Revered Italian brand Alfa Romeo celebrated its 110th anniversary two years ago, but due to the COVID-19 pandemic, local fans have not been able to gather to properly salute this occasion. Late in March, however, the Cape Alfa Romeo Club (and fellow Alfisti) gathered in numbers at the Lourensford Estate in Somerset West. Some truly special cars showed up!
It is quite often said that owning an Alfa Romeo is a rite of passage when it comes to the classic car lifestyle or, that you simply can't call yourself a petrolhead until you've owned one of the Milanese brand's historic stunners. And so, there remains a very active, very passionate fanbase for the marque, even though it has fallen on troubled times in recent years.
When I arrived at the beautiful Lourensford Estate on Saturday, I expected to see the usual classic Alfa fare that often show up at car events in the Western Cape - you know, the various series of the iconic Type 105/115 Spider, a few '60s Giulias and a smattering of more modern GTVs and perhaps a boxy Giulietta. But what I got was a whole lot more than I had expected.
Organiser Lynton Lomas had managed to get some usually very private collectors to bring their best wares. The result was a staggering display of around 150 cars, beautifully capturing the evolution of the brand that is loved the world over.
"This is very much a Cape event," said Lomas, "but we do have owners here who have come from very far, places like Gqeberha and Pretoria, to join us on this special day."
As I made my way through the strategically parked cars, I initially found it hard to pick my favourites or to focus on filming and photography, as I was often distracted by cars that I had never seen before, or only on images.
But you can't really just walk past a 1947 6C SS Freccia D'Oro (for Golden Arrow) without taking a few minutes to drink in the details. This is a very rare car, the very first postwar Alfa Romeo to be built, and in total only 680 were produced until 1951. This particular example was made available for display by the Franschhoek Motor Museum.
I'm a sucker for a Sprint Speciale, and so to see two of these gorgeous little cars, which back in the '60s boasted the aerodynamics of a modern supercar (0.28 drag coefficient) together, was definitely a highlight. Designed by Franco Scaglione at Bertone these little cars were so slippery that the later 1.6L models could reach 200kph!
As you can imagine, there were many red cars on display, so it was appropriate that one of the prettiest cars on show, a rare Touring Spyder, was finished in a different hue (grey) - see it in detail in the video at the top of the article. The same lucky owner also displayed a gorgeous silver 1964 Touring Sprint 2600 Coupe, in right-hand drive!
As I made my way around a corner to find some coffee I stumbled across two incredible gems that are almost never seen together, the brutal-looking SZ and RZ twins. Their quirky design is often accredited to Zagato alone, but it was actually a combined effort between that famous design house and Centro Stile Fiat and Centro Stile Alfa Romeo. Zagato built the cars, using 75 mechanicals. It's worth noting that the RZ (that's the roadster) was built in extremely limited numbers - only 278!
Speaking of the 75, the blocky sedan was of course never sold in South Africa, but a few examples have made their way to our shores and a black 75 was on display at Lourensford.
It was joined by a line-up of largely forgotten Alfa sedans, including a 119i and an Alfa 6, the latter proudly proclaiming the fitment of six Dellorto carburettors. Facing these boxy sedans were the later four-door cars that marked Alfa Romeo's return to South Africa, the 164 (which is ageing beautifully) and the 155.
As is usually the case at car shows in the Western Cape, there were some fine examples of Alfa's Bertone-designed 105 and 115 series coupes, some completely original and some tastefully tweaked. I found a seemingly completely original Stepnose (or Scalino) to be achingly beautiful. Prouldy displaying its engine bay (possibly the cleanest I've ever seen) was another Stepnose that has been tastefully upgraded to be a replica of a 1965 GTA. Parked right next to it was a car that was one of the most photographed on the day - a racy-looking GTAm.
One of the most anticipated arrivals of the day showed up a little later, a stunning red Montreal, one of only a handful in the country. The seductive coupe was clearly a crowd favourite, as it stopped people in their tracks and had them jockeying for position to get a good photo.
Designed by the great Marcello Gandini at Bertone, around 3 900 examples of the Montreal were produced from 1970 to 1977, powered by a 2.6L V8 derived from the engine used in the 33 Stradale. Back in the day, the Montreal was more expensive to buy than a Jaguar E-Type or Porsche 911!
Following hot on the tailpipes of the Monteal was a rarely seen Giulietta Group One. It's hard to imagine it now, but the Giulietta was once a very popular car in South Africa - at a time when South Africa was one of the Italian brand's biggest export markets. The Group One was something special for the local market and named after our premier racing series. It had more power (for greater punch at altitude, in particular), and GTV-like front suspension.
A long line of Type 116 GTVs, including the SA-special 3.0L, once the fastest locally-produced car, showed the evolution of the Giorgetto Giugaro-designed coupe to striking effect.
I do like spotting oddities, and I must say seeing a 1983 AlfaSud Giardinetta Speedwagon gave me a smile. It looked like a humble little wagon, not "speedy" at all!
Cars kept arriving throughout the day, so it took several walkabouts to make sure everything had been appreciated, including a rare white Berlina, very pretty 50's Giulietta Ti and a colourful trio of '60s Giulia sedans.
On the "other" side of the pathway splitting the two display areas were the "moderns", including a vast number of Type 916 GTVs and Spiders from the '90s, the 145, later 159 and, of course, Alfa Romeo's instant modern classic, the 4C, in just about every colour you can imagine. Stellantis, the firm in charge of Alfa Romeo these days, also had a presence and proudly displayed one of the first new Giulia GTAm models to have arrived in the country.
Overall, a fantastic day and a great reminder of the significance and "glory" of this storied marque. Here's to at least another 110... or 112, to be accurate!