To really make the scene, the vehicle in question would have to possess two seats (no room for granny, man), be eye-catching, have a soft-top and preferably be finished in red. It would also benefit from being exotic: thus, at a stroke, all the UK's products were rendered square or trad, as we used to say. No, to really make your mark, an Italian car was the hip thing to have. Across the continents, away from the UK's damp climate, Italy was only too happy to supply the goods.
Latin designers with their intangible flair ensured their cars had instant appeal, both visually and mechanically. Alfa Romeo were always synonymous with stylish, elegant vehicles and the Giulia Spider, available for just three years, was no exception to that rule. The car in this feature dates from 1964 and would have been the bee's knees along the Kings Road: mothers most definitely would not have approved. If Abingdon's pride, MG, had been breaking new ground in 1955, then so had Alfa with their wares. That year saw the launch of the Giulietta Spider, a pretty little two-seater drophead powered by a four cylinder dohc engine which endowed it with a useful 65 bhp at 5500 rpm. The car immediately found favour with the motoring press because of its torquey performance and sharp handling. By 1962 the package had been upgraded and the Giulia Spider, although visually similar, benefited from an extra 280cc and a fifth gear which enabled it to comfortably exceed the magic 100 mph. The re-vamped and uprated Giulia was in production for just three years until 1965 and in that time relatively few rhd Spiders were manufactured: just 333 were produced in 1963 whilst 1964 saw a mere 67 made. These figures include the rare Veloce variant which was tuned to provide 129 bhp, compared to the standard Giulia's 106. Predictably, survivors are quite rare and Michael Lindsay, who looks after the club, has details of about 50 in the UK, not all of which are on the road. "Rust has proved to be the main problem. These cars didn't fare too well once they'd left the Mediterranean!"
His comments will doubtless have ex-Alfa owners of all sorts nodding in sympathy. Rust was the great leveller in the car world 30 years ago - and it levelled a good many Alfas along the way. Thirty years ago a racing heritage meant that any new Alfa had to perform well in competition and the Giulia fulfilled this criteria, incorporating design details from its saloon brethren. Whilst there were more mechanically-advanced vehicles about, the Alfa made up for any shortcomings by clever engineering. It used a live rear axle which was light and located within an aluminium casing. Telescopic dampers and coil spings controlled vertical play whilst a triangulated bar arrangement to the offside of the differential acted as a lateral stabiliser. The whole affair was positively located by radius arms, a superior arrangement to hordes that still relied upon somewhat agricultural leaf-springing.