By on December 27, 2014

 

Alfa Romeo is an automotive brand that’s so poorly known in America that some folks think it’s named after a guy named Alfred Romero, so to a casual observer it probably seems odd that Fiat boss Sergio Marchionne keeps insisting that he wants to revive the brand in the United States. The passion that car enthusiasts have for a brand that has had, at best, minimal market penetration in North America, seems out of proportion. If you want to know why the Alfa brand evokes such passion, however, look no further than the Alfa Romeo Montreal. Even if  you’re not into Italian cars in general or Alfa Romeos in particular, if your heart doesn’t start beating just a little bit faster when you see a Montreal, you’re not a car enthusiast at all. The Montreal is sexy on wheels.

The Montreal is one of the few concept cars that made it to production mostly intact. Introduced at Expo 67, the world’s fair held in Montreal, and given the name of the host city, the Montreal had great lineage. The 2+2 body design was led by Marcello Gandini at Bertone, and the Montreal shares some of the lines of the Lamborghini Miura, Gandini’s chef-d’oeuvre. It’s four-cam 2,600 cc V8 engine was designed by famed Ferrari engineer Carlo Chiti, who headed Autodelta, Alfa’s racing division, at the time.

The Montreal looks just right. While mid-engine configurations rule the supercar roost, there’s something about the classic long hood / short deck that is just perfect for a grand touring coupe. That’s been true since the classic era. It was true about the 1956 Continental Mark II, it was true about the Ferrari Daytona and it was certainly true about the Alfa Romeo Montreal.

The Montreal doesn’t just have good lines. Gandini put in all sorts of flourishes and fillips. That long hood overhangs and slightly conceals the headlamps, not entirely unlike a lover’s lidded and sexy eyes. Fitting the relatively large (well, compared to the Alfa fours) engine in a car with such a low slung hood required both dry sumping the lubrication system and putting a power bulge on the hood. To make that bulge visually interesting Gandini and his team added one simple, elegant and purposeful looking NACA duct for the engine’s air intake. Though it looks purposeful, the sources say it was cosmetic. The series of slots carved into the C pillar also looked good but were actually functional, drawing ventilated air out of the cabin. They give that part of the Montreal some visual pop and the look might have been imitated by the 1970 Plymouth Roadrunner’s “strobe” stripe that ran up the C pillar and across the roof.

Alfa and Bertone, which was in the business of building bodies as well as designing them, considered putting the Montreal into production even before it went on public display at Expo 67. While public reaction was promising, the concept cars that were on display in Montreal were based on the Giulia Sprint GT and its 1.6 liter twin cam inline four and Alfa knew that would not be sufficient for a relatively large touring car.

Fortuitously, Autodelta was just then introducing the Tipo 33 racer and its road car sibling, the Type 33 Stradale, powered by an all-new two liter V8 engine Chiti had designed. A 90 degree design with double overhead cams for each cylinder bank, when bored out to 2.6 liters, with Spica mechanical fuel injection and twin electronic ignition, the Montreal’s engine was good for 230 hp at 6,500 rpm. At 1.25 horsepower per cubic inch it had to have been one of the highest specific output street production engines ever, even though it was detuned from the racing version, with a significantly reduced compression ratio. Performance was brisk, for the era, with a top speed of 137 mph and a 0-62 mph time of 7.1 seconds. To slow the car from that speed, vacuum assisted disc brakes were fitted at all four wheels. The Montreal braking system also featured two hydraulic circuits, a safety feature that became fairly standard as the 1960s went on.

Most of the 3,700 or so Montreals had recirculating ball steering boxes while the 180 right hand drive models had worm and roller steering units. Intended for long drives on the autostrada, not for ten tenths handling, the Montreal has a live axle in back while the front suspension features lower A arms with upper transverse and longitudinal links. Wheels were 14 inch Turbina made by Campagnolo out of their proprietary Elektron aluminum and magnesium alloy. They were so popular that Alfa would later use the same style wheel on Alfettas and Spiders.

