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.
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
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’.
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.