Alfa Owner member review:
Forum name: GTV6
Real name: We’ll just stick with g.
Age: 31. But just turned 31. So, makes it nearer to 30, which is still quite close to still being in my twenties. Not that I want to split hairs or anything.
Occupation: Account manager at a PR company, representing high-tech clients.
Lives: In a small village called Windlesham, Surrey, where nothing ever happens. In fact, so little happens in Windlesham, that even when nothing happens, it’s something.
What cars do you drive and why?
RenaultSport 172 Clio is its formal and rather daft name. I bought it because my trusty Golf Gti was on its last legs and needed to be replaced. I wanted a used, silver, 2.0 156, but my local Alfa dealer didn’t have any so I went into a huff and put a deposit on used GTV. Huff turned to panic one night when I realised the repayments weren’t far off my mortgage payments. That seemed a bit silly, so I bottled out of the deal and got my deposit back. In the meantime, as my Golf wheezed along, I’d had my eye on the 172, because it was fast, small and the local trade sales place was selling them for buttons. One Sunday, I popped out to buy some milk and coffee, got confused and came back with an order form for the Renault. It’s no Alfa, but I find Puppy quite endearing. Well, until I see other Alfas then I realise there’s no way on earth Thierry Henry turns up to footie practise in a Clio.
What started your passion for Alfa Romeo?
I suppose we’re a car family. My dad used to work for Alfa and he almost always had Alfas. To an old-school Italian, an Alfa is the best car in the world, until you can have a Ferrari. My dad used to work from home at the weekends fixing high performance cars, including Alfas. I was usually there watching what he was doing, chatting as he worked, holding tools for him, pressing the brake pedal when he was bleeding the brakes...all that kind of stuff. Even those orange part boxes with the ‘Alfa Romeo’ script on them became a fairly permanent fixture at home. So, many of my earliest memories involve Alfas – the day our dog ripped open my lip and my dad raced (and I mean raced) me to hospital in a Bertone GTV; doing power-slides in the snow one Christmas just for fun in a 1750 saloon; belting through the Italian mountains in a ‘85 Guilietta to get to the airport in time; half-asleep in the back of an Alfetta as we drove to Italy for a holiday, feeling safe and at total ease with everything; there also a fair number of less pleasant Alfa-related memories, too. I guess these things stay with you. You look through our photo albums for instance, and there’s always an Alfa lurking about in the picture somewhere – they are, if you like, my family’s automotive pets, and not having one around, doesn’t quite feel right. In fact, when I bought my Alfa, my dad (once he’d stopped swearing at me quite loudly for blowing my house deposit on my GTV6), said: “You know, it’s good to have an Alfa back home again.” Then he went off to cook lots of pasta so we could all celebrate.
However, unlike other objects of childhood memories, ‘Alfa the car’ had substance beyond ‘Alfa the sentimental memory’; I knew there must have been something good about Alfas because my mates’ dads’ Cortinas and Hillman Avengers were all slow and sounded like cement mixers, where as our Alfettas and GTVs went like rockets and had engine noises to match. At the danger of sounding corny, and even if I don’t currently have one, I don’t mind admitting that I feel a very intimate bond with Alfa Romeo, largely because they were there during some very formative years of my life.
What do you like most about Alfas?
Well, there’s all the above to start with, and of course the cars are lovely. Alfa is also inextricably linked with Italy, playing its role in establishing the country’s status in the 30s and after the war. There’s probably a little bit of ‘Forza Alfa!’ in every Italian.
But the thing I love most about Alfa, is its astonishing ability to deliver the goods when it really ought to fail. You could argue that when it was state-owned and employing cheap labour, it was Italy’s equivalent to BL. Yet under similar financial and labour circumstances, Alfa knocked out the Spider. Then the Alfa Sud. Then the Alfetta. Consider BL’s ‘achievements’ – the Princess, the Allegro, the MG, the TR7, the Marina….all absolute rubbish. Sure, the Alfas were not perfect, but neither were they mediocre, intelligence-insulting dross the others churned out. And while there have been some ropey Alfas, there’s never been a boring one. Even at the height of Alfa’s woes, it managed to give us the sublime V6 engine, which for many lean years served as a ray of hope to Alfisti that Alfa still had what it takes to present world-class engineering, as well as being a slap around the chops for anyone that dared suggest that Alfa had lost the plot. Regardless of what obstacles and disasters are thrown its way, Alfa uses talent, skill, and probably a lot of luck, to become victorious when really it should have been slaughtered. Perhaps that’s what’s so endearing about Alfa – no matter how heavily the odds are stacked against it, no matter how bloodied it gets in battle, it always shines through as a proud and honourable fighter. It is a true automotive legend.
