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Abarths and Alfa Romeo at Hever Castle – June 2019

For some years now, the internet has been the prime source both for publicising car events and for people to find about them. And it has enabled a vast increase in the number of events to take place compared to the era when publicity was in magazines and tickets were either bought by mail or at the gate. Whilst many of the larger events hope to get a capacity crowd as a result of using every publicity medium that they can think of, others are quite content for people to stumble across them and then to join in and the there are more, lots more, which are not offered to the general public, which are effectively private events, though in some case they take place at a public location without the site being closed to anyone who is not part of the group that booked it. It does mean that you cannot possibly know about all the events that go on across the country. And so it should not surprise me that even though I am aware of a number of those organised under the auspices of the Alfa Romeo Owners Club, I am not aware of all of them. The event being presented here is a case in point. It is the largest gathering of the Kent and East Sussex Group within AROC, and for some years, they have been meeting at the picturesque and historic site of Hever Castle in Kent for a Midsummer gathering. I only came to find out about it as some weeks before the event, an email fell into my in-box from John Third, AROC Kent and East Sussex Leader, inviting Abarth Owners Club to join them. His email went on to say that they had decided that they would invite a “guest” club to join them at the event, and that we were the very first one that they had selected. I was sure that we would be able to do justice to the invitation, so immediately accepted it, and looked forward to a gathering of Italian cars at a venue I’d not previously visited. Although there was a lot of rain in the days leading up to this event, the ground was still reassuringly firm underfoot, and the rain stayed away on the day itself, meaning that there was an excellent turnout of Alfa and Abarth cars, with a few surprises. Here is my summary of the day.

ABARTH

In the correspondence I had about the event, it was indicated that there would be space for up to 30 Abarths, in our own parking area. On the evidence of many past events, I suspected that we would have more expressions of interest than that, but in the end, this event failed to secure the huge Abarth presence that we tend to get, and there were fewer than 20 AOC cars on site, with a couple more display cars brought along by the local dealer and one rather special car which was on loan from Abarth UK.

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The majority of the Abarths were from the 500 family, with a nice mix of different models from the 4 “series” that have been offered since the UK launch in February 2009. More recent Series 4 cars were the most numerous, unsurprisingly, but both Paul Feldman and Paul Hatton had their 500 Esseesse to show off, with the former being accoladed as “Best Abarth” in the concours competition which was held during the day.

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There was also a 695 Rivale here, but this was one of the dealer cars. It attracted plenty of attention, as you might expect. The 695 Rivale is the latest celebration of Fiat’s partnership with Riva, which has already seen a special Riva version of the 500,. Described as being “the most sophisticated Abarth ever”, it is available either as a hatch or a cabriolet, with both of them featuring a two-tone Riva Sera Blue and Shark Grey paintwork. The Rivale  is adorned with an aquamarine double stripe, satin chrome finish on the door handles and satin chrome moulding on the tailgate, various aesthetic elements inspired by the Riva 56 Rivale yachts and ‘695 Rivale’ logos, joined by Brembo Brakes, Koni suspension, and 17-inch Supersport alloy wheels. Enhancing the nautical theme the new 695 Rivale features either a carbon fibre or mahogany dashboard, black mats with blue inserts, blue leather seats and door panels, carbon fibre kick plates, special steering wheel wrapped in blue and black leather and with a mahogany badge, blue leather instrument panel cover, and mahogany gear lever knob and kick plate. These are joined by the standard Uconnect infotainment with a 7-inch display, which is compatible with Android Auto and Apple CarPlay, and there is also a hand-written numbered plate that can be customised with the mane of the customer’s yacht on request. Powering the 695 Rivale is the same 1.4-litre turbocharged engine that makes 180PS (177hp) and 184lb/ft of torque, that features in the 595 Competizione, allowing it to go from rest to 100km/h (62mph) in 6.7 seconds and up to a top speed of 225km/h (140mph). This is a regular model in the range, but confusingly, there is also the Abarth 695 Rivale 175 Anniversary, created to celebrate 175 years of the Riva brand. Just 350 of these were produced, half of them the hatch and the other half cabriolets. These featured 17-inch alloy wheels with a special pattern, celebratory badge on the outside, hand-crafted details such as the two-tone colour – blue and black hand-stitched leather seats with a celebratory logo stitched onto the headrest, carbon dashboard silk screen printed with special logo, numbered plate. Standard Rivale cars arrived in the UK in April 2018, and quite a few have been sold. They always attract lots of interest when they do appear.

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We also amassed a few of the latest 124 Spider cars. Eagerly awaited, the 124 Spider went on sale in September 2016. A quick reminder as to what this car is: The Abarth 124 Spider was developed in parallel with the Fiat model. It does cost a lot more, and there are those who think you don’t get enough extra for your money, but those who have driven it will tell you otherwise. You certainly get more power. The 1.4 MultiAir turbo unit jumps up from 138bhp to 168bhp, while torque also increases by a modest 10Nm to 250Nm, which gives it a  0-62mph time of  6.8 seconds, which is half a second quicker than the 2.0-litre Mazda MX-5. The top speed is 143mph. It weighs just 1060kg meaning a power-to-weight ratio of 158bhp-per-tonne, and with the new Record Monza exhaust system it sounds great even at idle. The Abarth version gets a stiffer suspension setup than the regular Fiat 124 Spider, with Bilstein dampers and beefed-up anti-roll bars. Bigger Brembo brakes also feature, with aluminium calipers. It can be had with a six-speed manual or six-speed automatic transmission with paddles, and the latter gets a Sport mode for quicker shifts. Many of the UK cars sport the ‘Heritage Look’ pack, which is a no-cost option. It brings a matt black bonnet and bootlid, plus red exterior trim detailing and has proved popular. The £29,565 starting price gets you standard equipment such as cruise control, climate control, Bluetooth, a DAB radio and satnav, plus Alcantara black and red (or pure black) seat trim. The automatic gearbox is a £2,035 extra, while an optional visibility pack brings LED DRLs, auto lights and wipers and rear parking sensors. Even a couple of years after the first cars reached the UK, this is a rare sighting, with only around 1500 of them on UK roads.

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The final car here was something rather special, This 124 “Rally”, or more officially the Abarth 124 Retro Rally 70th Anniversary belongs to Abarth UK and has been created as a homage to the original Abarth 124 Spider Rally of the early 1970s. On this occasion it had been loaned out to Bradley Lawrence, a videographer who works for a number of car-related sites. He confirmed that he had very much enjoyed the loan and it was going to be hard to return it to Slough at the end of his week with the car.  Although the car features a hardtop, it is not in fact one of the 124GT cars, but rather a standard 124 Spider with the carbon fibre roof added, an option which would usually cost a not insignificant £4356 and in this case all bar the removable hardtop’s bolts have been painted yellow or red. Removing this extremely light – it weighs just 16kg – roof is not particularly easy, as you need to undo five retaining screws, but it is light enough that one person can the lift it off. The livery has been chosen to remind of the rally cars of the early 1970s which is why it bears decals saying “Fiat” and “Olio Fiat” as the 1970s cars did in period, and the Heritage Pack, which includes a black bonnet and boot lid is not fitted as the rally cars in period generally had red main bodywork with yellow lower bodywork and roof surrounds. The white wheels are regular Sport wheels, rather than the 124 GT’s OZ Ultra-Light alloys. The 70 decals on the doors clearly are there as a reminder of Abarth’s70th anniversary this year. It is a one-off, though I guess you could create your own if you really wanted to do so. .