It took four years for the Montreal to reach production, which started in 1971. Though it was expensive, about $10,000 (4,200 pounds in the UK), about $1,000 more than the Porsche 911E, it sold fairly well until the oil crisis of 1973.

Full gallery here

The Montreal’s interior has a classic Italian configuration for drivers with long arms and short legs. Note the canted steering wheel. Full gallery here

Despite being named after a city in the New World, the Montreal was never officially marketed in North America. As a result it’s estimated that there are only about 100 examples in the U.S. As mentioned, less than 5% of Montreals built had the steering wheel on the right hand side. That makes this 1974 RHD Montreal particularly rare to see on this side of the pond. For a car with just 20,000 miles on the odometer, it’s been particularly well traveled. Originally delivered in Australia, this Montreal now calls the Detroit area its home, owned by Karl and Vivienne Robinson of Bloomfield Hills. Mr. and Mrs. Robinson’s Alfa Romeo (sorry, but I couldn’t resist, Katherine Ross’s enigmatic smile on the bus in the final scene sticks in my mind) was photographed this past summer at the Ford Product Development Center employees’ car show.

Ronnie Schreiber edits Cars In Depth, a realistic perspective on cars & car culture and the original 3D car site. If you found this post worthwhile, you can get a parallax view at Cars In Depth. If the 3D thing freaks you out, don’t worry, all the photo and video players in use at the site have mono options. Thanks for reading – RJS

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62 Comments on “This Is Why Alfa Romeo Matters: Alfa Romeo Montreal...”


  • avatar
    roadscholar

    Beautiful car. I miss the days when the glass-to-body height ratio was at least equal to one and I could see out of cars. Damn, I sound like an old man.

  • avatar
    Lie2me

    “Alfa Romeo is an automotive brand that’s so poorly known in America that some folks think it’s named after a guy named Alfred Romero”

    Anybody reading this here and actually thought this to be true is to immediately tear-up their carguy card and mail it to Camcords R4U PO Box 999…

    I actually remember seeing this car’s introduction at Expo ’67 and although I thought it quite cool, it was not Mustang/Corvette cool, but that it must be what Canadian boys thought was cool since it was named Montreal and that’s where I was

  • avatar
    SCE to AUX

    2.6 liter and 2.0 liter V8s – yum.

    Ronnie – I agree. That is one beautiful car. I want one. But I suspect there aren’t many left after only building 3700 cars.

    That $10000 in 1971 is $58300 today. You can buy a 4C for $66k right now – a lot more car for not much more money. But I really love the character of that Montreal.

    • 0 avatar
      mike89

      “But I suspect there aren’t many left after only building 3700 cars.”
      The survival rate for Montreals is unusually high. According to http://alfamontreal.info/

      “One reason that many Montreals have survived in excellent condition is that, after fabrication at Caselle, the steel bodywork was treated by the advanced finishing plant which had been set up by Bertone at Grugliasco in October 1970. This carried out degreasing, zinc phosphate coating and electro-deposition of the undercoat before final spray painting by hand.”

  • avatar
    rudiger

    Small correction: it wasn’t the 1970 Roadrunner that had the C-pillar strobe stripe, but the new for 1971 fuselage body.

    The sweep into the roof of the C-pillar behind the front windows looks suspiciously like that of the 1971 Dodge Charger, as well. I’d go so far as to suggest the Montreal had a big impact on Chrysler styling for their 1971 B-body coupes.

  • avatar

    That’s a gorgeous car, but I don’t see how today’s Alfa can successfully capitalize on it, especially when one of their dealers who is apparently tapped to sell Alfas en masse advertises itself as ‘Home of the Low Payment Kings.’

