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    CAR OLDSMOBILE TORONADO
    RUN BY Martin Buckley
    OWNED SINCE November 2017
    PREVIOUS REPORT Sept ’18

    / #1967-Oldsmobile-Toronado / #Oldsmobile / #Oldsmobile-Toronado / #Oldsmobile-Toronado-MkI / #1967

    I’ve probably been meaning to go to the Pre 50 American Auto Club Rally of the Giants for 30 years, but Only made it in July in the Toronado. I seem to recall it was always held at Knebworth House in Hertfordshire, but Blenheim Palace has apparently been the location for some years now. Handily, that’s less than an hour from my house. At 10 mpg these things become important, but having said that I never resent any of the fuel that goes into this car because it’s always an event in itself to take out and use.

    Talking of fuel, and probably as a knee-jerk response to all this talk of electric cars, on an outing the other week I parked the Toronado in front of a charging bay at a local cafe to see what the response would be. Within minutes a burly man in a high-vis jacket was making an approach; it turned out he owned a late-’60s Cadillac and was coming over to have a perv!

    Nick Kisch came down the day before Rally of the Giants and talked me out of fitting a ‘GB’ badge on the back (I did it when he went home). He also helped me with the tail-lights, where I have been struggling to get the indicator and stop bulbs working on the offside. This was only a partial success: the reproduction bulb holders are rubbish, but I have a feeling I have the original type in the spares hoard. This is too technical for me and will require the input of Gus Meyer, who has every intention of finishing the carburettor tune-up and fitting the radio aerial but has not quite got around to it yet – he is a man in demand. To be honest, apart from the tickover being too slow – and a long-winded cold-start procedure/ slow warm up – none of this affects the driving of the car, although, as former Riviera man Graham Millard pointed out when he drove the Toronado a few months ago, I should really get the wheels balanced to get the full effect of the car’s smoothness on the road.

    On the Sunday of the event we went five-up; Nick and me in the front, and Mia and her friends Neil and Georgie in the back. This slightly compromised the rear ground clearance, resulting in the occasional exhaust grounding. I sometimes think it looks as though it has settled a little on its rear springs slightly anyway.

    Exposure to previous American car events had prepared me for a day of Confederate flags and lots of rebel yell-type shenanigans, but ROTG was as civilised as a vicar’s tea party with lots of well-informed people and great cars. My favourite was a beautiful Continental II that looked almost ethereal in silver-grey, but I was disappointed to see that there were no Corvairs or Studebaker Avantis. Mine was the only Toronado, and I got the impression a lot of people had not seen one of them before.

    Wafting through the Cotswolds, the extra weight had very little effect on the performance and it’s a nice car to drive in the summer with all the windows lowered; it’s cool but without too much wind noise, so you can chat normally. It would be nice to reinstate the air-conditioning some time but I don’t especially feel the need for it as much as I do in some other cars, the NSU in particular.

    A phone sat-nav revealed that my speedo is wildly optimistic: 100mph is a true 75mph. This makes me think I’m running the wrong size tyres (smaller diameter?), but I almost don’t want to know because I will then feel compelled to invest money I don’t have. The tyres that are on the car have loads of life left in them. Sometimes even semi-ignorance is bliss – and cheaper.

    THANKS TO
    1 Nick Kisch
    2 Pre 50 American Auto Club
    3 Gus Meyer

    Toronado was unique at the Pre 50 American Auto Club Rally of the Giants, and the ideal car for Buckley’s maiden and decades-overdue trip. Toronado attracted attention, with working rear light and indicators – but no GB badge, yet.
    Ruby continues to enjoy the Toronado. Modern tech has shown the speedo’s wrong. Rally of the Giants attracted great variety Full load of passengers had its pitfalls.
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    THE BIG PICTURE / #Jaguar-Mk2 / #Jaguar / #1967

    Launched in 1967 as a final fling for the highly successful Mk2, the Jaguar 240 and 340 proved to be useful stopgap models prior to the arrival of the next-generation saloons

