alfa romeo montreal test review

Alpha Montreal, at the end of an era

Italian industry was wiped out during World War II, and Alfa Romeo suffered as much as any other company. Before the war it was a magical brand, capable of producing GT's of the stature of those that Delahaye or Délage made in France; Cars like the 8C 2900B wore marvelous bodies with which they won the Villa d'Este contests of elegance. And the same chassis, covered this time with a radical coupe body, was carried ahead to the majority of the Bugattis participating in the 24 Hours of Le Mans in 1938.

In the early 1930s, before Hitler used Mercedes, Auto-Union and top competition to advertise his world domination project, Alfa Romeo, represented by the Ferrari team, had been the one to speak singer when it came to sporting successes.

Rivers of lines have been written about the "F2" P3 and P1 and the six and eight cylinder models that were sweeping car racing. sports all of them fruit of the ingenuity of the brilliant Vittorio Jano. For its part, the supercharged model 159 dominated the racing of golf carts -small quadricycles- until the end of the decade to, at the end of the next and until approximately the mid-fifties, become a Formula 1 champion.

Alfa Romeo 8C 2900 Le Mans (Courtesy of Alfa Romeo)

The bombers of the Royal Air Force - the Bitanian air force - were used extensively to destroy the facilities of the Italian brand. After the war it was unable to make anything more than small quantities of the late 30s beauties we talked about above, with new and sublime bodies. Logically, he had to rethink his future.

The new Arese cars would not arrive until 1950, thanks to the 1900 model. Designed by Orazio Satta, the engineer responsible for all the Alphas that came until 1973, the year of his death. it was a smaller car than those that had been manufactured until then. With its monocoque chassis and its engine twincam, The objective was to export it en masse to the United States - where a good part of the European production of performance cars was sold until the Old Continent was rebuilt - something that was ultimately not possible due to its high price.

The Giulietta, introduced in 1954, had more potential in this regard. Equipped with the fabulous 1.3 twin cam engine on which the definitive return to action of Alfa Romeo would depend, coupled to a five-speed gearbox, it was still expensive, although being even smaller than its predecessor it was finally positioned as salable in the Land of the Free.

As the dollars came in, Alfa resumed its sporting history. And so enthusiasts of the early 3000s were able to see the Disco Volante and 24CM coupes compete in the great sport events -Mil Millas, Targa Florio, XNUMX Hours of Le Mans, Carrera Panamericana-, although they would soon lose ground to the front. to the cars of ex-employee Enzo Ferrari. These racing cars were also progressively dwarfed, starting with the Giulietta, used in races and rallies particularly in its SZ version, bodied by Zagato.

Giulietta SZ, an action (Courtesy of Alfa Romeo)

Back to the land of the GT's

In 1960 the brand again tried to market a higher-level GT. The 1900 mechanics were getting old, but it was decided to squeeze it a bit more in the 2000 Spider, by Touring, and Sprint Coupe, by Bertone, the first Giorgietto Giugiaro design for the Turinese house. These were very large cars for the old engine, so it was necessary to wait until 1962, when the new six-cylinder model 2600 was launched, to cherish the triumph.

It was available with saloon, spider and coupe bodies from the pre-2000s. The 2600 was an elegant and refined machine, which, although below the pre-war 2600, brought Alfa Romeo back into the coveted category of GT's.

It cannot be said that it was ultimately a success, although the coupe variant sold well thanks to its good looks. The problem was again the price, in addition to a hefty tax burden in Italy and better handling derived from a heavy engine located at the front. It is also true that it had to face new and powerful competitors, especially the Jaguar E, which put Ferrari, Masertati, Aston-Martin or Facel-Vega in a compromise and that, simply, gave more for much less than the 2600 from the Milanese brand, whose production ceased in 1968.

Montreal versus one of its GTV "brothers"

Apart from being the year of psychedelia, peace and love, in 1967 two other important events took place. On the one hand, Canada served as host in the city of Montreal of the Universal Exposition -the Expo-, a world fair then dedicated to the technological avant-garde and that in that edition received the title of Land of Men, in honor of the book of the pioneering aviator Saint-Exupéry, author also of The little Prince. Alfa Romeo sent two Bertone prototypes designed by Marcello Gandini there, which caused a sensation.

On the other hand, in Italy the Type 33 racing prototype was making its debut, equipped with a mid-engine! 8-liter V2 developed by Autodelta, the cabinet-competition team of the prestigious engineer Carlo Chiti. After a long period of gestation, the marriage between the structure and appearance of the prototype brought to Montreal and the competition engine of the T33 would give Alfa Romeo a new opportunity to create a great GT, the model finally named Montreal.

