I’m not really a glutton for punishment — even if my actions indicate otherwise. Getting one 49-year-old car ready for a 1,000-mile, high-speed tour is enough of a challenge; getting three ready has been an adventure.
The annual Northwest Passage tour begins this Thursday, June 9. The Oregon Region of the Porsche Club of America masterminds this great event, and SCM is a sponsor.
This year, it’s a five-day romp that begins at Bonneville Hot Springs, 47 miles east of Portland. We’ll wind through the central Washington Cascades to Leavenworth and then drive on to Coeur d’Alene, Idaho and then visit Washington wine country in Walla Walla before heading back home to Portland.
Over the years, I’ve driven a variety of cars on this event, including a Porsche Boxster S, Lotus Elise, Maserati Quattroporte and an Alfa Romeo Duetto. Last year, a McLaren 650S was my ride. Most of the entrants are driving later-model Porsches, so when I’m in a vintage 4-cylinder car, it’s pedal-to-the-metal all day long to keep up.
This year, I’ve invited good friend and SCM contributor Miles Collier and his wife, Parker, to become part of Team SCM, along with Carter Doolittle, an SCMer from Minneapolis. My co-pilot will be Portlander Doug Hartman.
In a fit of irrationality, I decided this would be a perfect time to try out my trifecta of 1967 Alfas — the Duetto, the GTV and the Giulia Super.
Sometime in 1966, Road & Track published a review of these three cars; underneath the coachwork, they were essentially identical, with the same suspensions, engines and gearboxes. For me, they represent the highpoint of the pre-DOT and pre–EPA affordable Alfas. Since I read that review, I have dreamed of having all three of these cars at the same time.
My cars are no longer stock. All three have benefited from Rugh springs and thicker front sway bars, along with Bilstein shocks. The Super has a rear bar along with a Dan Sommers-built 2-liter engine. The GTV, formerly the daily driver of racer Colleen Rugh, has a mild-tune 1750-engine. Both the GTV and the Super have later 4.1 limited-slip differentials for easier high-speed freeway cruising. The Duetto still has its original engine, and it is the most “correct” of all three cars.
While I look forward to having all three cars on the road together, this has meant that I’ve had to get three 49-year-old cars ready to travel 1,000 miles. Luckily, they were all in good fettle to begin with, so there hasn’t been much to do.
At the moment, the Duetto and the Super are all set to go. The Duetto did manage to create a little last-minute drama, as its just-rebuilt heater-fan motor decided to fail a couple of weeks ago, and there isn’t time to have another motor installed. However, in the projected 80-degree weather, lack of a heater fan shouldn’t be an issue.
In any event, this is a smaller problem than two years ago, when the heater was stuck in the on position, and I traveled across the Oregon High Desert in a four-wheeled mobile sauna.
The GTV is the one car that might not make it. The driveshaft has developed a shudder, and we have it out being balanced at Drive Line Service. Hopefully it will be ready early this week, but you never know what gremlin may spring into view when an old car goes into the shop.
Guru Nasko has just installed new brake pads and a passenger-side motor mount in it, so hopefully he just buttons up the U-joints and it should be ready to go. If for some reason we can’t get the GTV back together, we can choose from the 1958 Sprint or the Lotus Elise, which are not bad cars to have in reserve.
Miles has agreed to write a Collecting Thoughts story for SCM detailing his impressions of driving all three cars, and I look forward to reading it. Having examples of Alfa’s entire 1967 U.S.-model lineup in my garage has been a fantasy that has come true after nearly half a century.
Having all three cars on the road together will be even better.