Giulietta: what a name and what a car. And, intriguing from the beginning, the story of the choice of the name.
Some historians maintain that it had been suggested during a conversation over dinner by Mrs. De Cousandier, wife of the engineer-poet Leonardo Sinisgalli, Finmeccanica’s consultant for advertising.
The inspiration stemmed from an association of ideas, between the concept of “fiancée of Milan” as the new car was intended to be, and a Shakespearian connotation with the second half of the name Alfa Romeo.
According to others the name followed a successful American trend, by which [vehicles] were no longer indicated by numbers but by a word, short and simple but capable of evoking an atmosphere, a country or a famous person.
Giampaolo Garcea, one of Alfa’s most brilliant technicians from 1935 and 1982 remembers “We must go back many years, to the day we went to the “Salon de l’Auto” in Paris with the pilot Jean Pierre Wimille and six engineers, to present the “1900”. That evening Wimille took us to a very chic club, in boulevard des Capucins, near the palace in which Napoleon met Josephine, the creole with eyes of fire, not far from the Scribe Hotel in which on the 28th of December 1895 the Lumière brothers presented their first films to an astonished audience.
We sat down and a Russian Prince, a refugee who, to make ends meet entertained the guests improvising poems and witticisms, came to our table. He stared at us and then, after a long silence he said: “Are you eight Romeos or is there also a Juliet?” We burst into laughter but we immediately understood that that female name, with all its Shakespearian associations perfectly matched the name of our factory. That is how the new car was named after the romantic young girl who, leaning from her balcony in Verona, listened to her lover’s call and to the song of the lark”
An unknown writer of the history of the factory wrote “It was projected and built in absolute secrecy and probably even nowadays ”the Giulietta is still the most famous example of an industrial secret kept until the day of the official presentation”.
Alfa even used a bit of craftiness. The project bore the number 750 and this number was deliberately leaked, with the result that the competitors (A.k.a. Fiat) were convinced until the very last moment that Alfa were making a small car, mistaking what was the progressive number of the project for cubic displacement”.
The Giulietta was then presented at the Turin Car Show in April 1954. Its price was 1,900,000 Lira, that is 981.00 Euros. To call it a surprising success with both critics and public, is to say the least..
When under the ample, majestic “ brilliant and grandiose umbrella” of the Giovanni Agnelli Hall at Torino Esposizioni, Italian and foreign visitors, technicians engineers and designers discovered the “Giulietta Sprint” she immediately became a “cult car”.
One of England’s most renowned journalists praised the car but he called it “a little car”. These things happen.
It was probably the first time that the coupé version of a car was launched before the saloon version. This too confirms the racing spirit of Alfa Romeo.
It is certainly not exaggerated to say that it was the “Giulietta“ that lifted the glorious firm from the ashes of the war , launching Alfa Romeo on the markets with renewed and , in many ways, inimitable fame