    WORDS: PAUL GUINNESS PHOTOGRAPHY: JAGUAR LAND-ROVER

    Although the Jaguar-Mk2 had been killed off by September 1967, two re-branded versions – the 240 and 340 – were then launched, with the smaller-engined of the two being featured in this classic promotional photograph of the time. The 240 and 340 featured downgraded interiors thanks to their use of vinyl upholstery and poorer quality carpets in order to keep list prices as low as possible, but in every other sense they were a fitting continuation of the Mk2. Given the age of the design, however, these were only ever intended to be stop-gap models – hence the disappearance of the 340 after just twelve months on sale, achieving sales of 2788 cars during that time. The 240 remained in production through to April 1969, giving Jaguar a useful entry-level saloon (significantly undercutting the new XJ6) that succeeded in attracting 4446 buyers.
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    Back in the late 1960s and early 1970s I worked in a European car dealership called Foreign Motors. The name seems quaint now, but back then most people bought Detroit iron because it just seemed like you got more for your money. It seemed foolish to pay more for a six-cylinder Mercedes when you could get a Cadillac with an enormous V8 engine and automatic transmission for a whole lot less.

    / #Mercedes-Benz-300SEL-6.3-W109 / #Mercedes-Benz-300SEL-6.3 / #Mercedes-Benz-W109 / #Mercedes-Benz / #1967 / #1968

    Then in 1968 came the game changer: the #300-SEL-6.3 , the fastest four-door sedan in the world. It’s hard to convey the impact this vehicle had on the world when it was introduced. Horsepower and torque were something Americans understood. Even Hot Rod ran a feature on the Mercedes. Car & Driver had drag-racing superstar Don Garlits look it over in an article entitled Superman Meets Super Machine. I still have my copy from October 1969.

    I remember one particular detail in the engine compartment that seemed to stump Garlits, an inner fender panel switch. Then it dawned on him: it was there for safety reasons. It turned off the auxiliary cooling fans when you raised the hood, so you didn’t lose a finger. That was a small example of the level of engineering in this Q-ship.

    There’s no need to re-tell the story of how the car came about. Everyone knows that engineer Erich Waxenberger took the V8 from the Mercedes 600 and shoehorned it into the W108/W109 platform. Kind of like what John DeLorean did when he created the Pontiac GTO by putting the 389ci V8 into an intermediate-sized Le Mans body. Or ‘Le Manz’ as they say here.
    The impact the SEL 6.3 had on me as a 19-year-old was unbelievable. Sure, there were bigger American V8s, but they didn’t have overhead cams, fuel injection, air suspension and four-wheel disc brakes, as well as all the amenities American luxury cars had such as sunroof, air-conditioning, acres of wood trim and a leather interior.

    It took me 40 years, but I finally got one. Mine was a 1968 with over 300,000 miles on it. The previous owner had died and the son just wanted to get rid of the car. I offered him $5500 cash and he took it. That was over ten years ago. Since then, I’ve put another 25,000 miles on the Merc and have had relatively few problems.

    Then it started to go downhill. First off, the air suspension was starting to leak overnight and it was taking longer and longer for the air compressor to raise it back up. Another bad sign was that the warning light on the dash was staying on, indicating that the air compressor could not maintain normal driving pressure.

    I know these cars are supposed to be a nightmare to work on, but the good news is that it’s a mechanical nightmare and not an electronic one. First thing we did was to take off the engine-driven air compressor, thinking we could replace it with an electric one. Then we realised this wouldn’t work because it drives the power steering. We then proceeded to take apart the compressor, figuring we would replace the valves and the piston rings. That didn’t work either, because once we got the piston out we found there were no rings that were commercially available. Before admitting defeat, I then used the greatest tool in my #Mercedes -Benz tool box: the Classic Center.

    I often hear people complain about the prices of classic parts, but only before they start their search, not after. After nearly a week of calling breaker’s yards and various piston-ring manufacturers, trying to find something that worked for a car of which they made only 6526, I finally called the Classic Center.

