Regular readers will know that, as well as being a BL-head, I also have a liking for my Alfa Romeos, Audis and Citroens. I have a ‘Sud sitting in my garage which I simply can’t bring myself to sell despite not having used the thing for years and I’m also the very satisfied former owner of a 156 Twin Spark. The company’s fascinated me for as long as I can remember and, as I grew up during the 1970s, I found myself being strangely attracted to Alfettas, Giuliettas and the gloriously styled Alfasud Sprint and GTV. Yes, I read the road tests that gleefully talked about indifferent build quality and an odd driving position, but did that put me off at all? No, of course not.
However, like all affairs, mine’s an on-off deal with Alfa Romeo – so, as we went into the mid-1980s, it went a bit wierd. The 75 and 90 were, er, okay – but they simply didn’t engage me in the way the older cars did. They were creaky, oddly styled and frankly a bit strange. I still I loved them, though… As I say, an on-off-on affair. Even today, I find myself looking at 1970s GTVs through strangely misted eyes and deliberating over buying one.
Then the practical side of me takes over and I stick with my V8-powered Rover SD1.
However, when my good friend and AROnline tech-head, Brian Gunn, bought a 156 2.5 V6-24 last year, I just knew I’d end up owning it. Why? Well, because he raved about it – and reminded me of just how much I missed my old 156; a Latin you could own without (too many) regrets. Then, a few weeks back, he said those fateful words I hoped (and dreaded) him saying: ‘I’m buying a new car… are you interested in the 156?’ Needless to say, I said yes, we concluded a deal… and then I waited. And waited. And waited.
That’s because part of the deal was that I’d have to wait for the delivery of Brian’s new Fiat 500 TwinAir before I got my hands on the Alfa. Ordinarily that wouldn’t be a problem. My smokers and general runarounds haven’t really engaged me since I lost my Saab 9000 Aero, but I actually found a the spark of excitement beginning to return. Brian kept telling me this and that about his 156 and I’d find myself willing the days and weeks to pass more quickly. Indeed, as the day got closer, I also started telling people about my new car… without a trace of irony or embarrassment.
Then last weekend, the day finally arrived and it was time to pick up my new Alfa from Brian’s place in London. The excitement remained and continued to build as we handed over the cash, did the paperwork and chewed over the car situation. Wow… really unusual for me in recent years. Then came the drive home… and, do you know what? The reality that followed the anticipation wasn’t a disappointment. In fact, I was more than happy; I was delighted. That Busso V6 is a magnificent thing – it sounds absolutely incredible – and, although it’s only the baby of the family at 2492cc, it has all the torque, power and tractability I’d need in daily driving. In short, by the time I got back to my place in Middle England, I knew I’d made a very good choice.
Yes, of course, people have been telling me it will break down, it will conk out and that the stylish saloon will bankrupt me. We’ll see. I suspect, after Brian’s year-long adventure with it, the thing is properly sorted. I’m also lucky that I don’t need to drive it every day – slaking its thirst won’t come cheaply – but it will remain a treat for me. All the best things in life should be rationed out.
Mind you, something else weird has happened to me. This is the first car I’ve owned since that Saab 9000 Aero that I’ve actually found myself caring for. I’ve polished it – full paint correction, the lot – and fitted a nice stereo. I’ve even fed the leather interior and now I find myself anticipating driving it. This is going to be my office for some time – and what an office it is.
Thank you Brian for letting me buy your Alfa. Thank you Alfa Romeo for giving me back my car mojo. This is a momentous time for me. It’s good to be back.