Among Alfista, the 4-door Giulia Super sedan has cult status. With the same race-bred suspension a the 105 Series coupes and spiders, the Super was advertised as “The Family Car that Wins Races.”
Earlier this year, I took the SCM Super on an Alfa Romeo Owners of Oregon tour, and my son Bradley and his friend Grayson christened the car with dual sprays of kid-vomit — both of them falling prey to car-sickness at the same time. From that time on, the kids have known it as the Barfmobile.
It was not without some trepidation that we decided to take it on an 900-mile vintage car tour that started immediately after Monterey Car Week. Once again, Grayson joined Bradley. My co-driver was good friend Bill Woodard. I didn’t mention anything about the Super’s storied past to him, although Bill did wonder why I had a hazmat cleanup kit under the front seat.
Tom McGirr put together this tour, and it was the third event of his I have been on. I find them to be well organized and user-friendly. There are plenty of stops along the way, and the pace is brisk without being punishing.
After leaving Portland at 6 a.m. on Thursday morning, the group assembled 50 miles away at Government Camp on Mount Hood. The 24 cars were a cross-section of fun drivers. On the vintage side there was a nice SAAB 96 V4, a couple of Alfa GTVs, a 1961 Alfa Spider Veloce convertible, a Maserati Ghibli coupe driven up from San Diego, a Jaguar XK 150 coupe, a Mercedes 220SE cabriolet, a Datsun 2000 Fairlady, a Sunbeam Tiger and a couple of square-tail Alfa Spiders. The modern contingent (aka our climate control is working really well…) included a couple of late-model Porsche Boxsters, some similar vintage 911s and Turbos, a nasty-looking Subaru STI, a C7 Corvette, a modern Mustang and a Mazda Miata.
What I enjoy the most about multi-day tours (four nights and five days in this case) is that the drivers and navigators who choose to participate tend to be enthusiasts who really enjoy using their cars.
It was a far cry from Monterey Car Week, where between the auctions and the concours, vintage cars are often treated more like “investment artifacts” than road-devouring machines. It’s not that one use is any better or worse than any other, but I find my greatest joy in an old car comes when I am pounding out the miles on a gently twisting backroad, with no traffic except the other vintage cars on the event.
It’s a time-warp experience, and I am quickly transported back 50 years in time.
As I write this, we are now more than half-way through the event, and I can report that the back seat of the Super has remained blissfully barf-free. The Super has performed brilliantly. I had it tuned by our mechanic Nasko before we left, and he worked his typical magic on the Weber carburetors and the timing. Of all the 2-liter-engined Alfas on the tour, the Super easily pulls the strongest.
I confess to having a secret smirk when our boxy-four-door sedan, with two kids in the back seat and a trunk full of luggage, managed to pass two of the late-model Porsches on a challenging section. Perhaps the Porsche owners just felt sorry for me.
Our route has taken us through small towns, such as Shaniko and Antelope, that represent parts of Oregon history. We crossed the John Day River, and had lunch at a riverfront park in Spray. We stopped at the Paleontology Museum to admire the fossils from the long-ago era when the Oregon desert was a tropical forest.
Our final destination the first day was Baker City, which went from a waypoint of the Oregon Trail to a gold rush city when the precious metal was discovered there in 1861. The gold soon petered out, and Baker City remains a quiet town, lost in time.
The next morning we visiting the Oregon Trail Interpretive Center, and Bradley and Grayson got to walk in the ruts made by some of the thousands of wagons that traversed the Oregon Trail.
We ended the day at Wallowa Lake, at the foot of the Wallowa Mountains. The next morning we took the tram up to the top of Howard Mountain, at 8,400 feet. The view of mountains was spectacular.
We head home next, through Condon and then back to Portland.
So far it’s been a grand trip, with wonderful roads and old-car camaraderie. Bradley and Grayson are enjoying themselves, and I can only hope that I am planting a seed in my son that car trips, of any kind, are fun adventures. I hope he will want to replicate them on his own — and with his friends.