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ALFA ROMEO

Oldest of the Alfa models on show were a number of examples of the Giulia range, sometimes referred to as the 105 Series cars. The first of the true Giulia models to appear was the Berlina in 1962. The styling was quite straight forward, but great attention was paid to detail. The engine bay, cabin and boot were all square shaped. But the grille, the rooflines and details on the bonnet and boot made for an integrated design from bumper to bumper. Thanks to Alfa Romeo using a wind tunnel during its development, the Giulia was very aerodynamic with a drag coefficient of Cd=0.34, which was particularly low for a saloon of the era and not a bad figure even for cars of today. Couple that with the fact that Alfa Romeo was one of the first manufacturers to put a powerful engine in a light-weight car (it weighed about 1,000 kilograms) and thanks to an array of light alloy twin overhead camshaft four-cylinder engine, similar to that of the earlier Giulietta models range, the car had a lively performance which bettered that of many sports cars of the day. The Tipo 105.14 was the first model, with a 1,570 cc Twin Cam engine with single down-draft carburettor generating 91 hp at 6500 rpm. The “TI” nomenclature referred to a class of Italian saloon car racing known as “Turismo Internazionale”, and had previously been applied to higher-performance versions of the 1900 and Giulietta saloons in the 1950s. However, for the Giulia saloon, the Ti was at first the only version available, and later, with the introduction of the TI Super and Super, the TI became the base version for the 1,600 cc engine class. The steering column gearchange (the only one in the Giulia range) was replaced with a floor change for 1964 (Tipo 105.08). Right hand drive cars, available from 1964, only ever had a floor change (Tipo 105.09). Brakes were by drums all around at first. Discs were introduced later, first at the front, and later all around. A brake servo was not fitted at first, but was introduced in later cars. The steering wheel featured the only horn ring ever in the Giulia range. The dashboard with a strip speedo is a notable feature, as is the steering wheel with a horn ring. The Giulia TI was phased out in 1968 and re-introduced as the austerity model 1600 S.  Tipo 105.16 was a special racing model introduced in 1963. Quadrifoglio Verde stickers on the front wings were a distinguishing feature. Only 501 were made for homologation and today it is very rare and desirable. The 1,570 cc engine was fitted with two double-choke horizontal Weber 45DCOE carburettors for 110 hp at 6500 rpm. The body was lightened and a floor gearchange was fitted as standard, as were alloy wheels of very similar appearance to the standard steel ones of the TI. The TI’s instrument cluster with its strip speedometer was replaced with a three-instrument binnacle comprising speedometer, tachometer and a multi-gauge instrument (fuel, water temperature, oil temperature and pressure) – these instruments were similar to those fitted to the contemporary Giulia Sprint and Sprint Speciale coupes and Spider convertibles. The steering wheel was a three-spoke item with centre hornpush, also similar to that of the more sporting models. Braking was by discs all around, although the first cars used drums and early disc models lacked a servo which was introduced later. The police cars seen in The Italian Job were of this type. Tipo 105.06 was an austerity model made from 1964 to 1970 with a 1,290 cc single-carburettor engine for 77 hp at 6000 rpm. Four-speed gearbox with floor change fitted as standard (the 1300 was the only Giulia model not fitted with a five-speed gearbox). Though the engine was given a 105 series type number, it was basically the engine from the 101 series Giulietta Ti. This model appears not to have been exported to many markets outside Italy, if at all. Braking was by discs all around, without a servo at first, later with a servo. Tipo 105.26 was introduced in 1965. It transferred the technology from the racing TI Super to a road car, to make the most successful Giulia saloon. 1,570 cc engine with two double-choke Weber 40DCOE carburettors for a milder, but torquier tune than the TI Super – 97 hp at 5500 rpm. There was a new dashboard with two large round instruments (speedo and tacho) and clock, a sportier steering wheel with three aluminium spokes and centre horn push, similar to that of the Ti Super, later changed for one with the horn pushes in the spokes. All-around disc brakes with servo were fitted as standard from the outset. The serpent crest of the Sforza family appears in a badge on the C-pillar and is a distinguishing feature of the Super. For 1968, there was a suspension update, including revised geometry and a rear anti-roll bar. The wheels were changed in size from 5J x 15 to 5J x 14, and tyres from 155/15 to 165/14. For 1970, updates included dual-circuit brakes, centre-mounted handbrake lever to replace under-dash “umbrella handle”, larger external doorhandles, and top-hinged pedals (the latter in left hand drive models only; right hand drive continued with bottom-hinged pedals to the end of production). In 1972, Tipo 105.26 was rationalised into the Giulia 1.3 – Giulia 1.6 range. Tipo 105.39 built from 1965 to 1972. Right hand drive model replaced in 1970 by the 1300 Super. 1,290 cc engine with single down-draft carburettor for 81 hp at 6000 rpm. Unlike the re-deployed 101-series Giulietta engine of the austerity-model 1300, the 1300 ti motor was a 105 series engine, basically that of the sportier GT1300 Junior coupe with different camshaft timing (but the same camshafts) and induction system. Five-speed gearbox. Three-spoke bakelite steering wheel with plastic horn push covering the centre and spokes. Dashboard initially with strip speedo like that of the TI. For 1968, updates included a dashboard based on that of the Super, but with a simpler instrument binnacle, still featuring two large round instruments (speedo and tacho) and a separate fuel gauge, and the same suspension, wheel and tire updates applied to the Giulia Super in the same year. For 1970, updates included dual-circuit brakes, centre handbrake, larger external doorhandles and top-hinged pedals (on left hand drive cars only), again as applied to the Super for that year. Tipo 105.85 was basically a Giulia TI re-introduced in 1968 as a lower-level model to come between the 1300 and 1300 ti on one hand, and the Super on the other. It had a re-interpretation of the 1,570 cc single-carburettor engine for 94 hp at 5500 rpm and similar trim to the 1300 ti. Replaced in 1970 by the 1300 Super which offered similar performance in a lower tax bracket. The last cars from 1970 featured the top-hinged pedals, centre handbrake and dual-circuit brakes as for the Super and 1300 ti. Tipo 115.09 was introduced in 1970. It was basically a 1300 ti fitted with the engine from the GT 1300 Junior coupe that featured two double-choke horizontal carburettors; the engine actually had the GT 1300 Junior type number. This model was rationalised into the Giulia Super 1.3 – Giulia Super 1.6 range in 1972. In 1972 a rationalisation of the Giulia range saw the Super 1300 (Tipo 115.09) and the Super (Tipo 105.26) re-released as the Super 1.3 and Super 1.6. The two models featured the same equipment, interior and exterior trim, differing only in engine size and final drive ratio. The 1300 ti was dropped. A small Alfa Romeo badge on the C-pillar is a distinguishing feature, as are hubcaps with exposed wheel nuts. In December 1972 Alfa-Romeo South Africa released the 1600 Rallye. This locally developed more powerful 1600 cc version of the 1300 Super used the 1300’s single-headlight body shell. The car was largely ready for competition and was only planned to be built in limited numbers, and was fitted with racing-style rear-view mirrors, rally lamps, fully adjustable seats, and a limited-slip differential. Claimed power was 125 hp. The Giulia Super range was re-released in 1974 as the Nuova Super range, including the Giulia Nuova Super 1300 and 1600 This featured a new black plastic front grille and a flat boot lid without the characteristic centre spine. Otherwise the cars differed little from their Giulia Super predecessors and bore the same Tipo numbers with an S suffix. A Nuova Super fitted with a Perkins 1,760 cc diesel with 54 hp at 4000 rpm, was the firm’s first attempt at diesel power. The same Perkins diesel was used also in Alfa Romeo F12 van. The diesel version was slow, 138 km/h (86 mph), and the engine somehow unsuitable for a sport sedan so it was not big seller, only around 6500 examples were made in 1976 and the car was not sold in the UK. Production of the Giulia ceased in 1977. There are relatively few of these cars in the UK, and many of these are left hand drive models which have been re-imported relatively recently, or have been converted for historic racing, so it was good to see a nice road-going model here.

