In the first half of the '60's, Alfa Romeo had constantly obtained significant increases in the sector of exports. The origin of this brilliant [brillante] result was the decision, taken in the years around 1950, to take on the characteristics of an industrial concern producing compact automobiles of medium capacity, powerful and safe.
The precise intent of the "Alfa Romeo Formula" was also to produce production cars that were not constrained by financial and economic considerations but corresponded to those which would be, in subsequent years, the aspiration of motorists who, in the long run, would determine the evolution of the product.
A confirmation that the Alfa automobiles had become true and proper objects of desire for motorists came at the Universal Exhibition in Montreal that opened in April 1967. At the event, which was organised to celebrate the centenary of the Canadian confederation, all the nations of the world participated to set up the best of their cultural, scientific and technical production.
One section of the exhibition, entitled "Man, the Producer", was reserved for those symbolic productions which would reveal the achievements of technological progress. Alone from all the automobile companies of the world, Alfa Romeo was called to interpret "the maximum aspiration of man when it comes to automobiles". The invitation was extended also to its traditional collaborator, the carrozzeria Bertone.
The Torinese carrozzeria had wanted to build for the occasion a new coupe car, which would perform a dual role: one promotional, as a standard-bearer for Italian autos, and that of production, foreshadowing a new car for quantity construction.
From the image point of view, Expo constituted for Alfa Romeo and the Carrozzeria Bertone an exceptional occasion to be the centre of attention for millions of visitors and for the specialist press of all the world.
Unlike the Americans, for example, who in similar exhibitions had been accustomed to usually have a "dream car" without any commercial sequel, Bertone intended to propose stylistic ideas which, though as advanced, would be able to be adapted at the end for eventual reproduction in quantity. At Bertone, today, they recall that the new car was aimed to pick up the heritage of the Giulia coupe, by then in production since 1963, to replace it within a short time. They thought to give it only new bodywork, seeing that from the point of the view of the engineering it was still avant-garde.
The bodywork was planned, therefore, for a four cylinder engine and for a cost not far from that of the Giulia coupe of the time.
The production of the prototype was entrusted to the young, but already qualified [affermato], designer Marcello Gandini who, very courteously, on the occasion of the publication of this book agreed to respond to some questions on the Montreal.
"In August of 1966", says Gandini, today a successful independent designer, " the first design of the new car was executed, in the form of a model in reduced scale. The study was based on a feasible [possibile] Alfa Romeo platform of classic outline, front engine and rear-wheel drive. It was a two seat coupe and very wide for the time (1780 mm). It was, in a more sporting key [chiave], an Alfa response to the new-born Fiat Dino coupe."
"In the autumn of that same year", continues Gandini, " the full size mock-up [modello] was produced and immediately [impostati] two identical prototype were organised. If I remember correctly, probably a test in the wind tunnel of the Polytechnic of Turin with a model in 1/5 scale was done, but I'm not certain. The car was very attractive; it outlined in some manner the experience matured with the Lamborghini Miura and, in part, with the Canguro". The two prototype displayed at Montreal, of white pearl colour, were characterised by clean and original lines with a design which recalled formal details of the Miura; sideways the lines appeared slender and aggressive with an optimum distribution of volumes.
The edge of the entry to the bonnet is higher because of the bulk of the engine, placed at the front, while the line of the waist followed the course characteristic of the Miura, but with the tail having a less laid-down [deportante] profile.
The inclination of the windscreen and of the side windows, the latter receding towards the top, recalls the lines of the Lamborghini car. It is worth emphasising that this last stylistic solution had already been applied earlier on the experimental prototype Alfa Romeo Giulia Sport Special of 1964, at present preserved in the historical museum of the Milanese company.
Characteristic elements of the side were the seven slits, inspired by those of the Giulia Canguro. Moreover, the delicate crease, placed at middle height, conferred greater slimness to all the side. In addition, at the bottom the covering of the sills [longherone] of metallic colour stands out [sporge].
The front appears very elaborate, both from the grill placed in relation to two front lights, and for the large typically Alfa shield. On the wide bonnet, transverse air intakes stand out, similar to those placed on the side.
