Hannes Paling

In my younger days as an apprentice I was actually a Ford fan, had a Ford Anglia fitted with a much modified 1600 cross flow Ford engine, complete with a set of 40 side-draft Weber carburettors from an Alfa Romeo and a Cortina GT (Circa 1965 if I remember correctly) front suspension and final drive. Despite all the modifications, it was difficult (and most of the time impossible) to beat the standard 1600 Alfa Romeos of the time, which enjoyed far better reliability despite their performance. Actually I hated them to tell the truth!

Then one day I saw a cutaway drawing of the Alfa Romeo engine. All the components (cams etc.) were in the right place, this is how all engines should have been built I thought, but I never owned one. Raising a family prevented me from owning one, Alfa Romeos in this country being always more expensive than other makes.

Years later our family vehicle was a VW Kombi 2.1 (Caravelle), as we loved the outdoors and did many trips to game parks, etc. Then this VW got stolen (they were very popular vehicles in the black taxi industry). So another one was purchased, but a year later the insurance informed me that they had recovered my previous VW and would I be interested in buying it back? To cut a long story short, I bought it back. A director of a company to whom I supply machined parts was looking for such a VW. Would I be interested in swapping him plus a cash adjustment, from his side, for a V8 Alfa Romeo he had in pieces? V8 Alfa? I asked, you must be mistaken sir, never heard of one. Yes it is a V8!

Now I was curious, arranged an appointment, there was this bare, newly repainted Montreal body with all the parts in buckets and boxes. The VW had a gearbox problem, so it was decided a straight swap would satisfy both parties. My first Montreal was safely in my garage in no time, knew nothing about it but the parts catalogue was a great help in identifying parts that were in boxes, the engine had been redone by a person I knew from the model airplane flying club. It was decided on his reputation to dismantle and reassemble, a good thing as valve gear on one bank was two teeth out, and the water pump had not been assembled correctly.

I got it running and had it just about finished, (there were quite a few small items missing on this car including the flywheel) when this ad in "Auto Trader" appeared: Alfa Montreal V8 for sale, the equivalent of about EUR 4000. I had a look at it, the car was complete nothing missing but the paintwork was not too good, decided to buy it too. I had to make up my mind quickly as his phone was ringing all the time about this car sale. Maybe it was his wife phoning him, to make it look as if there were ten or more buyers, maybe there were, I will never know, but I could not take the chance, as it had all the original parts like the gear knob, ignition key, radio blanking plate, to name a few, 42,000 km on clock, and seemed accident free, etc.

I now realized that the first one I acquired did not have the correct tail lamps and that the moulding around the tail was missing. So I finally had an Alfa Romeo with that "excellent engine design" that caught my eye many years ago. All the best parts were transferred to Montreal 2 and the first one was sold to Peter Monk in Johannesburg. At this time I discovered Bruce Taylor's website, visitor 46,000 or there about on my first visit. The rest is history, repainting a few years later etc..

My daily vehicle is a BMW 330d. But owning and driving the Montreal still gives tremendous pleasure and satisfaction, especially in this country. Montreals being so scarce and having put so much labour of love into it to get it in the condition it is in today, it is unlikely to get sold soon. I do on average about 2000 km per year. It draws attention whereever I go, even had a few guys following me home to look at the car. A few guys know about the Montreal's existence but have never seen one in real life until this one. The majority don't know that such a car was ever built.

Various people have approached me with "how much?" and "anything has a price" with the intent of buying it, but having owned this one a mere ten years or so the answer is always "sorry, not interested". Wherever our local classic car club has an exhibition there is always a crowd around the Montreal, to the embarrassment of some other members specially MG owners. Thousands of pictures must exist of a previously unknown car judging by the number of pictures taken whenever I take the Montreal out to play.

So there you have my story of how I acquired a Montreal without looking for one - it crossed my path by chance!

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