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Rather more numerous at this event, as indeed is the generally the case where old Alfa are gathered was the Coupe version. The first car was called the Alfa Romeo Giulia Sprint GT, and was revealed at a press event held at the then newly opened Arese plant on 9 September 1963, and displayed later the same month at the Frankfurt Motor Show. In its original form the Bertone body is known as scalino (step) or “step front”, because of the leading edge of the engine compartment lid which sat 1/4 an inch above the nose of the car. The Giulia Sprint GT can be distinguished from the later models by a number of features including: Exterior badging: Alfa Romeo logo on the front grille, a chrome script reading “Giulia Sprint GT” on the boot lid, and rectangular “Disegno di Bertone” badges aft of the front wheel arches; flat, chrome grille in plain, wide rectangular mesh without additional chrome bars; single-piece chrome bumpers; no overriders. Inside the cabin the padded vinyl dashboard was characterised by a concave horizontal fascia, finished in grey anti-glare crackle-effect paint. Four round instruments were inset in the fascia in front of the driver. The steering wheel was non-dished, with three aluminium spokes, a thin bakelite rim and a centre horn button. Vinyl-covered seats with cloth centres and a fully carpeted floor were standard, while leather upholstery was an extra-cost option. After initially marketing it as a four-seater, Alfa Romeo soon changed its definition of the car to a more realistic 2+2. The Giulia Sprint GT was fitted with the 1,570 cc version of Alfa Romeo’s all-aluminium twin cam inline four (78 mm bore × 82 mm stroke), which had first debuted on the 1962 Giulia Berlina. Breathing through two twin-choke Weber 40 DCOE 4 carburettors, on the Sprint GT this engine produced 105 hp at 6,000 rpm. Like all subsequent models, the Sprint GT was equipped with an all-synchromesh 5-speed manual transmission. The braking system comprised four Dunlop disc brakes and a vacuum servo. The rear brakes featured an unusual arrangement with the slave cylinders mounted on the axle tubes, operating the calipers by a system of levers and cranks. According to Alfa Romeo the car could reach a top speed of “over 180 km/h (112 mph)”. In total 21,902 Giulia Sprint GT were produced from 1963 to 1965, when the model was superseded by the Giulia Sprint GT Veloce. Of these 2,274 were right hand drive: 1,354 cars fully finished in Arese, and 920 shipped in complete knock-down kit form for foreign assembly. For 1966, the Giulia Sprint GT was replaced by the Alfa Romeo Giulia Sprint GT Veloce, which was very similar but featuring a number of improvements: a revised engine—slightly more powerful and with more torque—better interior fittings and changes to the exterior trim. Alongside the brand new 1750 Spider Veloce which shared its updated engine the Sprint GT Veloce was introduced at the 36th Geneva Motor Show in March 1966, and then tested by the international specialist press in Gardone on the Garda Lake.  Production had began in 1965 and ended in 1968. The Giulia Sprint GT Veloce can be most easily distinguished from other models by the following features: badging as per Giulia Sprint GT, with the addition of round enamel badges on the C-pillar—a green Quadrifoglio (four-leaf clover) on an ivory background—and a chrome “Veloce” script on the tail panel; black mesh grille with three horizontal chrome bars; the grille heart has 7 bars instead of 6; stainless steel bumpers, as opposed to the chromed mild steel bumpers on the Giulia Sprint GT. The bumpers are the same shape, but are made in two pieces (front) and three pieces (rear) with small covers hiding the joining rivets. Inside the main changes from the Giulia Sprint GT were imitation wood dashboard fascia instead of the previous anti-glare grey finish, front seats revised to a mild “bucket” design, and a dished three aluminium spoke steering wheel, with a black rim and horn buttons through the spokes. The Veloce’s type 00536 engine, identical to the Spider 1600 Duetto’s, featured modifications compared to the Giulia Sprint GT’s type 00502—such as larger diameter exhaust valves. As a result it produced 108 hp at 6,000 rpm, an increase of 3 hp over the previous model, and significantly more torque. The top speed now exceeded 185 km/h (115 mph). Early Giulia Sprint GT Veloces featured the same Dunlop disc brake system as the Giulia Sprint GT, while later cars substituted ATE disc brakes as pioneered on the GT 1300 Junior in 1966. The ATE brakes featured an handbrake system entirely separate from the pedal brakes, using drum brakes incorporated in the rear disc castings. Though the Sprint GT Veloce’s replacement—the 1750 GT Veloce—was introduced in 1967, production continued throughout the year and thirty final cars were completed in 1968.  By then total Giulia Sprint GT Veloce production amounted to 14,240 examples. 1,407 of these were right hand drive cars, and 332 right hand drive complete knock-down kits. The Alfa Romeo 1750 GT Veloce (also known as 1750 GTV) appeared in 1967 along with the 1750 Berlina sedan and 1750 Spider. The same type of engine was used to power all three versions; this rationalisation was a first for Alfa Romeo. The 1750 GTV replaced the Giulia Sprint GT Veloce and introduced many updates and modifications. Most significantly, the engine capacity was increased to 1779 cc displacement. Peak power from the engine was increased to 120 hp at 5500 rpm. The stroke was lengthened from 82 to 88.5 mm over the 1600 engine, and a reduced rev limit from 7000 rpm to 6000 rpm. Maximum torque was increased to 137 lb·ft at 3000 rpm. A higher ratio final drive was fitted (10/41 instead of 9/41) but the same gearbox ratios were retained. The result was that, on paper, the car had only slightly improved performance compared to the Giulia Sprint GT Veloce, but on the road it was much more flexible to drive and it was easier to maintain higher average speeds for fast touring. For the United States market, the 1779 cc engine was fitted with a fuel injection system made by Alfa Romeo subsidiary SPICA, to meet emission control laws that were coming into effect at the time. Fuel injection was also featured on Canadian market cars after 1971. Carburettors were retained for other markets. The chassis was also significantly modified. Tyre size went to 165/14 from 155/15 and wheel size to 5 1/2J x 14 instead of 5J x 15, giving a wider section and slightly smaller rolling diameter. The suspension geometry was also revised, and an anti-roll bar was fitted to the rear suspension. ATE disc brakes were fitted from the outset, but with bigger front discs and calipers than the ones fitted to GT 1300 Juniors and late Giulia Sprint GT Veloces. The changes resulted in significant improvements to the handling and braking, which once again made it easier for the driver to maintain high average speeds for fast touring. The 1750 GTV also departed significantly from the earlier cars externally. New nose styling eliminated the “stepped” bonnet of the Giulia Sprint GT, GTC, GTA and early GT 1300 Juniors and incorporated four headlamps. For the 1971 model year, United States market 1750 GTV’s also featured larger rear light clusters (there were no 1970 model year Alfas on the US market). Besides the chrome “1750” badge on the bootlid, there was also a round Alfa Romeo badge. Similar Quadrofoglio badges to those on the Giulia Sprint GT Veloce were fitted on C pillars, but the Quadrofoglio was coloured gold instead of green. The car also adopted the higher rear wheelarches first seen on the GT 1300 Junior. The interior was also much modified over that of earlier cars. There was a new dashboard with large speedometer and tachometer instruments in twin binnacles closer to the driver’s line of sight. The instruments were mounted at a more conventional angle, avoiding the reflections caused by the upward angled flat dash of earlier cars. Conversely, auxiliary instruments were moved to angled bezels in the centre console, further from the driver’s line of sight than before. The new seats introduced adjustable headrests which merged with the top of the seat when fully down. The window winder levers, the door release levers and the quarterlight vent knobs were also restyled. The remote release for the boot lid, located on the inside of the door opening on the B-post just under the door lock striker, was moved from the right hand side of the car to the left hand side. The location of this item was always independent of whether the car was left hand drive or right hand drive. Early (Series 1) 1750 GTV’s featured the same bumpers as the Giulia Sprint GT Veloce, with the front bumper modified to mount the indicator / sidelight units on the top of its corners, or under the bumper on US market cars. The Series 2 1750 GTV of 1970 introduced other mechanical changes, including a dual circuit braking system (split front and rear, with separate servos). The brake and clutch pedals on left hand drive cars were also of an improved pendant design, instead of the earlier floor-hinged type. On right hand drive cars the floor-hinged pedals were retained, as there was no space for the pedal box behind the carburettors. Externally, the series 2 1750 GTV is identified by new, slimmer bumpers with front and rear overriders. The combined front indicator and sidelight units were now mounted to the front panel instead of the front bumper, except again on the 1971-72 US/Canadian market cars. The interior was slightly modified, with the seats retaining the same basic outline but following a simpler design. 44,269 1750 GTVs were made before their replacement came along. That car was the 2000GTV. Introduced in 1971, together with the 2000 Berlina sedan and 2000 Spider, the 2 litre cars were replacements for the 1750 range. The engine displacement was increased to 1962 cc. Oil and radiator capacities remained unchanged. The North American market cars had fuel injection, but everyone else retained carburettors.  Officially, both versions generated the same power, 130 hp at 5500 rpm. The interior trim was changed, with the most notable differences being the introduction of a separate instrument cluster, instead of the gauges installed in the dash panel in earlier cars. Externally the 2000 GTV is most easily distinguished by its grille with horizontal chrome bars, featuring protruding blocks forming the familiar Alfa heart in outline, smaller hubcaps with exposed wheel nuts, optional aluminium alloy wheels of the same size as the standard 5. 1/2J × 14 steel items, styled to the “turbina” design first seen on the alloy wheels of the Alfa Romeo Montreal, and the larger rear light clusters first fitted to United States market 1750 GTV’s were standard for all markets. From 1974 on, the 105 Series coupé models were rationalised and these external features became common to post-1974 GT 1300 Junior and GT 1600 Junior models, with only few distinguishing features marking the difference between models. 37,459 2000 GTVs were made before production ended and these days they are very sought after with prices having sky-rocketed in recent years.

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Alfa replaced the Giulia-based Spider model with an all-new design which finally made its debut in 1966 together with the Giulia Sprint GT Veloce at an event organised in Gardone Riviera. With its boat tailed styling, it quickly found favour, even before taking a starring role in the film “The Graduate”. The original 1600cc engine was replaced by a more powerful 1750cc unit at the same time as the change was made to the rest of the range, and the car continued like this until 1970, when the first significant change to the exterior styling was introduced on the 1750 Spider Veloce, with the original’s distinctive elongated round tail changed to a more conventional cut-off tail, called the “Kamm tail”, as well as improving the luggage space. Numerous other small changes took place both inside and out, such as a slightly different grille, new doorhandles, a more raked windscreen, top-hinged pedals and improved interior trim. 1971 saw the Spider Veloce get a new, larger powerplant—a 1962 cc, 132 hp unit—and consequently the name was changed from 1750 Spider Veloce to 2000 Spider Veloce. The 1600 Spider restarted production a year later as the Spider 1600 Junior, and was visually identical to the 1300. 1974 saw the introduction of the rare, factory request, Spider-Targa. Based upon the Spider, it featured a Porsche style solid rear window and lift out roof panels, all made out of black GRP type material. Less than 2,000 models of such type were ever made and was the only part solid roof Spider until the introduction of the factory crafted hard top. The 1300 and 2000 cars were modified in 1974 and 1975 respectively to include two small seats behind the front seats, becoming a “two plus two” four seater. The 1300 model was discontinued in 1977. Also, between 1974 and 1976, the early-style stainless-steel bumpers were discontinued and replaced with black, rubber-clad units to meet increasingly stringent North American crash requirements. 4,557 examples of the 1300 Junior were made and 4,848 of the 1600 Junior as well as 16,320 2000 Spider Veloces and 22,059 of 2000 Spider Veloce US version. There were also 4,027 1750 Spider Veloces produced.  Although demand for the car in Europe dropped in the 1980s, it remained popular in the US, which meant that Alfa not only kept the car in production, but also updated a couple more times.

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The Series 3 Spider was previewed in North America for the 1982 model year with the introduction of 2.0 litre Bosch electronic fuel injection to replace the SPICA mechanical injection. The Spider underwent a major styling revamp in 1983, which saw the introduction of black rubber front and rear bumpers. The front bumper incorporated the grille and a small soft rubber spoiler was added to the trunk lid. The change altered the exterior appearance of the car considerably and was not universally praised by enthusiasts. Various other minor mechanical and aesthetic modifications were also made, and the 1600 car (never available in North America) dropped the “Junior” name. The Quadrifoglio Verde (Green Cloverleaf) model was introduced in 1986, with many aesthetic tweaks, including sideskirts, mirrors, new front and rear spoilers, hard rubber boot mounted spoilers with integral 3rd stoplight, unique 15″ alloys and optional removable hardtop. Different interior trim included blood red carpets and grey leather seats with red stitching. The QV was offered in only 3 colours: red, silver and black. It was otherwise mechanically identical to the standard Spider Veloce model, with a 1962 cc double overhead cam, four-cylinder engine (twin two-barrel carburettors in Europe; North American models retained the Bosch L-Jetronic fuel injection introduced for the 1982 model year except that the VVT mechanism was now L-Jet activated) and five-speed manual transmission. The interior was revised with a new centre console, lower dash panels (to meet U.S. regulations) and a single monopod gauge cluster (with electronic gauges). For the North American market a model dubbed the Graduate was added in tribute to the car’s famous appearance in the 1967 film, The Graduate, starring Dustin Hoffman. The Graduate was intended as a less expensive “entry-level” Alfa. While it had the same engine and transmission as the Quadrifoglio and Veloce, it lacked the alloy wheels and luxury features of the other two models. The Graduate model had manual windows, basic vinyl seats, a vinyl top, and steel wheels as standard. Air conditioning and a dealer-installed radio were the only options. It first appeared in 1985 in North America and continued until 1990. Minor changes occurred from 1986 to 89, including new paint colours, a centre high mount stop lamp midway through 1986 for North American models, a move away from the fade-prone brown carpet and new turn signal levers. Some 1988 models featured automatic seatbelts that extended from a large device between the front seats.

