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  •   time2000 reacted to this post about 7 months ago
    Mick Walsh FROM THE COCKPIT / #Willys-Capeta / #Willys / #Willys-Capeta-Project-213 / #Capeta-Project-213

    After almost 35 years involved with C&SC, I still relish discovering a photograph of an intriguing car that I don’t recognise. While recently digging through an Autocar file, an evocative #1965 shot caught my eye. The image of the #Willys stand at the #São-Paulo-Motor-Show captured crowds massed around a sleek coupé with a glamorous model in the driving seat. On the back, only the word ‘Capeta’ – a colloquial Portuguese term for ‘devil’ – gave a clue to its origins.

    When this magazine was launched in 1982, the internet was the stuff of science fiction, so other than a team member’s chance knowledge or our well-thumbed Georgano encyclopaedia, it would have taken ages to discover what the mystery car was.

    Now an online search will instantly relate its history, provide more pictures, and even connect you with a knowledgeable enthusiast somewhere around the world. It’s less challenging but ultimately more rewarding, as I learnt with the Capeta – a saga that involved secret development, styling by a young illustrator, murder, museum vandalism and a long legal battle.

    Few know more about Brazilian sports cars than 24-year-old David Marques, who is fascinated by his country’s automotive history. “The Capeta, and the Uirapuru, were products of our major manufacturers,” enthuses Marques. “Both were born in the same optimistic 1960s that led to the rise of Puma, Brazil’s leading independent sports-car maker of the ’70s.”

    The Capeta, codenamed #Project-213 , was the result of an intense 11-month challenge to produce a glamorous Gran Turismo for the South American division of Willys-Overland. Based on a stiffened Rural chassis, the prototype featured lower wishbones and leaf springs at the front with a live axle, coil springs and torsion bars at the back. The engine, a bored-out Aero 3-litre ‘six’ sat behind the front axle, which greatly helped weight balance and the futuristic lines.

    With an aluminium head, sports cams, new intake manifold, twin Solex 45 carbs and tuned exhaust, the rugged motor produced 160bhp. A four-speed ’box was developed, the brakes were finned drums, and the steering was worm and sector. Top speed was projected to be 180kph.

    Opinions vary on the credit for the Capeta’s sleek look. Roberto Mauro Araujo, an architecture graduate, headed the styling department but Marques says illustrator Ramis Malquizo was given the task of producing the body’s visuals. There’s no doubting the influence of Giorgetto Giugiaro’s gorgeous Ferrari 250GT Bertone Coupé, particularly its distinctive sharknose front. The modellers, headed by Chester Wong, turned Malquizo’s drawings into 3D, leading to a full-scale clay design proposal before committing to the glassfibre mould.


    The team worked all hours to finish the car, including stylish leather trim and a sporty dashboard influenced by European GT trends. On the night before the Brazilian show, the silver sensation was pushed into a prominent position inside the Exhibition Pavilion at Ibirapuera Park. Also making their debuts were the Brasinca 4200 GT and GT-Malzoni – forerunner of the Puma GT. Various wheel options were tried, including wires with huge triple-eared spinners, while the badge design featured a red devil riding a forked spear with chequered-flag tail.

    The Capeta had a second showing at the Industry and Commerce Fair in Brasília, where even President Castelo Branco was tempted to investigate before the project vanished back into factory storage. Frustratingly, no magazine was given the chance to test the prototype. The GT couldn’t have arrived at a worse time and, with a new military regime, the economy dived.

    Thankfully, the Capeta was saved from the crusher, and in 1968 Ford (which by then owned Willys) instructed that the car be loaned to a local automotive museum belonging to Robert Lee. Tragically, this enthusiast was murdered in the 1980s and his family began a long legal dispute over ownership. The museum remained open to the public but many of the exhibits were vandalised and parts stolen. The more valuable cars were removed and sold, many leaving Brazil.

    Even Ford had a struggle reclaiming the cars that it had loaned to the museum, but eventually the Capeta was rescued. Other than a few missing parts, the prototype had survived well and, after cosmetic restoration, the little-known GT again made the headlines when shown at premier Brazilian classic-car shows. The museum was ultimately closed for railway storage, and again the Capeta vanished.

    Even Marques has never seen it, but his fascinating e-books spread knowledge of Brazilian sports cars (Top ten, Sept ’16), while his latest title investigates the Fiberfab Jamaican. You can buy the Kindle editions for a few dollars.

