What's it like to live with one of the most spectacularly beautiful Alfa Romeos of all time? Let's take a closer look at the Alfa Romeo Montreal.
Words: Wilhelm Lutjeharms
Pictures: Bradley Doyle
Introduced as a concept car during 1967 in Montreal, Canada, this spectacular Alfa offers some of the most interesting design elements from that era.
The Confederation of Canada was planning to celebrate its 100th anniversary and turned to Milan to portray the progress of the automotive industry. The brief is said to have been “to express man’s ultimate aspirations in the field of motor cars.”
Alfa Romeo was only given nine months’ notice. With such a short deadline, the expo car was based on an existing Giulia Sprint GT floorplan and running gear, and fitted with a "mere" four-cylinder engine. The coachwork was done by none other than Carrozzeria Bertone of Turin, to be more specific, by the legendary designer Marcello Gandini himself.
Some interesting facts include that the first 100 production cars didn’t have a front spoiler and only 180 right-hand drive models were manufactured. From March 1972 air-conditioning was optional and other extra-cost features included metallic paint and electric windows.
The current owner; “I bought this Montreal in around 2003/2004. It has always been a car that I really liked, even though I had never seen one in person until I bought this one.
“A friend of mine who was a classic car dealer phoned me and informed me about the car. I told him that I wanted to come and see the car and drive it. I did just that and took the car for a drive and ended up back home, phoning him shortly after to tell him that I would be taking the car!
“The package as a whole is just incredible – it starts with the design for me. It has elements of a Lamborghini Miura, as well as from a Maserati Bora. It also has design features of a Jaguar E-type and a Chevrolet Corvette.
“When you drive it, the Montreal feels like an Italian car that has been crossed with an E-type and Corvette – because of the sound and the design. With this car it is really a unique design to look at an appreciate, plus it is great car to drive – and that is not the case with all its contemporaries.
“It does just enough of everything. It is not the quickest car, but what appeals to some of us is the fact that not everybody knows this car. Also keep in mind that the production version was very faithful to the original concept car... not something that happens very often.
“Just over 4 000 were built in the end. Alfa Romeo imported a few into South Africa... I think around six, but as far as I know none of them were right-hand drive. I think back then people expected a little bit more performance from the small V8 engine, but in the end you have to keep in mind that it is only 2.6-litres in size.
“Originally it had a Spica fuel injection system that was belt driven, but my car’s injection has been converted to an electronic system. This does help with lowering the effort of maintenance needed compared with the original system. All you need to do is buy the kit and have it installed. It has a few sensors, a computer box and needs power.
“I have not done any long-distance trips with it. But when I acquired the car, I used it very regularly. I think I’m the second owner. When I bought it, it was still fitted with its original Michelin tyres! The car was painted at some stage, but otherwise it is completely original. Apart from replacing the tyres and general maintenance, I haven’t needed to do any other work on the car.
Between myself, my father and our mechanic, we service the car ourselves. If it is something challenging, the Internet offers a wealth of information as well as specialists with the necessary information. It is so easy to make contact with fellow enthusiast who own Montreals as well as the clubs, even on an international level. Thus far, parts have also not been an issue.
What should potential buyers look out for?
To start off with, you will need to convince one of very few owners in South Africa to part with their Montreal. You need to check that regular maintenance have been done on the car and will also need to be quite pedantic about who have worked on the car, and what they've done. You need to look at the car’s history and try to see if it has been cared for, because some of these cars go through a phase where people don’t appreciate them, and then these owners don’t want to spend the necessary money on them.
Also, invest in the correct literature. I have the workshop manual for this car, which makes it easy to search for information should the need arise.
Engine: 2 593 cm3, all-alloy, V8, petrol
Power: 149kW at 6 500rpm
Torque: 270Nm at 4 750rpm
Fuel tank: 63L
Maximum speed: 220kph
0-97 km/h: 7.6 seconds
Transmission: 5-speed manual, limited-slip differential
Weight: 1 270 kg
Years of manufacture: 1971 - 1977
How many were built: 4 080
Where was it built: Turin, Italy
What you can expect to pay for a good-condition example: up to R1,5 million