ALFA ROMEO MONTREAL REVIEW

Anyone familiar with 1970s Italian cars will feel right at home in the cabin of an Alfa-Romeo Montreal.
 


The low seating position feels snug with a transmission tunnel that places the gearlever perfectly to hand, and the deeply-dished wood-rim steering wheel is a joy to look at and to hold. On the road the Montreal experience is dominated by the race-bred V8 and although it’s not as quick as you might expect, performance is ample and backed by a fabulous soundtrack. Some road testers of the time reckoned the handling was a touch soft, but it’s the engine that’s the star here.

 

WHAT TO LOOK FOR

1.  Major restoration is going to be a costly exercise, so checking the condition of the bodywork is the first thing with a Montreal. Plenty have been restored, but check all the panels for corrosion, particularly around the air vents aft of the doors. They can trap water and rust can spread to the wings below, as well as on into the sills and the floor. Check the luggage area for any signs of damp too as the hatch seals can leak. Bear in mind too that replacement panels are getting scarce, so it may take a determined hunt to unearth new/old stock or secondhand parts.  

2.  Exterior trim such as chromework and plastic parts are also tricky to source, as are light units. The headlamp covers are vacuum operated, so check they are working correctly as repairs can be fiddly.

3.  Despite its racing heritage, the dry-sump V8 engine is considered pretty bullet-proof – but only with meticulous maintenance. Most problems are caused by lack of use, so regular exercise and expert fettling are the keys to longevity. Most parts are available, but a full rebuild will run into several thousand pounds so get a professional inspection if you’re not sure. The water pump is often cited as being a weak point, but it’s no more of a problem than any engine of this age.   

4.  Another regular talking point is the unusual Spica fuel injection system, but again it isn’t the problem that many would have you believe. Internal seals and the thermostatic actuators that control the fuel/air mixture according to temperature can fail but often the trouble is caused by lack of expertise. Once sorted and set-up correctly (the owners club recommends a specialist in the US) it’s a good system and there is little need to convert to carburettors as some have done.

5.  The ZF gearbox is generally robust which is just as well as overhaul or replacement is pricey. A bit of noise at idle is normal with these ‘boxes but watch for an excessively notchy gearchange that could signal more serious problems. The ZF limited-slip differential should be trouble-free as well, but any issues here or with the clutch will be costly.

6.  The 105-Series Alfas donated much of the steering, brake, and suspension hardware so there is little to worry about here, and finding parts is no problem. Lack of steering sharpness is usually caused by worn linkages, and while suspension upgrades are popular as owners seek a sportier edge to the handling, a standard set-up in
good order suits the Montreal’s relaxed nature. 
The all-round disc brakes are more than up to the job and overhauling them is a straightforward task.

7.  Specialist trimmers can restore a tired cabin, but costs will soon add up so avoid anything too neglected. Sourcing some trim parts and switches can be tricky too, so finding one that’s essentially complete is the best bet. And despite the reputation for electrical niggles that plagued many an Italian car of the period, the Montreal fares well in this respect. Check the electric windows work, as these are a known weak point. Air-conditioning was optional on early cars, standard from 1972.

OUR VERDICT

It’s hard to understand why the Montreal is so underrated. It looks terrific and the V8 is a peach. The potential for high restoration costs makes careful buying a must but there is a wealth of knowledge available. If you fancy a classic Italian coupé as glamorous as a Miura but with a far cheaper entry ticket price, we heartily recommend the Montreal.

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