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The S4, the final major change to the long running Spider came in 1990, and mechanically, the biggest different was the use of Bosch Motronic electronic fuel injection with an electric fan. Externally, the Spider lost its front under-bumper spoiler and the rather ungainly rear boot spoiler of the S3, and picked up 164-style rear lights stretching across the width of the car as well as plastic bumpers the same colour as the car. This also marked the first generation of the car with automatic transmission, as well as on-board diagnostics capabilities. The car had remained in production largely thanks to continued demand in North America, though this market had to wait until 1991 for the changes to appear on their cars. European markets were offered a car with a 1600cc engine and carburettors as well as the 2 litre injected unit.  Production finally ended in 1993, with an all new model, the 916 Series Spider appearing a year later. The S4 car was not officially sold in the UK, but plenty have found their way to our shores since then.

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As was still the practice in the 1970s, Alfa followed up the 1972 launch of the Alfetta Berlina with a very pretty coupe. Styled by Giugiaro, this car, initially called the GT, and premiered in the autumn of 1974,   looked completely unlike the saloon on which it was based. The first cars had 1.8 litre four cylinder engines and there was one of those on show. In 1976 the range was expanded both up and down with a 1.6 and a 2.0 model, the latter adopting the legendary GTV name. A rare SE model from this period was part of the display, complete with period vinyl roof (look closely), and although the pain does appear a bit like a lot of older Alfa reds, having gone rather pink, this was the actual shade when the car was new. In 1981, with the 2.5 litre V6 engine that had been developed for the ill-fated Alfa 6 luxury saloon available, Alfa was able to create a true rival for the 2.8 litre Capri with the GTV6. A facelift modernised the look of the car with plastic bumpers front and rear and a new interior looked rather better as well as being more ergonomically logical. These days you more often see the later plastic bumpered models, and these were the cars on display here. Included among them were a couple of cars sporting 3.0 badging and right hand drive. These are South African cars. From 1974 South African Alfetta’s were manufactured at Alfa Romeo’s own Brits plant. South Africa was one of two markets to have a turbocharged GTV6, with a Garrett turbocharger and a NACA intake. An estimated 750 were assembled before all production ceased in 1986. The South African range included a 3.0 litre GTV-6, predating the international debut of the factory’s 3.0 litre engine in 1987 (for the Alfa 75). and 212 of these were built in South Africa for racing homologation. The last 6 GTV-6 3.0’s were fuel injected. To this day, the GTV-6 remains the quintessential Alfa Romeo for South Africans.

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Next up, chronologically was the Alfa 75, the last Alfa model to be developed before the company was bought by Fiat. It was introduced in May 1985, to replace the 116 Series Giulietta with which it shared many components. It was named to celebrate Alfa’s 75th year of production. The body, designed by head of Alfa Romeo Centro Stile Ermanno Cressoni, was styled in a striking wedge shape, tapering at the front with square headlights and a matching grille. The 75 was only ever sold as a four door saloon, though at the 1986 Turin Auto Salon, a prototype 75 estate was to be seen, an attractive forerunner of the later 156 Sportwagon. This version was, however, never listed for sale, being cancelled after Fiat took control of Alfa Romeo. The car, dubbed the 75 Turbo Wagon, was made by Italian coachbuilder Rayton Fissore using a 75 Turbo as the basis. Two estate versions were to be found at the later 1987 Geneva Motor Show; one was this Turbo Wagon and the other was a 2.0 litre version named the Sportwagon. The 75 featured some unusual technical features, most notably the fact that it was almost perfectly balanced from front to rear. This was achieved by using transaxle schema — mounting the standard five-speed gearbox in the rear connected to the rear differential (rear-wheel drive). The front suspension was a torsion bar and shock absorber combination and the rear an expensive de Dion tube assembled with shock absorbers; these designs were intended to optimise the car’s handling; moreover the rear brake discs were fitted at the centre of the rear axle, near the gearbox-differential group. The engine crankshaft was bolted directly to the two-segment driveshaft which ran the length of the underside from the engine block to the gearbox, and rotated at the speed of the engine. The shaft segments were joined with elastomeric ‘doughnuts’ to prevent vibration and engine/gearbox damage. The 2.0 litre Twin Spark and the 3.0 litre V6 were equipped with a limited slip differential. The 75 featured a then-advanced dashboard-mounted diagnostic computer, called Alfa Romeo Control, capable of monitoring the engine systems and alerting the drivers of potential faults. The 75 engine range at launch featured four-cylinder 1.6, 1.8 and 2.0 litre petrol carburettor engines, a 2.0 litre intercooled turbodiesel made by VM Motori, and a 2.5 litre fuel injected V6. In 1986, the 75 Turbo was introduced, which featured a fuel-injected 1779 cc twin-cam engine using Garrett T3 turbocharger, intercooler and oil cooler.  In 1987, a 3.0 litre V6 was added to the range and the 2.0 litre Alfa Romeo Twin Cam engine was redesigned to have now two spark plugs per cylinder, the engine was named as Twin Spark. With fuel injection and variable valve timing this engine produced 146 hp. This was the first production engine to use variable valve timing. In North America, where the car was known as the Milano, only the 2.5 and 3.0 V6s were available, from 1987 to 1989. The North American 2.5-litres were fundamentally different from their European counterparts. Due to federal regulations, some modifications were required. Most noticeable from the outside were the ‘America’ bumpers, with the typical rubber accordions in them. Furthermore, these bumpers had thick (and heavy) shock-absorbing material inside them and in addition, they were mounted to the vehicle on shock absorbers. To accommodate these shock absorbers, the ‘America’-bodies were slightly different from the European ones. The North American cars also had different equipment levels (depending on the version: Milano Silver, Milano Gold or Milano Platinum). electrically adjustable outside mirrors, electrically reclining seats and cruise control were usually optional in Europe. The car was also available with a 3-speed ZF automatic gearbox option for the 2.5 V6. Other, more common options such as electrically operated rear windows and an A/C system were standard in the USA. The USA-cars also had different upholstery styles and of course different dashboard panels also indicating speed in mph, oil pressure in psi and coolant temperature in degrees F, and as a final touch the AR control was different, including a seat belt warning light. The European-spec 2.5 V6 (2.5 6V Iniezione or 2.5QV) was officially sold only between 1985 and 1987, although some of them were not registered until 1989. Relatively few of them were sold (about 2800 units), especially when the 155 PS 1.8 Turbo was launched, which in some countries was cheaper in taxes because of its lower displacement. To create a bigger space between the V6 and the inline fours, the 2.5 was bored out to 2959 cc’s to deliver 188 PS and this new engine was introduced as the 3.0 America in 1987. As its type designation suggests, the 3.0 only came in the US-specification, with the impact-bumpers and in-boot fuel tank. However, the European ‘America’s’ were not equipped with side-markers or the door, bonnet and boot lid fortifications. Depending on the country of delivery, the 3.0 America could be equipped with a catalytic converter. In 1988 engines were updated again, the 1.8 litre carburettor version was replaced with fuel injected 1.8 i.e. and new bigger diesel engine was added to the range. In the end of 1989 the 1.6 litre carburettor version was updated to have fuel injection and 1990 the 1.8 Turbo and 3.0i V6 got some more power and updated suspension. The 3.0 V6 was now equipped with a Motronic system instead of an L-Jetronic. The 1.8 Turbo was now also available in ‘America’-spec, but strangely enough not available for the USA market. The 3.0 V6 did make it to the United States, and was sold as Milano Verde. The UK never particularly warmed to the 75 when it was new, but its reputation has got ever stronger as the car ages. Many UK cars were snapped up by the owners of driving schools at racing circuits, thanks to its handling characteristics, but there are also some nice road cars left and there was one here.

