On Saturday, November 11, 2017, the New Jersey chapter of the Alfa Romeo Owner’s Club (AROC) held its Fall Foliage Driving Tour, starting at Fullerton Alfa Romeo in Bridgewater, and ending at Duke Farms in Hillsborough.
The day dawned sunny but quite cold, with sunrise temps below freezing. The wind, which had been a factor the previous day, was all but nonexistent, which made the cold more tolerable. The thermometer moderated as the day progressed, and it turned out to be a beautiful day for a driving tour.
The dealer did a great job hosting us in the a.m., with plenty of coffee, bagels, and other breakfast treats available. Early arrivals were there before 9:30, and during the subsequent hour, 17 cars and close to 30 attendees streamed in. While there, we enjoyed alternating our gazes between the new Giulia sedans & Stelvio SUVs, and the classic Alfas parked outside.
After a brief driver’s meeting, we were off and running. Our first leg had us heading north/northwest, through Oldwick and Long Valley. After an hour on the road, we arrived at our planned rest stop in Chester NJ. The intent was to give participants a chance to wander the streets of this quaint town, filled with antique shops, bakeries, and the like. But true to the Italian spirit, almost everyone stayed in the parking lot, hovered around our Milanese metal, and swapped stories (mostly lies about horsepower).
By 12:30, the second leg of the drive began, and we were on the road again, now headed back south. We briefly doubled back on Lamington Road (Route 523), then turned south/southeast, through Whitehouse Station and Readington. We arrived at Duke Farms exactly at 1:30, which was a good thing, as our catered luncheon was scheduled to start at that time. By complete coincidence, the second leg was also an hour’s length. Both drives were blessed with relatively light traffic, colorful autumnal leaves, lots of sunshine, and no breakdowns.
The café staff, led by Debbie, went overboard with our catered meal. We walked in to find a smorgasbord of sandwiches, wraps, salads, fruit, plus cookies and coffee. A section of the dining room was reserved for us, and we continued to catch up with old friends and/or make new ones, all while stuffing our faces.
Our chapter president, Enrico, declared the event a success, and there was widespread agreement among the chapter members. Based on today’s turnout, we are all counting on AROC’s NJ Chapter to hold more such events in 2018.
(Special thanks to my wife Margaretanne for accompanying me, and taking all the on-the-road photos.)
The original name of the company we know today as “Alfa Romeo” was A.L.F.A., which is an acronym. In Italian, it stands for Anonima Lombarda Fabbrica Automobili, which translates as “Anonymous Lombardy (Region) Manufacturer (of) Automobiles”.
During World War I, an industrialist named Nicola Romeo took over control of A.L.F.A., which was then in liquidation. He immodestly changed the name of the company to Alfa Romeo, with “Alfa” no longer an acronym. A recession during the 1920’s forced Romeo out of the company, but the name change stayed.
None of this stops people from continuing to spell the car name as “Alpha” (as if the car were Greek!).
On Saturday October 21, 2017, members of the New Jersey Chapter of the Alfa Romeo Owners Club (AROC), along with other enthusiastic Alfa owners, joined forces for a caravan through northern New Jersey and into the New York counties of Rockland and Orange.
The group began its day at our host dealership, Ramsey Alfa Romeo. Dealer management generously provided bagels, coffee, and juices for those arriving early. At 10:30 a.m., a drivers’ meeting was convened, with an explanation of the day’s plans. The route would head north and into New York. We would enter Harriman State Park and use one of the park’s rest areas as a half-way pit stop. From there, we would continue north/northwest, with Brother Bruno’s restaurant in Washingtonville our luncheon destination. After lunch, participants would have the choice of visiting a local winery, heading back to the dealership, or finding their way home.
Before departing, the author spent some time lustily staring at the various Giulia sedans and Stelvio SUVs on the showroom floor. Special note was made of the Alfa Romeo heritage signage, which gave the sales area a cultured touch. The brand “vibe” was strong; there was no doubt you were in a showroom full of Italian machinery.
