As we have seen, the Montreal was without doubt a distinctive and very controversial car, both for the styling and apparently incompatible mechanical units (referring to the powerful engine combined with the live rear axle).
However driving the car provides great sensations, this time beyond expectations.
We have the engine. The characteristic rumble of the eight cylinders itself made one think with emotion of the competition 33. We put it in first (on the ZF gearbox we find it to the back, outside the alignment of the other four speeds) and begin the discovery of this fast GT.
The acceleration is scorching [bruciante]. After having covered a few kilometers, we notice the remarkable nature of the engine, especially the excellent supply of torque. This characteristic allows one to travel in fifth even at low speed. The engine runs cleanly without shuddering, always giving the impression of progressiveness [progressione] of acceleration notwithstanding the high gear ratio.
The noise of the engine is pleasant. Only at the higher revs does it begin to be intrusive [fastidiosa], but for a true Alfisti it is always a delightful tune,
This is the opinion of Bonini: "The engine was one of the most powerful [generosi] eight cylinders then on the market, responsive [pronto] and powerful at all revs. Its functioning was perfect both when it was asked for maximum power and in city traffic. The fuel injection allowed, in fact, perfect combustion [carburazione] even in city driving." With such an engine, it is obvious that one expects performance of the first order.
Alfa Romeo claimed a maximum speed [velocita di punta] of more than 220 km/hr and an acceleration from standing start of 28.2 seconds (for the standing kilometre). The actual performance, following the traditions of the company, was superior to that claimed. Here is the data collected by the tests of "Quattoroute" in August 1972: 224 km/hr maximum speed, 27.6 seconds for the standing kilometre, the 400m was covered in around 15 seconds and 7 seconds were necessary from 0 to 100 km/hr.
It is noteworthy that the maximum speed reported by the American magazine "Road and Track" was of c. 211 km/hr at 6,300 rpm. The car used for the tests, one of the very first examples, proved slow just because it was then lacking a spoiler. Later on, in the section reserved for the evolution of the car, all the advantages of this solution will be illustrated.
Also the moving eyelids of the headlights contributed to the aerodynamics of the car: retracted they reduced the maximum speed of the car by a few kilometres per hour.
The ease with which the car achieved its maximum speed should be emphasised. The considerable flexibility of the engine and the excellent combustion [carburazione] allowed the acceleration over a kilometer starting at 40 km/hr in c. 34.3 seconds, a value which few other cars even of greater capacity were able to equal. [Note from Malcolm - this was in fifth gear - see the caption for page 65 below]. This (was) notwithstanding the general formulation of the car reflecting that of a comfortable coupe and therefore that of a GT not lightened to obtain high performance to the detriment of safety and comfort. The weight, which in running order reached 1270 kg, was testimony to this.
These are the speeds claimed by the company, achievable in a single gear at the rpm of maximum power (6,500 rpm): 60 km/hour in first, 105 in second, 140 in third, 185 in fourth, 50 km/hr in reverse.
Taking advantage of the higher revs, it is possible to hold the gears well beyond these limits, achieving considerable speeds equalled with difficulty by the competition of the time.
Notwithstanding the power of which the engine is capable, the fuel consumption remains restrained at low and mid-range speeds. The company claimed 13.7 l of Super petrol per 100 km, according to the rules of CUNA (consumption plotted at constant speed, 2/3 of maximum, in top gear). From c. 7 km for each litre of petrol it consumed, it climbed to 4 km/litre, when the car required maximum power.
The functioning of the clutch is excellent. Suitable for the power of the engine it shows signs of slipping [accenna al pattinamento] only when maximum power is required. The force of the pedal is average. This eases further driving the car in gear [nella marcia] in the city.
The brakes confirm what was said earlier [confermano quanto detto in precedenza]. They do not guarantee adequate braking distance [spazzi di arresto]. To activate them is moreover achieved with considerable effort. Nevertheless more demanding braking carried out at high speeds does not feel the effects of any locking of the wheels.
In sporting driving the brakes manifest some symptoms of fading, creating problems for the complete exploitation of the mechanicals. The steering, recirculating ball, was that already adopted by Alfa on the Giulia and 1750 models with excellent results.
"The steering [guida] of the Montreal", maintains Bonini, "was a little heavy in manoeuvring, in parking and in all the slow manoeuvres. On the move [In marcia] it was perfect, with manoeuvrability and straight line stability [stabilo in rettilineo] even to high speeds." These characteristics derived from the increased [ellevato] weight on the front chassis and the dimensions of the tyres.
Its readiness [prontezza] and precision was brought about [tratta] from experience with the Giulia. Nevertheless, the adoption of large tyres made the steering less sensitive. The greater height of the tyre sidewalls created in curves an increase in the drift angle [angola di derive]. This produced, therefore, a variation on the desired course, which negatively cut into the sensitivity [incideva negativemente sulla sensibilita] of the steering. Moreover, on the cars deprived of the front spoiler, the front end tended to lighten too much at high speed, reducing the sensitivity of the steering (further).
