Alfa’s Forgotten Flagship

Photo by @corsaitaliamagazine on Instagram.

If you were to ask someone who doesn’t spend every waking moment thinking about cars to name a couple of 60s Alfas, the Spider and Giulia Sprint would probably be the first they would mention. However, arguably far more desirable is the Alfa Romeo 2600 Sprint; the gorgeous six-cylinder flagship of the 60s Alfa range.

Introduced in 1962 alongside an equally beautiful Touring-designed convertible and a decidedly less attractive saloon, the elegant coupe was graced with a body from Bertone and, in proper Alfa tradition, a glorious DOHC 2.6 litre straight-six paired with a 5-speed manual. This had been the engine configuration used by Alfa since the 1920s, but sadly would end with the production of the 2600, making way for the now far more ubiquitous four-cylinder engines. They may have been more economical to both produce and run, but they weren’t nearly as soulful as the old six. With 145 Italian stallions at its disposal, the grand tourer could reach 200km/h flat out… probably. At least you’d look good, whatever top speed you actually managed to achieve.

Photo by @corsaitaliamagazine on Instagram.

Speaking of looking good, Bertone’s designers clearly had their double espressos the day the 2600 Sprint was penned. The long bonnet, short sloping rear, and quad headlights gave the car the appearance of a more mature, muscular Giulia Sprint. With exquisite details like the line of chrome that runs from the signature heart-shaped grill into the sweet air intake on the bonnet, and the crease that follows on from the top of the rear wheel arches; the 2600 Sprint is an example of classic Italian style.

Although blessed in many departments, the 2600 Sprint was not without its flaws. That sonorous straight-6 weighing down the front may have been good for stability, but it certainly didn’t help the handling. Tipping the scales at almost 1300kgs the 2600 Sprint was a bit of a porker in comparison to the lightweight Giulia Sprint and Spider, which both came in under 1000kgs. It’s hard to offset a weight deficit of almost one Amy Schumer, and the consumers noticed, favouring the newer four-cylinder Alfas. During its production run only 6999 of these wonderful grand tourers were sold, a figure which pales in comparison to the almost 40,000 Giulia Sprints sold in the same time.

In the end, not even that critically-acclaimed straight-six could save Alfa’s big, beautiful coupé. With the Alfisti of the era favouring nimble, more compact sports cars over large powerful grand tourers, the 2600 Sprint was a relic of a bygone era. 1968 marked the end of the line for all 2600 models, with the newer, lighter 1750 models becoming the new flagships of the Alfa range. On the bright side, the new cars brought the sales Alfa needed, and without them, Alfa may not have survived the 20th century.

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