The Shoeshiners Dream of Sweeping Chimneys

This is one of 6,999 examples made, an Alfa Romeo 2600 Sprint. Bertone takes the credit for the admirable styling.

To engender inner calm
Alfa Romeo 2600 Bertone coupe

Bertone did the coupé, Touring did the Spider and, I suppose, Alfa Romeo did the handsome saloon one sees very little of. In 1962 this must have been certain to make the neighbours sit up and notice, especially in the UK and Ireland where the British marques had such a dominant presence in the market. It would have cost more than three times the price of Cortina or Austin 1800. So if you wanted to

1962 Alfa Romeo Sprint interior: source

make an impression, a car like this would certainly do so. Only the super-rare OSI-bodied version would have been a more exclusive variant on this chassis.

For bettering the standing of the sitting
Alfa Romeo 2600 coupe rear seats

The 2600 Sprint looked long but was only 4.53 m from stern to stem. The styling carefully accentuates the size; the tiny turret glass-house sits neatly and distinctly separate from the body but seems to have plenty of space inside. The car sat on a 2.58 m wheelbase (2.72 m for the saloon, 2.5m for the Spider).

To help me lose weight
Grille of beauty

The heart of this steed is the six-cylinder twin ohc engine, banging out 130 bhp, more than enough to frighten Jones in his Corsair. The bore and stroke were 83 x 79.6 mm and power went through a four-speeder, with a maximum speed of 109 mph. Contemporary reports described handling characteristics of understeer and body roll with a disappointing lack of directness to the steering (4 turns lock to lock). At least the steering had no slop and the gearchange offered crisp and clear actions. To stop the beast, all-round disc brakes.

This is the 1965 OSI-bodied saloon, neat and almost German in its restraint:

1965 Alfa Romeo 2600 OSI-bodied saloon: source

While we think of today as distinct period of engine-format uncertainty, the sixites were also a time of alternation. Michael Sedgwick in “Classic Cars of the 1950s and 1960s” (1983, Tiger Books) writes “Sixes were moving up into the prestige bracket. Big fours were still viable in family sedans, but not in luxury models – as Amstrong Siddeley discovered to their cost in 1956 when they challenged the new compact Jaguar with their Sapphire 234…the lumpy feeling of the four-cylinder engine was the last straw.”

“The pattern of four-versus-six remained uneven. Rover, who concentrated most of their efforts on sixes went back to an overhead camshaft four in 1964 for their very successful 2000, while Fiat tended to withdraw from the six-cylinder market in the later 1960s. The Humber Super Snipe ended a run over a quarter of a century in 1967, while Alfa Romeo’s 2600 and Lancia’s Flaminia were neither of them impressive sellers. On the other hand, Triumph introduced a 2-litre inline six for 1964 and did very well with it.” As did BMW.

On the ashtray front, the driver’s tray is oddly located, between the undercroft and the gear wand. It could very well have been higher up, at the same level as the glove box. In the rear, the after-market safety belt reel is in the way, evidence that the ashtray was placed without consideration of the need for the safety belt. Absent the reel, the tray is nicely positioned, not that there would ever be so many passengers in the back of a 2+2 like this one.

The car is another item from Deane Motors‘ rather nice catalogue.

Author: richard herriott

I like anchovies. I dislike post-war town planning.

22 thoughts on “The Shoeshiners Dream of Sweeping Chimneys”

  1. My dream car at the time this one was registered (I would have been 10 at the time). By the time I came to man’s estate, however, they were already mostly raddled rot-boxes even if I could have managed the insurance, so it was never to be.

    1. This is a lovely car for a collector and it needs to be stored bone dry. I love the way the grille flows over the bonnet.
      Ingvar is less impressed though: is it the engine itself or the car as a whole?
      I am surprised nobody´s been provoked by the OSI version yet.

