questions of folks who know the cars, and look at several cars before you buy. Even knowing what you are looking at can take time to learn.
Berlina/Giulia Market Report
1973 US 2000 Berlina. Rosso amaranto with tan interior, the most common US combo. Stunningly restored car 10+ years ago, still very nice but showing age in minor ways. Everything fixed by past owner, who had several nice Berlinas. Issues included minor bubbling around front window and a persistent driveline vibration, both common problems. $4500 private sale, Castro Valley CA. This is a car I knew firsthand (it was one of the nicest around), didn’t know of this sale at the time, and think the car was advertised by signs in the window, no Craigslist, AlfaBB, or ebay. Accordingly, word didn’t get out and the buyer had it all to himself. I regard this as a steal, half price, maybe one-third price. Hooray for local sales! 12/13
1972 US 2000 Berlina. Maroon/tan car known as Moxie, a cheerful beater Berlina that filled the garage of many a western Berlinisti. Car was complete and operable, with cheap-looking driver-quality paint and body work. Missing some trim including headlight rings, marker lights, overriders, side spears. No pictures of interior, engine compartment looked acceptable. $4300 ebay, Los Angeles. A famously rough n’ ready car in the Berlina world, had been various colors, enjoyed many adventures. At some point was brought up a half-step cosmetically, cheaply, perhaps not an improvement. Ebay listing was not complete enough to judge current condition, but price seems fair, even cheap, for a better-than-beater driver Berlina. Poor ebay listings without reserve can be a buyer’s blessing. 10/14
1967 Giulia Super. White/red car that was pulled out of a slumber, reactivated. Reasonable repaint, no apparent rust. Some changes from stock, , including early GTV front seats, mechanical sliding sunroof, done long ago and well, and 2000 running gear. Reasonably fast, a little fettling needed to bring it back to daily-use quality, maybe needs a clutch. Sunroofs like this are often called “factory,” but there was no such thing; similar to period Mercedes, BMW, Porsche, done to a high standard. $8500 private sale, Tracy CA. Car was quietly presented at an Alfa show, sold to the second person who looked at it. Mods from stock made this not for everyone, especially the sunroof. But the interior and the roof were well done, if you didn’t know you couldn’t tell. Fun to drive, and looked great in iconic white/red. I pushed a friend hard to buy it, he balked, next guy in line did. A deal, by several thousands. 10/14
1972 US 2000 Berlina. White/black car, very good original condition, mechanically dialed in with much recent work, cosmetics not quite as nice, but fine. One repaint, interior redone in leather with new carpets. Always in SoCal, three owners from new. $17,000 ebay, Los Angeles. As nice as an everyday, unrestored Berlina as you could ask for. Stock condition, good mechanicals, new interior, nice older paint, what’s not to like? This car got bid to within a couple hundred of reserve on ebay, then sold immediately after for even more! That’s the way to do it. This is about market price for such a Berlina now; prices are off, and six years ago it would have been thousands more. 11/14
1967 Giulia Super. A heavily revised (not in a good sense) orange/tan “rally” car modified to someone’s particular taste. Had all the body details and chrome shaved off, no interior other than driver’s seat, no bumpers, some kind of trailer taillights, modified grill and nose, and a “Pintoesque” pop-up plastic sunroof. Mechanical specs appeared pretty much stock, had aftermarket GTA wheels. $7100 ebay, Easton MD. All I can say is Ick. As the basis to build a race car, OK, but too much money in that case. For a street car, so much stuff is missing, and if you’re an Alfa person at all, you probably wouldn’t want the unfortunate modifications. If this sale actually went through, I say good luck to the buyer. I wouldn’t have wanted it for more than parts-car money or as a LeMons car or similar disposable track device. 11/14
1968 Giulia 1300 TI. Grey/grey car, imported from Italy through a NJ shop that’s brought in a lot of cars. Looked nice in the ebay listing, stock, solid appearing, described as rust-free and new paint, which would want looking into. Not much info given. $18,500 ebay, New Egypt NJ. Price is about right for a solid 1300 sold in the US. Very hard to judge the car in the thin ebay listing. Looked nice enough, but fresh paint from Europe is sometimes good, sometimes bad. 12/14