    I said, I’ve got a 1968 Mercedes-Benz 300SEL 6.3 and I need an air compressor for the suspension. After I’d had seven days of hearing ‘Good luck finding one of those’, and ‘Yeah, right’, click, the voice on the other end said, ‘Do you want rebuilt or new old stock?’ ‘New old stock’, I said. ‘Next day delivery OK?’ And I had it the next day. Was it expensive? Yes. But not as expensive as a lost week, searching high and low.

    ‘THE SWITCH TURNED OFF THE AUXILIARY COOLING FANS WHEN YOU RAISED THE HOOD, SO YOU DIDN’T LOSE A FINGER’

    I then realised I could make my 50-year-old car not quite brand new but pretty damn close. I ordered new rubber bladders for the suspension plus bushes, kingpins and everything else to make it last another 50 years. If this sounds like an ad for Mercedes, it’s not. Jaguar, Lamborghini, Ferrari and other such brands are now all doing the same thing. I’ve had too many close calls caused by using replacement parts made by someone other than the original manufacturer. Most recently a front tyre on a 4500lb Duesenberg blew out at 70mph, when the replacement inner tube disintegrated with less than 300 miles on it. The box it came in looked identical to those I had purchased for years from a brand-name manufacturer, except these ones were made – well, you can guess where.
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    No brakes in the rainfall
    CAR: 1967-Alfa-Romeo-Giulia-Super / 1967 / Alfa-Romeo-Giulia-Super / Alfa-Romeo-Giulia / Alfa-Romeo

    OWNER: Evan Klein

    / #1967-Alfa-Romeo-Giulia-Super / #Alfa-Romeo-Giulia-Super-Type-105 / #Alfa-Romeo-Giulia-Saloon / #Alfa-Romeo-Giulia-Type-105 / #Alfa-Romeo-Giulia / #Alfa-Romeo-Giulia-Saloon-Type-105 / #Alfa-Romeo / #Alfa-Romeo-Giulia-Super / #Alfa-Romeo-Giulia-Berlina / #Alfa-Romeo-Giulia-Berlina-Type-105 / #1967 / #1967-Alfa-Romeo-Giulia-Super-Type-105 / #Marelli-Plex-electronic-ignition / #Marelli-Plex / #dual-Weber / #Weber

    That’s right, it’s 100% reliable. At least that’s what I tell everyone. Seems Alfas run great for short periods of time. I’m starting to become embarrassed when the car breaks; it doesn’t leave me stranded, it just, well, doesn’t do what it’s supposed to. And if I do tell anyone, I have to put up with the ‘Why don’t you get something new?’ speech.
    Last month, at the height of the Los Angeles rain-storms, the brake master cylinder failed, leaving me without brakes. OK, no problem, I’ll just carefully drive to the shop using that horrible under-dash handbrake. The traffic was horrendous, bumper-to-bumper, rain coming down in buckets. At one point I was following a motorcycle officer. If he only knew. Fortunately I arrived without incident. We lifted her up and pulled the brake master. A rebuilt Bonaldi unit was standing by; we put it on but it didn’t work. No pressure. What to do now? Its not like these single-circuit units are off-the-shelf items.

    We searched the shop, and with a stroke of luck found an original ATE rebuild kit. So we rebuilt my original, bolted it in and it worked. I had brakes, glorious, glorious, brakes again. King of the Road. We ate doughnuts to celebrate.
    That was Wednesday. On Thursday the brake pedal became very hard; the brake servo had decided to quit. Back to the shop. Have you priced a servo lately? Executive decision: let’s get rid of the servo and run a straight line.

    Now I had brakes again, test drive around the block, perfect. But I got a ‘Pop the hood’ request upon returning, the engine sounding funny and running on two cylinders. Bad gas? Carbs out of sync? Time for yet more fiddling. If it wasn’t for Guru Benny I would be driving something new. Everything is sorted now, I don’t smell of gas, my hands are clean. I have told no one; as far as the wife knows, the Alfa is 100% reliable.

