Featured: The Alfa Romeo Montreal Is A Milanese Maple Leaf

The Alfa Romeo Montreal Is A Milanese Maple Leaf

By Petrolicious Productions
August 27, 2018

Story by Laura Ferriccioli
Photography by Marco Annunziata

If you ask anybody who’s driven an Alfa Romeo Montreal at least once, you would likely get the reply that this car is a fabulous little GT. People malign the maintenance—like they do for seemingly every Italian car with more than 25hp per liter—but a Montreal in good nick feels like you’ve cheated Ferrari and done it for a bargain. The V8 was a brilliant, powerful engine for its time but there is a curious lack of balance in the chassis of the Montreal. It seems too delicate for that exuberant engine that was derived from the 33 Stradale’s (albeit with displacement reduced to 2593cc, among other things). “In my opinion, this only positively influences the handling though. The car’s center of gravity sits well forward from the middle, but it’s not really an issue if you’re expecting that old GT feeling of weight distribution,” asserts the young Italian owner of this 1971 example. The model’s production run was begun shortly after the announcement of the prototype at the Expo 1967 in Montreal; Alfa Romeo was invited to the show and was asked to bring something new along, so they contracted Bertone for the design of a concept car to be put on display.

Since it was expected to be just a prototype though, it obviously didn’t feature a charismatic high-revving engine when it arrived in Canada. Nevertheless, the flowing bodywork concept, which was built on the Giulia chassis, was so admired during the world fair that Alfa decided to realize the car in series production, giving it the name of the city where it was first seen—if you didn’t make that connection already. It was a beautiful car that was faithful to its prototype in look, and they equipped it with a production quad-cam V8 engine developing 200hp at 6,500RPM, adapting the bodywork to accommodate. In series form those slotted headlight covers became retractable.

Another much-debated talking point of the Montreal concerns its mechanical fuel injection system. That seems to be more of an urban legend than reality: “All you need to do is take care of it, consistently, with a good mechanic who knows the motor,” summarizes Claudio, 28 years old. Easier said than done if you’re on a tight budget, but if that’s the case then what are you doing messing around with old Italian cars with exotic quad-cam motors?

Claudio babies the car, driving it only on special occasions. “In this way, you never have problems, even if you use your vehicle very little and it sits for longer periods of time.” In fact, he doesn’t get around that much with it, not even considering it as a Sunday car (only 70,000 kilometers have been accumulated on this Montreal). It’s treated as a collector’s item, as you may have guessed, and it is the most beloved car among the roster of seven classic Alfas sitting in the garage of Claudio and his father Andrea, in Tuscany.

Only 3,925 units were built during its production run between 1970 and 1977, and though they’ve been rising in value for a while now, this sophisticated rear-wheel drive coupé was not everyone’s cup of tea at the time. An innovative sports car that was mostly a status symbol, it barely raced with Autodelta and never found success, and it wasn’t a groundbreaking performer on the street either. Now though, nearly 50 years from the time it first saw the light of day, it is regarded as one of the most striking designs of its time, and with cared-for examples trading near the six-figure mark you can have one for a fraction of a Ferrari. But that would be missing the point: it’s not a prancing horse alternative, it stands on its own merits as an Alfa Romeo.

This car was bought back in 1997 by Andrea, Claudio’s father, who realized a long-held dream of his in buying the car, and subsequently bonded with his son over their common interest in cars like this—you know this story.

Tinkering in the garage led to the father and son both becoming Italian historic hill climb champions in their categories in 2009 and 2015, and always with Alfas of course: a 2600 Sprint, and an Alfasud Series 1. The Montreal doesn’t see such action though. “All that we have done to the Montreal since the purchase is a mechanical inspection and service, nothing more,” Claudio explains. The interior with the beige leather is original, and this spec is a nice contrast to the reds and oranges with black leather guts that one typically sees these cars spec’d in. The first owner was a company (the car was probably made available for its president or a manager), based in Bologna, and the vehicle still wears its original city designation “BO” on the black registration plate. The second owner of this green jewel was more noteworthy, being a relative of Guido Scagliarini, co-founder of Abarth with the racing car preparer and constructor Karl Abarth. Afterward, the Montreal was sold to Claudio’s father by a dealer.

There is another name of an Italian city inscribed on the vehicle besides Bologna though, this time on the badge. “Milano”—where Alfa Romeo was founded in 1910—was still appearing beneath the Biscione logo when this car was built. A company-wide restyling decision made soon after the Montreal’s production made it disappear with the start of the Alfasud’s production in Pomigliano d’Arco in 1972. The Alfa factory on the outskirts of Naples was also intended to mitigate the phenomenon of migration that was prevalent at that time from the South of the country to the industry of the North.

The Montreal became a memorable piece of the ‘70s aesthetic, a futuristic-looking model that was wholly different to everything that the marque had done before. It got its handsome look from the drawing board of Italian guru of car design Marcello Gandini, who had already penned the Lamborghini Miura and was soon to come up with the Countach. Though it’s not his most famous design, the details like the unmistakable retractable headlight shades and the horizontal side gills made the Montreal a strong component of his portfolio filled with winners.

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Giacomo Chizzola
Giacomo Chizzola(@chiz)
2 years ago

I don’t know if you get to edit articles, I just wish to point out that the displacement was increased, rather than decreased, from the 33 Stradale which boasted a 2.0 V8. Many other things were changed, as you rightly say, such as compression ratio and very importantly the crankshaft which changed from flatplane to crossplane.