The rough count of participatory vehicles was 23. It was especially delightful to see the wide variety of models represented. The oldest car was a Giulietta spider. The numerous Giulia coupes and Duettos were hard to miss. The decades of the ‘70s and ‘80s were well-represented by Alfetta coupes and an Alfetta sedan. There was one example each of the Milano and the 164. Plentiful late-model Spiders took advantage of the top-down weather. There were perhaps four or five new Giulia sedans, and the dealer sent a Stelvio to be used as a photo/chase car.
We have been having an extended Indian summer in the metro NY/NJ area, and the day of this drive was no exception. The weather simply could not have been better. Leaving Ramsey Alfa Romeo at 11 a.m. on a Saturday morning, we battled weekend shoppers as we dove onto Route 17 south, made a U-turn, and headed north on 17. Through some Italian miracle, the group stayed together.
The rest stop along Seven Lakes Drive gave everyone a chance to catch up, chat, and take photos. Then we were off again, taking Route 6 west, getting back to Route 17 north, and exiting at Route 208 for the ride into Washingtonville.
Brother Bruno’s was in a strip mall with ample parking; the club actually cordoned off a row of spots so the cars could park together, and remain distant from the non-Alfas in the lot. Lunch was Italian food (of course), and one person at our table commented that the day was being spent doing just what Italians like to do: drive, talk, and eat!
Your author, having enjoyed the food, the cars, and most of all the company, bid arrivederchi and headed home. There’s nothing quite like piloting your own Alfa on a beautiful fall day with several dozen other Alfisti.
ONE non-Alfa Romeo vehicle was allowed to drive with the group. We were told that it was an Italian car, although definitive identification escaped us on this day. Sleuthing is continuing, and once we have positive I.D., we will update this site.
I recently had a business reason to peruse the 1968 Buick new car brochure (which can be seen online here). My research concerned the availability of disc brakes, which led me to this week’s fun fact:
If you purchased a new 1968 Buick Wildcat (hardtop, sedan, or convertible) and desired a manual transmission, you would simply stay with the standard 3-speed, which used a column-mounted shifter. (An automatic was optional, and no 4-speed was offered on the Wildcat.)
Further, if you did choose 3-speed, your braking system would consist of manual drum brakes front and rear. Power drums or power front discs, factory options on most Buicks, could not be had on the Wildcat with the 3-speed.
As a footnote to that fun fact, the Wildcat’s standard engine in 1968 was a 430 cubic-inch 4-barrel V8 which put out 360 horsepower and 475 lb. ft. of torque. Fun indeed!
The Alfa Romeo Owners’ Club (AROC) held its 2017 annual convention in Montreal, Quebec, in conjunction with the Alfa Romeo Club of Canada. Billed as “Alfa Expo17”, the choice of this city was not arbitrary. This convention celebrated the 50th anniversary of the showing of the Alfa Romeo concept car at Expo ’67 in Montreal. When the car went into production a few years later, it was named after its debut city. Alfa Expo17 promised a significant showing of Alfa Romeo Montreals, as well as some special events planned around this very special vehicle.
This was my first participation at an AROC event. My 1967 GT 1300 Junior turned 50 this year, so partly in honor of the car’s birthday, we drove the car there, the decision helped by Montreal’s relative proximity. My wife accompanied me, because she likes riding in the Alfa (claiming that it’s the most comfortable collector car I’ve owned) and because we’ve enjoyed our previous visits to our northern neighbor.
When the convention’s agenda was published in the club magazine, I was somewhat surprised to see that “activities” were scheduled to begin as early as the Monday before Sunday’s concorso. Taking that much time off was not practical for either of us, so we decided to arrive early on Friday July 14. To help with that plan, we departed from home on Thursday evening the 13th, and spent the night near Saratoga Springs NY, almost exactly half-way to our destination.
Friday’s convention agenda included lunch at the Orange Julep fast-food restaurant in downtown Montreal, followed by a gimmick rally for the afternoon. We decided to aim for lunch at the Orange Julep, and take a wait-and-see approach to the gimmick rally.
Our planned lunch arrival of 12 noon was missed by almost two hours, because the combination of rain, traffic, and road construction had us crawling at 10 mph for much of our time in the city. (Oh, and this driver, unable to read street signs in French, made a wrong turn and drove in circles through a residential area for 20 minutes.) As we finally pulled into the Orange Julep parking lot, the threatening skies opened up again.