    Above and below Giulia gets uncharacteristically wet during los angeles rain-storm; original master cylinder now rebuilt.
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    CAR: OLDSMOBILE TORONADO

    RUN BY Martin Buckley
    OWNED SINCE November 2017
    PREVIOUS REPORT Sept 2018


    / #1967-Oldsmobile-Toronado / #Oldsmobile / #Oldsmobile-Toronado / #Oldsmobile-Toronado-MkI / #1967

    I’ve had the Toronado 14 months and it still feels different and exciting every time I drive it. The best way to motivate myself to get minor things sorted is the prospect of taking it to an event; it had an invitation to the London Classic Car Show in February, but the plan changed and it wasn’t needed – yet it put some momentum behind getting a few things sorted nevertheless.

    Some of the jobs required are visual irritations, such as the missing passenger-side door button and the cracked cover for the floor-mounted seatbelt reel, which will require me to put an order in to the American parts specialist.
    Meanwhile, I got trimmer Dave Barker to make me a new boot-floor carpet to replace the terrible bit of rubbish that was in there. Ian Sealey at UK Detailing repainted the original pressed-steel air cleaner in matt black (it should be blue, but I went for a bit of artistic licence) to replace the chrome one, which looked a bit too hot-rod.

    The Toronado has never been easy to start from cold, so I got my mechanic Gus Meyer to clear a few days in his schedule to sort the carb, and at the same time fix the leak from the transmission that leaves little pink puddles all over-my shed.

    Gus had to renew the sump gasket, which is usually a straightforward job – drain the fluid, remove the sump, clean the mating surfaces, replace the gasket and refit the sump. On this gearbox, however, Oldsmobile omitted to fit a drain plug, so removing the fluid became an ‘interesting’ operation.

    “I had to remove all the bolts except for the ones along the front of the sump,” said Gus, “then loosen them slowly to allow the sump to tilt towards the rear and let the fluid drain out – or, rather, cascade out, with 50% missing the receptacle underneath.” Messy. Still, the rest went according to plan, the new gasket is now fitted and it looks to be leak-free.

    Another interesting incident was finding the correct transmission fluid. I thought all auto gearbox oil was the same – pink, with a very specific and not unpleasant whiff – but apparently not. “The original spec was a Type A,” explained Gus, “which is now almost obsolete. According to the internet, the successors went along the lines of Type A to Type A suffix A, then onto Dexron and Dexron II.

    “Comma claims that its ATF AQM is a suitable replacement for the earlier Type A suffix A, so that is what I used.” It’s worth checking if you are running something old with an automatic in it.

    Replacing points and condenser was simple, using the tune-up kit pal Merrill Benfield brought over in the summer, as was setting the dwell angle and renewing the oil-pressure sensor, which was also leaking. Gus traced the cold-start issue to a non-functioning acceleration pump plunger seal. A new carb kit is on order, but he managed a temporary repair for now. The next job will be to set up the automatic choke and fast idle, once Gus has worked out the grainy pictures in the workshop manual.

    One thing I must remember to do is replace the fuel sender: the current one is vague, and I blessed the spare can of fuel that previous owner Marko left in the boot when I ran out last summer. I suspect the drum-type speedo tells similar fibs; coming back from the Bibury Classic Car Hub on a summer evening, I thought I was doing well in the Toronado until a pal in an Aston V8 went past as if I was at a standstill. We did all the local shows last year and got some nice comments.

    At the Tetbury Classic Car Show I had an interesting chat with a guy from the Ford Corsair Owners’ Club and told him about the one I used to play in as a kid on my auntie’s farm in Worcestershire circa 1971. I had to smile when he asked if I could find out if it’s still there!