    From below: as displayed in the museum; drawing crowds at its 1965 debut in São Paulo; Malquizo’s Capeta styling sketch.

    ‘The saga involved secret development, styling by a young illustrator, murder and a long legal battle’
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  •   time2000 reacted to this post about 7 months ago
    CAR: #Alfa-Romeo-Duetto / #Alfa-Romeo / #Alfa-Romeo-Spider
    Run by Mick Walsh
    Owned since April 1988
    Total mileage unknown
    Miles since February
    report 950
    Latest costs £400


    RECHARGED FOR SUMMER TRIPS

    On the way home in the fading light from the Shuttleworth Collection’s wonderful Race Day event last October, the Duetto’s ignition light suddenly started to glow. With only 20 miles to go, I ran on sidelights where possible to save the battery and checked the dynamo the following morning. The fanbelt was tight and, after a test, I discovered that the system was charging, so the dynamo and regulator were removed for overhaul. A social call to Patrick Blakeney-Edwards led me to Guy Electrics on the recommendation of the Nash guru.

    With the Alfa little used over the winter, I’d delayed getting the electrical problem sorted, but I headed over to Standon, near Ware in early spring to visit the long-established specialist. Dayrell Guy and his son Wesley rebuild a vast selection of dynamos and alternators – from vintage cars to modern coaches – in an old-style workshop with a fascinating range of equipment. Recent work has included making a starter motor for a 1927 Fiat 509A with only the original casing surviving.

    Dayrell confirmed that the regulator was fine, so I asked him to rebuild the dynamo, including the bushes and armature. The finished unit was also ‘marine-ised’ to further protect against damp. It looked as good as new after a repaint, but the £350 bill proved how out of touch I am with prices. It cost £60 when it was previously done 15 years ago.

    Once it was fitted and the engine run up, the red light remained on until I realised that I’d wrongly connected the terminals.

    The joy of working on a classic was re-emphasised recently when I had to fit a new radiator to my 156 Sportwagon, which turned into a hellish job requiring the removal of body panels, fan and air cleaner that took most of a day. The similar task on a Duetto takes less than an hour.

    Now that the car is based in Essex, a test drive is an instant joy because there is a wealth of superb roads to enjoy around Saffron Walden.

    A few weeks later my MX-5 was stolen from my London driveway and, with the engine of the LeaF in bits, the Duetto has been used a lot this summer. Highlights have included a run to Grantchester for a picnic by the Cam, the idyllic area that inspired poet Rupert Brooke.

    With Cambridge just 15 miles away, the Alfa is in regular use for weekend visits. Among the local classics is a lovely 1958 Bentley S1 that’s based at the Gonville Hotel and often takes guests on local trips. Elliott Murray looks after and drives the Bentley and, such is the popularity of the complimentary service, the management is thinking of acquiring a second classic.

    Parked out front, it gives the hotel true style and is a welcome sight majestically purring around town.

    Trips to Euston Hall have resulted in two event discoveries: the Red Rooster Music Festival and Rural Pastimes. The journey over to Bury St Edmunds and beyond to the A1088 has become a favourite route because it avoids the soulless A14. The Duetto seems to know its way to the Grafton family estate, which has pre-war Alfa Romeo connections because a former duke, John Fitzroy, owned an 8C before he was killed racing his Bugatti Type 59 in Limerick, aged just 22.

    Rural Pastimes had a fine classic display, but, having not pre-booked, the Duetto was left outside among the moderns. We were in good company with Paul Hill’s smart BMW 1600, which looked cool on its wide steel wheels. We convoyed out together along the convoluted route of dusty tracks on the scenic estate, which felt like a rally stage.

    The Duetto has also been enlisted for explorations to former WW2 airfields, of which there are many dotted around East Anglia. At Gransden Lodge (Cockpit, August), we followed historian Chris Sullivan along what remains of the 1947 circuit where Dennis Poore’s Alfa 8C-35 titan won the main race.

    Next year marks 30 years’ ownership of MHT 567F and, to toast the anniversary, I pledge to finally repaint the passenger side and rebuild a spare engine – a task that I’ve always wanted to pursue.

    THANKS TO Guy Electrics: 01920 822003 / Colin Mullan / Euston Hall: 01842 766366; / www.eustonhall.co.uk


    From top: dapper Murray chatting with Liz by the Gonville’s Bentley while Duetto shows its best side; Dayrell at work; following Hill’s BMW at Euston Hall.

