I sometimes think I’m fated to have encounters with unusual Alfas when I least expect to…
The 2600 duo in Friedrichstadt, the SZ in Dorridge, and the decaying Fadesa Romeo van on the road into Fornells spring immediately to mind.This Montreal was spotted on an unremarkable suburban street in Basel in March 2008. I imagine that the massive rise in classic car prices would make such encounters far less likely now.
The Montreal was one of the fabulous crop of new cars at the 1970 Geneva Salon; Porsche 917 (nominally a road car), Range Rover, Citroën SM, Triumph Stag. They couldn’t have come at a worse time, as geo-political tensions would make the flaunting of wealth, even in a tasteful manner, a risky activity.
Unlike the others, the Alfa’s shape was familiar, as Marcello Gandini at Bertone’s show car at the Italian pavilion at the 1967 Montreal Expo. That car was a re-bodied Giulia Sprint GT.
Three years on, the production version borrowed many parts from its 1750GT Veloce successor, but used a version of the 33 Stradale’s four camshaft V8 adapted to suit a grand tourer. Capacity was increased from 2.0 to 2.6 litres, a cross-plane crankshaft replaced the 33’s flat-plane component. SPICA fuel injection featured on both.
The power output was around 200bhp (DIN), highly tuned for a 2.6 at the time. Despite the racing heritage of the high-revving power unit, The Alfa was not particularly well received. Contemporary reports suggest that the 1750GTV-derived chassis was not up to the power of the V8. Perhaps it was simply too ordinary for a car priced within tantalising range of the Dino, Uracco, and Merak.
Going by September 1974 prices, a Montreal cost £6085. An SM cost £6679, for which one could buy two Range Rovers. A Dino 308 GT4 was priced at £8340.
3900 Montreals were built in the course of a seven year production life. Alfa’s targets were not revealed, but there’s no doubt that the project objective was to produce a glamorous high-end flagship, rather than an all-rounder like the 2600 Sprint.
I doubt if I will ever drive a Montreal, so I can only judge it as a piece of sculpture. I was captivated by the pictures in 1970, 38 years later, on a Swiss suburban street it still looked just as good.