    The Oldsmobile is the perfect art installation for The Shed, and never fails to generate interest or start a conversation. Martin’s mum Barbara tries Olds for size Dave Barker measures up for boot carpet. Ruby the dog enjoys the vast, comfy cabin. Buckley’s futuristic Toronado on show at Kemble airfield, with suitable jet-age backdrop.
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    Joe Williams Weymouth, UK

    Model #Porsche-912 / #1967-Porsche-912-Coupe / #Porsche / #Porsche-912-Coupe

    Year #1967

    Acquired April 2017

    2018 for me is all about participation: say ‘yes’ and do as many things as possible. For cars that means more events, more track days, more road trips, more driving and of course… this column. Porsche for me was a natural progression from my younger days being obsessed with all things classic Volkswagen. Similarly to those VW days, Porsche bites you with the same bug! Any genuine Porsche enthusiast in my opinion knows that it is so much more than just a brand. It’s an ethos, a movement and even a way of life that stays with you.


    My 911 story started with a 996 Targa with the Tiptronic ‘box that changed gears… eventually! It was heavy and cumbersome, but still fairly fast and handled how a Porsche should.

    After only a year of ownership (and a cheeky deal), a 997.1 C2S Cabrio followed. It felt light years ahead of the 996 and was a pleasure to drive in every way. I’m not normally a fan of any Cabriolet, but that car almost converted me. I next made the mistake of visiting my local OPC only to find myself having a test drive in a 991.1 C2 GTS Coupe. As it turned out, the demo car was available and, well, that was that. I bought it. I loved that car; it was great in every way and genuinely special to drive. I don’t mind admitting I didn’t actually realise how special it was until it went.

    Then came the flutter with a GT4, which nobody can argue with as being a great driver’s tool and a special piece of equipment. It was so precise, but for me it just didn’t have that special something that I’ve come to associate with driving a Porsche, and so I moved it on. Then came the 912. Having missed something ‘old’ in my life for so long, I decided it was time to ill that gap. Coming from someone with four-cylinder, air-cooled roots, the 912 seemed like a fun way to get that back. The bit I’ve missed out is that I buy cars as daily drivers, not weekend or sunny day garage queens. The 912 is, therefore, driven very regularly. I can’t explain how great that little car is: I think it’s a keeper. Perhaps everyone should go back a few years and reconnect with what made Porsche so special.
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    Anger management

    CAR 1967 Alfa Romeo Giulia Saloon

    OWNER Evan Klein

    / #1967-Alfa-Romeo-Giulia-Super / #Alfa-Romeo-Giulia-Super-Type-105 / #Alfa-Romeo-Giulia-Saloon / #Alfa-Romeo-Giulia-Type-105 / #Alfa-Romeo-Giulia / #Alfa-Romeo-Giulia-Saloon-Type-105 / #Alfa-Romeo / #Alfa-Romeo-Giulia-Super / #Alfa-Romeo-Giulia-Berlina / #Alfa-Romeo-Giulia-Berlina-Type-105 / #1967 / #1967-Alfa-Romeo-Giulia-Super-Type-105 / #Marelli-Plex-electronic-ignition / #Marelli-Plex / #dual-Weber / #Weber

    The guy was standing in the middle of the parking lot with his back to the car, wearing goofy red gym shorts and a puffy green jacket. To get his attention, I did what any gearhead would do with unfiltered dual Webers and a straight-through exhaust: I blipped the throttle. He spun around with a startled look and we locked eyes – it was actor Adam Sandler. He looked down at the Giulia and a huge smile spread across his face as he pointed at the car. I blipped again and smiled back.

    That’s the thing about classic cars: you can’t get mad at them. And it’s why I love the random nature of Los Angeles. Sure, I could have jumped out of the car and chatted to him, but no, a smile would do.

    The Giulia has had a busy month, trying to keep up with exotic cars in La Jolla at the concours show, and getting some new parts. I’d fitted a set of sport cams from Alfa guru Richard Jemison, then noticed one carb was having problems. No matter what we did, the air/ fuel mixture screws weren’t responding. We cleaned it and tried again, but still no go.

