“Are you ready for your and my Super’s 50th on Monday?”
Andrew Watry, keeper of the Alfa Romeo Berlina Register sent me that note last weekend.
An aficionado of Alfas with four doors, Andrew helped me locate the SCM Super a few years ago.
According to the Alfa Romeo Documentation Center, our Super was born on February 13, 1967. It was sold two days later, on February 15th, to Alfa Romeo Inc. of Newark, New Jersey.
It’s chassis number, AR 342327, is just sixteen cars earlier than Watry’s (AR 342343) Super, so chances are that half-a-century ago these two family sedans moved down the assembly line at the Alfa factory in Arese, Italy nearly nose-to-tail.
If cars could talk, think what stories they could tell. These Supers were born into a world without safety and smog regulations. When built, they were in a class of their own as high-performance sports sedans. Equipped with the same 1600cc double-overhead cam engine, Weber carburetors and five-speed gearbox as the sportier GTV, the Super was advertised as “the family car that wins races.”
Today, of course, nearly every entry-level econobox can out-handle, out-accelerate and out-brake these vintage machines.
Four years ago, when I began looking for a Super, Andrew found this one for me. It belonged to long-time Alfista Dr. Timothy Rogers in Santa Barbara. He owned two, one for him and one for his wife.
While not a concours car by any means, it was extremely straight. It appeared that it had never been hit, and even more important, had never been rusty.
These are both keys to the longevity of old cars. Built in an era when rust-proofing wasn’t even a notion, many of them simply disintegrated over the years. As their conditions declined, so did their values. I recall buying and selling more than a few running and driving Supers for under $1,000 in the 1980s. After all, for most sports car enthusiasts, a four-door sedan just wasn’t very sexy.
Our Super is best described as “an honest car.” While stock in appearance, the Super has benefited from a variety of typical “boy-racer” upgrades, including a two-liter engine, bigger brakes, front-and-rear sway bars, Bilsteins, Rugh springs, and 14-inch wheels.
All of the distinctive trim bits are with the car, including the two-piece front grille that disappeared in 1968.
This past summer I had the occasion to take the Super on a pair of 1,000-mile road trips. The first was in the company of Miles and Parker Collier and Doug Hartman, as we drove all three 1967 SCM Alfas (Super, GTV and Duetto) on the four-day Northwest Passage tour. The second was a trip to Joseph, in eastern Oregon. Good friend Bill Woodard was my co-pilot, and my nine-year-old son Bradley and his friend Grayson were in the rear.
The trip we took with the two kids in the back seat was a magical journey. They sat with their coolers full of treats and drinks, and iPads plugged in. We hustled along, keeping up and passing other cars on the tour, including a Maserati Ghibli, several square-tail Spiders and a Datsun 1600 roadster. It was as if we had gone back in time half-a-century.
We could have been on a two-lane country road in Italy — two adults and two kids enjoying “the family car that wins races.”
To the kids, it wasn’t a vintage road trip. It was just a chance to spend time in the (very spacious) back seat of a fun car, sharing the fold-down center armrest and chatting away.
I would guess that the design life of a 1967 Alfa was under a decade. By 1977, a 1967 car had been superseded by at least one or more new models (in the case of the Super, it was two — the Berlina and the Alfetta sedan, both severely compromised in the U.S. by federal smog and safety regulations).
Today, my and Andrew’s Supers are vintage artifacts, a visual spectacle as they motor along.
The chances are slim that 50 years from today these cars will be allowed into the mix of every-day 2067 traffic. Between their lack of autonomous features, their status as gross polluters and their absence of airbags and other safety devices, they will simply be unsuited for the modern-car mix of the future.
So be sure to celebrate the half-century anniversaries of the cars in your collections. They were advanced when new, and are still capable of holding their own on secondary roads today.
But increasingly, they are mobile relics of a time gone by, and represent a motoring experience that is fast disappearing. We are fortunate to have lived in the golden age of the motorcar.