Green may work for the Emerald City or the Wicked Witch of the West; however, it's anything but wicked on a Duetto


In the early 1960s, auto enthusiasts were aware of the nimble, small Italian spider made by Alfa Romeo, but it wasn't until 1967, when a Duetto appeared in the movie "The Graduate" that Alfa Romeos became widely recognized.
Alfa's 105 Series range was introduced at the Monza racetrack in 1962. The strong, multi-tube chassis was new; the design an evolutionary one based on the previous Giulietta and Giulia 101 Series. The 105 introduced major suspension changes, and, for the first time, four-wheel disc brakes by Girling. While some might have scoffed at Alfa's reliance on a solid rear axle suspension, it had developed and refined this chassis to a high level of handling and responsiveness.
The cars were free of the peculiar, even evil, handling characteristics that plagued many independent rear suspension cars of the period. The precisely controlled suspension geometry may not have been sophisticated, but it responded instantly to drivers' inputs and did exactly what was expected, progressively and predictably.
The 1966 Alfa Romeo Duetto on offer here is highly original and has benefited from careful maintenance over the years. It has known just two owners and is in very good, never restored condition. The car is a fit runner and driver, while a recent mechanical overhaul included a new clutch, rebuilding of the gearbox, complete brake replacement and installation of new exhaust headers. The vendor also reports that all cosmetics are in presentable and tidy overall condition.
The combination of Alfa Romeo's responsive and powerful 1,600-cc DOHC light alloy engine, a smooth and quick-shifting five-speed gearbox, the chassis' predictable handling, and the Duetto's 2,195-pound dry weight makes it one of the period's most rewarding sports cars and movie stars.

{analysis} This 1966 Alfa Romeo Duetto sold for $15,400 at the RM Amelia Island sale held March 12, 2005.
It's no secret that I have a soft spot for the sports cars that bear the snake and cross-and I go weak in the pocketbook when I come across a Duetto or GTV offered for sale. Just as the muscle car craze appeals to the youthful memories of many of today's buyers, a Duetto or GTV takes me back to my university days at Reed College, in Portland, OR.
I bought my first Duetto, white over black, in August 1972. I had spent the summer selling stuffed animals, helium balloons and assorted souvenirs from a booth on Fisherman's Wharf in San Francisco. Although the six-day-a-week, noon-to-midnight schedule was grueling, the pay was good. After eight weeks, I had amassed over $3,000, enough to significantly reduce the size of the student loan I was planning on taking out before my junior year.
As you might expect, my priorities soon changed. I was visiting Hilary Luginbuhl's repair shop in Marin County, home of the original Rubber Chicken Racing Team, for which I was a sometime mechanic. He mentioned that there was a red 1967 Duetto for sale at a dealership nearby, and I should take a look at it.
At this point I had sold my 1962 Giulietta Spider Veloce (due to its roll bar, you couldn't carry the top with you in the car, making for an adventuresome winter in Oregon), so my fleet consisted of a blue-with-blue 1962 Ford Falcon sedan (equipped with a three-on-the-tree manual transmission and the 170-ci six-cylinder), and a white-with-red 1964 Ford Country Sedan wagon that I had adorned with a flat black racing stripe down the center of the hood and "352" stickers on each fender. In other words, no Alfa.
The asking price on the red Duetto was $2,100, and the next day, after realizing that no bank would loan me money to buy the car but that it would be easy to get a student loan, I decided to buy. I raced up to the dealership with the money I'd saved for school, only to see a "sold" sign on the window.
But as every SCM reader knows, once you have decided to buy a car, you're going to get one soon-even if it's not the one you originally set out for.
The next day, the ad was in the San Francisco Chronicle: "1967 Alpha Romero convertible, white, 45,000 miles, $1,950 obo." Later that day I met the owner, inspected the car, counted out 18 Benjamins, and drove it home.
Over the next two years I put 40,000 miles on this Duetto. It was "just a car," used for ski trips to Mt. Hood with a rack suction-cupped to the trunk, and for hauling a portable dishwasher home in the trunk when I came across a garage sale deal that was too good to pass up.
Unlike the earlier Giulia and Giuliettas, the Alfa Romeo Duetto had a terrific, simple-to-erect top and a hugely efficient heater, which made it easy to live with. The styling, very period Italian today, was ultra-exotic in an era of square-rigged MGBs and TR6s.
Best of all, the car could cruise effortlessly at 100 mph for hours, turning a mere 5,000 rpms in fifth.
So what about the green 1966 Alfa Romeo Duetto pictured here? Let me start by saying this: At my daughter Alexandra's urging, I recently saw the musical "Wicked" on Broadway. And while green works for the Emerald City, as well as being appropriate for Elphaba (the Wicked Witch), it's the wrong color for a Duetto. I didn't like it in 1966, and the passage of time hasn't helped any.
The car itself looked straight enough, maintained rather than pampered, and certainly not restored. The dash, prone to cracking but easily recovered, was indeed wearing a fur coat, though the rest of the unexceptional interior was complete.
The price paid was on the high side of retail inside the Alfa community, but then again, Alfa owners are notorious tightwads when it comes to buying other Alfas. In the real world, this didn't seem like a lot of money for a true Italian thoroughbred chock full of exotic alloy bits and treats like dual Webers and four-wheel discs.
Alfas are cheap enough to maintain and rebuild, so the new owner can't get hurt too badly here if there are any mechanical issues. The real challenge that confronts him will be seeing if he can live with the current tired condition of the car. For a full cosmetic restoration, starting with a red or white car might make more sense, so that at the end of the process there is a much larger potential market.


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