I bought my first Italian car in 1971, a 1969 Fiat 124 spider. I stayed with Fiats for 25 years, when I got a chance to get a 1978 Alfa Spider that had been stored for the previous 8 years. The owner said that he had outgrown sports cars, something that could never happen to me. Because of the Alfa I joined the local chapter of the Alfa Romeo Owners Club. At one of our meetings a fellow club member, Reagan Copple, brought his Montreal. I had never heard of the Montreal before but it really struck me. Reagan let me sit in it and I found that I was comfortable despite being 6' 1" and being a little wider than average. That was in January 1999. I immediately started investigating Montreals on the internet and came across Bruce's wonderful website. I even copied some of the images from Bruce's site to use as wallpaper on the computer at work. I started looking for a Montreal to own. I missed out on one that was located about 50 miles from me, which is very rare to find. That car ended up with an owner in the San Francisco area.
I continued to look and one day in the classified ads in the Los Angeles Times there was a Montreal listed in an ad that also listed a Daimler SP500 and a Porsche 550. So I called the owner, Warren Scoville, who lived in Hawaii. He originally was asking $17,000 but I managed to talk him down to $15,000. So in the middle of March 2000 I flew to Hawaii with a check in hand, never having seen the car. When I got to the owner's house, right on the beach on the north shore of Oahu, a very nice place to live, the car was parked next to a Ferrari Testarossa. The Testarossa is very nice but I was looking only at the Montreal. After looking over the car and talking to the owner we agreed to the sale and the Montreal was mine. During the discussions the owner informed me that the car had been heavily damaged in a 1983 accident and had a salvage title. But it looked so good I agreed to buy it anyway. I drove it to the docks in Honolulu to have it shipped to California. That was on a Friday and my return flight was not until Sunday so I was forced to spend two days in Hawaii. The sacrifices we make to own a Montreal!
I got back home and then had to wait two weeks for the car to arrive. I went to the port at Long Beach and picked up my beauty. Boy was she filthy! But I knew that beneath that coating of dirt and soot there was an Italian beauty. I immediately drove the car out to my place of employment, about 50 miles up the Pacific Coast Highway. A sunny day, the Pacific Ocean stretching out to the far horizon and the sound of that wonderful V8 as I motored north. Of course it could not be perfect. Along the way the power started cutting in and out. I pulled over and received my first introduction to the Montreal electrical system. With no more information than I had gotten from Bruce's website I was able to find the cause. A ground wire had come loose from one of the Bosch CD units. A quick fix and I was off again. A little suggestion: The Bosch units have two tabs for ground connections. The factory only connected one ground to each unit. I have added a second ground to the second terminal to avoid this problem in the future.
That night we had our monthly AROC meeting so of course I drove the Montreal to the meeting, back down the Pacific Coast Highway for another 40 miles. Living in California has advantages of beautiful drives, if you avoid the freeways in Los Angeles. Fortunately it was dark by the time the meeting started so no one saw how dirty she was. Then it was home, another 40 mile drive, so the first day I had the Montreal I put 130 miles on her. Two days later we had a club driving tour. This time the Montreal was all cleaned up. That drive put another 150 miles on the clock. I also found that a tie rod end was worn and making some noise. While you always want a new car to be problem free, when she is 28 years old you should expect a few age marks. It also gave me the chance to get to know the car better.
That summer I drove the Montreal to Portland, Oregon for our national Alfa convention. Just prior to leaving, the first/reverse shift fork in the transmission failed and left me with no first gear and difficulty finding reverse. But I decided to go anyway. Starting from second gear took a little skill and didn't do the clutch much good but once going it was pure pleasure. 3,000 miles in two weeks on a 28 year old car that I had owned for only 4 months! There were 6 Montreals at the convention and I was proud to be one of them. Going across Oregon on a side trip to Idaho really showed what the Montreal was made to do - grand touring. 75 to 80 miles per hour all day without missing a beat, and getting 19 miles to the gallon (12.4 liters/100 km).
After I got home I tackled the transmission rebuild. Since owning the car I've rebuilt the suspension, engine, transmission and driveshaft. I have also played with the electrical system and had the gas tank cleaned and sealed (11 years in Hawaii was not easy on the fuel tank). I have probably put $8,000 or $9,000 into the car over the seven and a half years that I have owned her, which is still a lot less than the payments on a new car and a lot more fun to own than a Toyota or Honda. I enjoy working on my own cars and the problems that I have had have just been icing on the cake as they have let me get to really know everything about the Montreal.
A little about the history of my own particular Montreal. When I purchased the car from Warren Scoville he gave me a box of documentation going back to 1980, when the car was first brought into the United States.
According to Elvira Ruocco my Montreal, Chassis No. AR1426619, was built on March 27th, 1972, metallic orange (AR602) with a black interior. She was first sold to Giovanni Montaccioni from Padova, Italy. The next information I have is when the car was sold by Michieli Silvano to Thomas Hines in September, 1980. Interestingly I have a copy of the California ownership certificate for the car but it was in Europe at that time. Mr. Silvano may have been in the U. S. military when he purchased the car in Europe. The value of the car was listed at that time as $3,200. The low value was probably to reduce customs fees. The car was shipped out of Rotterdam to Los Angeles in December 1980 and was released by customs in May 1981. An emissions test was performed at that time and the car passed without problems.
In late 1983 the car was in an accident which severely damaged the front end. In spite of the excessive damage, over $15,000, the car was repaired with parts obtained from AFRA. According to the paperwork I have the repairs did not go smoothly with much time going by, missing parts and lawyers being involved. In any case the car was then sold to Warren Scoville in 1989 for $21,000. The car stayed on vacation in Hawaii until I bought it in March 2000.
The odometer when I bought the car indicated 52,000 km, however there are receipts that seem to indicate that the engine was rebuilt in the 1980's. Also when I rebuilt it the machinist indicated that the wear was a lot more than would be expected for 80,000 km.
Be that as it may, while the car was in Hawaii receipts indicate that Mr. Scoville spent about $17,000 in repairs, that includes parts, labor and shipping to get the parts to Hawaii. At some point the car was painted a reddish orange and the seats were re-covered with black leather. Since I purchased the car I have put more than 30,000 km on it, even with the downtime for the various repairs that I have done. The only thing I plan to do yet is to have the car repainted in AR 601 orange, which I feel really makes the car stand out.
The Montreal currently has an AM/FM cassette radio in it and I have a Becker Mexico radio from the 70's that I may put in it. However in all the time that I have owned the Montreal I have probably listened to the radio for only a couple of hours, the sound of those eight cylinders propelling her down the road are just so sweet to listen to.
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