    Gathering storm at former RAF Hadstock. Roman style, with Alfa at the Fitzwilliam.
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  •   Russ Smith reacted to this post about 3 years ago
    CAR #Alfa-Romeo-Duetto-Spider / #Alfa-Romeo
    Run by Mick Walsh
    Owned since 1987
    Total mileage unknown
    Miles since August 2015 report 1700
    Latest costs £40

    NEC SHOW TIME AND AIR WAVES

    Recent flirtation with the idea of replacing the Duetto with something more modern, perhaps a Honda S2000, has been quashed by superb outings. We have enjoyed some great trips, none more so than following snapper James Mann – driving my old Healey – from Wantage to Hungerford during a spectacular sunset over The Ridgeway on the Poor Boys Tour.

    Alfas on show at the following day’s Thatcham Classic included Ewan Dalton’s red ’ #1968 1750 Duetto riding on original steel wheels and restored by Spider’s Web. Neat touches included converting the ashtray to mount his phone for the concealed wireless speakers.

    The day’s Italian theme continued with a stop en route home to visit pal Phil Rudge, a former 2000GTV owner who’d just taken delivery of a 1973 Ducati 750GT. A vintage Rudge specialist, he’s now a convert to these glorious ’70s bikes. “The engines are fantastic but the electrics let them down,” he says. The decision to show Our classics at the NEC allowed me to coincide delivery of the Duetto to Birmingham with a maiden visit to London Gliding Club on the Dunstable Downs. Having arrived in thick fog, there was little hope of taking off, but spending the morning chatting to instructor Chris Collingham about flying, Tiger Moths and classic cars compensated. He had arrived in his Jensen C-V8, having spent many an evening helping Derek Chapman ready the P66 for the show. Collingham’s other projects include the restoration of an ex-Lancashire Police MG TA. I enjoyed four flights after the fog cleared. Once released by the tug plane at 2000ft, the tranquility of unpowered flight is wonderful, not to mention the stunning views across the Downs. The feeling of soaring through the clouds is magical, and I am determined to return.

    A guided tour of the modernist clubhouse was an extra treat that delayed my departure for Birmingham. Built in 1935, the ocean liner-style building was designed by club member Christopher Nicholson and pre-war photos show various sports cars being used to tow gliders, including a Talbot 105.


    It was late afternoon before I headed for Birmingham on a motorway-avoiding route. From Leighton Buzzard, I cut across to Little Brickhill and had a great run up the A5, the trip blessed with another colourful sunset. The old Watling Street always brings back happy memories of trips to Silverstone with Dad, and my cycle rides to race meetings as a teenager. Just past Pottersbury in June 1967, the Hon Patrick Lindsay came blasting by our family Sunbeam Rapier Convertible in his Alfa 8C Monza, a seminal moment for me.

    Congestion in Coventry delayed my arrival, but Martin Port was there to direct me into place. His Landie looked great splashed with Jackson Pollock-style mud while his stand design – with garden shed, engine parts and automobilia – was inspired. The Duetto was hastily cleaned and a tub of Meguiar’s NXT All Metal Polish transformed the brightwork. The final touch was a ‘Try Gliding’ window sticker.


    The Lancaster Insurance Classic Motor Show gets better each year. Just across the hall from the C&SC stand, the Alfa Romeo Owners’ Club presented a group of Spiders from pre-war 6C-1750 to the latest 4C, and including Paul Conway’s stunning Duetto.


    After a nightmare rail journey, I finally arrived at the NEC to collect ‘MHT’ on the Monday. The hall was near empty, but I resisted the temptation to do an Italian Job-style slalom around the deserted floor.

    THANKS TO

    Chris Collingham at London Gliding Club: 01582 663419;
    www.londonglidingclub.co.uk Meguiar’s: 08702 416696; www.meguiars.co.uk

    Duetto and Jensen C-V8 at London Gliding Club with classic car owners Chris Collingham (left) and Andy Sampson. Below: later that day at the NEC.

