"Keep a Journal: How else are you going to get a good look at who you were?"

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Once upon a time...a young man had more money than sense...

This young man had been raised in a close-knit family. His father had been an officer with the Canadian armed forces overseas. His father brought home to Canada a souvenir of his tour of duty in Europe.

An Alfa Romeo GT 1300 jr.

Dad's was dark blue. He kept it until I was 12. There's a small shelf behind the back seat where as toddlers my sisters and I would sleep on long car trips. This was before mandatory seat belt laws, of course.

At age 22, I returned home to Canada from a church mission in the US. I was young, single, newly employed and had received a substantial tax refund...like I said in the beginning...more money than sense.

So I bought this:
Mine was red. Also, that's a 1973 GT 2000. Mine was a 1974 GTV 2000 "Inezione" It rusted out completely within 2 years. I finally had to let it go to the wreckers, but only after stripping the rusting hulk for every saleable part I could persuade my parents to let me keep in the crawlspace of their house. Had some fun with it: a long and interesting roadtrip back to alberta...a long and involved clutch job...engine fire...lost a wheel on highway 99 in Richmond. Sometimes I wonder WHY I ever gave it up.

Except I didn't. A house I moved into with KWY, Bob W and Mark T had...a 1750 GT in the garage. For Sale.

Again, without so much money but STILL without much sense...I bought another alfa.

This one died without even so much as a whimper: sold the hulk and all parts to an Euro-car dealership in Vancouver. Never drove it.

So...what's the point of this trip down memory lane?

Well, in part because for the first time in about 14 years, I'm going to be owning my own car again. Also in part because I found something lost that now is found.

Not my alfa.

THE alfa.

The most beautiful Alfa Romeo ever made.

The 1964 Alfa Romeo Canguro...yes, the name means "Kangaroo" in Italian.

In keeping with the romance and occaisional tragedy of Alfa's history; the one-of-a-kind Canguro has a story:

"Alfa Romeo had made a successful return to motorsport with the TZ (Tubular chassis and Zagato body) model, and in 1964 explored the opportunity to make a road going version of the lightweight racer. Although the Zagato version was highly competitive, it was also very expensive, so Alfa Romeo offered a TZ chassis to both Bertone and Pininfarina to turn into a road car. At Bertone the project was headed by a young Giorgietto Giugiaro, who had penned the Giulia Sprint body for Alfa Romeo a year earlier.

One of the TZ chassis greatest advantages was the exceptionally low construction, which allowed for a small frontal area. Giugiaro made the most of that and designed a highly aerodynamic fiberglass body, which was even lower than the aluminum Zagato body. To smooth out the airflow the car featured a glued-in front window, which was an industry first. Another interesting design element was the incorporation of the Alfa Romeo's competition cloverleaf as cockpit vents. Launched at the 1964 Paris show, the car was dubbed Canguro, Italian for kangaroo.

Giugiaro's Canguro received universal acclaim, but Alfa Romeo was not convinced and abandoned the idea of the TZ based road car. One of the reasons was the incapability of Autodelta, the marque's racing department, to build enough chassis. The project ended on a sad note when a journalist crashed the unique car in a test drive. The Canguro's remains were eventually bought in 1971 by Gary Schmidt, a German journalist. He intended to reconstruct the car, but he failed to do so, and the car was considered lost.

Fortunately this was not the end of the story; a Japanese collector tracked down the remains in the 1990s, and continued in secrecy where Schmidt had left off. It made a glorious debut at the 2005 Villa d'Este Concours d'Elegance, where it was voted best of show. For many it was quite a shock to see one of the automotive world's finest designs in person, after it was believed to be lost for ever.

Although the Canguro was never produced, it has made a lasting impression on the industry. Some of the design cues were found on later Alfa Romeos, and other Bertone designed vehicles. Created at a time when Italian automotive design was at its peak, it is considered by many as one of the most balanced designs ever executed.

The Canguro is pictured at its second debut, the 2005 Concorso d'Eleganza Villa d'Este, where it was the centre of attention of press and public alike."

To give you some idea of what a milestone in automotive styling the Canguro was; here's a "side by side" with
the latest Alfa Romeo model to be released on the North American market (as featured in the January, 2008 issue of Road & Track magazine). I give you the Alfa Romeo 8c Competizione:

And the Canguro...see any similarities? Both cars have impressive performance numbers; in fact the 8C could be more exactly classified as a Supercar. The Canguro, however, turns in its performance stats while being equipped with a four cylinder engine.

Not bad for a design over 40 years old, eh?

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