Car Show Classics: Streamlined Sundays: Cars in the Park, Part 1 – All Those Alfas!

On a Sunday in early July, the Portland Art Museum on Portland’s South Park blocks invited over 40 sports cars from 1967 and before to a “Cars in the Park” event, to go with their fabulous exhibit, The Shape of Speed: Streamlined Automobiles and Motorcycles, 1930–1942, which we’ll cover here at CC soon. This Cars in the Park was the kickoff for Keith Martin’s Sports Car Market 30th Anniversary Tour, a six-day experience for these cars and their drivers over “1,000 miles of sinuous, empty Oregon back roads, including Crater Lake, the High Desert, and McKenzie Pass Lava Fields.” Alfa Romeo was the preferred marque this year, so we got to see an unusually rich collection of fine and rare Alfas.

The set of three sports racing cars in the front row here are Alfa Romeo Giulietta Sprint Zagatos, hand crafted from 1960 to 1962 by the Zagato coachworks outside Milan. Their aluminum bodies, designed by Franco Scaglione for Bertone, made the cars 260 pounds lighter than the Giulietta coupe on which they were based (down to 1883 pounds) and fast enough to win championships in their class.

217 cars were built, on Alfa Romeo Giuletta Sprint chassis, with the highest performance 116 hp version of the Giulietta’s 1290 cc aluminum inline-4 with a twin-cam crossflow aluminum hemi head. 9.7:1 compression, dual carbs.

Paul N. wrote a comprehensive history of the iconic Alfa twin-cam engine in this CC History. It’s as fabulous looking as the cars it propelled.

These are the “Coda Tonda” (round tail) versions which made up the majority of production. A Kamm-back “Coda Tronca” (truncated tail) version came at the end of the series. The chrome trim is so deliciously thin it looks like a fifties custom.

Zagato has been building special bodies for high performance sports and racing cars continuously since 1919 and is still at it today. Especially famous and valuable Zagato-bodied cars include Aston Martins, Ferraris and Alfa Romeos.

A simple clear cluster of gauges, toggle switches, and shifter right at hand. Giulietta Sprint Zagatos were successful in racing, winning the 1.3 liter class for Alfa in the International Championship for GT Manufacturers in 1962 and 1963.

I love the clean aerodynamic shape of these Zagatos, really timeless. Imagine the lumpy and boxy traffic this car slipped through in the early 1960s.

The Giulietta Sprint Zagato was based on Alfa’s famous small sports car, the Giulietta Sprint. Here is a 1962 Spider, with bodywork by Pininfarina. It showed everyone who followed what the ideal sports roadster looks like. The Lotus Elan and Mazda Miata are direct descendants. Can you believe it appeared in mid-1955?

Same basic 1290 cc aluminum twin-cam engine as the Zagato, but with a single carb and 8.5:1 compression, developing 80 hp at 6300 rpm. Imagine how it must sound with the top down on a fine day.

In front of the Zagatos at curbside here’s a 1957 Alfa Romeo 1900 Super Berlina 4-door sedan. Alfa called this “the family car that wins races”.

Maybe because of its 1975 cc DOHC engine. How many twin cam four-door sedans could you buy in 1957?

Pretty spacious interior for a sports car. Hard to imagine there was ever an Alfa with bench seats.

Sharp streamlined hood ornaments were still legal back then.

I like the gold paint on this 1967 Giulia Sprint GT Veloce.

It’s a premium version of the sixties Giulia, introduced in 1966. The Veloce is powered by the 1,570 cc version of Alfa’s twin cam with dual Weber two-barrel carburetors and enlarged exhaust valves. 108 hp at 6,000 rpm for a 2,231 pound car.

5-speed transmission and disc brakes all around. The handbrake has its own drums, cast into the rear discs.

Alfa’s quadrifoglio (cloverleaf) has been the symbol of their racing cars since 1923. Since the late 1940s it’s also been used on premium models.

Designed by Giorgetto Giugiaro for Bertone. Top speed 115 mph.

My favorite is this futuristic 1960 Giulietta Sprint Speciale. First presented in the ’57 Turin show, it was officially introduced in 1959 at Monza. Alfa built the first 100 to homologate it for FIA competition. The same 1,290 cc twin cam used in the Giulietta Sprint Zagato is under the hood.

Not only is it supremely sleek and subtly space-age, its drag coefficient is only 0.28. Top speed 124 mph. I adore the little taillights built into the ends of the side spears.

Also like the Giulietta Sprint Zagato, it was designed by Franco Scaglione for Bertone. For me these Speciales perfectly capture that era’s dreams of freedom and speed.

Finally, here’s a special car that’s a bit newer than the others, a 1971 Alfa Romeo Montreal. It started as a concept car at the Expo 67 world’s fair in Montreal, a coupe using the Giulia TI’s 1.6 liter twin-cam, the chassis of a Giulia Sprint GT, and a body designed by Marcello Gandini at Bertone. It picked up the “Montreal” name from being at the fair. Those unique louvered eyeshades are inspired by the concept car’s. In this production car they retract when the lights are on.

The production car introduced at the Geneva show in 1970 is much different, though it has the same styling elements as the concept. This car is powered by a 2593 cc fuel-injected dry-sump V8 with a 7,000 rpm redline, outrageous for a V8 at the time. The Montreal’s chassis is based on the Giulia GTV coupe.

Those striking slots behind the door are for cabin vents. About 3900 were built from 1970 to 1977. An Alfa Romeo Montreal cost more than an E-Type Jaguar or a Porsche 911 at the time, not least because of its exotic racing-based V8. None were sold in North America, not even in Montreal, due to emission regulations.

A fabulous car to wrap up a fabulous collection of Alfa Romeos, even more Alfas than I could capture here. But of course there were many other cars in this “Cars in the Park” as well, dating back to 1928. Remember those other two cars in the back of the lead photo, behind the set of three Giulietta Sprint Zagatos? In Part 2 we’ll see why that photo is so valuable.