Much changed between 1967 and the presentation of the final car at the 1970 Geneva Motor Show. Externally yes, what was seen at the Canadian City Expo remained in the new GT: the line of the door windows -Gandini in the days the Miura - the column of false vents behind the seats - curiously, the Montreal was never thought to be mid-engined - the sharp lines, the low 'nose' and the eyebrows of the headlights ... all of it was Present. However, the prototypes were mounted on the chassis of the 105 GTV and equipped with the Giulia's 1600 mechanics; the latter would by no means be sufficient for the GT's clientele and, for this reason, the V8 of the T33 entered the scene.

Alfa Romeo Tipo 33/2 Daytona, breathes on an English track (For Brian snelson)

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The T33 engine

The authorship of the Montreal V8 is attributed to Carlo Chiti, and it probably already existed when he co-founded Autodelta, the independent cabinet to which Alfa Romeo subcontracted the management of its racing program in the mid-2s. Its first appearance was in the 33-liter form, in the 1967 T910 designed to beat the Porsche 906 and XNUMX in its class.

This first version of 1.995cc delivered 270 hp, but with it the T33 did not achieve success. It was then decided to increase the cubic capacity to 2.2, 2.5 and, finally, 3 liters for the 1970 car. This final variant produced 400 horses. The 2.5 found its place in the frame of the F1 Brabham that would run the Tasman Series of the 1967-68 season - that is, the unknown Australian and New Zealand winter races for F1 cars with an engine of displacement no greater than its own.

The small power unit was destined for the exquisite T33 Stradale, of which very few units were produced. With its 230 hp, it was an extreme mechanic for "civil use". And when the Montreal prototype was approved for production, the 8 V2.0 became a feasible option as long as it suited the needs of a longer and heavier GT than the racing / customer model just mentioned.

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The mechanics of the Montreal were domesticated by engineers O. Satta and G. Busso

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The relevant modifications were carried out by Alfa Romeo engineers Orazio Satta and Giuseppe Busso, not by Carlo Chiti. From 2 liters it went to 2.5, with a piston diameter of 80 millimeters and a stroke of 64,5, which allowed it to reach 200 CV at an incredible -for the time- 6.500 Rpm. The accompanying sound was - and is - unique and intoxicating. The racing cradle of the Montreal motor is undoubtedly the reason it can spin so high in laps.

Unusually for a road car, the new GT maintained dry sump engine lubrication, an essential requirement - reputedly - for the mechanics to fit under the hood without altering the original lines of the prototype.

However, there are many more differences than similarities between the T33 and Montreal engines; actually, they share few pieces. The SPICA injection is an element to take into account in this regard. Used for the first time in the Brabham-Alfa of the Tasman Series mentioned above, it was seen as the best way to get the new GT to deliver its power in a progressive way.

Although it is complicated to set up and requires a specialist -of which there are only three in the world-, once it has been achieved it is a reliable and simple early F1 injection, mechanical in nature and similar in principle to an injection. diesel of its time. Although the SPICA system does the job, it sounds like a tractor idling.

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This mechanical injection can only be repaired by three specialists in the world

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As regards the engine block and cylinder heads, they are made of aluminum, each one housing the latter two chain-driven camshafts. The bench angle is 90 degrees, not like in the competition version where it is 180. It is a particularly 'full' thruster, with a maximum torque of 235 Nm at 4.750 Rpm and an outstanding power delivery between 2.750 and 6.600. The red line, at 7.000.

Its main Achilles heel is in the bearing located at the front of the water pump, basically inadequate and insufficient. It can fail, especially in a car that has been stationary for a long time. The consequences of mixing oil and water with severe, so we advise the reader, before buying a Montreal, look under the oil cap for Mayonnaise.

This bearing can and should be replaced by a larger and better positioned one, although to do so it is necessary to remove the motor, a task not suitable for doing in the home garage. Even so, better to be safe than sorry, because the truth is that the cost of repairing one of these engines makes you want to cry.

Finally, we must not believe the urban legend that the Montreal's powerplant consists of two twin-cam four-cylinder mechanics joined together. It is important to note in this regard that the cylinder heads are similar, it is true, but not the same.

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The chassis of the Montreal was not at the height of its propellant


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Martin Horrocks

Written by Martin Horrocks

My name is Martin Horrocks. Since I came to live in Madrid in 2006, enjoying my passion with the rest of the fans is what has best helped me to integrate into Spanish society. Day by day I drive a Fiat Panda 100hp, an exciting and fun car, although I also have a ... Read More


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