AGR readers with good memories might remember a build introduction story about 18 months ago, where longtime friend of AGR Guy Standen had just dug a 1962 Alfa Romeo 2600 Sprint out of a shed in Bordertown and commenced turning it into a serious tarmac rally car. The photo above is from that story, and shows the 2600 fresh off the trailer, newly delivered to Eurosport Automotive in Kent Town and awaiting its transformation to begin.
And this photo, taken in mid January 2016, shows where the project is currently at. But it gets a shade more complicated, as Guy and I have officially lodged our entry into the 25th Anniversary Targa Tasmania rally in the 2600. It will be the long awaited return to the event for Guy, and the realisation of a lifelong dream of mine to compete in Targa Tas. And when these photos were taken there was exactly 70 days until we begin the first Special Stage on the Apple Isle. Such is the pace of work that it currently looks a fair bit different to these photos, but that will all be covered in a future post. A mammoth about of work has already been done on the old girl, but it’s still going to be sprint to make our deadline.
The 2600 was a complete unknown quantity, and on first inspection it looked pretty rough but largely sound. That all changed when the teardown was complete and the true scale of the project was revealed.
The bare shell was soda blasted and it revealed a Swiss cheese of flaking metal. It required new sills, new inner panels, a new boot floor, everything. Although it was almost to be expected – when researching this story I found a period Motor Sport magazine article from November 1963, where they reported that their factory press 2600 was already rusting on their road test. Fast-forward 53 years, and the bare shell was at Pearce Crash for months while they carefully hand-formed new panels when new replacements were not available.
There were fewer than 500 factory right hand drive 2600’s built, and it was discovered that this car was delivered new to Italy in Nero (black) as a left hand drive example. With its stunning burgundy leather trim it would have been simply dripping in style and sheer presence on the streets of mid-sixties Milan or Turin, but with an unknown history since then it was far from that now. It had been rather shoddily converted at some point – a fence post with tek screws was used in the conversion and the dash panel was formed from an old piece of gutter. At least they’d used galvanised gutter, though. Nonetheless the 2600 was a deathtrap, and heaven-knows how it was ever registered for the road. The conversion was ripped out and re-done properly by Eurosport who junked the stock steering box in favor of a more modern rack and pinion setup with a collapsible steering column. All of the spare holes through the left side of the firewall were properly filled in, and the entire shell was seam welded for rigidity.
Despite the bodywork issues, perhaps the biggest challenge of the project was designing a suspension system that would work on a tarmac rally stage and fit within the rules. Even though in their road test Motor Sport magazine said “…in trying to convey what a splendid possession it is, and what unadulterated joy is derived from driving it, I find it difficult to avoid superlatives!” we still had our doubts on exactly which direction to head, so Oscar Fiorinotto of Supashock was contracted to design the suspension.
And this is where it started getting out of hand. Oscar quite rightly pointed out that the roll cage design needs to be considered when designing the suspension, and given we were starting with a clean sheet the outcome would be far better if both suspension and roll cage were designed to work in unison with each other, and to fit comfortably within the stringent LMS Targa rules.
As any good motorsport engineer does, the very first step was to carefully study the rule book to work out just what exactly could and couldn’t be done. Oscar than thoroughly inspected and 3D scanned the chassis into a specialist computer program to ensure all the crucial suspension mounting points would be correctly modeled, and then conducted a full analysis of what would need to be done to keep Guy and myself safe in the event of an accident. His ideas were then matched against what the rules would permit, and the CAD renderings of his design were submitted to CAMS and Targa for approval before construction began.
In the meantime, the guys at Eurosport got on with the job of fabricating and assembling the suspension assemblies to Oscar’s specification. Pretty much everything you see in this photo is custom, and they had to work out which brake rotors and calipers to select, how they would mount, how the wheels would mount to the hub flanges and a myriad of other details like selecting bushing materials and ball joints.
Alex Bennett was chosen to fabricate the roll cage and it is a pure work of art. This is one of the most impressive cages I’ve seen, and on multiple times it left me wondering just how you’d actually go about fabricating something like this.
