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He may still be a young man, but Rob Herbert has already restored more cars than most folk have had hot dinners, the latest being this 1966 Alfa Romeo Giulia Super, set to be his young family’s second car.
The South African-built Alfa arrived here in 1972, but not much is known of its history until it ended up under a tarp “on a guy’s lawn, in Putaruru” 25 years ago, along with another one, under the house.
“It was a case of ‘I’ll do them up one day,’ and then Dad got a phone call saying they might be available,” he says.
That was in 2015. Rob and his dad went to look at them, keen to acquire a road-going Giulia. Rob races a 1963 example, with which he won the 2015-16 Trofeo Series.
“I had always had a soft spot for old sedans. And having raced one I thought it’d be pretty cool to drive one on the road.”
The car had no WoF, but the rego was on hold. “We took a trailer down, drove it back to Dad’s shed and started pulling it apart.”
The metalwork was a patchwork quilt, “We think it was originally dark green. It had a lot of body repairs done over 25 years ago and most of them were primer. Then it was brushed with oil to preserve it when it was parked up.”
Father and son tracked down a recommended panelbeater, stripped the car and sandblasted the shell. They realised the inner and outer sills needed replacing, plus the wheel arches, floorpan and the passenger and driver-side footwell. “We ended up with a trailer-load of scrap metal.”
They bought new sills and arches from Alfaholics in the UK.
They’d bought both abandoned cars, aiming to build one good one between them. “So the boot lid in this car is from the other — a slightly later model — and I think the bonnet as well.”
The suspension was all replaced or refurbished to reference the Alfaholics track/race set-up, and then came the engine.
These Giulias came standard with a 1.3- or 1.6-litre twin cam, but Rob opted for the 2-litre from the same-era coupe, which had a larger bore, though it looks the same.
He’s not worried about compromising the car’s originality — “there was an engine in it when we got it, but it was just sitting in it, and we don’t think it was the original.”
The transmission is the same five-speed manual it would have had new, and the wheels are “repro Alfa TZ alloys, as used in period in special-bodied, beautiful TZ Zagato coupes and the race Giulias. I like the look, and wanted proper fat tyres on it” — fat for the period, anyway.
“I wanted period skinny wheels, not the really fat ones, because I like having fun, and modern tyres neuter these cars.”
Rob had factory brakes fitted, with alloy calipers, as used in some of these cars in period.
Then came the colour. “I’ve always had a soft spot for orange but also baby blue: there is a factory baby blue that’s almost white, which doesn’t do it for me.”
He and his wife were doing up the kitchen, “We pulled out a Resene card and said, ‘That’s it!’.”
Resene French Pass was scanned into the PPG equipment and came up as a Ford Escort colour. Rob and his dad then installed a new hood lining, new rubbers and seals, and though the dash is original, replaced the tatty wood veneer with a crackle-finish black.
“We bought modern carpet and cut out all the patterns ourselves, an awful job, and we got a back seat to replace the busted original and covered the red with VHT vinyl spray.”
The fronts came from performance parts specialists NZKW. “I knew I’d track day this, so I wanted something original which didn’t shout ‘modern seat’ and didn’t have headrests.” He fitted rectractable retrofit belts.
The end result is that the car looks standard to anyone except a real Alfaholic.
It was finished in June and Rob and some mates immediately drove it from Auckland to Taupo for a track day.
“We absolutely flogged it, it didn’t miss a beat, ran beautifully, and we drove it back. It got some stone chips, which I’m happy with, as I didn’t want it to be a garage queen.”
He’s already driven 4000km in it, including shopping trips and commuting, no doubt thoroughly enjoying the fabulous soundtrack. “It’s got twin 42 Webers in it, and a lovely induction noise.”
The suspension’s the best of both worlds — just compliant enough for everyday driving, yet precise round corners.
The plan now is just to use it. He and his wife intend the Alfa to be the second car — luckily it’s a four-door, as soon there’ll be a child seat to accommodate.