If you like driving on the beach, Oregon’s the state for you.
The Oregon Beach Bill, passed in 1967, established public ownership of land along the Oregon coast. This was to ensure that everyone has access to the beaches and ocean, which is not always the case in other states.
While you can’t drive on all of the beaches on the Oregon Coast, many are open to vehicles. That’s how I found myself driving the 1967 SCM Giulia Super on the beach at Cape Kiwanda last Saturday.
I had been planning a trip to the Oregon Coast for a couple of weeks. While I am there a few times a year, usually I’m on a car tour and don’t have time to lollygag around and sight see.
Before I left, the most pressing question I faced was which Alfa to take. Although I own six, my choices were limited to three. The 1965 Giulia Spider Veloce is waiting for the freshly powder-coated wheels to finish its restoration. The 1967 GTV is having its gearbox overhauled. And the 1961 Sprint Speciale is still, well, let’s call it a “work-in-progress.”
So that left the 1958 Sprint Veloce with its freshly rebuilt starter, the 1967 Duetto and Old Reliable, the 1967 Super. All things being equal, I would have preferred the Sprint as it’s a delight to drive, and I haven’t had it on a long trip since last September.
However, on Thursday the forecast was for snow at the coast with overnight temperatures below 30 degrees. As much as I love the Sprint, I just didn’t want to drive it in those conditions, especially when I was travelling solo instead of as part of a group.
So Friday morning I packed my gear into the Super and off I went. While straight, complete and rust-free, its paint is old with plenty of road rash. I’ve had the heater and heater fan rebuilt so it will keep you toasty inside. The freshly rebuilt two-liter engine is nicely broken in, and combined with the 4.1 rear axle and 14-inch wheels, the car pulls strongly and cruises easily at 75 mph.
I decided to take a slightly longer but more picturesque route, following Oregon Highway 30 along the Columbia River to Rainer, then passing through Clatskanie on the way towards Astoria on the coast.
There was little traffic on the gently undulating two-lane road, and the Super got to stretch its legs. I was reminded of what a unique proposition this car was — it was the only four-door sports sedan in production in its era. In fact, it really wasn’t until the E30 four-door version of the BMW 3-series in 1982 that there was anything else like it.
Our Super has Rugh springs, Bilstein shocks, two-liter brakes and oversized front and rear sway bars. It exhibits little of the body lean that Alfas of this era are known for. In fact, several times I found myself coming into sharp turns a little too hot simply because the car stayed so flat.
In Astoria, I had a chance to tour the Columbia River Maritime Museum. The treacherous area where the currents of the Columbia River meet the tides of the Pacific Ocean is called the Graveyard of the Pacific. More than 2,000 vessels and 700 lives have been lost there since exploration began in the 15th century.
The next day I meandered down Highway 101 to Cape Kiwanda, stopping for a delicious lunch of freshly harvested pan-fried Pacific Oysters at the Grateful Bread Bakery in Pacific City. I continued to the beach at Cape Kiwanda and debated as to whether I should drive the Super onto the hard-packed sand.
I hesitated because a couple of years ago I tried the same thing in a front-wheel-drive Korean econobox and got myself immediately and completely stuck. I managed to get myself towed out before the tides came in.
However, on Saturday the tide was out and there was quite a bit of hard-packed sand between the ocean and the bluff. Further, it was warm and sunny (despite the snow still covering the coast range) so I pressed on.
I would wager that that’s the only time a 50-year-old Italian four-door sports sedan has been driven on the beach at Cape Kiwanda.
Further, as I was motoring along, I remembered that Alex first drove a manual-shift car on that very same beach. I believe she was twelve or thirteen, and we had a bright yellow VW Thing. I took the doors off of it and folded down the windshield. She stuffed phone books behind her back so she could reach the pedals, and off she went. She must have shifted back and forth between first and second 50 times before she was done scattering seagulls.
The Super did just fine. From there it was off for some sightseeing in the Shire-like town of Neskowin, then home on Highway 18 passing through Willamina and McMinnville.
362 miles later, the Super was back in the SCM garage. In the next couple of weeks I’ll take it through a car wash to eliminate all the sand and salt on the undercarriage. The car performed admirably and used no oil or water — the water temperature never got above 180 degrees and the oil pressure never under 60 pounds.
While my other Alfas are sportier in appearance, and may even have an edge in performance, driving the Super continues to be an enormously rewarding experience.
In a world full of over-sized SUVs, distracted drivers and cars full of nanny-aids that try to protect you from your own bad driving, it’s refreshing to drive something so visceral and mechanical.