Ted Wark
Ted Wark(@ewarkcogeco-ca)
3 years ago

I was completely unaware of this vehicle and I’ve looked quite carefully at all the photos. I cannot see anywhere the name ‘Montreal’ on any of the badges. Why was this car named Montreal and where is the nameplate?

Giacomo Chizzola
Giacomo Chizzola(@chiz)
2 years ago
Reply to  Ted Wark

Named Montreal since it was first presented as a concept at the 1967 Expo in Montréal, Quebec, Canada. Quite a big deal back then: Alfa Romeo was the only invited car producer, they were tasked with presenting the maximum ambition for men in terms of cars. It was unnamed back then, based on the 105 platform with a 1600cc IL4 engine (basically: a GT 1600), the key being the design by Marcello Gandini from Bertone. The public loved it, calling it The Montreal. Alfa Romeo decided to produce it but wanted it to be a powerful car, decided to drop a V8 in it. Bertone was very unhappy with this, they had to redesign the car to fit the massive engine, which made it look less lean and sleek than the concept. The heavy and powerful engine on the 105 chassis made for a not-so-balanced car, brakes being somewhat insufficient and lots of body-roll. But it was never supposed to be a racing car, and that engine is just glorious.
The name isn’t really written anywhere on the car

3 years ago

Like all illogical and unreasonable things, you don’t buy Montreal for mechanical virtue or styling, even. The only correct way is to buy it for one of the most evocative headlight covers.

Chad C.
Chad C.(@chad-c)
3 years ago

Ever notice how Franz quite clearly “Likes” his own posts? His responses often produce negative reactions from us, but yet “someone” is affirming him. There’s no mystery there, and what that tells us punctuates what we know to be true…

As for the Alfa, it’s a polarizing design that not everyone appreciates. I’ve owned two Alfa’s, but I’ve never seen a Montreal in person. Best to withhold a final opinion until I do, but I suspect I’d prefer the Fiat Dino 246 Coupe for a bigger Italian grand tourer despite its comparitive lack of horsepower.
The Montreal’s 105 series chassis was designed for a motor with less weight & horsepower, whereas the Dino got its own chassis and physical features that to me make more sense. Granted, if good sense were paramount, I suspect the 3.0 CSL is the grand tourer of this period to have.

I can’t say I dislike the Montreal (I’d jump at the chance to drive one), but it appears a bit over the top for my taste. The Alfa V8 is a hell of a motor, and I wonder what it might have done in a mid-engined configuration aimed vaguely toward the Maserati Bora…

3 years ago

Franz , we all know you are a pretentious showoff, but if you would really own a classic car, you would know that reliability of such an old car has only to do with proper maintenance and nothing with the opinion you hear from a friends brother. It doesent matter if it is a alfa or a buick, if you do all the car needs, it runs forever. And maintenace intervals of a car this age is not the same as a midern car. I think you are only a sad tirekicker with prejudices and no real experiences.

Bill Meyer
Bill Meyer(@jack-straw)
3 years ago
Reply to  Luna

Hey Luna, pay the Kafka creature no mind. In fairness he seems to have some experience beyond tire-kicking. Back when he was known as “Guitar Slinger” he told all of us that he was, or had been, “a prominent member” of some Mercedes club or other so this proves he’s serious. Or something.

Giacomo Chizzola
Giacomo Chizzola(@chiz)
2 years ago
Reply to  Luna

Oh, he’s the late “Guitar Slinger”… that explains a lot of things! The pretentious arrogance in Kafka’s posts wasn’t new to me, now I see

Franz Kafka
Franz Kafka
3 years ago

Well I have driven a Montreal on several occasions one of which was for an extended period of time when considering whether to buy one or not . And though the car does have a certain charm as well as a few positive attributes its faults are as many if not more .

Examples ? If you’re over 5’8″ you need to apply . The handling in comparison to its contemporaries is unstable , unpleasant as well as uncomfortable . The fit and finish is atrocious along with the majority of the materials used . The reliability ? A joke in comparison to the competition as well as other Alfa’s of the era . etc – et al – ad nauseam

And then there’s the price ( both when new and current )

All of which adds up to the Montreal being one of the worst commercial flops in the company’s ( classic era ) history

So take it from one who ‘s had a heck of a lot more experience that most of you ever will . The Montreal is anything but a maple leaf . More like a prickly burning pine cone or worse _ _ _ a porcupine just waiting to sting anything that comes near it .

e.g. A classic best enjoyed from afar .

Eco – Va bene – Lesson over – Ciao

3 years ago
Reply to  Franz Kafka

Franz, what are talking about? I’m 5’11 and have plenty of room in this car. In fact, it is downright comfortable. As far as reliable, no better or worse than other exotics of the era, but finding someone that understands the Spica injection may be more of a challenge. Again, fit and finish is no better or worse than most of the era.

I think you are comparing actual contemporaries (as in newer cars) to the Montreal. Yes, even a road going appliance such as a Toyota is more competent in many areas, but that’s where 40+ years of technology has gone. And yet, that Alfa v8 makes a song that few can replicate. I’m very familiar with other models of the same era (Alfa and others) and can’t really understand how you feel the others are so superior.