1971 Giulia 1300 Super. Green/tan car, very nice condition, basically stock with TI Super repro wheels and Nardi steering wheel. Variously listed on CL and ebay over a couple years by a dealer. Looked very good in the listings, really no issues apparent. Had optimistically priced for some time. $23,000 ebay, Bothell WA. After languishing for a couple years at overly aggressive price listings, sold right where about expected for a strong 1300 Super in what appeared to be impeccable condition. 1/15
1971 US 1750 Berlina. A pino verde “barn find” car, tan interior. Stored inside for decades, looked basically sound but seller referred to needed rocker rust repair. Everything present, everything needed attention. Paint faded, interior coming apart, etc. Bumpers, trim, badges intact, not always the case. $6800 ebay, Columbus OH. If the underside rust wasn’t bad, a reasonable starting point for a Berlina project. You could go with the original look, or fully restore, which would make sense for personal use, but you’d never recover your expenses. 1971 is regarded as the best year for US Berlinas, and this car was as complete and solid as you could expect for after 30 years dormant. Ebay seller accepted an offer around $6800, price seems fair given the completeness and desirability of the model year. 1/15
1965 Giulia 1300 Berlina. Listed on ebay as a “Giulia 1300 TI Corsa,” an allegedly FIA-compliant race car from Italy, built on the low-rent chassis of a 105.06 1300 Berlina. Showed some extensive race mods, other aspects were not touched at all in terms of race prep, so hard to say if it was a real racer or a poseur. Described in hysterical-ish over-the-top terms. Included FIA documentation. $26,950 ebay, Japan. When first listed at no reserve, many thought the car was a scam, but apparently was real. FIA documentation doesn’t mean much in the US, but in Europe for historic racing it does. I personally doubt this car’s build compliance, having started life with a Giulietta-based 1300 and a four-speed, but no one asked me. If you’re not in Europe or Japan, what do you do with it? $27,000 is a lot of money if you have to ship it halfway around the world. Maybe I’m missing something, or it really has more history than I know. 1/15
1975 Nuova Super. Blue Nuova Super with natural interior, from Italy a year ago. Appeared to be in very good condition, inside, outside, mechanically. Dignified dark blue car, imported by an NJ shop that has brought in various period Alfas and Lancias. Used for a year, then sold at essentially the same price $16,900 ebay, Atlanta GA. The Nuova Super was the last series Giulia, with flat trunk and hood, and plastic Berlina-like grille. Some think it has less visual character than original design, but inside and in the driving should be similar. I’d look closely at the body on a car fresh from Europe. A comparable early Super would be 40% more; a bargain if you’re OK with the looks. If the condition checks out this a smart buy. I don’t know why the owner kept it only a year, if it had issues, just didn’t suit him, etc. Still, seems cheap. 1/15
1967 Giulia Super. Bashed/crashed white/grey car, not much more than a rolling shell given the condition of what’s present. Long in eastern WA, well-crunched right rear, rusty rockers, no engine/trans/driveshaft, trashed interior. Hit in the nose, missing bumper, grille, other stuff. $2550 ebay, San Diego. A starting point for a major project, or perhaps a parts car, or perhaps the start of a race car. Wherever you take it, a lot of work to get there. Price struck me as high for what’s there, but I guess with current values, if you needed body/interior stuff, it might be worth it. Demoralizing to look at, regardless. 3/15
1967 Giulia Super. Rough green/tan car, from same seller as above. Long in eastern WA, complete body but dents all over, poor paint, rusty rockers, no engine/trans/driveshaft, trashed interior. $3051 ebay, San Diego. A slightly better starting point than above, and a slightly higher price. I guess this is the market value of a needs-everything Super project. 3/15
1965 Giulia TI. White with red/green Italian stripes, red interior. A fully restored car, looking basically stock, but with improved mechanicals. Started as a solid shell from Calif’s Central Valley, added 2000 engine, ATE brakes, better suspension, full body and interior restoration to a high standard. Paint is hotrod quality with inches-deep clearcoat over stripes. Pretty much perfect in every way, if not stock. $42,000 Fantasy Junction, Emeryville CA. Highest public price by far for a Giulia sedan in the US since before the 2008 recession. Quality work gives a great result in terms of performance and use. I appreciate that it was left largely stock in appearance, including the original TI interior. The striping and hotrod aspect may not appeal to everyone, but it’s quality work. Not an easily repeatable price; restoration costs were higher than this so buyer took a loss, and private sellers cannot get the prices that retailers like Fantasy Junction can. 3/15