Old Italian cars rot, which might just be the least surprising sentence ever committed to the internet. You know it, we know it, anyone who’s ever considered classic car ownership for any length of time knows it, and yet we were all taken aback by just how crusty our latest addition to the Retropower fleet has been – the 1960 Alfa Romeo Giulietta.

Like Swiss cheese, just less ‘holey’

All Retropower projects commence with an exhaustive strip down process, effectively in exercise in automotive archeology. This has been known to turn up more than a few surprises in previous undertakings but, true to reputation, the Alfa has surpassed all expectations in this respect. As these photos show, vast swathes of the Giulietta’s bodywork have succumbed to rust, with the inner wings, bulkhead, floor pans, rear-three quarters, arches and A-posts all looking decidedly crusty.

Poking around key sections of the Alfa has often felt a little like a Time Team excavation, just with less Tony Robinson content

The sills are worth looking it in greater detail, if only because they neatly illustrate the potential dangers a poorly carried out bodywork repair can lead to. These actually have been reported at some point in the recent past, meaning that they’re one of the more structurally sound areas of the Alfa. The bad news is that repair sections have been welded on in the wrong place, a full 17mm out of position, and rectifying this has involved judicious use of the angle grinder!

This has grown to become a familiar sight when inspecting the Alfa…

Routing all traced off rot from the Alfa’s shell is of course our top priority, though it’s a task made that bit tougher thanks to the near total absence of pattern or New Old Stock parts available. We have managed to secure a number of minor parts, such as the boot floor, a couple of chassis outriggers and a brace designed to reinforce the inner wing, but nowhere near enough to contemplate replacing key exterior panels with new versions. Ok, so we didn’t go into this project anticipating the kind of manufacture supported parts supply enjoyed by the likes of Ford or Mercedes, but we must admit to being taken aback by how little is available for this pretty little coupe.

This arch has seen better days – lots of them

The lack of ‘off the peg’ assistance has of course forced us to double down on our efforts to salvage as many of the original panels as possible, while also throwing the importance of undertaking the correct preparations before starting any metalwork into sharp relief. To this end we spent a considerable amount of time fabricating a jig on which to mount the car, the shell of which has been thoroughly analysed using a self-levelling 360 degree laser, just to make sure everything is straight and true.

The eagle-eyed amongst you might well have already spotted that this car was converted from left to right-hand drive at some point in its life, and judging by the quality of the workmanship on show, this probably occurred early on, perhaps in the mid ’60s. As this image shows, the butchery involved has left a lasting impression on the front bulkhead – finessed it most certainly is not!

As you can probably tell, this is a project that’s very much in its infancy and one we’ll doubtless be working on for some time to come. So don’t fret if your own classic or retro car is looking a tad ‘autumnal’ around the arches, as as this old Alfa Romeo demonstrates, it could always be much, much worse!

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