    2. I’ve never driven one or never even seen one in the flesh, so my opinion is pure conjecture. I just think it missed its mark, that’s all. But with over 6000 made it is actually a minor success. And for being Giugiaros first production car it is a very good first effekt. It is slightly derivative, reminiscent of the Gordon-Keeble, and it lacks the nimble grace of the 105-range. It is a beautiful var, but compromised in a way I really can’t put my finger on. It’s like a former athlete now becoming just untrained and fat. It sits a little too high on a too small chassis, like it was a post war body on a pre war chassis. It reminds me in that sense of the Bertone coupe on the BMW V8 separate chassis. And BMW didn’t get that formula completely right until the E9 either. It has a sense of being unfinished over it, or just not completely there yet.

      I’ve always been fascinated by the OSI 2600. I find it completely mindboggling they handbuilt 60 of them or so, looking like a car BMW churned out in the tens of thousands every year. Why they continued to make it in parallell with the factory sedan is just utterly mindboggingly insane. Why wasn’t the factory car replaced by the OSI variant outright?

  2. This is indeed a Deadly Sin, as it made Alfa Romeo piss away its heritage of being prominently a maker of six-cylinder cars. Pre World War II they were indeed one of the greatest, after the war almost their entire reputation was built upon the twin cam four. One of the greatest engines in history in its own right, but it ain’t no six. BMW seems to be destined to be the be all and end all of sports sedans, but it is funny how they were ascending at the same time so many others were descending, like Alfa and Triumph.

    1. BMW, since you mention them, are marginalising their six cylinder offering into near-oblivion. A 330i is a 2 litre four – it’s not so long since the 320i had a 2.2 litre six. It may have been heavier and less fuel efficient than a same-size four, but it was smoother, and a discernibly different driving experience. BMW used to advertise their range in the days of the M1 as “Six cylinders where you expect to find four, six cylinders where you expect to find twelve”.

      Now it’s three cylinders where you expect to find four, four cylinder where you expect to find six, and a diesel six where you expect to find a petrol V8, in the case of their 840d. (One of these has recently appeared in the neighbourhood – it looks like a failed attempt to copy a Holden Monaro)

  3. For me, the way the front wings flow seamlessly into the nose and front valance is pure poetry. I know this was hugely labour intensive (and risky?) involving lead-loading of the seams etc., but absolutely worth it for the quality of finish achieved. I would love to run my hands over those exquisite curves and folds surrounding the inset grille. Note to BMW: that’s how you do a three-dimentional grille.

    Look at almost any current mass-produced “premium” coupé and weep at how far we’ve travelled in the wrong direction.

  4. An almost forgotten masterpiece.

    The venomous pointer, stemming from the grille badge as if being swallowed by the engine, is just a class act, showing how can a good designer
    dare to resort to even such bizzarties, and still end up
    with a coherent, elegant result.

    When commenting about dashboard designs, I always try to imagine (audilize?) the engine soundtrack first. The sleekness and relaxing minimalism this one exudes, was probably a perfect background
    to the musically ecstatic experience inherent to driving these .

  5. The OSI-bodied 2600 Berlina is remarkable for a mid-60’s design. It looks at least a decade younger. Indeed, it has the appearance of having nabbed the door pressings off a Lancia Beta – in an alternate universe or somesuch…

  6. After reading up on OSI it seems they were specialized in pressed steel bodies, productionalizing small series of cars for other makers, not unlike Carbodies and Pressed Steel when they were independent. I always thought the OSI 2600 “De Luxe” was handbuilt, seeing they only made 54 of them. But it has the look of a productionalized pressed steel monocoque. Could it be they ordered an entire production line for pressing that car in metal, while only making 54 individual cars? Or could it be seen as some kind of pre-production range, still handmade before the presses were ordered? I can see they handbuilt them with the look of a factory product, the cost and the loss must have been enormous otherwise.

  7. A worthy member of the dynasty of failed big Alfas – 2600, M0ntreal, Sei, 166.

    Like all Alfas from that era it is astonishingly hard work to drive fast mainly because of Alfa’s insistence on giving their cars suspension geometries with lots of roll up front outdone only by the 2CV making the car anything but agile (the first Alfa without this was the ‘Bertone’ 2000 GTV with new front suspension geometry). These cars are very relaxed Grand Tourers and not the sports cars you would expect from Alfa.

