Alfa Romeo 1300 GT Junior
Reviewed by Unique Cars and Parts
Our Rating: 3
Becoming more collectable as time marches on. Great looking little car, but has always lurked in the shadows of the GTV.
Not only was the Alfa 1300 an image maker, it was also an impressive road goer and at times it was hard to believe the power plant was only 1290cc. From the moment you dropped into the driver's seat you were in a different world ... the world of the true continental enthusiast. The driving position was right, the steering wheel felt as if it wanted to be caressed rather than just held, the seat held you in all the right places, even the seat belt, with its fluted webbing, instilled confidence.
The GT 1300 Junior was the entry model to the Alfa Romeo coupe range. It was introduced in 1965
as the replacement for the 101 series Giulia Sprint 1300, which was the final development of the Giulietta Sprint series. It was fitted with the 1300 (1290cc) twin cam engine (74 mm bore × 75 mm stroke), as fitted to the Giulietta series cars, but revised for the 105 series with reduced port sizes and other modifications.
The smaller engine was introduced in order to allow buyers to choose an Alfa Romeo coupe while avoiding the higher taxes on the models with larger engine capacity, especially in Alfa Romeo's home Italian market. The floor mounted pedals may have taken a little getting used to, but despite this you felt you were sitting in a real motor car. The typically Italian speedo
and tacho also helped.
Driving off the Tacho
We all know it was designed in a country where you drove off the tacho and ignored the speed limit – and behind the wheel that is exactly how the 1300 Junior made you feel. Alfa mounted the biggest tacho and speedo then going in a binnacle right in front of the driver. The speedo
was calibrated to 140 mph and in such large letters that the mandatory 35 mph built-up area speed limit was lost completely on the dial. If you were not careful 60 mph came up very quickly.
The tacho was calibrated to 10,000 and there was no redline. Alfa must have figured the owner read the handbook, which was actually more akin to a workshop manual. If you did read the “manual”, you would learn that the engines limit was around 6500 rpm. The adventurous could spin it out to 7000 rpm without the slightest protest. On the right-hand drive versions, Alfa mounted the oil and water temperature gauges on a small console above the transmission tunnel. The fuel gauge was next to the speedo.
The five-speed gearbox was one of the smoothest and easiest to use. It actually made a delight of changing gear. The box used the normal H gate with fifth gear acting as an overdrive up next to third. Until you got used to it, a fast change to fifth would usually result in a couple of barked knuckles against the flasher and headlight stalks, mounted on the left hand side of the steering column.
Through the gears the Alfa 1300 GT Junior would peak out at 28 mph, 50 mph, 75 mph and 106 mph was the top in fifth gear. The car was quite happy to potter around town in fifth gear, but to really appreciate an Alfa it has to be stirred up. Many road testers found the GT 1300 Junior sluggish below 4000 rpm but over that it started to operate. Above 4000 rpm the Alfa 1300 was a dart.
How to Kill an Alfa
There were two ways to kill an Alfa from the 1960s and early 1970s. One was to start off cold before warming it up, the other was to drive it around town below 4000 rpm continuously. The Alfa was designed to operate at higher revs than most family cars and because of this it had to have the cobwebs blown away occasionally. Warming the engine before starting off could become a chore, especially if you were in a hurry. But the time taken to bring the engine up to running temperature was a sure insurance against costly mechanical bills.
Out on the highway the Alfa was a joy to drive. Despite the small capacity engine, the 1300 GT Junior was built for long distance touring on the European Autobahns. It also made short work of interstate trips under Aussie conditions. The steering was a little heavier than you would have expected from a small car, but not heavy enough to make driving unpleasant. On the open road, using the recommended pressures for the Pirelli tyres
, a certain amount of road shock could be felt through the steering wheel but at all times you could feel what the front-end was doing. The cornering ability was something else. Very few were able to find the limit of the car.
Behind the Wheel
Long before cruise control was commonplace, the 1300 GT had a hand throttle mounted under the dash, adjacent the choke control, which could be set to the desired speed. The twin-cam motor always sounded sporty but was not overly noisy. There was a hint of the familiar breathing roar of the twin 40 DCOEs but this was muffled by a cylindrical air-cleaner mounted on the same side as the carburettors. Gone was the ugly air-cleaner fitting from the previous model, which made simple tasks such as changing the spark plugs a real chore.