One almost does not feel bumps and joints on the road and even at speed one does not notice the tendency to skip typical of cars with sporting suspensions. The absence of wind noise and other noise at high speed emphasises again the excellent aerodynamics of the car. Comfort on the move, especially on long journeys, is affected by [risenta] the noise provided by the electric pump placed near the fuel tank, more than the engine when pushing [si spinge] the car on the road [a fondo].
On the whole the car behaves very well and its directional stability at high autostrada speeds is impressive.
The suspension, however, is rather soft and if the car is pressed quickly into a series of curves it demonstrates [denota] a certain rolling with the rear axle, which tends to slip on the road [tende a scapare via].
We hear what Bonini has to say: "The car had good road-holding. At first acquaintance [Al primo impatto] driving proved to be a little difficult for anyone who did not have experience with cars of high power and speed like the Montreal. The weight distribution felt the effects of an excessive load on the front end. Moreover the rigid axle penalised its performance. The test drivers had problems getting used to the power and reactions of the car, given that their experience was limited to cars of smaller capacity."
The behaviour in corners can be definite understeer (the car tends to go out at the nose). Nevertheless, (by) putting your foot down [tenendo in tiro] the engine has a considerable executive power [potere directtivo] over the rear axle, with the effect of oversteering on the exit.
If one enters a curve too fast it is enough to release the accelerator to reduce the understeer. It is necessary then to lightly counter-steer and then to step on the throttle [dare gas] to return to the ideal trajectory.
Driving in a sporting fashion [sportivamente], at the limit, it lets you know in the corner the progressiveness of its roadholding, thanks also to the soft suspension [assetto morbido]. The driver feels that the car loses [sta perdendo aderenza] grip and begins to slide, gently, without abrupt reactions, permitting counter-steering without any difficulty. Considerable assistance comes also from the limited-slip differential and from the strong torque of the engine.
Usually, (after) making a mistake in a curve, from a first skid another follows in the opposite direction. The Montreal, however, after the first skid tends to recover immediately. This is also because of the soft suspension.
In hairpin bends taken in first or second gear, in spite of the roadholding [coricamento] of the car, there is limited skidding of the rear wheels under power, thanks to the most efficient limited-slip differential, which immediately gives [da subito] considerable traction in acceleration.
Teodoro Zeccoli, driver and tester of Autodelta, had the job of testing the car in great depth [a lungo], also with a view to its use in racing: "The behaviour on the road", maintains Zeccoli, felt the effects of the softness of the suspension. Therefore for a "sports car" [sportiva] there was considerable roll and pitching in acceleration and in braking. The Montreal showed the effects of a non-ideal weight distribution."
In spite of this, in the wet the car has honest [sincero] behaviour, following closely with due proportions the roadholding in the dry. But naturally one observes more alert driving.
At the entry to the curve there is now more [ancora piu] understeer, then with the power available it rapidly passes, but in a manner always progressive, to oversteer. The progressiveness of the suspension and the efficiency of the limited-slip differential allows one to recover all skids of the rear axle. Notwithstanding this, one treats this with intuitive driving. Naturally only the most expert drivers would be able to take advantage of the mechanicals of the car, to the level possible, on surfaces rendered slippery by the rain.
The extended test carried out on a Montreal by Quattroroute aroused great interest.
Bonini and a test driver we have mentioned elsewhere [a rivista], Bonetto, travelled from the Calabrian region to Lubeck in Germany, over 2,500 km in c. 20 hours. Given an automobile like the Montreal, fast, agile and comfortable, it was easy to finish the journey in a record time. This was in a large part made up of fast freeways where they were able at times [all'epoca] to achieve [superare] and maintain at length [a lungho] very high speeds.
The car revealed excellent roadholding, especially on the fast curves of the German autobahns confronted flat out ["pieno"].
The engine confirmed all its power [generosita]. The speed of 200 km/hr, traffic permitting, was able to be achieved rapidly and maintained at length without problems. The driving, moreover, did not prove demanding. They did not achieve the maximum speed due to the speed with which it approached the other cars. [Non ci si accorgeva della velocita se non per la rapidita con cui si avvicinavano le altre auto].
For the needs of a high performance car the fuel consumption proved acceptable: 5.6 km per litre of petrol.
p.67: On the opposite page at the top, the diagram of power and torque of the Montreal V8: at the bottom, the graph of speed and revs allowed in individual gears. To the right and below the equipment installed by ISAM for the survey of speed and (fuel) consumption.
p.68: The Montreal of Quattroroute during tests in hills. The behaviour in corners of the car was understeer in entry while on exit, by being opportune [agenda opportunamente] with the accelerator, it had a directive power [potere direttive] over the rear end [retrotreno] with the effect of oversteer.
p.69: Quattroroute, by means of ISAM, usually tested the most sporting cars on a course in the Frascali-Tuscolo hills, close to Rome. The Montreal scored also here a notable time, confirming the excellent speed it was given.