Keith’s Blog: Hail Alfas, Farewell to the Rover

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Our 1989 Range Rover has been a memory-making machine, from the moment Alex and I picked up the car in Manhattan Beach from SCMer Jeffrey Stout and drove it back to Portland. It’s been a car for all seasons; I recall the last Pacific Coast Rover Club snow run, its wheels furiously churning up the slush as it dug down for traction.

But today it’s on its way to offer new adventures to its new owner. SCMer Gary Briggs and his wife flew up from the Bay Area, picked up the Rover and are headed north towards Idaho. Gary thought the Rover would be the perfect tow-rig for his Laverda, which he recently showed at The Quail. 

But as one car goes, another appears. Our 1967 Giulia Super, which we bought last week from an SCMer in Santa Barbara, arrived on Saturday and we immediately pressed it into service. After I strapped a car seat into the back, the family was on its way to a Mother’s Day cruise, sternwheeling down the Willamette River aboard the Willamette Queen.

I’ve been on the hunt for a Super for years, but my need became acute after driving Bill Gillham’s Super, “Hooligan,” to the Blossom Festival in Hood River a couple of weeks ago. 

Unwittingly (perhaps), Wendie raised the starting gate on the Giulia Super Derby when she commented, “I like the way I sit in this car. I like the way it looks and drives. I think it would be okay if we had one some day.” I’m sure you agree with me that those statements constitute not only permission but encouragement. The hunt was on.


I enlisted the usual suspects in my hunt, including long-time Oregon Alfanatics Gillham, Doug Hartman, Stu Moss and Denny Pillar. Then I reached out to Conrad Stevenson and Fantasy Junction’s Chris Kelly. But my go-to guy was Andrew Watry, keeper of the Berlina Register. I’ve had various conversations with Andrew over the years as I mused over getting a Berlina, but he is equally fluent in Supers. By the time I was done, I had found nearly a dozen Supers, ranging in condition from sorry to stupendous, and in price from $6,000 to $30,000. When I settled down to my final few, Andrew proved invaluable not just for his knowledge of the cars in general, but even more for his insights into the Alfa community.

The car I landed on had lived with its previous owner since 2003 and covered 11,000 miles in the 10 years since. It had the typical California boy-racer upgrades: 1750 engine, 2-liter cam, later transmission, 4.1 LSD, performance suspension including springs, shocks, later-model front-spindle assembly and more.

It had been at Concorso Italiano several times, and been religiously maintained by Emilio Valsecchi at A+A Motors.

While not a concours car, from the pictures it appeared to be a strong driver, with regular maintenance and enhancements. I decided this was the one. After a couple of quick rounds of pleasant negotiations, the car was mine. I paid more than $20,000 but less than $25,000, a price that Andrew felt was very fair for both of us. (Even someone who publishes a Price Guide needs to check with the real world now and then.)

How is it? In short, it’s a great car. The performance springs provide an aggressive stance, the lack of the stock air cleaner on the Dellortos mean their roarty sound fills the cockpit, the freshened suspension allows the car to stay flat and track well in the corners, and the 4.1 coupled with the 1750 provide for copious torque at low speeds as well as comfortable cruising.

Are there things we will do to it? Of course, starting with a strong detail of the engine compartment and deciding whether to muffle that wonderful carburetor sound with a stock plenum and air cleaner. A shoulder harness for Bradley will happen soon as well.

All of us have bought cars sight-unseen, and my success rate of expectations meeting reality is about 40%. I would put this car solidly into the “win” column – It was everything I hoped for and then some. As we have said many times in SCM, judge the seller of the car you are buying as much as you judge the car.

But the Super wasn’t the only SCM Alfa posting on the SCM Wall today. The 1965 Giulia Spider Veloce came home from Tom Black’s Garage, after the first coachwork freshening it has had in decades. Tom color-sanded the car, and touched up the paint on the driver’s side where it was going bad. To my eyes, the Veloce went from a car that needed a total respray to a more-than-acceptable driver.

Tom and I had a conversation about restorations. We talked about how when you strip off a car’s paint, you destroy the patina the car has acquired over the years of experiences it — and you — have been a part of.

It’s good to have my Veloce back, and it’s even better to have it parked next to the Giulia Super. Now, if only someone could find me a hot-rod, red, 1967 Duetto with a 2-liter engine and an enhanced suspension, the garage would really be a rockin’ place to hang out.

 

 

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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