    • 0 avatar
      snakebit

      They’re not going to capitalize on the Montreal because the US didn’t receive these. If Alfa is going to use past models to get some cred, better the GTV, 1750 Berline, and the series of boattail and Kamm tail Alfa Spiders. I, too went to all of the Expo Auto shows (in my case L.A.) and I don’t remember seeing them in the show, but Expo 67 and the later Robert Topaz-produced shows had so much other European toys and coachbuilt Italian cars that the Montreal could easily been overlooked. I got Road&Track, so I was aware of the car, but also aware that it wasn’t coming to the States. Fortunately import restrictions have relaxed lately, and Americans have been able to bring them here as restored used cars. Better late than…

  • avatar
    rudiger

    Was the theme of that show tv cars? In the background of one of the pictures, there appears to be the Monkeemobile GTO and General Lee Charger.

    • 0 avatar

      I don’t think there was a theme. The Monkeemobile (it’s the real car, made by Dean Jeffries, later “restored” by George Barris’ shop) is owned by a Detroit area collector and it’s not that unusual to see it at a show. That was also a genuine General Lee but they were the only tv cars there. The 2014 Eyes On Design show did have a class for tv cars but only about half of them weren’t replicas.

      A post on tv cars and the people who collect them is planned.

  • avatar
    bumpy ii

    There is a lot of this car in Nissans of the ’70s.

  • avatar
    65corvair

    No reputation is better than a bad reputation. Think Cadillac. Or Fiat.

  • avatar
    krhodes1

    The crazy Alfa guy I bought my GTV6 from (and sold it back to) has two of these under restoration in his barn. One is his, the other for a customer. Very cool car, though I would rather have an Alfa Zagato Jr. I’m a sucker for little cars.

  • avatar
    Master Baiter

    Not an attractive car.

    • 0 avatar
      Compaq Deskpro

      You live up to your name.

    • 0 avatar
      petezeiss

      “Not an attractive car.”

      Completely agree.. looks like an 8 rear-old tried to draw a Javelin and got carried away with embellishments.

      An E-Jag is a sexy car. A Giulietta 1600 is a lovely car. This is a kludgey car.

      • 0 avatar
        05lgt

        I love the voluptuous curves of the E, but since I was a kid then, I can tell you; when you walked past both of these the one that made young boys stop and take notice was the Alfa. Growing up in Berkeley CA I got to see a lot of grey market stuff that showed up with a student and stayed with an enthusiast. There were more super cars across the bay in Marin County, but odd European and Japanese cars kept showing up parked on the streets in Berkeley.

      • 0 avatar
        Lie2me

        “A Giulietta 1600 is a lovely car”

        meh, like all Alfa grilles, they just look like something that needs a bikini wax

      • 0 avatar
        bunkie

        Personally, the Giuletta coupe gets my vote for the prettiest Alfa. On a personal note, a wild ride through the streets of Lisbon in the June of ’67 (at the tender age of 12) in a Giuletta is where I get my love of Alfas.

    • 0 avatar
      redav

      Instead of saying it’s unattractive, I’d say it’s a product of a different time. It does little to move me, and I wouldn’t argue with anyone who says they don’t like it.

    • 0 avatar
      Peter Reynolds

      I think the Montreal is pretentious. It pretends to be a mid-engined supercar. Form does not follow function with the styling of this car.

      • 0 avatar
        mcs

        Why does the Montreal look mid-engined to you? It’s clearly front engined. Most of the mid-engines of the era had a vertical rear window and rear sail panels. This car has glass. Sure, it looks like the Muira, but maybe the Muira was trying to resemble a front engine car with the louvers?

        • 0 avatar
          Peter Reynolds

          If I saw this car for the first time today, I would think it was front engined. But in the 70’s, when I first saw the Montreal, I though the slots in the C pillar were air inlets for the engine. And I could see a hint of sail panels: Imagine the glass in the hatch replaced with black louvers.

          This AutoWeek article says it best:

          “… its Kamm tail, slatted headlight covers and B-pillar louvers implied that the Alfa, like the Miura, was mid-engined.”
          http://autoweek.com/article/car-life/history-alfa-romeo-montreal

    • 0 avatar
      Mr. Orange

      Haters going to hate.

