Alfa Romeos at the 2015 New Hope Auto Show

View of the show field from a participant's chair
View of the show field from a participant’s chair

The storied Italian car maker Alfa Romeo was heavily featured at this year’s New Hope Auto Show, held on the grounds of this Pennsylvania town’s high school. The Alfas, assigned their own class, were all parked next to each other, although there was no particular order to their arrangement. The casual observer would be forgiven if s/he thought that Alfa only made convertibles. Of the 15 cars present, 10 were soft tops (“spiders” in Alfa-speak). Of those 10, 9 were of the same basic body style, a design which debuted as the Duetto in 1966 and concluded its run as the Spider Veloce in 1994. That is a very long time in car-years.

Alfas proudly on display
Alfas in a row
The only Giulia coupe at this year's show, and a step-nose to boot
The only Giulia coupe at this year’s show, and a step-nose to boot

Your author’s car, a 1967 GT 1300 Junior, was proudly on display, and was one of the few tin-tops in attendance. The field was rounded out with an early ‘60s 2000 Spider (the so-called Large Alfa), an Alfetta GT, a GTV-6, and a 164 sedan (the only front-wheel-drive Alfa present among all the rear-wheel-drive vehicles).

It was a rare treat for me to see so many Alfa Romeos in one place at the same time. But the real treat was provided by the gang which brought in these beautiful cars. Alfa owners are a passionate lot; they like to drive their cars; they like to show off and talk about their cars; and they like to meet and chat with fellow Alfa owners and wanna-be owners. Most of the day was consumed by conversation about our Milanese machines.

The first couple I met had arrived in their 1979 Alfetta GT 2-door coupe. “Quinn” and I happily traded stories about each other’s cars. One story I shared occurred last week. While driving to work, I spotted a car just like theirs on the road with me. It had been ages since I had seen an Alfetta moving under its own power. This particular one was mostly in grey primer, with its passenger door still red (and still wearing a large “ALFA ROMEO” decal). It was bumperless, and obviously a work-in-progress. But by the sounds it was making, I knew the driver was having a blast.

An Alfetta GT reflected in the mirror of a Bentley Continental GT
An Alfetta GT reflected in the mirror of a Bentley Continental GT

What made our roadway rendezvous rather unique that morning is that I was piloting my boss’ 2012 Bentley Continental GT Coupe, all W-12 twin-turbo 500+ horsepower of it. I’m always a bit self-conscious driving that car, and tend to stay to the right, moving at the speed limit, in order to avoid undue attention. As the Alfetta drew closer, I wanted to drop my window and give the driver a big thumbs-up. Dismissing any concern about what he might think of me, I did just that. His ear-to-ear grin told me all I needed to know.

The owner of the ’79 Alfetta GT told me that he has owned his car in excess of 20 years, and although he has done scores of maintenance and repair work on it, he considers it a mostly original car. Looking the car over, I agreed with him, as much of the black lacquer as well as the beige cloth upholstery remained as it was in 1979. These early Alfettas had a controversial dash design: the tachometer was centered in front of the driver, with all the other gauges in the center. I’ve driven these cars, and it takes some time to get used to the arrangement.

Not all Alfas are red; just most of them
Not all Alfas are red; just most of them

Immediately to one side of me was a Spider owner who is also a very active member of his Alfa Romeo Owners Club local chapter. He, among many other owners, encouraged me to join the club in order to become more involved in their driving events. “Bill” is a marque expert who delighted in telling me about the nuances among the display cars, including which cars were factory-correct and which were not. The truth is that he was a tremendous knowledge source about all things Alfa.

1982 Alfa Spider
1982 Alfa Spider

On the other side of me was another spider. “Jim” had bought this car just a few months ago (sight unseen off eBay!). It was a Texas car, in very nice shape. This was his 4th Alfa, and he told me that the drive to the show that morning was the longest he had driven the car since obtaining it earlier this year.

1976 Alfa Spider
1976 Alfa Spider

An hour or so after arriving, the couple with the ’79 Alfetta returned to my car to make an announcement: they had shared my story about “The Alfetta and the Bentley” with the folks in the car next to theirs, and he was the driver of that primered Alfa! “Tom” and I met and screamed over and over at each other “I can’t believe it!” After I told him that I had arrived at work and shared my photo with several fellow enthusiasts, he told me that he got to work and called his wife to tell her “hey honey, some guy in a BENTLEY gave me a thumbs-up”. (His wife chimed in that he never called her from work, and she had at first assumed that something was wrong). Of course, I clarified for him that my daily-driver Jetta was home while I put some miles on the boss’ car. He told me that I had made his day, which made me feel wonderful about the entire encounter.

The number of spiders at the show gave me the chance to document something which I knew about, but for which I was lacking empirical data: the evolutionary design changes of the spider’s back end through 4 generations, known among the faithful as S1, S2, S3, and S4. (The front end also evolved, but to a lesser degree.) Photographing each version and displaying them side-to-side clarifies the differences. It also makes it plain to this set of eyes which of these wins the beauty contest. Your opinion may vary.

Kudos to the organizers of the New Hope show. With close to 250 cars on display, the difficult logistics of successfully running such an event become clear once you spend most of the day observing it. As the cars paraded off the field, my Alfa eventually became the sole representative of the marque. Lovely cars were seen, photographed, dissected, and discussed. Most importantly, new friendships were begun, with the promise of future automotive adventures to come.