There were perhaps four Alfas remaining in the lot. We ordered our food and said some quick hellos to a few Alfa owners. As soon as we had our food in hand, the rain picked up and the temperature dropped. The Orange Julep only had outdoor seating. My wife asked if we could eat in the car. THAT was not an option. I gave her my hooded jacket, we found seating in an outdoor shed, and wolfed down lunch as quickly as possible. The gimmick rally was not going to happen for us.
With the rains continuing, we dove back into the car, and began to plot our route to the hotel. Next issue: both of our phones lost internet coverage, so, no Google maps. The filling station across the street sold me a street map of Montreal, and we were back on the highway, again brought to a crawl by traffic and construction. What should have been a 20 minute ride took closer to an hour. We were happy to arrive and get into a warm and dry hotel room. It was not the best start to our holiday weekend.
Friday night’s dinner was on site, so there was no need to get back into the car. We sat down and met all the other couples sharing our table. For the first time but not the last, we were treated to the warmth and openness of our fellow Alfa owners. Everyone was gracious, humble, and willing to make us feel included. My wife, who is not a car person, managed to gain the sympathetic ear of several of the other ladies who understood that she was not at the dinner to discuss double overhead cams, oil viscosity, or Spica fuel injection.
At the conclusion of the meal, about five Montreal owners lined up their cars along the back entrance of the hotel, and Wes Ingram, Spica guru, gave a technical presentation. All the cars had their engines started, and it was an incredible sound to hear these V8 engines roaring.
Saturday’s schedule included a number of optional events. For those who wanted to test their driving skills, autocross-type drives were conducted at a nearby raceway. That’s not my thing, especially when the car in question is also my transportation home, so we opted instead for a bus tour of Old Montreal.
With the rain holding off, the bus departed the hotel at 9 a.m. sharp, and our driver/tour guide, a pleasant local chap, was knowledgeable if a bit difficult to understand through the accent. The bus meandered through town, then parked for a 2-hour lunch break, which put us out on our own. The gloomy weather was changing over to sunshine, and it was nice to walk around. Back on the bus, we finished the tour and we returned to the hotel by 3 p.m. I didn’t mind being a passenger for the day.
By this time my wife was ready to relax in our hotel room. The sunny skies meant that this was my window to prep my car for Sunday’s big show. The hotel provided a wash station, complete with hose, soap, bucket, and wash mitts. Of course, about 50 other owners had the same idea, so there we all were, having turned the back lot of this Holiday Inn into a major preen and primp area.
But Alfa owners never miss the opportunity to engage fellow Alfisti in banter. I made about a dozen new friends in our mutual admiration society as we compared notes regarding the history and authenticity of each other’s cars. Modestly, my car garnered some significant attention because of its originality, with owners of similar Giulia coupes interested in knowing, for example, if my 3-spoke steering wheel is original (it is).
Saturday evening was another arranged dinner at the hotel, this time with speeches and awards. The winners of the gimmick rally and the time trials were presented their due. Cindy Banzer, the president of AROC, gave the keynote speech in English AND French, impressing us with her bilingual skills. Things wrapped up by 11 p.m., and good thing they did, as we would all be rising early Sunday morning.
The Sunday Concorso, arguably the highlight of the weekend, was not at the hotel, but rather in “Petite Italie”, French for Little Italy, in the city center. Planning an 8 a.m. arrival, but dreading the traffic, we departed the hotel by 7:30 a.m. Of course, we breezed right in. The weather was perfect.
The show was held in conjunction with the Fiat Club of Montreal, and was billed as “Montreal’s Official Italian Automobile Festival”. In addition to the dozens of Alfas, there were Fiats, Lamborghinis, Ferraris, and DeTomasos. All the cars were parked on Rue Dante, a main drag through Little Italy, and the locals came out in force to take in the sights and sounds. The neighborhood featured Italian restaurants, bakeries, and shops, so breakfast and lunch were closer to what you’d find in Rome rather than Paris. Given star billing at the head of the street were eight Alfa Romeo Montreals parked in a row, a sight that I never thought I’d see.
