Keith’s Blog: 600 Miles in a 49-year-old Alfa

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Every spring the Alfa Romeo Owners of Oregon hold the “Old Spider Tour” to celebrate and commemorate the occasion of club founder Bob McGill buying his 1958 Alfa Spider from Rambo Motors.

This year there were six old spiders (three Giuliettas and three Giulias) plus another 16 or so cars, ranging from GTVs and Duettos to a lone GTV-6.

We started at Steamboat Landing Park, just past marker 16 on WA 14 eastbound, ran along picturesque Highway 14, and ended up in Condon, OR, where we stopped for lunch.

The afternoon run went from Condon to John Day. Aside from a few raindrops and some afternoon hail, the weather was perfect.

I was in my 1965 Giulia Spider Veloce, and it ran brilliantly. I had the top up for the chilly morning, which gave me the chance to appreciate just how effective the diminutive Alfa heaters are. In the afternoon, it was “top down” all the way.

Better Now Than Ever

As I motored along at 80 mph with the other old Spiders – they always lead the tour – I thought about how much better prepared our cars are today than they were 20 years ago. There’s no such thing now as a $2,500 Giulietta that’s been sitting at the curb for a few years and could be brought back to life with a set of plugs and a minor tuneup. Such an Alfa would then break down with depressing regularity, as worn-out parts gave up the ghost — and every part on the car would be worn out.

Every Giulia, Giulietta and Duetto on the tour had been extensively restored, and the results were obvious. Effortless cruising at high speeds was the name of the game, with no smoke on the downshifts.

The next day started with snow on our cars, but the sun came out as we cruised toward Maupin at 100-plus mph. Then it was time to head back to Portland.

I decided to take a shortcut over Mount Hood instead of coming back down the Columbia Gorge on I-84. That created some interesting moments, as my little Spider found itself in a winter blizzard with six inches of snow on the ground and modern cars littering the landscape as they spun off and crashed.

Modulating the throttle and keeping a safe following distance got me over the summit safely, and by 5 p.m. I was back home.

It was an extraordinary weekend — 600 miles in old cars, fully alive in their natural habitat of winding two-lane roads. These kinds of experiences reinforce my belief that we find the true value in these cars through use, and that all the valuations and investment analyses in the world don’t mean a thing when you’re hitting 6,000 rpm in third and fourth, on your way towards a 5,000-rpm fifth-gear cruising speed of 100 mph — in a 49-year-old car with a 97-cubic-inch engine.

Below are some highlight photos from the trip. You can view the complete gallery on Facebook here.

Keith Martin

Keith Martin has been involved with the collector car hobby for more than 30 years. As a writer, publisher, television commentator and enthusiast, he is constantly on the go, meeting collectors and getting involved in their activities throughout the world. He is the founder and publisher of the monthly Sports Car Market and bi-monthly American Car Collector magazines, has written for the New York Times, Automobile, AutoWeek, Road & Track and other publications, is an emcee for numerous concours, and has his own show, “What’s My Car Worth,” shown on Velocity.

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