The quality of the cage came as no real surprise as I’ve long admired Alex’s work on some other cars I’ve seen. He was a fabricator for Prodrive in the 90’s and had a hand in the construction of all those famous blue flying Subaru WRC cars. More recently, he’s worked (and still does) for the world famous Tuthill Porsche team and travels around the world providing on-event service and preparation for their fleet of safari 911’s, when not working on private projects out of his Adelaide Hills workshop.
I visited Eurosport recently for a seat fitting, and luckily I fit… just! Good thing too, because the co-drivers seat is already mounted as low and far back as possible so it can’t be moved further in any direction. It’s exceedingly difficult to get in and out of the thing, but I’m okay with this ungracefulness in exchange for the level of protection. Tarmac Rally isn’t the safest of sports, but I’m happy that this is physically the safest possible roll cage anybody could design and build for this car.
Good progress is being made on the rest of the car. As soon as the dampers arrive from Supashock the suspension and brakes are ready to bolt in, the driveline is assembled and ready, the head and triple Weber carburetor’s are built and ready, and the parts for the engine itself have arrived and just need to be assembled. The list of jobs is still monumental though and nothing bolts in off the shelf – absolutely everything has to be fabricated by hand. For example, once the radiator was mounted a part of the chassis had to be sectioned to allow the coolant overflow hose to freely pass through. And the mounting of the more modern windscreen wipers and motors was a nightmare to fit around the roll cage tubing. Nothing comes easily.
Even the dash was cut and re-fabricated to move the instrument binnacle perfectly in line with the new seating position, and a new fascia panel fabricated to replace the piece of gutter that was found. A more reliable heater box was fitted to keep us warm and enable de-misting of the windscreen – I hear it gets pretty cold down in Tassie and whilst snow on a special stage is rare, I’ve heard it has happened before. A different steering column with switchgear from a more modern Alfa Romeo was used to at least maintain some form of brand integrity.
There’s still a long way to go, but if you squint a little but you can kind of see it all coming together. A few days after these shots were taken the shell was stripped right back down and went back to Pearce Crash for finishing and painting. As soon as the shell is painted, the mad scramble to assemble it all begins. With a bit of luck and some long hours it will be ready for its first shakedown test before the end of March.
Guy wants to keep the 2600 as period looking as possible, and the final paint scheme will be a traditional race livery of Alfa rosso corsa with white highlights. It will look very similar to Eurosport owner Peter Axford’s own Alfa 105 historic circuit race car.
The team at Eurosport are really pulling out all the stops to make sure the 2600 gets done and is ready for Targa. And what impresses me the most is that the quality is not being sacrificed for speed of completion – it’s a beautiful build.
The thought they’re putting in to come up with stuff like this from nothing under such close time constraints is incredible. Nothing comes off the shelf for a tarmac rally built Alfa 2600 Sprint, and every decision has to be carefully considered. We’re not going to have the time to re-do stuff if it doesn’t work.
While I was at Eurosport I couldn’t help but have a quick look at what other projects they had on the go. It must be a constant juggling act to fit these restorations and racecar builds around their regular service and repair work.
James is one of the technicians at Eurosport, and this is his personal project kept on hand for evening and weekend work. What started as a simple turbo conversion on his Alfa 75 has quickly progressed into a full on track car build and he won’t reveal what’s under the cover for anyone. I can’t wait to see it once it’s done.
As I post these final words I’ve just received an SMS saying that the 2600 has now been painted. Pacenotes have been ordered and Guy and I are off to Tasmania next week to recce the event, and then it’s back into the full swing of assembly. It’s going to be a busy two months to come.
Words and photos by Andrew Coles
More updates to follow as the build progresses.#2600 Sprint #Adelaide #Alfa Romeo #Eurosport #Eurosport Automotive #rally #South Australia #Targa #Targa Tasmania #Targa Tasmania 2016 #Tarmac Rally