AROC members had the option to choose “judge my car” or “don’t judge my car”. I chose the latter, if only because I didn’t want to spend Sunday morning on detail alert. My plan was to relax, take in the sights, and continue to chat up my fellow Alfa owners, which is exactly what I did. At 2 p.m., the AROC judges announced the winners. As an especially nice touch, cake and champagne were served at the awards ceremony.
With that, Alfa Expo ’17 was officially over. We had decided to stay in Montreal Sunday night, and take our time driving back on Monday. We left about 9 a.m. Monday, drove through some nasty but brief storms, and once on the other side of that weather, had bright hot sunshine for the rest of the trip. We arrived home by 6 p.m. Monday night, exhausted, but pleased with our active weekend.
These were my takeaways from my first AROC convention:
Unless the Alfa in question is a non-street-legal track car, almost every owner drives their Alfa to an Alfa convention.
Alfa Romeo owners, as a group, are the most friendly, knowledgeable, yet humble car folks I’ve ever met.
The AROC Organization, which has quite of few of these events under their collective belts, puts on a top-notch event.
The “pre-convention driving tours” (the reason for planned activities starting a week before) are a Big Deal to Alfisti, who love to drive their cars.
Alfa Romeo owners like ALL Italian cars.
Alfa owners love to drive their cars (did I say that already?).
My GT 1300 Junior continues to amaze me. We drove 880 miles round trip. The car started, cold or hot, on the first turn of the key. We comfortably cruised on the highway between 70 and 80 mph. There were no unwanted noises or behaviors. With a trunk full of spare parts including plugs, wires, a coil, and a fuel pump, none was needed. (My theory is that the quantity of spare parts on board is inversely proportional to their need.) The car used no oil, and never missed a beat.
The AROC has announced that the 2018 convention will be in Olympia WA. I’m already plotting my trip out there.
The final day of official events for the AROC (Alfa Romeo Owners Club) arrived. The Concorso was held in the Petite Italie (Little Italy) neighborhood in Montreal, populated with Italian restaurants, shops, and bakeries.
The AROC show was held in conjunction with the Fiat club of Montreal. Hence, many Fiats, Ferraris, and other Italian exotics joined.
The weather was perfect, and the crowds were large and enthusiastic.
A full event report covering all three days will follow.
The New Jersey Chapter of the Alfa Romeo Owner’s Club held an informal Sunday cruise during the afternoon of November 6, 2016. Five club members, led by our chapter head Enrico Ciabattoni, gathered at our starting point at the PNC Bank Arts Center in Holmdel NJ. We pushed off around 2pm and cruised to various spots in Monmouth County, including Atlantic Highlands, Sandy Hook, and Colts Neck.
The oldest car in today’s contingent was the 1966 Duetto driven by Alex and Carly. Richard’s 1967 GT 1300 Junior was just a year newer. The eighties were well-represented by two GTV6s, Enrico’s and Bill’s. The newest Alfa for today was John’s beautifully-kept 164. Alas, no new Giulia sedans showed up to surprise us. However, Enrico’s wife and daughter did a commendable job driving the sweep car in their Honda Odyssey. Thanks, ladies!
Plenty of time was allotted for photo ops (what with such gorgeous cars!), and a personal highlight was stopping for pictures at the Sandy Hook Lighthouse, the oldest operating lighthouse in the country. The cameras were not always aimed at cars; the vista from atop the Mount Mitchill Scenic Overlook in Atlantic Highlands provided glorious views of the New York skyline and lower bay.
Our day ended at Delicious Orchards in Colts Neck, which also gave us a chance to pick up some produce (Enrico was spotted heading for the Italian chestnuts). Since it was the first day back on Eastern Standard Time, the rapidly-diminishing daylight had this scribe heading for home before sunset.
For those who doubt the reliability of Italian machinery: combined with this morning’s breakfast run, Richard’s Alfa was driven a total of 260 miles today, much of it buzzing along the highways of New Jersey at 70 mph, fending off soccer moms in the SUVs. Not bad for a 49-year-old car.
It was wonderful to be out with fellow Alfisti and to delight in the sounds of 4- and 6-cylinder engines in full song. We hope to get the group back on the road in early 2017.