  • avatar
    PeteRR

    Drop that body right onto 2016 Miata underpinnings. Sold.

  • avatar

    Before they shut down, Ascot Imports in my hometown had one of these on consignment. They would fire it up and drive it around about once a month. Gorgeous car, and the sound from that V8…

  • avatar

    Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. And this, as referred to Javelin, hurts my eye

  • avatar
    Beerboy12

    This car is gorgeous, thanks for the great write up! I have driven 2 Alpha’s. when I learned to drive one of the 1st cars I drove was a 1.8 twin cam Gulietta. Later I drove a GTV Junior (2.0) quite a bit and that remains my favorite Alpha. I loved watching Juniors race with other assorted classic cars at classic and fine car racing events. Some of them were competitive against Corvette stingrays and another fine beast called a Chevy CanAm. sometimes the Juniors would win.

  • avatar
    petezeiss

    If Italy had only had a Starsky & Hutch type show back then… just needs the stripe.

  • avatar

    We had a 2000 GTV when I was in high school. At one point, my dad sold it. 18 months later, he bought it back. Said he missed it. Such great – if high maintenance – cars.

    • 0 avatar
      jim brewer

      Let me guess: You were a little over 15 when dad sold it, and newly matriculated in college when he bought it back.

      • 0 avatar

        Ha! no. I drove it occasionally in high school. You know, you didn’t go too far from home with that SPICA mechanical….though it could come in handy on a date. I was probably in college, though when he sold it.

        He died a year a go last week so Alfa stories choke me up a bit as, probably more than anything, we shared a love of cars.

  • avatar

    My point is that the design is disjointed. It does not flow, it has competing elements in its design. In fact the 67 Tipo 33 stradale and the gorgeous 67 Ferrari 330 P4, IMHO make this look like, well an I a loan Javelin

    • 0 avatar

      Italian javelin. Spell check sux

    • 0 avatar
      petezeiss

      You’ve nailed the core problem, those stupid, egregious little affectations like the hood inlet and the bizarre slats along the rear pillar utterly destroy any visual flow. Otherwise it would have been a pleasant if rather anonymous proto-fuselage shaped coupe.

      My “What’s your point” comment was actually directed at Lie2me as a pun on the javelin thing. He must have been outs1de taping down the roof of his Tesla.

      • 0 avatar
        Ryoku75

        “You’ve nailed the core problem, those stupid, egregious little affectations like the hood inlet and the bizarre slats along the rear pillar utterly destroy any visual flow”

        As much as I’d like to agree that the stylings a little disjointed, it is arguably ahead of its time.

        I wouldn’t be until another 40 years when the majority of cars produced would become overly aesthetically detailed.

        • 0 avatar
          petezeiss

          The slats up the C-pillar are like neck tats for cars. Didn’t Subaru put graphics there on some Brats? Fieros, too?

          Yes, this appears to be ahead of its time in that sense, like the first kid in a nice neighborhood to go wigga.

        • 0 avatar
          bunkie

          What? Look at the chrome gingerbread (fake rocket tail-lights, orb-like instrument panels, wings, etc.) on any US car made between ’57 and ’63. They hold the record for being “overly aesthetically detailed”.

  • avatar
    djn

    I have two friends that have owned/still own Montreals and have allowed me to drive both. Ronnie got it right, its a gran touring car, even though they used it 105 Giulia chassis, it is not at all light and nimble.

    Beautiful car and about 10 years ago, very affordable.

  • avatar
    MK

    Yeah the design doesnt do much for me either, its a bit disjointed and the louvered half headlight covers just look tacky.

    even more though, alfas are like the attractive but absolutely Bat$hit crazy girl that’s just not worth the drama.

    theyre both all yours fellas, enjoy!

    • 0 avatar
      petezeiss

      “attractive but absolutely Bat$hit crazy girl”

      *sigh* And they never wore bras but *always* wore patchouli in my day.