The last Alfa standing waits to go home
The last Alfa standing waits to go home

All photographs copyright © 2015 Richard A. Reina. Photos may not be copied or reproduced without express written permission.

NEW HOPE AUTO SHOW, AUGUST 2015

Entrance queue at the start of Sunday's New Hope Auto Show
Entrance queue at the start of Sunday’s New Hope Auto Show

The New Hope (PA) Automobile Show was held on the grounds of the New Hope-Solebury High School on Saturday August 8 and Sunday August 9, 2015. This event, which held its first show in 1957, celebrated its 58th anniversary this year. Vehicles are displayed according to predetermined classes, which are different on each day. In general, domestic vehicles are shown on Saturday, while European imports are featured on Sunday. These divisions are not completely strict, as we shall see. Your faithful scribe registered and showed his 1967 Alfa Romeo GT 1300 Junior on Sunday, so this report will focus only on that day’s cars.

Arriving at 8:15 a.m. and assigned to park with several Alfas already in attendance, I was pleasantly surprised to see our row quickly fill up. In all, 15 Alfas eventually arrived and parked together. While spiders (convertibles in Alfa-speak) were the dominant body style, there was enough variety to keep the Alfisti happy. And Alfas were far from the only well-represented marque. Car classes included Austin-Healey, BMW, Jaguar, Lotus, Mercedes-Benz, MG, Porsche, Rolls-Royce/Bentley, and Triumph. Some of these classes had total entries in the dozens. All the usual suspects were present, yet the Sunday show distinguished itself by drawing out some truly unusual and rarely-seen exotics.

The Alfa segment of our program will be covered in a separate blog entry. For now, let’s take a tour of some of the other beautiful, sporty, exotic, and downright eye-opening cars on the field. (Photos can be enlarged for viewing by simply clicking on them.)

BRITISH

The MG menagerie
The MG menagerie

Any classic car show which bills itself as featuring “MGs and Triumphs” will cause you to expect to find MGBs and TR6s. We had MGBs and TR6s in New Hope. We also had Triumph Italias. The Italia had Triumph TR3 mechanicals under a Michelotti-designed body, built by Vignale in Italy. According to Wikipedia, only 329 were made. To say that they are rare is an understatement. To see one at a car show is completely unexpected. There were two on display today (the earlier use of the plural “Italias” was not a typo).

Not as rare as an Italia, but still infrequently spotted, were several MGCs. To those unaware of its existence, the “C” externally appears no different than an MGB. Careful scrutiny will reveal a hood bulge, necessary to accommodate the inline-six cylinder engine shoe-horned into the front. While contemporaneous road tests derided the extra weight over the front wheels and the accompanying poor handling, a kinder and gentler revisiting of the model has critics responding favorably to the extra oomph brought on by two extra cylinders.

The Jaguar E-Type (more commonly known as the XKE on this side of the pond) is arguably one of the most beautiful cars ever designed, and among the Series I, II, and III cars, the Series I is considered the purest version of the form. It was our luck to have four Series I E-Types at the show. With three of them parked adjacent to each other, the photo ops were aplenty.

The Rolls-Royce and Bentley contingent was huge, no doubt sparked into action through the nudging of the local RR-Bentley club to get its members out and onto the field. We know from past experience that said owners are not afraid to drive these British beauties, so seeing 25-30 of them was not a surprise. The distinctive front-end styling is a photographer’s delight.

Rounding out our review of British iron were these more commonly seen models, still enjoyable to admire.

PORSCHE
What’s a car show without Porsches? In this case, it would be a car show with many fewer vehicles on the show field. While no count was taken, it’s safe to presume that Porsche was the single best-represented marque at the event. Whether this was due to club participation or a wide and adoring audience for these sports cars, it was fun to see the variety extending from the 356, through the air-cooled 911s, to the water-cooled 924/944/928 series. If you were so inclined, new Panameras and Cayennes were also on display courtesy of a local Porsche dealer.

Throughout the generations, a Porsche front end is instantly recognizable
Throughout the generations, a Porsche front end is instantly recognizable

The rarest Porsche spotted today was this 959. According to my sources, a total of 200 were made. Originally not legal for sale in the U.S., these cars from the late 1980s are now old enough that they can legally be imported and driven. At the time of its release, it was considered the most far-flung supercar of its day. Its specifications may seem the stuff of normalcy now, however, it did lay the foundation for what would be expected among the world’s highest-performing machines.

A Porsche 959

A Porsche 959

DOMESITC

The New Hope Auto Show’s website states that Sunday’s car show includes classes for production GM, FoMoCo, and Chrysler Corp cars through 1990. The American cars on site were not a large group, but several MoPar models were standouts, and are worth highlighting for their styling and engineering features.

 

ITALIAN
Two different model Fiats were in attendance, sharing a unique attribute: neither car was badged “Fiat”.

After Fiat left the U.S. market in 1982, production of two of its popular sports cars, the X1/9 and the Spider 2000, was continued by Bertone and Pininfarina respectively, and these firms imported and sold the cars in the States under their own brands. (Malcolm Bricklin was somehow involved, but that’s too dark a story to include here.)

This 1987 Bertone X1/9 was an all-original car in pristine condition. Its current owner stated to me that he has owned the car for over 20 years, and drives it year-round (making sure that his winter driving is on dry roads).

This 1985 Pininfarina Spider looked brand new. While the owner was not available to answer questions, the condition of the car (flawless) spoke for him.

 

All photographs copyright © 2015 Richard A. Reina. Photos may not be copied or reproduced without express written permission.