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I was delighted to see that the larger 164 was also represented here, as I had the pleasure of driving one for 4 years and 160,000 miles and to this day, it is the car I regret parting with more than any other of the fleet that I have owned over the years. When I bought mine, Alfa were selling a very small number of cars per month in the UK, so they were never that common, and sadly, survival rates are very low. Most people who know anything about the history of the 164 will be aware that this is one of the four so-called Type 4 cars, a joint venture involving Alfa Romeo, Fiat, Lancia and Saab. In 1978 these four marques agreed to each develop an executive saloon based on a shared platform to compete against the likes of the Ford Granada and Opel Rekord (Vauxhall Carlton) as well as more premium saloons by BMW and Mercedes-Benz in the form of the 5-Series and E-Class, respectively. Alfa’s Project 164 started life as Project 154 and was completed in 1981, then still under Alfa Romeo. A year later, that project morphed into the 164 based on the Type Four platform. This new model was designed by Enrico Fumia of Pininfarina, with a wedge shape that afforded it a leading drag coefficient of Cd=0.30. The design would later influence the rest of the Alfa Romeo range starting in 1990 with the major redesign of the 33 and culminating with the 155, and Pininfarina also adapted it (much to the maker’s chagrin) for the 1987 Peugeot 405 and the 1989 Peugeot 605 saloons. Initial testing of the 164’s dynamic elements (engine and drivetrain) began in 1984, where mules based on the then contemporary Giulietta were used. In 1985, the first pre-production 164’s were put through their paces on the road. Heavily disguised, with many false panels and even a false nose design (borrowing heavily from the then equally undeveloped 155), sporting 4 round headlamps, these vehicle mules served to test the 164 for the gruelling 1 million kilometre static and road testing demanded of the design. In 1986 and 1987, the first 150 164’s were given their pre-production testing. In terms of engineering demands, these exceeded every Alfa before, and by quite a substantial margin. In Morocco, desert testing saw 5 grey 164 Twinsparks and V6’s undergo the equivalent of the Paris-Dakar rally. Road conditions varied from good tarmac to off-road conditions, and accelerometers confirmed the superiority of the 164 in terms of passenger comfort. This data was cross-confirmed in the engineering laboratory with a sophisticated dummy in the driver’s seat, with accelerometers both in its seat, and in its ears to mimic that of the semi-circular canals of the ear. The Twinspark and the V6 underwent handling trials at Arese. The Twinspark displayed very mature driving manners at the limit, with minimal skid. The V6 displayed a 25% increase in at-the-limit skid, a natural consequence of its greater nose weight.  ABS testing confirmed that the Twinspark has superior braking to the V6. Brake linings of the 164’s were run at maximum braking until they literally glowed with heat, and displayed no deviation in form. The 164 was the first Alfa to feature slotted double-walled disc brakes. At no point were the discs drilled to release excess heat, the original design being demonstrated to be excellent. Sound production was tested in an anechoic chamber, the car being subjected to stress and road noise testing, with instruments and with live subjects at the wheel, on a specially designed rig. Electromagnetic stability of the complex electronic system was also tested, in an anechoic chamber equipped with EM emitters (radar). The 164 engines were run to destruction, the Twinspark proving to be the most robust, and with the longest possible engine life. The V6 displayed only 10% shorter overall engine life. All this testing meant that by the time the production car, called the 164 was unveiled at the 1987 Frankfurt Motor Show – the last model to be developed while the Alfa Romeo was still a fully independent company, even though the launch was a few months after the takeover by Fiat – that the car was far more thoroughly developed and tested than any Alfa preceding it. There were plenty of innovations in the build, too, thanks to the extensive use of galvanised steel for the frame and various body panels for the first time in the brand’s history. Moreover, the car featured advanced electronics thanks to the most complex wiring harness fitted to any Alfa Romeo. For example: it had three onboard computers (one for air conditioning, one for instrumentation, and one for the engine management); air conditioning and instrument functions shared a multiple-mode coded Zilog Z80-class microcontroller for dashboard functioning). The instrumentation included a full range of gauges including an advanced check-panel.. The car was a sensation at launch. For a start, it looked fantastic thanks to Enrico Fumia of Pininfarina’ design. The first 1:1 scale model of the car had been produced in 1982 and design cues had been publicly revealed on the Alfa Romeo Vivace concept car, which was exhibited at the 1986 Turin Motorshow that went on to influence the design of the Alfa Romeo GTV and Spider (916 series) launched in 1993, but the result was distinctive and elegant and very different from any of its rivals, or indeed any of the other Tipo 4 cars. The 164 became the first Alfa to benefit from extensive use of computer aided design, used to calculate structural stresses that resulted in a very rigid but still relatively lightweight chassis. Although sharing the same platform as that of the Lancia Thema, Fiat Croma and Saab 9000, by virtue of the fact that it was the last of the four to enter production, it featured unique front suspension geometry and the most distinctive styling of the lot. In fact, for example, the other cars all shared identical side door panels. Though still voluminous, the 164 had the tightest aperture to the boot, which had a 510-Litre capacity. The interior was spacious and modern, available with standard velour seating or leather trim depending on the model. Its dashboard continued the avantgarde design of the exterior with a centre dashboard that was dominated by a large number of seemingly identical buttons arranged in rows. Air-direction within the ventilation system was controlled by a pair of servomechanisms, which were constructed using notoriously fragile plastic gears that were prone to failure. Depending on the model, the 164 could feature automatic climate control and electronically controlled damping suspension – the latter, for example, in the sports-oriented Quadrifoglio Verde (“Green Cloverleaf “) and 164S models. This suspension actively reduced damping in response to conditions to provide a dynamic compromise between road holding and comfort. At launch, the original 164 range comprised three models: a 148 bhp 2.0 Twin Spark, the 192 bhp 3.0i V6 12-valve and a  2.5 Turbodiesel (badged “TD”). It took a year before the first cars reached the UK and the first eighteen months saw only the 3 litre model offered. The bigger selling 2.0 TS arrived in the simmer of 1990, just before the range was expanded by the 4-cylinder 2.0i Turbo, the sports-oriented 3.0i V6 Quadrifoglio Verde (badged “QV” or “S”) and North American export versions that included the luxury-oriented 164 L (“L” for Lusso) and the 164 S (in essence, the “QV”). Apart from minor running production upgrades, the next change came in 1993 with the launch of the 164 Super. Key differences on the outside consisted of larger bumpers with chrome trimmings added to the upper edge and revised headlights with a slimmer profile. Inside, there were revised instruments and a centre console that featured more delineated switchgear. The range was now also bolstered by a 3.0 V6 24V with a 24-valve engine upgrade and the 3.0 V6 Quadrifoglio 4 (badged “Q4”), which was the most powerful and sole all wheel drive variant built. Production ended in late 1997, with a gap of nearly two years before the replacement model would go on sale.

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These days you are more likely to come across a 155 at a gathering of Italian cars than other Alfa models of the same period, as this rather boxy saloon has built up quite a following in recent years, though there was just one of them here at this event. The 155 was one of a series of cars built by the Fiat Group on a shared platform, the so called Tipo 3 or Tipo Tre, which sat under the Fiat Tipo, and Lancia Delta 2, as well as the Fiat Coupe. Built to replace the rear wheel drive 75, the 155 was somewhat larger in dimension than its predecessor. The 155 was designed by Italian design house I.DE.A Institute which achieved an exceptional drag coefficient of 0.29, and the rather boxy design gave the car a sizeable boot, as well. The single most significant technical change from the 75 was the change to a front-wheel drive layout. This new configuration gave cost and packaging benefits but many Alfa die-hards and the automotive press lamented the passing of the “purer” rear-wheel drive layout on a car from this sporting marque. Not even the availability of the 155 Q4, which had a 2.0-litre turbocharged engine and a permanent four-wheel drive powertrain, both derived from the Lancia Delta Integrale; making the car essentially a Lancia Delta Integrale with a different body was enough to win the sceptics over. Reception of the model was generally lukewarm. The 75 had been conceived prior to Fiat’s acquisition of the Alfa brand, so as “the last real Alfa” it cast rather a shadow over the 155; the loss of rear-wheel drive was frequently cited as the main cause of the disappointment. Nevertheless, the 155 was entered in Touring Car racing and was successful in every major championship it entered, which gradually improved its image. Belatedly, the factory introduced a wider version in 1995 (the “wide-body”) which as well as a wider track and revised steering based on racing experience or requirements, also brought in new 16-valve engines for the 1.8 and 2.0-litre whilst retaining the 2.5 V6 and making some improvements to cabin materials and build quality. There were several Sport Packs available, including a race-inspired body kit (spoiler and side skirts) and black or graphite-coloured 16-inch Speedline wheels. The more genteel could opt for the Super which came with wood inserts in the cabin and silver-painted alloy wheels. With this version, the 155 really came good. When production ceased in 1998, following the launch of the 156, 192,618 examples had been built.

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By far the most numerous model of the day was the 916 Series duo of GTV and Spider. These were conceived to replace two very different models in the Alfa range. First of these was the open topped 105 Series Spider which had been in production since 1966 and by the 1990s was long overdue a replacement. Alfa decided to combine a follow on to the Alfetta GTV, long out of production, with a new Spider model, and first work started in the late 1980s. The task was handed to Pininfarina, and Enrico Fumia’s initial renderings were produced in September 1987, with the first clay models to complete 1:1 scale model made in July 1988. Fumia produced something rather special. Clearly an Italian design, with the Alfa Romeo grille with dual round headlights, recalling the Audi-based Pininfarina Quartz, another design produced by Enrico Fumia back in 1981, the proposal was for a car that was low-slung, wedge-shaped with a low nose and high kicked up tail. The back of the car is “cut-off” with a “Kamm tail” giving improved aerodynamics. The Spider would share these traits with the GTV except that the rear is rounded, and would feature a folding soft-top with five hoop frame, which would completely disappear from sight under a flush fitting cover. An electric folding mechanism would be fitted as an option. Details included a one-piece rear lamp/foglamp/indicator strip across the rear of the body, the minor instruments in the centre console angled towards the driver. The exterior design was finished in July 1988. After Vittorio Ghidella, Fiat’s CEO, accepted the design, Alfa Romeo Centro Stile under Walter de Silva was made responsible for the completion of the detail work and also for the design of the interiors, as Pininfarina’s proposal was not accepted. The Spider and GTV were to be based on the then-current Fiat Group platform, called Tipo Due, in this case a heavily modified version with an all new multilink rear suspension. The front suspension and drivetrain was based on the 1992 Alfa Romeo 155 saloon. Chief engineer at that time was Bruno Cena. Drag coefficient was 0.33 for the GTV and 0.38 for the Spider. Production began in late 1993 with four cars, all 3.0 V6 Spiders, assembled at the Alfa Romeo Arese Plant in Milan. In early 1994 the first GTV was produced, with 2.0 Twin Spark engine. The first premiere was then held at the Paris Motor Show in 1994. The GTV and Spider were officially launched at the Geneva Motor Show in March 1995 and sales began the same year. The cars were well received. At launch, many journalists commented that Alfa had improved overall build quality considerably and that it came very close to equalling its German rivals. I can vouch for that, as I owned an early GTV for eighteen months, and it was a well built and reliable car. In 1997 a new engine, a 24-valve 3.0 litre V6, was available for the GTV along with bigger, 12.0 inch brakes and red four-pot calipers from Brembo. The console knobs were changed from round central to rectangle ones and to a three-spoke steering wheel. Some versions were upgraded with different front bumper mesh to bring the wind noise down to 74 dBA. In May 1998 the cars were revamped for the first time, creating the Phase 2 models. Most of the alterations were inside. The interior was changed with new centre console, painted letters on skirt seals, changed controls and switches arrangement and different instrument cluster. Outside, the main changes included chrome frame around the grille and colour-coded side skirts and bumpers. A new engine was introduced, the 142 hp 1.8 Twin Spark, and others were changed: the 2.0 Twin Spark was updated with a modular intake manifold with different length intakes and a different plastic cover. Power output of the 2.0 TS was raised to 153 hp. Engines changed engine management units and have a nomenclature of CF2. The dashboard was available in two new colours in addition to the standard black: Red Style and Blue Style, and with it new colour-coded upholstery and carpets. The 3.0 24V got a six-speed manual gearbox as standard and the 2.0 V6 TB engine was now also available for the Spider. August 2000 saw the revamp of engines to comply with new emission regulations, Euro3. The new engines were slightly detuned, and have a new identification code: CF3. 3.0 V6 12V was discontinued for the Spider and replaced with 24V Euro3 version from the GTV. 2.0 V6 Turbo and 1.8 T.Spark were discontinued as they did not comply with Euro3 emissions. By the 2001-2002 model year, only 2 engines were left, the  2.0 Twin.Spark and 3.0 V6 24V, until the Phase 3 engine range arrived. The Arese plant, where the cars had been built,  was closing and, in October 2000, the production of GTV/Spider was transferred to Pininfarina Plant in San Giorgio Canavese in Turin. In 2003 there was another and final revamp, creating the Phase 3, also designed in Pininfarina but not by Enrico Fumia. The main changes were focused on the front with new 147-style grille and different front bumpers with offset numberplate holder. Change to the interior was minimal with different centre console and upholstery pattern and colours available. Instrument illumination colour was changed from green to red. Main specification change is an ASR traction control, not available for 2.0 TS Base model. New engines were introduced: 163  hp 2.0 JTS with direct petrol injection and 237 hp 3.2 V6 24V allowing a 158 mph top speed. Production ceased in late 2004, though some cars were still available for purchase till 2006. A total of 80,747 cars were made, and sales of the GTV and Spider were roughly equal. More V6 engined GTVs than Spiders were made, but in 2.0 guise, it was the other way round with the open model proving marginally more popular.