      • 0 avatar
        petezeiss

        And scarves. Effing scarves flyin’ all over everywhere. Made you vulnerable to the patchouli while trying to determine their assets.

        • 0 avatar
          Lie2me

          Yeah, her…

          http://cache4.asset-cache.net/gc/200449608-001-young-woman-driving-red-convertible-car-gettyimages.jpg?v=1&c=IWSAsset&k=2&d=WMtrJ7OAB6EH5FvZ0mveN0v0UgHyxXO98PXxEcjwTbU%3D

          • 0 avatar
            petezeiss

            Christ, that’s dangerous! With the top down she’ll fumigate the entire campus!

            BTW, here’s how tinyurl.com renders that link:

            http://tinyurl.com/m2r6ywc

    • 0 avatar
      05lgt

      All too true, especially with the mechanical injection. Then again, if you’re young and responsibility free or have the space and resources for a stable…. Some baths!t crazy Alfa is fun from time to time.

  • avatar
    Athos Nobile

    Nice as it is, that car doesn’t do it for me. It is in beautiful condition.

    I like the Spyder (of the Graduate variety), Giulia Sprint, GTV, 75 and 159.

  • avatar
    sportyaccordy

    This is why Alfa Romeo matterED. They blew their relevancy cache years ago, though the 4C and 8C are promising

  • avatar
    Ryoku75

    Sorta looks like a weird mix of different cars, too many odd styling bits cluttering up a nice silhouette.

    I personally prefer the Alfa 1600 GTA, elegant little thing that one is.

  • avatar
    djn

    Several posters have maligned the Spica mechanical injection. I owned 2 spica cars in the 80’s. To be fair, no one understood it at the time, and frankly, everyone wanted an excuse to replace it with webers. Its amazing that Spica complied with radical changes in emission laws for over 11 years with only minor modifications.

    Now its different. Wes Ingram has a shop in Seattle and he’s devoted his energies to making Spica not only run well, but better than carbs of the same era. If I had a Spica alfa today, I would leave the injection on and take it to Wes.

  • avatar
    energetik9

    if your heart doesn’t start beating just a little bit faster when you see a Montreal, you’re not a car enthusiast at all”. Except that for some of us enthusiasts, I’ve never seen this car and it was first sold before I was even born. I see that uniqueness of it and some very similar lines to some other classics of the day, but in general, there is no passionate connection for me.

    Now, as for the Alfa of new. I was very close to purchasing a 4C launch edition. That is a car that elicits pure driving passion in me. The only thing that stopped me from pulling the trigger was the fact that I was not completely comfortable purchasing a new car from a manufacturer that really has very little presence in the US just yet. How I still love the idea of a 4C though. It’s raw, rough, connected and wholly impractical, but I’m not sure if anything on the road can connect a driver to the driving experience like the 4C can.

  • avatar
    stuki

    What’s wrong with just designing beautiful cars under one of FCA’s existing US nameplates? There’s got to be more to it than that.

    Am I understanding it right, by assuming Alfa will take on the BMW 3, 4 and perhaps 5, while Maserati will do battle with 6 & up? And Fiat perhaps the 1 & 2? That would make some sense to me, as anecdotally, despite the Big 3 Germans’ insistence that being “full line” manufacturers doesn’t harm the top end, at least some people buy Range Rovers, Masers, Bentleys et. al. because the S, 7 and A8 are just another Benz, Bimmer or Audi.

    If nothing else, it makes more sense than ditching cars and becoming a handbag maker, Cadillac style…

  • avatar
    hgrunt

    I went straight to youtube and typed in Alfa Montreal. Found this video:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=trH-rBQ02Do

    I think it’s the same car in the picture! Same stereo, RHD, and red!

    Sounds fantastic, too.

  • avatar
    Morea

    Here is the Montreal as a race car:

    http://www.alfamontreal.info/Montreal/Bobcor25.jpg

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