Even the bonnet was precision built. It was operated by a lever on the passenger side and when pulled the bonnet would swing silently up without the usual heavy clunk as the catch releases. The quarter lights were operated by a knurled knob mounted near the door release and would fix the quarter light in any position to direct air into the car – which was just as well as the 1300 GT Junior came without a flow-through ventilation system. With the rear window slightly open and the quarter lights set in position the same affect could be achieved.
The boot was operated by a catch mounted in the door pillar on the passenger side (the driver's side on European models) and when the door was locked there was no way of opening the boot. As an added precaution it also had its own locking system. Being on the passenger side it could be a little inconvenient at times, but it was one of those quirks that Alfa owners learnt to put up with – the small price you paid for a brilliant engineering package. But the car itself did not come at a small price. It’s 1972 Australian sticker price as A$4695 – which seemed expensive until you had clocked up a few miles behind the wheel. Then it seemed a bargain.
Alfa aficionados considered the performance low-end compared to the larger engined GTV's, with a total of 89 bhp (66 kW; 90 PS). However, the GT 1300 Junior's top speed of 106 mph and 0-60 mph time of 12.6 seconds were very good for a fully appointed coupe with an engine of only 1300 cc displacement. The GT 1300 Junior was in production for over a decade. Throughout this period it was updated by the factory, incorporating many of the same revisions applied to the larger-engined models.
Based on the Giulia Sprint GT
The first GT 1300 Juniors produced were based on the Giulia Sprint GT
, with a simpler interior. The major external identifying feature was the black grille with just one horizontal chrome bar. The same 9/41 final drive
ratio was maintained, but with a shorter 5th gear ratio of 0.85, instead of 0.79 as on all the other 105 Series coupes. Together with the Giulia 1300 Ti, the GT 1300 Junior pioneered the use of ATE disc brakes
as later fitted throughout the 105 series, replacing the Dunlop discs on earlier cars. The first few GT 1300 Juniors lacked a brake servo, and had the low rear wheelarches of the Giulia Sprint GT and Giulia Sprint GTV. From 1967
, a servo was fitted as standard, together with higher rear wheelarches as adopted later on the 1750 GTV.
, concurrently with the replacement of the Giulia Sprint GT Veloce by the 1750 GTV, the GT 1300 Junior was revised with many of the new parts from the 1750 GTV. This included the dashboard, the suspension and the new wheel size of 5½ × 14J instead of 4½ × 15J. This revised GT 1300 Junior, however, retained the early "step-front" body style, which, interestingly, makes it the most mechanically refined production "step-front" model. Another intriguing detail was that, just as on the 1750 GTV
, the remote release for the boot lid, located on the inside of the door opening on the B-post just under the door lock striker, was moved from the right hand side of the car to the left hand side. The location of this item was always independent of whether the car was left hand drive or right hand drive.
This series of GT 1300 Junior was the only model with the step-front bodyshell to have this item mounted on the left hand side. All other step-front models - Giulia Sprint GT, Giulia Sprint GT Veloce, and early GT 1300 Junior with flat dashboard - featured this item on the right hand side. From 1968
on, Alfa Romeo models for the US market were fitted with fuel injection systems instead of carburettors to comply with emissions control legislation. The only 105 Series models in which the classic twin-cam engine was fitted with fuel injection were the US market 1750 range, and the US market 2000 range which replaced the 1750s in mid-1972
. No Alfa Romeo 1300 or 1600cc models were ever made with fuel injection.
In 1970 the Junior was revised a second time, and received the same nose treatment as the 1750 GTV, without the step but with only two headlights. For 1972
, new wheels featuring smaller hubcaps with exposed wheel nuts like those on the 2000 GTV were fitted. At the same time, the GT 1600 Junior was introduced alongside the GT 1300 Junior. The GT 1300 Junior was discontinued for the right hand drive UK market but continued to be available in other right hand drive markets. From 1974
the GT1300 Junior and GT1600 Junior were both rationalised into a common range with the 2000 GTV