The Alfa 1967 Giulia Super is our family sports car. It has four doors and rear seats that can accommodate full-sized adults.
Two summers ago, we took it on a 1,000-mile trip across Oregon. Bradley, then 8, and his friend Grayson occupied the rear seat. They lived in the back for five days. With all the snacks, lunches, sodas and souvenirs, the debris on the back seat looked like it could have filled a dumpster.
Two years ago at this time, we took the Super on the annual Alfa Romeo Owners of Oregon Valentine’s Day tour. In addition to the snacks and sodas, the kids added a new feature — sequential barfing. First Grayson got nauseous, perhaps from looking down at the route instructions. As he began sharing his half-digested breakfast, Bradley immediately joined in.
It was somewhat like watching Yellowstone National Park’s Old Faithful, only with the additional bonus of olfactory stimulation.
This year I approached the event with some trepidation, and even managed to have on hand a couple of airsickness bags I snagged on my last flight.
In addition to Bradley and Grayson in the back, my co-pilot was Tom Young, a motorcycle guru I’ve known for years. Good friend Steve Hunker and his son Sam took our 1967 GTV out. It was time for it to have some exercise.
I prepped the Super for the tour with my typical 30-second spray- and-shine wipedown.
When we arrived at the starting point in the Portland suburb of Beaverton, I was surprised to find three current-production Alfas in the mix. There were two Giulias and a Stelvio, surrounded by another ten or so vintage cars.
There were three roundtail spiders, a few squaretails, two GTVs and two Giulia Supers. Having the new Alfas there was a good sign — it means that diehard club members are accepting the new cars as “real Alfas” and are welcoming their participation in club events.
Part of the reason that the Porsche and BMW clubs continue to have robust memberships is that those manufacturers have had a continued presence in the U.S. market. Alfa withdrew in 1995 and only in the past couple of years have offered new product for sale in this country. That’s almost two decades without any new cars for U.S. consumers.
Sunday was overcast, and at 45 degrees, chilly. But the rain that was forecast didn’t make an appearance.
The 125-mile route, put together by AROO member Bob Stevens and his wife Puff, wound through the wine country of Oregon.
Most of the drive was challenging. They consisted of twisting two-lane roads, with unmarked curves and elevation changes. At one point, I managed to lock up the right rear tire (where’s that anti-lock brake system when you need it) and get the car sideways when my enthusiasm overcame my driving skills.
As I rowed through the gears, I thought about what pleasure I get from driving a high-revving, small-engined car on a challenging road. Even though the engine in the Super has been upgraded to 2 liters from the original 1.6, it still requires the driver to work to keep up a brisk pace.
At one point on a straightaway we touched 80 mph. In my 2003 911, there is no discernable difference to the driver between 80 and 120 — except that the scenery goes by a little quicker.
In a 50-year-old Alfa, even one with upgraded springs, shocks, brakes and anti-roll bars, the car lets you know that you need to be thoughtful. If you let the car get away from you, there are no electronic aids to help you get back under control.
Vintage cars also demand that you actively select the right gear — with the right amount of throttle — for every curve. You can’t simply choose “Auto” and “Sport” and let the car do the work.
I’m pleased to report that the entire day was a barf-free experience. The kids practiced looking straight ahead instead of down at the route instructions, and that seemed to help.
All of the Alfas made it from start to finish without incident. At our celebratory luncheon at the Barberry in McMinnville, 40 miles from Portland, everyone received roses and boxes of chocolate.
For me, the best reason to have old cars is to find “value in use.” Taking the cars out for a morning exercise like this keeps them happy — and keeps me wanting more.