What do you like least about Alfas?
I find it exceptionally frustrating that Alfa cannot produce a car that dynamically knocks spots off a rival. It is wrong that the 156 GTA, the most ‘Alfa’ of all current Alfas, seems to have inconsistent reviews and has questionable ability on the track, a place where a sporting legend like Alfa should shine.
That said, I just cannot dislike Alfas. In a world of ‘me too-ism’, a world where we constantly have to justify our reasoning, measure our results, quantify the benefits of what we’ve done…Alfa is the thing for me that I let be, just as it is. Rightly or wrongly, Alfa is the one thing I really feel no need to justify or explain. Even when they’re naughty and breakdown loads.
What would be your dream cars?
I’d like my GTV6 back please. It would be tucked up to an immaculate 1986 Audi ur-quattro, one of the few cars that I think comes close in character to the GTV6; brawny, gutsy, and with more than a few victories to its name.
What car would you least like to have?
A BMW Z3. Mercifully, I can’t fit behind the wheel because the seat won’t go back far enough, so I physically cannot drive one. Not that I’d want to, anyway.
What will be your next car?
You may as well ask me what God looks like – I have no idea. It might be the 147 coupe, it might be the new Nissan Z-car, and it might be a 147 GTA or a used Boxster. Before I bought the 172, these cars were on the list: Seat Leon Cupra, Smart Car, Audi A2Tdi, VW Golf V5 and a JCB. Given that disparate list, what hope have I got in guessing what I may be driving three years from now?
What would be your ideal drive in an Alfa, (destination, passenger, driving music, etc)?
I can’t drive for toffee, so I wouldn’t subject anyone to a drive with me. But my God, what I would give to be a passenger in an Alfa whipping along a 1930s Mille Miglia, mud flying everywhere, air filled with the stench of hot oil and exhaust fumes, screaming through little villages watching the crowds scatter as we tear along to victory in the pride of Italy. Priceless!
Any humorous Alfa or car related stories you wish to share with us?
My GTV6 was a miscreant, fuelled by mischief. For leaving it alone in the garage, it would punish me. Once, with my back toward it when filling it with petrol, it decided to roll down the forecourt and head toward a parked Peugeot. By the time I’d notice the car had gone, there was a bloke trapped between the GTV6’s bumper and the Peugeot’s door. That took some explaining.
In a second petrol station related fiasco, I was parked up opposite the car wash taking a phone call. In front of the carwash, a chap was drying down his Omega. Shame he didn’t put the handbrake on. As I looked up, I saw the Omega rolling towards me head on, a pair of legs dangling from the driver’s window as he tried to grab on the handbrake. With impact imminent, I fired up the Alfa just as the ‘Ghost of The Alfetta Gearbox’ came to haunt me; I could not engage reverse. Two tonnes of Omega was getting closer and closer and still Clunk! from the gearbox, and Clunk! and Clunk! and Clunk! Again, just for good measure. With, I kid you not, less than a foot to spare, reverse finally slotted in. With 6,000rpm dialled up, the GTV6 shot backwards, engine howling, tyres a-smoking just as the Omega planted itself gently into the bins. I leapt out of the Alfa and raged: “YOU THINK THAT WAS FUNNY!? YOU THINK THAT WAS FUNNY!?” Shouting questions at your car in a public place is really not to be recommended.
My first car was a Vauxhall Nova SR. Bright yellow and immaculate and that’s how it remained right up until I sold it. It might not have had much power, but what a sweet engine! – Smooth, punchy, nippy and blessed with a brilliant exhaust rasp. I loved that car. Two weeks before I sold it, I commented to my dad that it went better with 98k on the clock than it did with 55k. He sighed and said: “G, a candle always burns brightest just before it is about to go out.” A saying that came back to haunt me when the head-gasket blew the day after I sold it to my mate’s brother. That caused an awkward moment or two in the pub.
What interests do you have outside of Alfas?
I have appalling hand to eye co-ordination, so any sport that involves a ball or objects used to hit a ball, are out. My school banned me from cricket (a game I hate anyway) because one day, in a fit of pique, I deliberately lobbed the cricket bat at the bowler. The bat missed the bowler, but you should have seen the look on my PE teacher’s face when the bat hit him instead. There was also an unfortunate incident with the javelin a few years after so today I limit myself to sports that don’t involve anything more complex than simple pushing or pulling.
However, I’ve been mountain biking for seven years. If you’re a bloke, regardless of your age, there’s something irresistible about a bike, loose gravel and big puddles, and I’m out there every weekend clocking up the miles. I love it – it’s raw, exposed, gets the adrenalin pumping and is very exciting. A bit like driving an Alfa!