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When the 156 was launched in 1997, things looked very bright for Alfa. Striking good looks were matched by a driving experience that the press reckoned was better than any of its rivals. The car picked up the Car of the Year award at the end of the year. and when it went on sale in the UK in early 1998, waiting lists soon stretched out more than 12 months. Reflecting the way the market was going, Alfa put a diesel engine under the bonnet, launched a (not very good, it has to be admitted) automated transmission with the SeleSpeed, added a very pretty if not that commodious an estate model they called Sport Wagon and then added a top spec 3.2 litre GTA with its 250 bhp engine giving it a performance to outrun all its rivals. And yet, it did not take long before the press turned on the car, seduced by the latest 3 Series once more, citing build quality issues which were in fact far from universal. The 156 received a very minor facelift in 2002 and a more significant one in late 2003 with a new front end that was a clue to what would come with the car’s successor. Production ceased in 2005.

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The 156 GTA cars were launched at the Frankfurt Motor Show in September 2001. Named after the Alfa Romeo GTA from the 1960s, the letters GTA meaning Gran Turismo Alleggerita (English: lightened Grand Tourer). 2,973 berlinas and 1,678 Sportwagons were built until the GTA production stopped in October 2005 as the 156 gave way to the Alfa Romeo 159. The GTA came with the 3.2 litre Bussone V6 engine (The big Busso, so called after legendary Ferrari engineer Giuseppe Busso), the largest capacity version of the much loved V6 engine. With a 93 mm bore and a 78 mm stroke giving it a capacity of 3,179 cc, it generated  250 PS (247 hp) and 300 N·m (220 lb/ft) of torque. After market Alfa Romeo specialist Autodelta produced performance versions up to 3.7 litres and 400 PS. The European Touring Car Championship winning 156 GTA was however running a 2.0 litre 4-cylinder 300 PS engine due to class regulations. The GTA variants were equipped with either a six-speed manual transmission or six-speed Selespeed (paddles in steering wheel, hydraulically operated robotised) gearbox, had a lowered and stiffened suspension, a distinctive body kit, wider rear arches and leather interior. The suspension was specifically made for the GTA by Fiat Research Centre and Fiat Auto Design and Development Department. Steering was also made faster, only 1.7 turns from lock to lock compared to 2.1 in normal models. The GTA had also larger brakes (Brembo), with 12″ front discs and 10.8″ at the rear. The front discs were later upgraded to 13 ” to cope with the performance potential. Even though the name suggests a light car, the GTA isn’t any lighter than other 156s, as it was actually 91 kilograms (201 lb) heavier than the 2.5 litre V6 engined version. The GTA did not get the Giugiaro designed facelift introduced to the 156 in 2002, but continued with the acclaimed Walter de Silva design to the very end of production.

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Alfa followed the 156 a couple of years later, in late 1998, with a larger saloon, the 166, hoping to receive the same sort of acclaim with this executive car which was a direct replacement for the 164. It was not forthcoming. For a start, the styling with its drooping and very small headlamps and pointed nose was quite unlike anything else on the market at the time. Part of the difficulty came from the fat that the car had been designed some years before its launch and then put on the back burner as the 156 was given priority. The 166 was initially available with a 155 PS 2.0-litre Twin Spark, a 190 PS 2.5 V6, a 220 PS 3.0 V6 and in some markets a  205 PS V6 2.0 Turbo petrol engine along with a diesel powered L5 2.4 10v common rail turbodiesel version with 136 PS, 140 PS and 150 PS (148 hp) output. The 2.0 TS model used a 5-speed manual gearbox, whilst the 2.5 and 3.0 had the option of a Sportronic automatic gearbox. The 3.0 V6, L5 2.4 and V6 Turbo were otherwise supplied with a six-speed manual gearbox. The top models were named “Super”, and included MOMO leather interior, 17″ alloy wheels, rain sensitive wipers, cruise control, climate control and ICS (Integrated Control System) with colour screen. Options included xenon headlamps, GSM connectivity and satellite navigation. Suspension systems comprised double wishbones at the front and a multi-link setup for the rear. Though the car’s handling characteristics, engine range and elegant exterior design received praise from many, including Top Gear’s Jeremy Clarkson, it did not become a strong seller to rival the dominant German brands, in the European executive car sector. In September 2003, the 166 underwent a substantial revamp, with the début at the Frankfurt Motor Show. As well as upgrades to the chassis, interior, and the engine range, the styling was substantially altered. The new front end resembled the also recently revamped 156, and lost its famous drooping headlights. The 2.0 V6 Turbo model was dropped because of marketing problems, the V6 2.5 was re-rated at 188 PS and a 3.2 litre V6 with 240 PS was introduced. Both the 3.2 litre and the 2.0 Twin Spark models now featured the six-speed manual gearbox, whilst the 3.0 model was retained, but made available only in Sportronic form. In the diesel sector, the L5 2.4 was re-engineered with Multi-Jet technology which allows up to 5 injections per cycle, second stage common rail, with maximum injection pressure of 1400 bar and 4 valves per cylinder, to output a class leading 175 PS, but these changes made little impact on sales volumes. In October 2005, the Alfa Romeo 166 was officially withdrawn from sale in markets for RHD. Sales of the 166 never grew as Alfa had hoped, following the facelift in September 2003, and the additional lack of a diesel engine in the United Kingdom, Australian, and Irish markets limited its reach into company car sectors. In June 2007, production of the 166 effectively ended, with no direct successor. In September 2008, the platform was sold to the Chinese state run manufacturer GAC Group. In total, less than 100,000 units were made.

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Replacement for the much loved 156 was the 159. The Alfa Romeo 159 had a troubled development, being designed in the midst of the Fiat-General Motors joint venture which was terminated in 2005. Originally, the 159 was intended to use GM’s Epsilon platform; however, late during its development it was changed to the GM/Fiat Premium platform. The Premium platform was more refined and expensive, being intended for E-segment executive cars such as an Alfa Romeo 166 successor but that never materialised, so Alfa Romeo attempted to recoup some of the platform development costs with the 159. General Motors originally planned Cadillac, Buick and Saab models for this platform but ending up discarded them over cost concerns. Unfortunately, the 159’s late transition to what was fundamentally made as an E-segment platform resulted in the 159 having excessive weight, a problem shared by its sisters, the Alfa Romeo Brera coupe and Spider convertible. The 159 was designed by Giorgetto Giugiaro in collaboration with the Centro Stile Alfa Romeo. The nose featured a traditional Alfa Romeo V-shaped grille and bonnet, and cylindrical head light clusters. Similar to its coupé counterpart, front of the car was influenced by the Giugiaro designed 2002 Brera Concept. Several exterior design cues were intended to make the car appear larger, supposedly to appeal to potential buyers in the United States; however, the 159 was never exported to that region. The interior featured styling treatments familiar from earlier cars, including the 156, such as deeply recessed instruments which are angled towards the driver. Alfa Romeo intended for the 159 to compete more directly with BMW, Mercedes-Benz and Audi by using higher quality interior materials; however, it has been said that Alfa Romeo misjudged their brand’s positioning relative to the more well-known German luxury automakers. Several levels of trim were available, depending on market. Four trim levels: Progression, Distinctive, Exclusive and Turismo Internazionale (TI) featured across Europe. In the UK there were three levels of trim: Turismo, Lusso and Turismo Internazionale (TI). A Sportwagon variant was introduced at the Geneva Motor Show in 2006. The 159’s size made it considerably more comfortable than the 156 due to its larger, roomy interior. However, the considerable growth in dimensions deterred many 156 owners from considering the 159 as a direct replacement model, and something seemed to be lost in the character of the new car. Initially offered with a choice of 1.9 and 2,2 litre 4 cylinder and 3.2 litre V6 petrol engines and 1.9 and 2.4 litre diesel units, and an optional four wheel drive system.  An automatic gearbox option for the 2.4 JTDM diesel model was also launched in late 2006, and later extended to other versions. In 2007 a four-wheel drive diesel model was released and the 2.4-litre diesel engines’ power output increased to 210 hp, with a newly reintroduced TI trim level also available as an option. For model year 2008 the mechanics and interiors of the 159 were further developed. The 3.2 litre V6 model was offered in front wheel drive configuration, achieving a top speed of 160 mph. All model variants came with Alfa’s electronic “Q2” limited slip differential. As a result of newly introduced aluminium components, a 45 kilograms (99 lb) weight reduction was achieved. For 2009,  Alfa introduced a new turbocharged petrol engine badged as “TBi”. This 1742 cc unit had direct injection and variable valve timing in both inlet and exhaust cams. This new engine had 200 PS (197 hp) and would eventually replace the GM-derived 2.2 and 1.9 JTS units.In 2010, all petrol engines except for the 1750 TBi were retired, ending the use of General Motors-based engines in the 159. The only remaining diesel engines were the 136 PS and 170 PS 2.0 JTDm engines. In 2011, the 159 was powered only by diesel engines. In the UK,  Alfa Romeo stopped taking orders for the 159 on 8 July 2011. Production for all markets ceased at the end of 2011, after 240,000 had been built.

