An original road test taken from the Motor Sport archives, November 1963
By Bill Boddy
Motor Sport certainly has waited a very long time to report on any Alfa Romeo, although I believe we did road-test a 22/90 model in 1927…
Alfa Romeo describes the 2600 Sprint Saloon as “long awaited” and there is no denying that it is well worth the wait. It is beautifully made, technically exciting and comprehensively equipped, but the charm is enhanced by its individuality, the smooth flow of power and unexpected flexibility of its six-cylinder, 2582cc, dohc engine.
The engine, with its triple Solex carburettors united by a vast air-intake trunk, is unquestionably impressive and pleasing to the eye, and provides 165hp, the camshafts driven by two silent chains. Other highlights of the specification are an oil radiator incorporated with the water radiator, the five-speed gearbox, a rigid coil-sprung back axle located by upper triangle and lower links, and servo-assisted front discs.
The Bertone-bodied 2600 is a beautifully appointed motor car. Indeed, I find it difficult to avoid superlatives in trying to convey what a splendid possession it is, and what unadulterated joy on the road. The test car was left-hand drive, but the Sprint will soon be available in RHD. The two front seats are separate bucket-type chairs that hinge forward to give access to the rear. Legroom is limited in the back, but the Sprint is definitely a four-seater. The test car was finished in a sober gunmetal and upholstered in beige leather of unmistakable quality. The doors shut quietly and the final air of luxury is imparted by electric window lifts.
One very notable aspect is the extremely good all-round visibility, which gives pleasure to scenery-loving occupants and enhances the safety factor. The steering wheel is exactly the right size, a business-like three-spoke racing affair in keeping with the demeanour of this Alfa Romeo.
Hooded before the driver are three Veglia dials of equal diameter. At each end of the wide wood-strip facia are aircraft type, swivelling fresh-air vents, with minor controls and the Blaupunkt push-button radio in between and three flick switches beneath. Hanging below are two plated pull-back levers, for choke and hand-throttle.
The pedals are all at the same level, permitting simultaneous operation of brakes and throttle. A small crank handle is provided for use should the window lifts fail. A foot-operated washers-cum-wipers control is the other very welcome item, also found on Fiats. After which it seems hardly necessary to add that an under-bonnet lamp is provided and that the large luggage boot is illuminated as its lid rises.
The curved front grille carrying the famous Alfa Romeo dummy radiator adds greatly to the car’s impressive appearance, as does the shallow air-intake on the bonnet. The test car was shod with Pirelli Cinturato tyres, which gripped well and did not protest on fast corners. It is disappointing to report, though, that the body showed rust in places, some fittings were crudely made and, as the tests progressed, the doors dropped on their hinges.
Driving the six-cylinder Alfa Romeo is a rare pleasure, because this is a car that responds to good driving and the overall characteristics of which achieve a very high standard of near-perfection.
Three pumps on the accelerator suffice to start the engine, a very quiet power unit and smooth right through the rpm range. On the road there is ample performance and unexpected docility. The gearlever is man-sized, a trifle stiff on the test car, but it moves very quickly. For long-legged cruising the highest gear is most acceptable, 4000rpm for instance representing just over 80mph. The steering has lost all trace of ‘Alfa twitch’, no kick-back or vibration coming through the wheel. It is geared almost exactly right, at three turns lock-to-lock, in conjunction with a commendably small turning circle.
The driving position is excellent, the outstandingly comfortable seat adjusting easily. The brakes are very light to apply yet immensely powerful and progressive. Roll is minimal and the cornering characteristic virtually neutral, making the Alfa a delight on twisting roads. There is mild understeer but road-holding reaches a very high standard and the car is beautifully balanced. Indeed, it is difficult to convey in print the subtle fascination of driving this beautiful car. Instant response to the accelerator, quiet, rattle-free running in which no road noise and scarcely any wind noise permeates the windows, stability, luxury and a rare individuality combine to lift 2600 Sprint motoring far from the commonplace, and its body appointments and very thorough heating and ventilation make it an ideal vehicle for long-distance touring.
A long cross-country journey, heavily laden, was accomplished at a running time average of 46mph before the driver was accustomed to the car and without trying very hard, in spite of congested towns and the usual traffic hold-ups. Any brief straight or deserted country lane saw the speedometer at 80mph, but I found 100mph all the car cared to do on the roads encountered on this particular route. For the actual potential of the 2.6-litre Alfa Romeo, however, let us turn to figures checked against an electric speedometer. In its technical literature Alfa Romeo claims a maximum speed of 124mph in the forward gears – and 33mph in reverse! The test car being deemed to have an engine too new to extend fully, another car was provided, with which the following acceleration figures were obtained (average of several runs, two up): 0-50mph: 8.4sec; 0-60mph: 11.6sec; standing-start ¼ mile: 17.8sec.
In conclusion, experience of this fine car confirms that Alfa Romeo still builds motor cars! The 2600 Sprint coupé is a car that makes old men feel younger and enables young men to reduce their journey times very appreciably. In this country it costs £2899 7s 2d with purchase tax. Discerning drivers who appreciate performance, refinement and individuality in a car that is extremely satisfactory to behold will put this on their ‘short list’, if they are prepared to overlook some unhappy aspects of body fittings and premature rust, which the Bertone coachwork revealed.
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