The tail is decisively truncated, with the lighting group horizontally expanded and the bumper inserted harmoniously below it. The wide rear window, from which one accesses the boot, is hinged at the top.
Worthy of note are the ribs [nervature] which follow the roof along the side edge.
The design of the wheels in alloy is distinctive, with eight trapezoidal slots originating in wheel hubs inspired by those of the Miura.
The interior, laid out [definito fin] in minimum detail, reveals a rather sporting organisation: front seats anatomically profiled, dashboard characterised by two circular instruments for immediate reading and a steering wheel, from the Giulia GTA, covered with leather. On the central console we find the clock and various control switches. To the rear there are two occasional seats.
The brief period that elapsed between the invitation to Expo and the sending by air of two examples, around six months, prevented Bertone from designing and producing a chassis suitable for future production requirements.
The Torinese carrozzeria adapted, therefore, the floorpan [pianale] and the mechanicals of the Giulia Sprint GT (with the exception of the engine, which was that of the Giulia TI,) for the new body, avoiding science fiction [fanta-scientifiche] solutions impractical in normal series production.
The prototypes, which would be dispatched to the Expo of Montreal as symbols of a development not theoretical [avveniristca] but genuine [reale], left therefore to foresee [introvedere] future series production.
The official announcement of Alfa, at the occasion of the departure of the prototypes for Canada, revealed, in fact, the desire to give follow-up production to the car which would be given an engine of more capacity and power. These announcements were able to be confirmed by a small, apparently insignificant, detail: the two rear exits of the exhaust pipes, certainly not justified by the installed engine.
As already mentioned, in this same period Alfa prepared to re-enter the world of international competition with the 33. Remembering the policy of the company to employ the experience acquired in competition in its production cars, it was not difficult to predict that the new engine would be that of the new racing car.
But what had brought about such a change of plan? How come [Come mai] Alfa had a change of mind on the mechanicals to adapt for the definitive car? The opinions of the protagonists, on this subject, are conflicting.
"When Bertone presented the design of the new car, developed independently at Turin" maintains Busso, "we noticed immediately its considerable dimensions. The bodywork appeared unsuitable for the traditional Alfa four cylinder mechanicals, even if taken to 2 litres and equipped with [potenziata] dual ignition, as was intended.
Then Busso, at the end of 1966, came to a decision. After one his frequent trips to Bertone he proposed to the management of Alfa Romeo the installation of a more powerful engine. Seeing the availability of the V8 of the 33 he suggested choosing a version directly derived (from it).
"The proposal was accepted", continued Busso, "above all to avoid the production of a car certainly underpowered [sotto potenziata], adapted solely for the Exposition and not for a commercial successor in the best tradition of sporting Alfas. Besides in this period the Milanese company had experimented with the V8 motor in a Giulia coupe. At the start of 1967, in fact, Autodelta prepared a few GTAs with 2 litre engines from the 33 to carry out a series of tests on the Balocco track. It was immediately evident that the car more suitable for such an engine was that which Bertone had produced. Unable to prepare the V8 engine for the Montreal Expo, it provisionally returned to four cylinders."
The engineer Chiti, which with his Autodelta would have then actively collaborated in the development of the car, confirms, in part, the assertion of Busso: "The decision to mount the 8 cylinder engine was determined by the intention of Alfa to produce a car with superior performance than average and of not excessive cost. Given that the design of the 33 engine existed already, it was enough to adapt it to the new grand tourer.
According to Bertone, however, the matter went differently. "Some changes (in) policy, at the top of Alfa, created a change of mind from the original project. The decision to exploit the sporting image of the newly-born V8 prevailed without thinking about the consequences that it would bring to the new car. This decision", maintains Bertone, "completely altered the original project."
Meanwhile the date at Montreal was imminent and the initial plans were necessarily obeyed. The two prototypes were finished at the end of February 1967. Their production was carried out to a very high level of quality, even though in the awareness that they would remain displayed for six long months within the Pavilion of the Future at the Canadian Expo, as works of art to admire without the possibility of being touched.