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Rather than replacing the 916 Series GTV with a single model, Alfa elected to produce two successors., The more commodious of the two, the GT, was the first to appear, making its debut in March 2003 at the Geneva Motor Show, finally going on sale in early 2004. It was built at the Pomigliano plant, alongside the 147 and 159. The GT was based on the Alfa 156 platform, which was also used for the 147, providing the 2-door coupé with genuine five-passenger capacity. It was styled by Bertone. Most mechanicals were taken directly from the 156/147 using the same double wishbone front suspension and MacPherson rear setup. The interior was derived form the smaller hatchback 147 and shared many common parts. The GT shared the same dash layout and functions, the climate control system as well as having a similar electrical system. Some exterior parts were taken from 147 with the same bonnet, wing mirrors and front wings (from 147 GTA). The engine range included both a 1.8 TS, and 2.0 JTS petrol engine, a 1.9 MultiJet turbodiesel, and a top-of-the-range 240 bhp 3.2 V6 petrol. There were few changes during the GT’s production life. In 2006 Alfa introduced a 1.9 JTD Q2 version with a limited slip differential, and also added a new trim level called Black Line. In 2008 Alfa introduced the cloverleaf model as a limited edition complete with new trim levels, lowered suspension, body kit, 18 inch alloy wheels and was only available in the colours black, Alfa red, or blue. with 1.8 and 2.0 litre petrol engines as well as the 1.9 litre Multijet turbo diesel. The GT was acclaimed for its attractive styling and purposeful good looks, in 2004 being voted the world’s most beautiful coupe in the annual ‘World’s Most Beautiful Automobile’ (L’Automobile più Bella del Mondo) awards. The car sold reasonably well, with 80,832 units being produced before the model was deleted in 2010.

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The other 916 series replacement cars  were the Brera and Spider models, and this is what was to be seen here. Visually similar to the 159 models at the front, the Brera and Spider boasted unique styling from the A pillars rearwards. They were offered with the same range of engines as the 159, and thanks to that strong, but rather heavy platform on which they were built, even the 3.2 litre V6 cars were more Grand Tourer than rapid sports car. Pininfarina was responsible for both models. The Brera was first to market, in 2005, with the Spider following in 2006. Production of both ceased in late 2010, by which time 12,488 units of the Spider and 21,786 units of the Brera had been built. It will be very surprising if these do not attain classic status, and the consequent rise in values, though that has not happened yet.

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Known internally as the Tipo 955, the MiTo (the name allegedly standing for Mi-lano and To-rino, where it was designed and is built, respectively, and a pun on the Italian word for “myth”), the smallest Alfa ever made is a three-door only supermini, which was officially introduced on June 19, 2008, at Castello Sforzesco in Milan,, going on sale a few weeks later, with UK supplies reaching the country after the British Motor Show in 2008. Built on the Fiat Small platform used on the Grande Punto, and also employed by the Opel/Vauxhall Corsa, the MiTo was intended to compete with the MINI and the newer Audi A1. Designed by Centro Stile Alfa Romeo, the design is believed to be inspired by the 8C Competizione. A range of engines has been offered since launch, though sadly the GTA Concept that was shown at the 2009 Geneva Show never made it to production.

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The current Giulietta arrived in 2010 as a much awaited replacement for the 147. Spy photos had suggested that the car was going to look very like Fiat’s ill-fated Bravo, but the reality was that it had a style all of its own. A range of very efficient petrol and diesel engines were among the most emissions-efficient in their class at the time, and a 250 bhp Quadrifoglio version at the top of the range made sure there was something for the man who wanted a rapid, but quite subtle hatch. The car has enjoyed reasonable success in the UK, and the car has certainly found favour among Alfa enthusiasts, so it was no surprise to find quite a number of them among the displays.

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Also here were examples of the rest of the current range. The 4C Competizione  was first seen as a concept at the 2011 Geneva Show, the production model did not debut for a further 2 years. Production got underway later that year at the Maserati plant in Modena, and the first deliveries were late in 2013. Production was originally pegged at 1000 cars a year and a total of just 3500, which encouraged many speculators to put their name down in the hope of making a sizeable profit on selling their cars on. That plan backfired, and in the early months, there were lots of cars for sale for greater than list price. Press reaction to the car has been mixed, with everyone loving the looks, but most of them feeling that the driving experience is not as they would want. Owners generally disagree – as is so often the case! For sure, it has no radio, and no carpets and no luggage space to speak of, but you know that when you buy it. It won’t be the car everyone, but if you can live with these limitations, you are sure to enjoy it. Indeed, all owners I have ever spoke to do  love their car. I know I would if I could find space (and funds!) for one in my garage!

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Also here were the highly rated Giulia and Stelvio models.

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LANCIA

Further variety came from the presence of a few Lancia models, all of them the iconic Delta Integrale. Lancia launched the Delta in 1979, as what we would now think of as a “premium hatch”. Offered in 1300 and 1500cc engines, this car, which collected the prestigious “Car of the year” award a few months later, brought Italian style and an expensive feeling interior to a new and lower price point in the market than Lancia had occupied since the early days of the Fulvia some 15 years earlier. The range grew first when a model was offered using the 4 speed AP automatic transmission and then in late 1982, more powerful models started to appear, with first a 1600cc engine, and then one with fuel injection, before the introduction of the HF Turbo. All these cars kept the same appearance and were quite hard to tell apart. These were the volume models of the range, but now they are very definitely the rare ones, as it is the performance versions which have survived and are now much loved classics, even though relatively were sold when they were new, thanks to a combination of the fact that they were quite costly and that they only ever came with left hand drive. The Integrale evolved over several years, starting off as the HF Turbo 4WD that was launched in April 1986, to homologate a new rally car for Lancia who needed something to fill the void left by the cancellation of Group B from the end of 1986. The Delta HF 4X4 had a four-wheel drive system with an in-built torque-splitting action. Three differentials were used. Drive to the front wheels was linked through a free-floating differential; drive to the rear wheels was transmitted via a 56/44 front/rear torque-splitting Ferguson viscous-coupling-controlled epicyclic central differential. At the rear wheels was a Torsen (torque sensing) rear differential. It divided the torque between the wheels according to the available grip, with a maximum lockup of 70%. The basic suspension layout of the Delta 4WD remained the same as in the rest of the two-wheel drive Delta range: MacPherson strut–type independent suspension with dual-rate dampers and helicoidal springs, with the struts and springs set slightly off-centre. The suspension mounting provided more isolation by incorporating flexible rubber links. Progressive rebound bumpers were adopted, while the damper rates, front and rear toe-in and the relative angle between springs and dampers were all altered. The steering was power-assisted rack and pinion. The car looked little different from the front wheel drive models. In September 1987, Lancia showed a more sophisticated version of the car, the Lancia Delta HF Integrale 8V. This version incorporated some of the features of the Delta HF 4WD into a road car. The engine was an 8-valve 2 litre fuel injected 4-cylinder, with balancing shafts. The HF version featured new valves, valve seats and water pump, larger water and oil radiators, more powerful cooling fan and bigger air cleaner. A larger capacity Garrett T3 turbocharger with improved air flow and bigger inter-cooler, revised settings for the electronic injection/ignition control unit and a knock sensor, boosting power output to 185 bhp at 5300 rpm and maximum torque of 224 lb/ft at 3500 rpm. The HF Integrale had permanent 4-wheel drive, a front transversely mounted engine and five-speed gearbox. An epicyclic centre differential normally split the torque 56 per cent to the front axle, 44 per cent to the rear. A Ferguson viscous coupling balanced the torque split between front and rear axles depending on road conditions and tyre grip. The Torsen rear differential further divided the torque delivered to each rear wheel according to grip available. A shorter final drive ratio (3.111 instead of 2.944 on the HF 4WD) matched the larger 6.5×15 wheels to give 24 mph/1000 rpm in fifth gear. Braking and suspension were uprated to 284 mm ventilated front discs, a larger brake master cylinder and servo, as well as revised front springs, dampers, and front struts. Next update was to change the engine from 8 valves to 16. The 16v Integrale was introduced at the 1989 Geneva Motorshow, and made a winning debut on the 1989 San Remo Rally. It featured a raised centre of the bonnet to accommodate the new 16 valve engine, as well as wider wheels and tyres and new identity badges front and rear. The torque split was changed to 47% front and 53% rear. The turbocharged 2-litre Lancia 16v engine now produced 200 bhp at 5500 rpm, for a maximum speed of 137 mph and 0–100 km/h in 5.5  seconds. Changes included larger injectors, a more responsive Garrett T3 turbocharger, a more efficient intercooler, and the ability to run on unleaded fuel without modification. The first Evoluzione cars were built at the end of 1991 and through 1992. These were to be the final homologation cars for the Lancia Rally Team; the Catalytic Evoluzione II was never rallied by the factory. The Evoluzione I had a wider track front and rear than earlier Deltas. The bodyside arches were extended and became more rounded. The wings were now made in a single pressing. The front strut top mounts were also raised, which necessitated a front strut brace. The new Integrale retained the four wheel drive layout. The engine was modified to produce 210 bhp at 5750 rpm. External changes included: new grilles in the front bumper to improve the air intake for engine compartment cooling; a redesigned bonnet with new lateral air slats to further assist underbonnet ventilation; an adjustable roof spoiler above the tailgate; new five-bolt wheels with the same design of the rally cars; and a new single exhaust pipe. Interior trim was now grey Alcantara on the Recaro seats, as fitted to the earlier 16V cars; leather and air conditioning were offered as options, as well as a leather-covered Momo steering wheel. Presented in June 1993, the second Evolution version of the Delta HF Integrale featured an updated version of the 2-litre 16-valve turbo engine to produce more power, as well as a three-way catalyst and Lambda probe. A Marelli integrated engine control system with an 8 MHz clock frequency which incorporates: timed sequential multipoint injection; self-adapting injection times; automatic idling control; engine protection strategies depending on the temperature of intaken air; Mapped ignition with two double outlet coils; Three-way catalyst and pre-catalyst with lambda probe (oxygen sensor) on the turbine outlet link; anti-evaporation system with air line for canister flushing optimised for the turbo engine; new Garrett turbocharger: water-cooled with boost-drive management i.e. boost controlled by feedback from the central control unit on the basis of revs/throttle angle;   Knock control by engine block sensor and new signal handling software for spark park advance, fuel quantity injected, and turbocharging. The engine now developed 215 PS as against 210 PS on the earlier uncatalysed version and marginally more torque. The 1993 Integrale received a cosmetic and functional facelift that included. new 16″ light alloy rims with 205/45 ZR 16 tyres;  body colour roof moulding to underline the connection between the roof and the Solar control windows;  aluminium fuel cap and air-intake grilles on the front mudguards; red-painted cylinder head; new leather-covered three-spoke MOMO steering wheel; standard Recaro seats upholstered in beige Alcantara with diagonal stitching. In its latter years the Delta HF gave birth to a number of limited and numbered editions, differing mainly in colour, trim and equipment; some were put on general sale, while others were reserved to specific markets, clubs or selected customers. There were several examples of the Integrale here.

