It was 100 years ago that Nicola Romeo took over what was then A.L.F.A (Anonima Lombarda Fabbrica Automobili) to make Alfa Romeo. The company which has become one of the world’s leading brands for designing inspiring cars.
The very first Alfa Romeo to be ever built was the Alfa Romeo G1, with one example planning a tour of Australia over the course of the coming months. Ateco, Alfa Romeo’s distributor in Australia, says the G1 will be heading to the Australian Grand Prix and numerous museums to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the brand.
The Alfa Romeo G1 was designed by Giuseppe Merosi and only had two years of production between 1921 to 1923. It was powered by a massive 6.3-litre six cylinder engine which produced a not-so-massive 52 kW of power. Nonetheless it could reach speeds of up to 138 kmh.
According to Alfa Romeo the G1 was designed to take on Rolls Royce but also found it self in numerous motorsport events, such as winning the Coppa de Garda. Unfortunately for Alfa Romeo their very first car was launched at the wrong time during a period of rising fuel prices, this led to only 52 G1s ever being built.
The touring Alfa Romeo G1, the only one of its kind, now resides at Ateco’s new headquarters in the Sydney suburb of Waterloo and comes with a story of its own.
The car came to Australia (Chassis 6018) in 1921 and was sold for only £850 to a Queensland businessman who was declared bankrupt soon after the purchase.
In order to preserve the car from creditors it was hidden away, unfortunately for the owner he died three years on without revealing the value of the G1. A quarter of a century later it was spotted apparently holding up one corner of a shed in the Queensland outback.
It’s value still unrecognised, it spent the next 15 years being used as a ‘paddock bomb’ for rounding up cattle, chasing kangaroos and all the stuff that you’d expect to use a vintage Alfa Romeo for on a farm. Fate had its way when the G1 hit a tree and was put to use to power a water pump. Thankfully for the G1 this meant the engine remained active and serviced even though the body was left to die.
It wasn’t until 1964 when Alfa Romeo enthusiasts found and rescued the G1 from its prison. In 1965 it was bought by Ross Flewell-Smith who began to rebuild it over a period of ten years. He was lucky enough to find a second G1, a wreck, to use for parts. In 1977 the restored G1 won the Queensland Vintage Car Concours and went on to win the 1978 Australian Mile Miglia memorial run.
In a bit of irony it was once clocked at Lakeside raceway (QLD) doing 135km/h and black-flagged for being so quick!
In 1995 the car changed hands once again, this time new owner Julian Sterling began work on the car to replace all worn parts with specially-made components built regardless of cost. For example new tyres had to be specifically made by Michelin using the original 1920s moulds, costing $6,000 for the set.
Some years later the G1 was once again sold to its current owner Neville Crichton, the governing director of the Australian Alfa Romeo importer, Ateco Automotive Pty Ltd.
From here it was decided the G1 had to be put back in to full running order. The finish result was entered into the 2005 Pebble Beach Concours d’Elgance and beat more than 60 classic Alfa Romeos from around the world, including seven cars entered by Alfa Romeo’s own museum.
If you’re interested in catching a glimpse of this amazing car, you can see it next weekend (13-14 March 2010) in Victoria when it appears at the Alfa Romeo Owners Club of Australia annual event at Phillip Island.
The weekend after (19-21 March) the G1 will head back to Phillip Island for the Classic Festival of Speed. On Wednesday 24 March the Alfa Romeo G1 will join more than 120 classic cars on display in Argyle Square, Carlton from 09.00 to 15.00. At the end of the display the cars will leave as a group and drive in a parade to Albert Park for the Qantas F1 Australian Grand Prix.
If you want to see it standing still you can catch the Alfa Romeo G1 on display at Zagame Alfa Romeo in King Street, West Melbourne in between its public appearances. After its commitments at the F1, the G1 will head to New South Wales and Queensland later in the year and it will be centerpiece of celebrations on 24 June, the 100th Anniversary of the founding of ALFA.