The very first Alfa Romeo, the G1 (top and bottom), and the only one left in the world, will be entrusted to Spirit of Tasmania (middle) today when it travels across Bass Strait to take part in a celebration of the legendary Italian car maker in Tasmania.

The very first Alfa Romeo, the G1, and the only one left in the world, will be entrusted to Spirit of Tasmania today when it travels from Melbourne, Australia, across Bass Strait to take part in a celebration of the Italian car maker in Tasmania.

The priceless and historic Alfa Romeo will drive on board Spirit of Tasmania at 18.00 today under its own power for the voyage to Tasmania.

“Alfa Romeos, whatever their age, are made to be driven and to be enjoyed,” says Andrei Zaitzev, General Manager of Alfa Romeo in Australia. “This is why our G1 is travelling to Tasmania, so it may be displayed in all its glory, and why it is being driven on and off the Spirit of Tasmania. The G1 may be nearly 90 years old, but she embodies the spirit of Alfa Romeo as much as our new models, so it is somewhat appropriate that the Spirit of Alfa Romeo is travelling on Spirit of Tasmania.”

The Alfa Romeo G1 will be displayed at The National Automobile Museum of Tasmania which is based in Launceston and is one of Australia’s foremost automotive museums. It attracts almost 30,000 visitors a year and is run entirely by a voluntary Board of Trustees.

The National Automobile Museum of Tasmania is renowned for the exceptional standard of the classic cars and motorbikes on display all of which are privately owned and regularly changed over ensuring that every visit to the museum is a unique visit.

Anchoring the general display of around 90 classic cars and motorbikes, is a feature display, each of which runs for three months and is based on a wide range of themes. From Thursday until late next March the feature display will be “Bella Alfa Romeo” which will celebrate 100 years of design and performance excellence of this highly respected marque.

This display is running during the museum’s busiest summer holiday season, and will feature eight extraordinary Alfa Romeo cars from the 1920’s through to the current day, the most important of which will be the very first Alfa Romeo, being the extraordinary 1921 Alfa Romeo G1.

The History of the “Aussie” Alfa Romeo

The history of the last remaining Alfa Romeo G1 is as colourful as the company that gave birth to it. Chassis 6018 was imported new into Australia in 1921 and was sold, for £850, to a Queensland businessman who, soon afterwards, was declared bankrupt. Since he had seen his financial crash coming, he hid the car to keep it out of the hands of his creditors. Then, three years on, he had the misfortune to die and the G1 remained hidden for 25 years, apparently holding up one corner of a shed in the Queensland outback.

Then it was discovered by a couple of young jackaroos who decided it would make a fine ‘paddock bomb’ for rounding up cattle, chasing kangaroos and all the stuff that blokes do on farms. Eventually they managed to hit a tree and the damaged car was towed back to the farm where it was used to power a water pump. With its massive torque at low engine speed, it was ideal for the job and the work ensured that the engine remained in excellent condition even if the rest of the car was brutalised.

In 1964 it was retired from pump duty and rescued by Alfa Romeo enthusiasts. The following year the car was bought by Ross Flewell-Smith who, against the advice of some experts who thought the car unrestorable, began to rebuild it, an exercise that took ten years. In this Herculean task he was helped by the fact that he discovered a second G1, a wreck, which supplied many of the parts that were missing. Most of the body was missing and, after experimenting with various styles, Flewell-Smith took advice from Luigi Fusi who was then curator of Alfa Romeo’s museum. Flewell-Smith’s rebuild was good enough to win the 1977 Queensland Vintage Car Concours and to win the 1978 Australian Mille Miglia memorial run. In an historic race at Lakeside it was clocked at 86 mph, remarkable performance for a 1921 car, so remarkable, in fact, it was black-flagged for being so quick.

In 1995, Flewell-Smith sold this car he had nicknamed ‘Milly’ from the ‘Milan’ on the engine block, to Julian Sterling who commissioned a restoration to his own exacting standards. All worn parts were replaced with specially-made components built regardless of cost. New tyres were supplied by Michelin, made from the original 1920s moulds, costing $6,000 for the set. The restoration was undertaken up to a standard, not down to a price, and the work was described in the 1998 edition of the Classic Car Yearbook as ‘breathtaking’.

Following a rationalisation of Julian Sterling’s car collection, the car was bought by Neville Crichton, the governing director of the new Australian Alfa Romeo importer, Ateco Automotive Pty Ltd. Following his purchase of the Alfa Romeo G1, Neville Crichton undertook a full restoration of the G1 to return it to full running order. The quality of this restoration was rewarded in 2005 when the car was entered under stewardship of Australia’s leading classic car journalist, David Berthon, in the World’s most important classic car event, the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance and it took the third in class trophy, beating more than 60 classic Alfa Romeos from around the world, including seven cars entered by Alfa Romeo’s own museum.

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