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SPECIAL DISPLAY

There was a Special Display area, separate from the bulk of the cars, and I had been asked to nominate one of the Abarths to be included. That was a difficult choice, and in the end, plumped for Graeme Wear’s 124 Spider, as recognition of his enthusiasm not just for his car, but for the loyalty that he and Mandy show in travelling to events up and down the country.

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The Alfa Romeo that had been selected  was a Montreal, a real star of the day, for sure. During the 1950s, Alfa had undergone a fairly fundamental transformation from producing cars designed for racing or very high-end sports touring road machines, in small quantities, to being a manufacturer of more affordable cars, albeit with a sporting bias to their dynamics. But the desire to produce something exclusive and expensive was not completely lost, and indeed it was re-manifest in the next Alfa to be seen here, the very lovely Montreal.  First seen as a concept car in 1967 at Expo 67, the car was initially displayed without any model name, but the public took to calling it the Montreal. It was a 2+2 coupe using the 1.6-litre engine of the Alfa Romeo Giulia TI and the short wheelbase chassis of the Alfa Romeo Giulia Sprint GT, with a body designed by Marcello Gandini at Bertone. One of the two concept cars built for Expo 67 is displayed in the Alfa Romeo Historical Museum in Arese, Italy, while the other is in museum storage. Reaction to the concept was sufficiently encouraging that Alfa decided to put the car into production. The result, the Tipo 105.64, was shown at the 1970 Geneva Motor Show and was quite different from the original, using a 2593 cc 90° dry-sump lubricated V8 engine with SPICA (Società Pompe Iniezione Cassani & Affini) fuel injection that produced around 200 PS (197 hp), coupled to a five-speed ZF manual gearbox and a limited-slip differential. This engine was derived from the 2-litre V8 used in the 33 Stradale and in the Tipo 33 sports prototype racer; its redline was set at 7,000 rpm, unheard of for a V8 at that time. The chassis and running gear of the production Montreal were taken from the Giulia GTV coupé and comprised double wishbone suspension with coil springs and dampers at the front and a live axle with limited slip differential at the rear. Since the concept car was already unofficially known as The Montreal, Alfa Romeo kept the model name in production. Stylistically, the most eye catching feature was the car’s front end with four headlamps partly covered by unusual “grilles”, that retract when the lights are switched on. Another stylistic element is the NACA duct on the bonnet. The duct is actually blocked off since its purpose is not to draw air into the engine, but to optically hide the power bulge. The slats behind the doors contain the cabin vents, but apart from that only serve cosmetic purposes. Paolo Martin is credited for the prototype instrument cluster. The Montreal was more expensive to buy than the Jaguar E-Type or the Porsche 911. When launched in the UK it was priced at £5,077, rising to £5,549 in August 1972 and to £6,999 by mid-1976. Production was split between the Alfa Romeo plant in Arese and Carrozzeria Bertone’s plants in Caselle and Grugliasco outside Turin. Alfa Romeo produced the chassis and engine and mechanicals and sent the chassis to Caselle where Bertone fitted the body. After body fitment, the car was sent to Grugliasco to be degreased, partly zinc coated, manually spray painted and have the interior fitted. Finally, the car was returned to Arese to have the engine and mechanicals installed. It is worth noting that because of this production method, there is not necessarily any correspondence between chassis number, engine number and production date. The Montreal remained generally unchanged until it was discontinued in 1977. By then, production had long ceased already as Alfa were struggling to sell their remaining stock. The total number built was around 3900. None of them were sold in Montreal, Quebec since Alfa did not develop a North American version to meet the emission control requirements in the United States & Canada. The car was both complex and unreliable which meant that many cars deteriorated to a point where they were uneconomic to restore. That position has changed in the last couple of years, thankfully, with the market deciding that the car deserves better, and prices have risen to you whereas a good one would have been yours for £20,000 only a couple of years ago, you would now likely have to pay more than double that.

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Final Italian car in this section was a Lancia. Another example of the Delta Integrale, this one in the iconic rally livery of the period.

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Also in this area was a Surtees Cosworth TS7 Formula 1 race car from 1970. The Surtees team was formed by John Surtees after he left BRM to start his own team. He bought a McLaren M7C so that he could use it until the TS7 was ready. The car made its debut at the 1970 British Grand Prix with Surtees driving. He qualified 19th and retired with an oil pressure failure. In Germany, Surtees qualified 15th and was classified in ninth, although his race ended in an engine failure.  The Austrian Grand Prix saw Surtees qualify 12th and retire when his engine blew. In Italy, the Englishman qualified 10th and retired when an electrical failure stalled the car at the start. The Canadian Grand Prix saw Surtees qualify and finish fifth. The team owner was joined by Derek Bell as a driver for the United States Grand Prix. Surtees qualified eighth and Bell 13th. The 1964 World Champion retired when his engine blew and Bell finished sixth.  In Mexico, the team only entered Surtees. He qualified 15th and finished eighth. The Surtees team had scored three World Championship points, earning them eighth place in the Constructors’ Championship standings. The 1971 South African Grand Prix saw Team Surtees enter Surtees in the Surtees TS9, and Brian Redman and Rolf Stommelen in TS7s. Stommelen qualified 15th and Redman qualified 17th. Stommelen finished 12th and Redman seventh.  Following this race the team elected to concentrate on the TS9. The Surtees team scored eight World Championship points, earning them eighth place in the Constructors’ Championship for the second consecutive season.

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THE CASTLE

There was ample time to look around the Castle and Grounds, and as this was a place I’d not been to before, I was keen to learn more of its history. And history is something that it has lots of. The Castle  began as a country house, built in the 13th century. From 1462 to 1539, it was the seat of the Boleyn (originally ‘Bullen’) family. Anne Boleyn, the second queen consort of King Henry VIII of England, spent her early youth there after her father, Thomas Boleyn, inherited it in 1505. The castle passed to him upon the death of his father, Sir William Boleyn. It later came into the possession of King Henry VIII’s fourth wife, Anne of Cleves. The property subsequently passed through various owners, including the Waldegrave family from 1557 to 1715, the Humfreys family to 1749 and the Meade Waldo family from 1749 to 1903. During this latter period of ownership, the castle fell into a poor state of repair, during which time it was leased to various private tenants. In 1903, it was acquired and restored by the American millionaire William Waldorf Astor, who used it as a family residence. He added the Italian Garden to display his collection of statuary and ornaments.

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In 1983, the Astor family sold the castle to Broadland Properties Limited, which is run by the Guthrie family. The castle was the location of a music video of Libera in 2006. I paid the small supplement to gain entrance inside and found out some of the history and was interested in all the various artefacts in the rooms which represent the various periods of ownership and importance of the Castle over the centuries. It truly has got a fascinating history.

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This proved to be a most enjoyable day. There were plenty of cars to see, with lots of variety, and all the owners were extremely friendly, as is almost always the case with Italian car enthusiasts. The setting was just perfect for an event like this, and the Castle itself was far more interesting than I had expected it to be, with a history stretching back over several centuries.

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