I hadn’t heard about this car until a few days ago and I am a big fan of Alfa Romeo but this car passed by my car knowledge. It truly is an incredible looking car and in case you were wondering those eyelashes retract at night so the full light is visible. So sit around the table, take a breath and let me tell you about this incredibly unique looking car.
NOT IN THE MOOD TO READ A LONG PIECE OF TEXT? THAT’S OK I MADE YOU A VIDEO.
The car was first introduced as a concept car at Expo 67 in Montreal, Canada in 1967. The original concept wasn’t given a name so it commonly became known by visitors and press as the “Montreal.” The concept car had a much less agressive look than the car that would become the production version and the engine was a 1.6 liter 4 cylinder from the Alfa Romeo Giulia TI. It also sat on the chassis of a Alfa Romeo Giulia Sprint GT. It would be another three years before Alfa Romeo decided to put this fully into production and this began in 1970.
The original concept car was a very interesting car to look at but the production version had a far more aggressive stance almost looking like an Italian version of the Dodge Challenger. It is an absolutely stunning car and I would say one of the best looking of the time, a lot prettier than some of the Ferrari’s of the era. This makes sense when you realise it was designed by Marcello Gandini, a legendary designer who was working for Alfa Romeo at the time. Gandini prior to this had designed the Miura and yes, that had eyelashes too.
It had some very interesting features that make it unique, most obviously the eyelashed at the top of the lights that run flush with the body and even more amazing, these retract to underneath the light when the headlamps are put on at night. It also had a really cool looking NACA air intake on the front hood/bonnet and like a lot of modern cars it doesn’t actually intake air, it is solely there to optically hide a bulge from an engine unit. The air vents you see behind the door are functional though, letting air into the cabin.
The engine for this car is really interesting as normally Alfa would typically use a four-cylinder engine at the time and as such they built this car’s engine essentially from the ground up and I am very happy about that. The production engine was a 2593 cc 90° dry-sump lubricated, cross-plane V8 which also sported fuel injection. The noise from this engine is absolutely incredible and is unlike nothing Alfa Romeo had used before this point, later Alfa and Maserati would use Ferrari engines for their performance cars given that both are owned by Fiat Chrysler (FCA).
As mentioned this V8 was really great, dubbed the Montreal V8 and it had some solid performance for the time although not stacking up to higher end performance cars or those of the American Muscle persuasion. The V8 produced 197 bhp and 173 lb-ft of torque, this when coupled with a 5 speed manual (at a time when most were still 4 speed) allowed it to go from 0-60 in 7.2 seconds and continue on to 139 mph. These aren’t incredible figures and there were much faster cars available at the time but when you look this good, does it really matter?
Between 1970 and 1977 when the car was discontinued Alfa Romeo sold 3,900 units around Europe but sadly due to new emissions regulations because of the 71 oil crisis it was never directly sold in the US or Canada even though it had the Montreal Moniker. The amount of units though may have been enough given the stunning price tag that was placed on this car. It went on sale for £5,077 which is more than the price of a Jaguar E-Type or a Porsche 911 in it’s day.
Its claim to fame though has to be the fact that Michael Cane drove one in the 1974 film the Marseilles Contract where he drives a metallic dark brown example.
THE FINAL WORD
I really wish that designers would create cars with funky things like eyelashes these days and I guess back in those days you could be fairly sure when a guy like Gandini designed your car it would sell at least a few units. I fear though given constraints from safety and emissions, we just won’t see cars like this mad Alfa ever again and that is definitely a shame.