Longtime Any Given Reason readers will be familiar with Guy Standen and his 1974 Fiat 124 Sport tarmac rally car. With a couple of Targa Tasmania’s already to his name, I stepped into the co-drivers seat and did Classic Targa Adelaide in 2011 and Targa Adelaide in 2012 with Guy. We had a blast, the 124 performed faultlessly, sounded fantastic and in both years we walked away with Targa plates for beating the base time on all of the special stages. Those two events were fantastic experiences that I’ll never forget.
After that last Targa in 2012 the 124 sat dormant; I was traveling overseas last year and it wasn’t practical to come home for Targa Adelaide 2013, and Guy made the logical decision to retire from competition and sell the 124. He’d already achieved everything he wanted and had developed it as far as possible, a Fiat Dino road car restoration was slowly peculating in the background and he wanted to spend more time with his family. It was a tough decision but the 124 was sold into Sydney and now resides with some enthusiastic Fiat club members who are gearing up for their first Targa Tasmania in 2015.
Over the past few months Guy and I have been talking about future rally cars, but I hadn’t taken any of our discussions terribly seriously until I logged onto Facebook one morning to find a message waiting for me: ‘Would you be interested in doing a Targa Tasmania?’ What!? You can’t ask a question like that with no explanation, so I got straight on the phone to discover that Guy was a little more serious about getting back into the game than I thought. His ‘retirement’ had lasted exactly three and a half months.
I’m not going to profess to understand how Guy’s brain works, but for some reason he came to the conclusion that an Alfa Romeo 2600 Sprint would make a great tarmac rally car and as it turned out Peter Axford at Eurosport Automotive knew of one sitting in a shed at Bordertown. I initially had the same reaction as most of you are probably having right now, but after seeing the 2600 in person at Eurosport and learning about the project the more I can see how it has the potential to not just be a unique rally car, but pretty quick as well and very competitive in the Classic class.
Launched at the 1962 Geneva Motorshow, the 2600 (106 series) was Alfa’s flagship six-cylinder line and came in Berlina (factory built sedan), Sprint (Bertone built coupe), Spider (Carrozzeria Touring built convertible) and the tremendously rare Sprint Zagato (Zagato built fastback coupe). Sprint’s were by far the most popular of the 2600 line, with just under 7,000 built from 1961-1968.
The 2600 was an update of the 2000 series but added the brand-new 2584cc all-alloy, inline six which had twin overhead camshafts and triple Solex carburetors as standard. The engine was a pure work of art, but the rest of the car was pretty old-tech and they never sold that well because they were very expensive, even by Alfa’s typically high pricing norms.
Guy’s 2600 has been sitting in a shed and hasn’t moved for the last 30 years. It was the planned restoration project of a well-known Bordertown Alfa enthusiast who kindly sold it because he wanted to see the project begin and realised it would be some time until he got around to doing it. He has been promised a drive when the build is finished.
But, like any Alfa of the age it does suffer from a little bit of rust. This is by far the worst of it, and early inspections on a hoist have found that the floors seem pretty good, but of course the full story won’t be known until the teardown is complete.
A mouse plague at some point, coupled with the simple passage of time, means that beautiful leather interior is now ruined. But that’s okay, because the old interior will go in favor of an extensive cage, race seats and harnesses.
The biggest challenges in preparing the 2600 will be in getting it to handle properly and getting as much weight of out it as is possible within the rules. The guys at Eurosport Automotive in Kent Town who will build the car will have their work cutout in making this a reality, and there isn’t exactly a ton of 2600 race/rally cars out there to learn from. But Eurosport have extensive history preparing competition 105 series Alfa’s, and whilst the 106 series 2600 is a different car, it is somewhat related so the guys are hoping it won’t be as daunting a task as it appears. They’ve already got a few idea’s that they’re keen to explore, for example how to counter the factory positive front camber whilst staying within the rules.
As it is in the production car, Guy’s rally car is going to be all about that magnificent engine. The intake manifold is siamesed so that will need to be rectified and revised to improve flow, and the Solex carb’s will be switched out in favor of a triple Weber 45DCOE setup. Despite it being a different engine the shape of the head and combustion chambers do bear similarity to the popular 105 series twin cam four, so the guys are hoping some of their knowledge will transfer to the 2600. In any case it’s set to make a bellowing, howling straight six noise to rival anything out there, which will surely be this car’s hallmark.
This is the 2600 historic racer of Nick Savage in the UK, a car built to far more stringent regulations than Guy’s will be (especially in suspension, wheels, brakes and tires). Just listen to the noise it makes!
It has the potential to be quite a competitive car in its class, especially when compared to other vehicles of its time. What else is out there short of an E-Type or Aston-Martin DB4 that was built in the early sixties and has a twin cam six and triple carb’s from factory? There’s going to be a lot of freedoms permitted for the 2600 under the stringent Classic regulations simply because of its high mechanical specification.
A tentative deadline for the build has been set for the 25th anniversary of Targa Tasmania in 2016, and Any Given Reason will cover the project in a series of posts from the initial teardown right to its first competitive outing. It’s going to be a fascinating ride.
Words and photos by Andrew Coles