Thursday, 2 May 2013

NEW! AUTHOR PROFILE No. 1: BRUCE TAYLOR

New feature!

Bruce Taylor has authored two Veloce books on the fabulous Alfa Romeo Montreal V8 coupé. Alfa Romeo Montreal – The Dream Car That Came True is a beautiful introductory pictorial tribute to the Montreal with over 575 illustrations, while Alfa Romeo Montreal – The Essential Companion is a comprehensive 320-page technical bible for Montreal owners or potential owners.


My first car – who says that low profile tyres are a new idea?

“My first real automobile was a rather dilapidated 1937 Series I Morris 8, purchased when I was an 18 year-old student for the £25 that I had earned felling trees as a summer job. I recall that I was the object of a house meeting and severe reprimand, after naively rebuilding its 23hp side-valve engine on the pristine lawn in front of a certain prestigious university hall of residence!

After MoT testing (the British annual roadworthiness check) began in 1961, that car had to be scrapped and I borrowed money to invest in a new Ford Anglia 307E van, bought for £379. (At the time, commercial vehicles were not subject to purchase tax, which made them much cheaper than private cars). A few hours’ work with a Monodex steel sheet nibbler allowed me to fit large side windows, transforming the van into a very practical estate car, in which I toured much of Europe for eight years with youthful joy and no serious technical problems at all.

Being a keen radio ham I fitted the car with a powerful shortwave rig, and much of the rear space was taken up by the bulky vacuum-tube transmitter and its massive ex-WD high-voltage rotary transformers. With no seatbelts, and two auxiliary car batteries behind my back, I shudder to think what would have happened in the event of a frontal collision! After moving to a new job in Geneva, I found that a RHD converted van was unsaleable there and gave it away to a young hitch-hiker, who drove it back to her home in the UK and ran it for three more years before it finally succumbed to the tin worm.


My cute little GT6 coupé was cheap and lots of fun.

My next car was a personal import MkII Triumph GT6, a fast little 104hp coupé that suited the new wide-open autoroutes and speed-limit-free motoring of the time. In 1969 I could sprint from Geneva to Venice in 5 hours, which is still quite a good time today in spite of the much-improved roads. But it was a very unreliable car, and in addition to numerous other problems the Smiths instruments failed repeatedly, the propshaft had to be rebalanced three times, and the engine seized after less than two years. To its credit, Triumph accepted responsibility for the oil starvation defect which caused that, and supplied a replacement engine, even though the car’s 12-month/10,000km warranty had already expired.

I first fell for the Alfa Romeo Montreal at a Geneva Motor Show, and was most impressed with the exotic new Italian GT. But the price tag of CHF 40,450 was ten times more than the trade-in price that an Alfa dealer offered for my GT6. So I came away with only a Montreal sales brochure, which today is worth something as a collector’s item!


The original Montreal concept car is in the Alfa Romeo museum in Arese.

After driving and tinkering with the Triumph GT6 for seven happy years, in 1976 I bought one of the first Alfetta 2000 GTVs to be imported to Switzerland. The 2-litre GTV engine was a blast, and the car's handling was infinitely better than the GT6. But build quality was mediocre, the electrics were unreliable, and the body – built from imperfect recycled steel – rotted through from the inside in less than seven years. After this experience, I changed to driving Honda Preludes and vowed never to buy another Alfa, even though the factory claimed that these problems had been solved in later cars!

My wife, Jennifer, also appreciated the reliability and build quality of Honda cars, and drove a sporty red CRX del Sol until the arrival of our first child rendered that 2-seater impractical. The CRX was resold to a young man who paid for the car with a big roll of 50-franc notes, which did seem a little odd! Jennifer’s next auto was a splendid 1992 Daimler XJ40. These are very fine cars after the hydraulic self-levelling system has been removed and other initial design weaknesses corrected. Her Daimler has now clocked up over 210,000km and still drives beautifully.


Jennifer’s beautiful 1992 XJ40 has now clocked up over 210,000km.

But the Alfa virus is not so easily laid low, and I was finally lucky enough to acquire an excellent metallic brown 1972 Montreal that became available in the Geneva area. In fact, many Montreals have survived the years very well, since they were fabricated before the unfortunate recycled steel episode, and the bodywork was treated on an advanced finishing line that had been set up by Bertone in October 1970.

The Montreal has a splendid race-bred Carlo Chiti 200hp V8 engine and is a wonderful classic car to drive, but I soon found that detailed technical information about it was hard to come by. As a result, the car was considered a complex and temperamental automobile that is difficult and expensive to keep in good running order. Local Alfa dealerships were of little help, and were mainly interested in selling new models. When I enquired about spare parts at the main Fiat Auto centre in Geneva, the storeman replied “Montreal? Is that a Lancia?”


Not all Alfas are red! This finish was aptly named “Luci del Bosco”.

And the Montreal’s mechanical Spica fuel injection system was not well known. When my car initially failed an emissions test, the garage inspector started to unscrew the air filter cover. “Why are you doing that?” I asked. “To adjust the carburettors” was the mechanic’s reply! It took several years to discover little by little how the car was put together, track down what Montreal factory information existed, and reverse engineer some of the parts that were not documented. How could this useful information be shared with other Montreal owners?

In 1990 my CERN colleague, Tim Berners-Lee, created the very first WWW server. He put a computer in the corridor outside my office with a card saying 'Something new – try this'! I did, and was hooked immediately. After creating several websites for my work, I began to think that this new medium could be excellent for leisure activities, too. So I made a few private hobby websites, including one devoted to the Alfa Romeo Montreal: www.alfamontreal.info. Since the counter was reset in June 1996, that Montreal website has received over 500,000 visits. I am still updating and expanding it as I learn more about this interesting car, and I hope that this will make the information increasingly useful to Alfa Romeo Montreal enthusiasts everywhere.


The 200hp Montreal V8 is redlined at 7000rpm.

More than a century ago, the poet José Marti said that in his lifetime every man should plant a tree, make a child, and write a book. Having done the first two more than once, and encouraged by the popularity of the Montreal website, I set out to find a publisher for a book about the Alfa Romeo Montreal. This was not easy. Books can only be published if they are commercially viable, and the first question a publisher asks is “How many of these cars were produced?” Unfortunately, fewer than 4000 Montreals were built!

To its great credit, Veloce finally took the risk of publishing a quality 320-page hardcover for the small niche market of Montreal owners and potential owners. This Essential Companion book is about buying, maintaining and improving the car, and contains much technical information and many practical tips. It also contains information about Montreal history, production, racing, meetings, reviews, drawings, art, special tools, paint finishes, models, prices and service providers. I was delighted when it was commended by Christopher Reitz, the Director of Alfa Romeo Centro Stile, and voted 'Best Book of 2008' by Classic & Sports Car Magazine.

Veloce has published two books about the fabulous Alfa Montreal.

Encouraged by this, Veloce published a second book in 2009 - an introductory pictorial tribute to the Montreal that is addressed to a wider readership of classic car enthusiasts. Today, Montreals are readily available in Europe at very reasonable prices. I hope that these two books may help owners get the best from their cars, and show other discerning classic car enthusiasts that the Alfa Romeo Montreal is a hidden treasure well worth seeking.”

Bruce Taylor
twitter.com/alfamontreal