The cars unfortunately were placed in a restricted space, together with two motorbikes and a pair of snowmobiles [motoslitte], the whole encircled by mirrors which multiplied to infinity images of them. It was a positioning of a type not adapted to place emphasis on the beauty of the lines, dynamic and balanced.
Nevertheless, the Montreal Expo was a promotional initiative of the highest prestige and provided Alfa with all the necessary indications to assess the popularity rating of the car among world public opinion and, in particular, among the regular clientele.
The specialist press contributed to this purpose in a decisive manner. A particular detail of the car, the lateral slits, stirred up the fancy of journalists. According to some of them the definitive version would adopt a mid-mounted engine. Its lateral air intakes constituted the proof.
Even today the authors of the Montreal project refute this hypothesis: the apertures on the rear pillars of the car were only stylistic refinements.
The engineer Chiti maintains: "As much as some journalists have maintained the existence of a mid-engined Montreal project, it does not correspond to the truth. Such a solution was never placed in consideration, considering the relatively high volume of production foreseen for the Montreal. It was thought that a mid-engined car, more sophisticated and expensive, could have produced difficulties in commercialisation."
The statements of the Portello company on the future construction in quantity of the prototype were aimed closely at the Alfisti as the 2600 Sprint Coupe was by then outmoded. From this derived the necessity of renewing, in a short time, the presence of Alfa Romeo in the prestige market of high performance grand touring.
While the cars were on display at Montreal, at Turin they began studies to perfect the design and at Milan the work for an exceptionally punctilious finalising of the engine and the other mechanicals.
Gandini maintains: "The car was judged by Alfa Romeo (to be) very big and, anyway, too large for a four cylinder engine which was able to reach a maximum of 2 litres capacity. We requested them to narrow it, this work being done working on the mock-up [modello]. On this base was set out the plan for industrialisation (of the car). Moreover, Alfa Romeo asked for the design to be adjusted with new and bigger encumbrances [ingrombri] which called for the adoption of the V8 motor".
At Alfa Romeo, meanwhile, was set out the development of the engine and the design of the remaining mechanicals of the car. The floorpan and the suspension remained unchanged, while the transmission and the brake system were newly-developed to adapt to the greater available performance.
The job was undoubtably hard, in particular for those concerning the engine: producing an engine for competition is naturally very difficult, but even more difficult is to change it in such a manner as to be confidently [tranquillamente] used even in the city, as well as supplying very high [spinte] performance, as was the original intention of the Alfa designers.
p.27 The two cars, of pearl white colour, in the pavilion "Man, the Producer" in the Montreal Expo. Their positioning in a restricted space, surrounded by mirrors which multiplied the images of them to infinity, was unable to emphasise the beauty of the lines.
p.28 Three views of a model in 1/5 scale which was probably used for the wind-tunnel tests. The design of the car was based on classic Alfa mechanicals derived from the Giulia. The images give an idea of the layout of the car: it is a sporting two-seater coupe, very low and wide. Standing out are the very elaborate front, the line of the waist, very similar to that of the Lamborghini Miura, and the slits inspired by the Canguro.
p.29 The design of the prototype Montreal recalled clearly the details of form of the Miura: excellent distribution of volumes, slender and aggressive lines. Note the side glass receding towards the top, a styling solution also applied by Bertone on the prototype Giulia Sport Speciale of 1964. The design of the alloys wheels is distinctive, with eight trapezoidal slits originating in the wheel hub.
p.31 The front, in the opposite page at top and in centre, featured [presentava] a grill in relation to the headlights that guaranteed the efficiency of the (light) projection and as well the presence of a nose with very low leading edge [bordo d'attacco]. Also on the opposite page, the engine bay: note the engine from the Giulia TI and the style of the bonnet. On this page is evident the tail, decisively truncated; of note the wide rear window from which one accessed the boot.
p.32 Finished finely in minimum detail, the cabin was organised on sportiness [sportivita]: anatomical front seats, instrumentation with immediate reading, steering wheel from the Giulia GTA covered with leather. To the rear were two occasional seats.