    Just listen here and you’ll forgive it anything:

  8. I b’lieve the 2600 is based on the iron block 2000, itself derived from the 1900. The 2000 (iron block) and 2600 Sprint share that lovely Bertone shell, the Spiders the not so lovely Touring shell that was also the basis of the Flaminia Spider and Maserati 3500 Spider. Re the 2000 (iron block), see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alfa_Romeo_2000

    I’ve driven a 2600 Sprint a short distance forwards and then backwards in a parking lot. It had what seemed like a major drive train problem and was very rusty, a problem common to Alfas of that era, at least in the US. I didn’t buy it.

    I ran a 2000 (iron block) Touring-bodied Spider for several years. Bought it from a friend, sold it to another friend. We’re still all on good terms.

    That car came to a sad end. A tornado collapsed my buyer’s garage on it. By the time he dug the car out the body had rusted beyond repair.

    I think of it as an Italian equivalent of the original two-seater Ford Thunderbird, with a few differences. Not as quick or as fast as a Bird, but with much better roadholding and, especially, brakes. Diabolical three leading shoe drums, hard to adjust. Very much a grand tourer, not so much a pur sang sporting machine.

    1. The 2600’s bodies are indeed derived from the 2000’s and modified to accept the longer engine. The engine has nothing to do with the 2000 iron block and is related to the all aluminium 101 series’.
      It’s interesting that you mention the older car’s drum brakes. Alfa stuck to drums for an astonishingly long time and their drum brakes for sure weren’t any cheaper to make than discs with three leading shoes (please don’t try to brake when driving backwards) and finned aluminium outers with shrunk in cast iron brake rings.

    1. This car cost the equivalent of 16.000 €. At the same an Opel Kapitän was yours for 5.000 € and a VW Beetle set you back 2.500 €.

    2. Out of curiosity, I had a quick check of the new car prices in that June 1965 copy of Motor.

      The £2950 asked for the 2600 Sprint would have got you one and a half 3.8 litre Jaguar E-type fixed-head coupes. For £48 more than the Alfa, an Alvis TE21 Series III FHC was in reach.

      Surprisingly, the Fiat 2300S Coupe was only £6 cheaper than the Alfa. A left-field option would have been a Citroën DS Décapotable at £2918, even more so an Abarth 1000 Bialbiero at £2889.

      Britain didn’t have a direct rival to the 2600 Sprint – the Alvis is too staid, and Jaguar were yet to offer a four seat coupe. The closest I can find are the Gordon-Keeble GK1 at £3627, or the £3491 Jensen C-V8. A damn shame, as the former was a promising start-up product from a company which soon collapsed, and the latter was moribund by 1965.

  9. Thank you Richard.
    I have that ‘handsome saloon that one sees very little of’. If I could work out how to add a photo to a comment, I would include one.
    Jeremy

    1. Hi Jeremy. I can help you with photo uploading using Imgur. Please let me know if you’re interested. In the meantime, here’s another photo of the delicious coupé:

    1. Good morning Jeremy. Very happy to help. I mainly use an Android tablet to access DTW, so the following instructions may need to be modified for PC or IPad use.

      1. Download and install the Imgur app from the Play Store.
      2. Open Imgur and register to open an account.
      3. Find the photo you want to appear in your DTW post.
      4. “Press and hold” on the photo until a list of options appears.
      5. Choose “Share Image” from the options.
      6. Choose the green Imgur thumbnail, which opens the app.
      7. Click on “Public” (top-left, just above your photo) and choose “Hidden” instead.
      8. Click on “Upload” (green box, top-right) and your photo will upload after a few seconds, depending on the upload speed of your broadband.
      9. Click on “View” (green box, top-right) and your uploaded photo will be displayed.
      10. “Press and hold” on your photo until a grid of thumbnails appears.
      11. Choose the “Copy URL” thumbnail.
      12 Return to DTW and “Press and hold” in the comment box where you want the photo to appear. The copied URL will appear momentarily, then be replaced by the photo.

      “Press and hold” means holding your finger on the screen for a few moments until a list of options or thumbnails appears. (There’s probably a correct name for this action but I don’t know what it is.)

      This all sounds long-winded, but it take a me only a few seconds as I’ve done it often and am well practiced. Do let me know if you’ve any problems, otherwise I look forward to seeing your lovely Alfa!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.