A June article from 1918 in the trade publication Earnshaw’s Infant’s Department is noted as saying “The generally accepted rule is the color pink for the boys, and blue for the girls. The reason is that pink, being a more decided and stronger color, is more suitable for the boy, while blue, which is more delicate and dainty, is prettier for the girl.” Casual sexism aside, I would like to promise up front that I am fairly confident that this post will get around to cars at some point. This is a 1974 Alfa Romeo GT 1600 Junior.
The reasoning behind this bit of gender divide is actually pretty logical. Red, being the root color of pink, was seen as the more aggressive color. Very boyish, in other words. Meanwhile blue, occupying the sort of “anti-red” side of the market, was similarly marketed to girls. Today of course, it’s all been mixed up. It is an important a popular fact that Ferraris, and most Italian cars for that matter, are generally painted in some shade of red, so: are those cars for men or women? Answer: no one cares. Gender associations in relation to cars is a pointless and circuitous argument at the best of times. My proposal is a little more subjective: I think that Italian cars should be blue.
Sacrilege to some perhaps, but look at this Alfa. Tucked away on this rainy London backstreet, it looks positively demure. It’s a more understated sort of beauty, classier than red, somehow. I just can’t get over how pretty this car is. The Junior Alfa Romeos were developed in the earlier 1970s in an effort to make the “sport coupe” more easily accessible to the general public by making a more affordable model to slot in below the more expensive and faster GTV models. All of the cars were based on the same platform (known as the 105 series), but featured different engines based on how much you were willing to pay.
By 1972 the Junior line had grown to accommodate two models, the GT 1300, powered by a 1.3 liter, twin-cam inline four cylinder, and the GT 1600, powered by- you guessed it- a 1.6 liter twin-cam inline four. Radical naming schemes over at Alfa, I know. This particular car is the 1600, which makes it the midrange model. The engine in this is actually mechanically similar to an older GTV model that ended production a few years prior to this being launched. Otherwise, smaller brakes differentiated the 1600 from the more expensive cars and- um- well, that’s it actually. In 1974, Alfa gave all 105 series coupes the same bodywork, so it’s difficult to differentiate them without looking at the badge on the back.
In terms of layout, it’s exactly what you want: five speed manual routing power to the rear wheels. In terms of the actual power rating, we’re talking right around 100, which may not sound great in today’s terms, but let’s pull a Bill Nye and consider the following. The 105 series cars were notoriously light, weighing in at a big block of cream cheese over a ton. It also had a pretty stiff suspension, which meant that if you drove around a corner with a certain degree of enthusiasm, you could actually lift the inside front wheel off the ground. Which made things exciting, especially in an age when most automakers were still treating airbags as the weird new kid with the mucus condition in the class.
Alfa Romeos are fickle cars. They rust, they break down all the time, they can be costly to repair, and their managers are almost perpetually in some kind of financial trouble. And yet, for some reason, they are loved. There is a sizable enthusiast group out there who are willing to bear that burden and take that risk, and I think the world is a slightly better place because of it. Someone clearly cares about this one, mainly owing to the fact that it hasn’t yet rusted into oblivion (though with this rain that’s a possibility as soon as early this afternoon). All Alfas, including the GT 1600, are exercises in the labor of love. They are the faces of passion, the reason we work. And they look especially good in blue.
- Zagato, an Italian design house, got their hands on the 1300 and the 1600 and rebodied them to look like this. I think it looks a bit like a Saab Sonnet.