    Hmm. A rebuild? All the labour and parts would cost the same as a new carb, so, executive decision: new carbs. Done. And the car fired at first try. Once it had warmed up, the difference was Jekyll and Hyde; this thing was a little monster now, although I noticed a slight hesitation on initial throttle.

    Time to check out the distributor, #Marelli Plex electronic ignition, and idle jets. I compared my car’s distributor with another, on which the weights swing further out and the springs are smaller, giving more advance. And so we swapped the parts, checked the timing, and decided to go down a size in jets.

    Time for another trip around the block. Yes, it’s still fast but this time there’s no hesitation on take-off, and it pulls to the redline and then some without fuss. It is everything it should be. And I’ve now got my hands on a European airbox too, which will complete the look under the bonnet.

    As for the old carbs, once they were off, we saw that gas had been blowing against the back of the butterflies and not into the chamber. Easy fix, maybe. But the Alfa runs great and that’s the goal: more time driving, less time fixing.

    Above and below New cams, new carbs, and an ignition rebuild. The result? Hotter performance for this LA daily driver.
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    Car #1967-Oldsmobile-Toronado / #Oldsmobile / #Oldsmobile-Toronado / #Oldsmobile-Toronado-MkI / #1967

    Run by Martin Buckley
    Owned since November 2017
    Total mileage 90,219
    Miles since
    acquisition 250
    Latest costs £250

    AMERICAN IDOL LANDS IN WILTS

    The Toronado arrived safe and fairly sound in mid-November. I say fairly sound because it wouldn’t start, leaving me with a great lump of a car that I had to push into my shed having just parted with £350 to get it delivered. I understood why the invoice was so hefty when the recovery man turned up towing my new purchase with a Hummer.

    The next day, I got it fired up pretty readily thanks to the jumppack then prepared myself to be frustrated by all the little problems that I was too excited to notice when I saw the car in Finland a few weeks before. Perhaps uniquely in my car-buying history, the Oldsmobile is better than I remember it.

    I suppose the only thing I might question is that it looks to be sitting slightly low on its rear wheels. When funds allow, I will have to get the rear panel painted in body colour and the wheels done in the correct silver; and, yes, I suppose I could have the headlining sorted, although the rips don’t offend me. Previous owner Marko even threw in the correct headlining material – he had just picked it up on a trip to the States – along with a treasuretrove of other stuff, including a Holley carburettor to replace the original Carter. He had run the car with the Holley for a while, but felt that it ran better on the original.

    The jury is out on that because it doesn’t run that well on the Carter; the auto choke is not doing very much because it takes a lot of churning and pumping to get it fired up from cold and, once fully warm, it doesn’t want to idle and loses power. Mike Conner at Purley Road Garage is going through the fuel and electrics to find the culprit.

    The only other annoyance has been with the left-hand headlamp eyelid that decided it didn’t want to come up; this was easily sorted once we worked out that the mechanism had come adrift. It was also low on transmission fluid when it arrived (odd because Marko had changed the fluid), which was causing a delay in drive being taken up. Once topped up, all seems to be well.

    My first task was getting an MoT and it flew through. Once I had got all the paperwork together, and filled out the V55 form, the V5 followed about three weeks later.

    The only expenses up to now have been a new battery plus a set of period plates from Framptons. There was a slight concern with the latter because I like the silver-on-black type with the separate raised digits, but the hole for the rear plate (which doubles as the fuel-filler flap) is not large enough to allow for this style, so they had to make me a smaller one with motorcyclesized pressed digits for the rear.

    I suspect this is a historical problem with American motors in the UK. In Steve Miles’ book Over Here, The American Car in England in the 1960s, most of the vehicles have short index numbers.

    I’m looking forward to doing some decently long trips in the Toronado. It is like most other full-sized Yanks of its era, in that the steering is light and the brakes are marginal if you want to use the performance – the big drums get smelly and unhappy quite early on, although it always pulls up straight. It’s also unlike most of its contemporaries in that the ride is firm and there is not a lot of body lean.