    Lonely ‘MHT’ on the Monday after show.
    Ewan Dalton’s superb Duetto at Thatcham.
    Rudge with glorious-sounding Ducati 750.
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  •   Russ Smith reacted to this post about 3 years ago
    Car #Alfa-Romeo-Duetto / #Alfa-Romeo

    Run by Mick Walsh
    Owned since April 1988
    Total mileage unknown
    Miles since March 2016 report 2560
    Latest costs £180

    HEADING EAST FOR DRIVING FUN

    London is not the most considerate home for any classic, and facing the dread of the M25 congestion has often put me off taking out my Duetto. As a result, in 2016 the Alfa was relocated to rural Essex. Now each excursion puts me in a good mood, with the treat of rewarding roads across the neighbouring counties en route to meetings. The Alfa gets driven more, too, which is the best thing for any old car.

    Just before heading east, I popped over to my favourite MoT station, Mullan Speed Shop in Feltham. The family business is classic friendly and I always enjoy chats during the nervous test, in particular with son Glen who runs a superb E-type that he rebuilt last year. With my Mechmate pit lost after a house move, it was a good chance to have a nose underneath for leaks and rust but the quick review proved encouraging.

    The trip over to Saffron Walden confirmed why I’d made the switch. As soon as I left Royston on the B1039, the Alfa was in its element along the rolling border back road at twilight. On the fantastic hill run to Barley, I even spotted a barn owl perched on the fence watching the Alfa as it rasped by.

    As well as local trips to steam-ups and classic meets, the Duetto was also used to visit the final Shuttleworth flying day on 2 October to meet up with John Blundell and our Lea-Francis. On the way back in the dark the dynamo light came on, which always makes for a worrying drive. The following morning a voltage check confirmed a failed generator, which, along with the regulator, is now heading to Guy Auto Electrics for a winter rebuild.

    After getting pretty familiar with unsung Essex lanes, it was fascinating to take part in the pre-event tour before the revived Warren Classic and Supercar Show on 24 September. Concours organiser Nic Waller is a local when he’s not jetting out to Pebble Beach or Japan, where he also runs a new fixture in Kyoto. Like me, Nic is a confirmed Alfa addict and misses his GTV when away from home. As a result, he has bought another to enjoy in California, where his wife Katee is based. Like my Duetto, the coupé that he keeps here is a 1750 and it has all the Alfaholics suspension tweaks. “It was restored by Sunnyside Garage and now has leather trim,” says Nic.

    “It is perfect for English country roads, but my other car is a 2000 on Spica injection, which is better suited to the US. I love them both.” The Warren Classic had a superb Latin-themed entry, including a great set of Fiat 8Vs and a Cisitalia from Belgium, but the winning Alfa 6C-2500 didn’t join our cars on the run. Waller organised a great route that did full justice to Essex beauty spots, taking in Great Bardfield, Finchingfield and Thaxted before a fascinating coffee break at P&A Wood’s workshop in Great Easton.

    The cars later gathered at Rowneybury House for lunch, thanks to the generosity of event patron Neil Utley. Always self-conscious about mixing my ‘patinated’ Duetto with immaculate machinery, I ended up parking next to Paul Wood’s superb Barker-bodied 1932 Rolls-Royce Phantom II Continental, which had been a treat to follow on the road. After lunch, I diverted across to Much Hadham to visit the newly opened Henry Moore Foundation, which capped a superb day.

    Frustrated with a front-drive Alfa Sportwagon as my daily runabout, I’ve bought a Mazda MX-5 for the regular M25 trek out to Essex. The 2006 Sport is the soft-top version to keep weight to a minimum, and it never ceases to delight on crosscountry journeys. The Bilstein dampers are a revelation, providing a refined ride and superb handling, plus the hood design is brilliant. My only annoyance is that the inaccessible Bose stereo keeps cutting out.

    With the Duetto now approaching 30 years in my ownership, I wonder how long I’ll keep the MX-5. They have a different appeal despite a similar design brief, but on a beautiful day I’d always take the Spider. With its 50th birthday last year, I pledge to get that longpromised respray done and would love to track down Mrs Loraine Baker, the first owner from Bristol.

    THANKS TO Mullan-Speed-Shop : 020 8890 3963 / Guy Auto Electrics: 01920 / 822003, www.guyautoelectrics.co.uk

    Roadsters old and new: Walsh’s Duetto has been joined by a Mazda MX-5 as a London runabout and for drives out to Essex where the Alfa Romeo now lives.

    MoT time at Mullan Speed Shop in Feltham. Nic and Katee Waller with their 1750 GTV. Phantom towers above the Alfa at Rowneybury House.
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