Keith’s Blog: Red Duettos and a Green Giulia Super

It was an all-Alfa weekend.

Last Thursday, the Alfa Romeo Club of Oregon hosted its annual “Red Duetto Tour.”

The brainchild of Fred and Lisa McNabb, the entry rules are simple. To participate, you must have a red “long-tail” Alfa spider, built between 1966-69.

Long-tail spiders were Alfa’s in-your-face response to impending safety regulations and larger bumpers. The Pininfarina-designed cars have impossibly delicate sloping front and rear ends. The slightest touch by another car when they are parked leaves a dent.

I’ve had my Duetto several years; we rescued it from a barn about 30 miles from Portland.

I owned a white one when I was a junior at Reed College, and it faithfully took me back and forth between college and my hometown of San Francisco.

Short day trips like the Red Duetto tour one provide a chance to exercise your car. I keep a to-do list for each of my cars on my phone, and add to it with each excursion. I noticed this time that the plate the heating and cooling levers protrude from has lost a rivet — the fix is simple, and has already been done on the other side. A large Phillips-head screw did the job just fine.

Also, the sealing of the top to the passenger window still isn’t right — there is too much wind noise. I guess the solution to that is to keep the top down.

Our starting point was a rest stop near milepost 11 off of I-5 in Vancouver, WA. Promptly at 9:30, six red Duettos (although technically only carbureted long-tails built in 1966-7 are “Duettos.” We’ll lump the 1969 injected cars in here as well) pulled onto the highway.

The SCM Duetto still has its original 1600-cc engine and 4.56 rear end.

For the next five hours we were like penned-up horses that had been set free. We followed each other over two-lane roads in the Washington back country. My co-pilot was Neil d’Autremont, and he mostly succeeded in keeping me from getting lost.

The long-tail spider is a dramatic styling exercise that we will never see repeated in the same way. Seeing one Duetto on the road today is remarkable; seeing six motoring along is memorable.

Then it was back to SCM World Headquarters to drop off the Duetto and prep the 1967 Giulia Super. On Friday afternoon, I headed to the Oregon Festival of Cars in Bend, Oregon.

It’s about 160 miles from Portland, and my favorite route is Highway 26 across Mt. Hood and along the Deschutes River.

My son Bradley was properly belted into the back seat, and Lilly Pray from Boulder, Colorado was my co-pilot. The weather was clear and dry, and the car performed beautifully.

Our Super has been upgraded with a two-liter engine, which also allowed a swap to a 4.1 rear end for lower rpms at cruising speeds.

I’ve put about 6,000 miles on this car in the past three years since the new motor was installed. Most recently I drove it to Monterey in our annual “Caravan to Concorso.”

The Super is always a delight to drive. With its Rugh springs, Bilstein shocks and front and rear sway bars, the car handles well and stays flat through the turns.

We stayed with good friend Michael Cottam, and had the aural pleasure of following him in his Ferrari Modena 360 six-speed coupe to the Festival.

There were around 100 cars registered for the OFC. The founder’s circle of the OFC includes John and Carlyn Draneas (John is the author of SCM’s Legal Files column), and Ed and Barbara Grayson of Consolidated Auto Works.

It wouldn’t be an exaggeration to say that the majority of the classic cars at the OFC, especially the English ones, had been ministered to by Ed and Barb at some point.

This was an informal show (my favorite kind), and prepping the Super for display consisted of a quick spray of WeatherTech TechCare detailer, along with fishing a few days of Bradley’s uneaten lunches out from under the seats.

The display of cars was impressive, ranging from modern NSXs to McLarens to Lamborghinis and Porsches. SCM’er Matt Crandall brought three high-performance 911s from the Avant-Garde Collection.

We presented the SCM “Spirit of Motoring” trophy to Ross and Kristine Hulse. They brought their immaculately-presented 1966 Sunbeam Tiger, which they drive regularly.

The next morning it was a quick three-hour drive back to Portland, making our obligatory stop at The Huckleberry in in Government Camp. Our lumberjack breakfast caused me to wonder if I should install air shocks on the rear of the Super.

“Value in use” is a key phrase with our old cars. Increasingly impractical in daily traffic, we have to aggressively seek out reasons to get behind the wheels of our cars and just do something fun with them.

The Duetto and the Super both have a few hundred new miles on their odometers, and I had some new adventures myself.

 

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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