    Once you get the hang of the steering, you learn to trust that this huge coupé will just track faithfully through your favourite curves, running slightly wide under power and tucking itself in gently when you lift off. It is deceptively fast, with incredibly good straight-line stability. Combine that with the fact that it is also quiet (apart from some wind whistle from the driver’s window seal) and you start to get the feel for a machine that must make a really relaxed mile-eater. The size doesn’t worry me and you can’t expect it to be anything other than indecently thirsty, but I wouldn’t have it any other way. It is a supremely extravagant piece of mid-century personal transportation that delights children of all ages, dispels every politically correct thought you have ever had and gives ecologists heart failure at 100 yards; that kind of entertainment has to be paid for.

    THANKS TO

    Δ Framptons: www.framptons.net
    Δ Jason Holland: www.koskin-import.com

    Ride is firm, and Buckley fears that the Toronado is sitting slightly low on its rear suspension.

    Once the 7-litre #Oldsmobile-V8 is fettled, it’ll develop 385bhp – more than enough to spin the fronts. Dash is the epitome of 1960s Americana. Olds began its journey to the UK in Finland.
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    Time to fire up the Alfa

    Car: #1967-Alfa-Romeo-Giulia-Super / #Alfa-Romeo-Giulia-Super-Type-105 / #Alfa-Romeo-Giulia-Saloon / #Alfa-Romeo-Giulia-Type-105 / #Alfa-Romeo-Giulia / #Alfa-Romeo-Giulia-Saloon-Type-105 / #Alfa-Romeo / #Alfa-Romeo-Giulia-Super / #Alfa-Romeo-Giulia-Berlina / #Alfa-Romeo-Giulia-Berlina-Type-105 / #1967 / #1967-Alfa-Romeo-Giulia-Super-Type-105

    1967 ALFA ROMEO GIULIA SALOON

    OWNER: EVAN KLEIN

    IT’S 5:43AM. The pounding on the front door is so loud I think the police are about to break through. Leaping from my bed, I shout ‘What?’ ‘It’s Don, your neighbour… FIRE!’

    It’s still dark outside but the hill across the street is filled with orange flames. The neighbours start gathering; I grab my camera and we watch the flames. What do we do?

    Fortunately, the winds are blowing towards the ocean, keeping the flames from moving towards us. One person says they won’t start dropping water with helicopters until sunrise. That’s at 6:48. I run inside and turn on the TV; the other side of the hill is in full flame and they’ve closed the freeway. While my wife starts packing things and throwing them in her car, I grab jeans, shirts and camera stuff and throw it all in the trunk of the Giulia.

    Back outside, we try to assess how quickly the fire is moving and how much time we have. This is Bel Air… surely they’re not going to let it burn! Where are the fire trucks?

    The flames are getting very close to the houses now, and as the sun rises the fire trucks start making their way down our street. Our house shakes as helicopters fly over, but why aren’t they dropping water? My wife says: ‘I’m going to work; let me know what happens.’ I hop in the Giulia and head to the end of the street.

    There are giant plumes of smoke, the flames on the hill are much bigger, and now I can feel the sense of urgency as the helicopters constantly pull water from a local reservoir and unload it at the fire’s leading edge. Four large tanker planes are also dropping retardant to contain it from spreading, while 500 firemen are clearing brush ahead of the fire.

    Police start evacuating the neighbourhood. I ask to stay; they take my name, address and phone number, and comment on how cool they think the Giulia is. They just want to make sure I’m OK.

    It’s amazing how coordinated the effort is. A single aircraft flies in circles at a higher altitude to give directions, so that planes and helicopters don’t collide. Firemen are given instructions and positioned. Meanwhile, homes in the valley are burning.

