Keith’s Blog: There’s a Duetto in the Garage


It’s only taken me two years to find the right car, and it was right here under my nose.

To recap, I decided last year that I would create a focus to my mini-collection. Instead of it looking like a sampling of “The Greatest Hits From Bring A Trailer,” with vehicles ranging from a Saab Sonett to a BMW 6-series to a Volvo 1800 ES, it would be just Alfas.

I picked the five Alfas that both fit within my budget and that also had some emotional meaning to me, as well as having significance to the marque.

Spider, GTV and Super

I already owned a 1965 Giulia Spider Veloce, a family car for over 20 years. Then, I acquired a 1967 GTV from Dave and Colleen Rugh; He built it for her, and it had been her daily driver for decades. It had a 1750 engine in it, and I sourced a new interior from Matt Jones at Re-Originals and had Guy’s Interior Restorations install it.

Next was a 1967 Giulia Super I purchased from a doctor in Santa Barbara. He had two and sold his wife’s car to me. Although fitted with a 1750 engine, 2-liter brakes, a rear sway bar and a 4.1 rear end, it was otherwise complete and correct, with all the little bits that identify a 1967 Super, including the two-piece grille.

A blown heater core led to overheating, which led to a valve job from Nasko’s, and I had Bill Gillham go over the car adding things like the plastic that protects the door interiors. He also detailed the engine bay and added a Euro airbox. Next, the car goes to Dan Sommers at Veloce Motors for a final tune, and then it comes home.

The Sprint Joins In

In August of 2012, I found the eyebrow 750 Series Giulietta Sprint Veloce I had been looking for for a decade. It was for sale at Concorso Italiano and been driven to the event from L.A. — twice. So what could it possibly need?

$50,000 later, it has had all the bondo removed from the nose and tail, the engine and tunnel-case gearbox completely rebuilt, and the suspension redone. There’s a long story here as to what I’ve learned, but that will be a different blog post. Or maybe a chapter in a book.

I’ve got about 700 miles on the engine now (balanced and upgraded with 1,400-cc pistons and modern-grind cams, and with gears from a 2-liter oil pump squeezed into the 750 housing). It’s a period hot rod that gets better every time I drive it.

And Finally a Duetto

So then all that was left for my Alfa quintet was the Duetto. I put out a call for one last year, and at that time I wanted one that had been hot-rodded Oregon style with a 2-liter engine. Nothing came up.

By this year, I had decided I wanted to go stock. 1967 only, with its original 1,600-cc engine and in its original color.

More than 10 Duettos popped onto the radar screen. Three stood out: a white one, cream one and forest green one. I tried to buy each one, and each time the owner, after some thought, decided not to sell.

All of the other cars had issues of one sort or another, from incorrect engines to poor panel fit to rust bubbles. And they were all at least a $1,500 tow bill away.

Then I got a call from an owner in Gervais, Oregon, about 30 miles from Portland. The seller told me he was the second owner of the car, had had it 10 years and that he was thinking of selling it.

I drove down and at first was not impressed. It had a crappy respray with “lacquer pop” – little bubbles in the paint everywhere that you could see when you looked close up, and that could only be cured with a $10,000 media blast and respray.

There was nasty-looking side trim riveted on. The car was dirty, and we couldn’t get it out to drive it.

On the plus side, it had never been hit, never been rusty, and was 100% complete down to the tool kit, the top boot cover and every clip and clamp under the hood. I didn’t realize at the time how rare that was.

I was about to leave for three weeks of work, and so I told the owner I’d get back to him.

I’m an Owner

I took Michael Pierce with me and we test-drove the car. It had had a recent engine rebuild by marque expert Veloce Motors, and it pulled strong and shifted well. The brakes took some pumping, but that’s to be expected when a car has sat for so long.

Pierce was impressed with the car, as, being an NCRS Corvette guy, he values completeness and correctness above all else. This car still had its original upholstery on the seats.

I decided it was the car for me. The seller asked that I not disclose the price, but let’s just say that if the car had a nice paint job, it would be worth about $25,000. If you back out the cost of the respray, you’ll arrive at about what I paid.

The car is now at Nasko’s for a complete suspension rebuild and installation of Rugh springs. Then it will go to Guy’s Interior Restorations for “floors and doors” — new floor mats, new center carpet, new door panels and new rear drape.

Tom Black of Tom Black’s Garage believes he can remove the riveted-on side trim and fill the holes in an acceptable fashion. I’m going to leave the paint as is and deal with it down the road, if ever. From a distance the car looks just great, and that’s good enough for me.

So my mini-Alfa collection is now complete. Even better, all of the cars are close to being fettled. I simply don’t see any big repair bills looming in the future.

I wouldn’t say this is a lifetime decision for me; In a year I might decide that five Alfas is too many, and three would be enough. But for the moment, when my five babies are in the garage, I’ll be able to look at them and relive my own life with Alfas, think of the historical import of each of these cars and be a happy guy.

By the way, thanks to everyone who sent me pictures of their Duettos, and to those who sent me leads they found in classifieds. I really appreciate it. And in the end, we’re all in this together.


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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