    At 4:30 the winds shift. The last home on our street has flames feet from its structure. The police are given the order for full evacuation and the fire department says we have less than 30 minutes. I grab the dog and sit her on the Alfa’s front seat. As I run to the driver’s seat, memories of cracked radiators, bad distributors and faulty alternators fill my head. I stare at the ignition key. Please, dear Alfa, all I ask is that you start. I put the key in, pump the pedal, and with a twist she starts. I look at the dog, she looks at me, and we’re off.

    I drive between the 15 police cars stationed at the end of our street and head to another hill to watch the fire. When it gets dark, I drive back to my street, and the police recognise my car. I keep it running. As I talk with the officers, they tell me that windblown embers are now their biggest concern, because they can start fires again randomly. I feel relieved that we live next to a fire hydrant.

    Next day, after spending the night with friends, I return. I feel proud: the Giulia hasn’t let me down, and at one point I come outside to see a group of firemen taking pictures of it. You don’t realise what’s important until you’re forced to decide. If this happened again, would I do anything different? Not at all. I’m just glad I only have one Alfa – otherwise I’d have to make a choice.

    Clockwise from facing page, top This was the view from the end of Evan’s street; Alfa about to become a getaway car; aircraft and helicopters fight the fire.
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    The good, the bad and the Super

    Car: #1967-Alfa-Romeo-Giulia-Super / #Alfa-Romeo-Giulia-Super-Type-105 / #Alfa-Romeo-Giulia-Saloon / #Alfa-Romeo-Giulia-Type-105 / #Alfa-Romeo-Giulia / #Alfa-Romeo-Giulia-Saloon-Type-105 / #Alfa-Romeo / #Alfa-Romeo-Giulia-Super / #Alfa-Romeo-Giulia-Berlina / #Alfa-Romeo-Giulia-Berlina-Type-105 / #1967 / #1967-Alfa-Romeo-Giulia-Super-Type-105

    Owner: Evan Klein

    The Giulia has been earning her keep. I took her up to Monterey this year for Pebble Beach and did all the usual stops: McCall’s, The Quail, Historics at Laguna, Lemons, and Concorso Italiano. I must say she did wonderfully, didn’t miss a beat. The nice thing too is that, when you drive a classic, they have a tendency to wave you in, with a lot of ‘Please sir, right this way’.

    One trick I learned was that parking at Pebble is horrible no matter what time you arrive. I got there at 4am (it was still dark), parked as close as I could and walked down to the field. Here’s the trick: they’re going to tow you, and you must accept this as fact. The car is 50 years old and it’s an Alfa; it’s not like it’s never been towed. But at Pebble it’s a complimentary tow. To a private, secure lot five minutes away. More like a valet service than a punishment.

    The Giulia’s other big adventure was the Targa Baja rally in Mexico, for which 32 classics met in San Diego and crossed the border into Tecate for four days of high-speed driving on the best roads in Mexico. From Porsches and BMWs to Alfas, any classic is welcome to enter.

    We climbed the mountains and followed the coast, the federales escorting us through the congested parts so we could parade quickly through the cities. In Tecate we stopped to gather at the main square for a welcome from the mayor and made the news – the locals waved flags and everyone was friendly. From there we headed up La Rumorosa, a stunning and treacherous drive on a desert mountain road, where it’s not uncommon to see 18-wheelers on their sides. We finished by the water in Ensenada, with a line-up of classics. Very impressive.

    On day three, the group headed into the mountains and an altitude of 9000ft – but, as we made our way out of town, the Alfa started backfiring and wouldn’t rev beyond 3500rpm. Oh no. So I pulled off the road and we gathered around the open hood. It was the ignition system. It had failed.

    Navigator Nick and myself decided not to hang around Mexico and to flatbed the Alfa back to Los Angeles. All my #Alfa-Romeo stories seem to involve a flatbed. Back at the shop on the Monday, we swapped the distributor back to Marelli Plex, cranked the ignition, and she was purring like the car I adore. And now it’s time to make a run to the grocery store, because she still has to earn her keep.
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