Alfa Owner member review
31 in body. Not so sure about mind though.
Partner in an advertising company and a model agency.
Helsinki. Finland. Born in Huddersfield, UK. Also lived in Carlisle and Cambridge.
Single but living in sin with girlfriend, Joanna
What cars do you drive and why?
I drive an Alfa Romeo 156 V6 24V. We don’t have Turismo, Veloce etc in Finland so I think it’s a bit of a half – breed. It’s silver although if the truth be known, I wanted a black one. Silver emphasises the beautiful shape of the 156 but it is very common. There are at least 4 silver 156’s parked in adjacent streets to mine. Must be a good area eh!
I initially wanted a GTV or a Spider but there are only 8 in Finland, so spares etc would have been a major problem. I sincerely hope my girlfriend doesn’t read this but I almost bought a fire damaged 1996 2L GTV for the same price as my 156. The GTV was black with black leather and I just got that glazed look across my eyes. I’m sure you all know what I mean…
An interesting fact about my car – it used to belong to the boss of Alko, the Finnish Government’s state run alcohol stores. Perhaps petrol is not the only thing my V6 has had in it’s tank!
What started your passion for Alfa Romeo?
It all goes back to a childhood holiday in Limone, Italy. My Dad had a friend there called Paulo and one summer we decided to go and stay in his holiday home. I think I was about 11 at the time. Paulo was the archetypal Italian playboy with an expensive yet highly creased shirt and the kind of nonchalant attitude that seemed to make lots of nice ladies smile. I thought he was coolness personified.
After settling in to the apartment we went to his house to borrow one of his company’s cars. He presented my Dad with the keys to a Renault 5 and we all went to the underground garage to inspect the car. My Mum, Dad and little Brother promptly got in the car but Paulo suggested I might want to go in his car. We walked around a corner of his vast garage and there it was; a glittering navy blue 1972 Alfa Romeo Spider. “Are we going in that?” I said. “Do you wanna go to Monaco in my secretary’s car?” he laughingly replied.
I had never been in a real sports car before and certainly not a convertible, but I’d had pictures of Italian cars on my wall ever since I knew what a car was. This was a dream come true (prearranged I’m sure, but anyway). Paulo drove with the typical Italian disregard for traffic rules, going up on the kerb to avoid traffic, shouting “ragazza bella” at anything in a skirt and even accelerating past a whole queue of slow traffic on the wrong side of the road as the lights changed to amber. My poor old Dad must have had a hell of a time keeping up with us.
Everything about that car was perfect; the way the exhaust rasped, the way the red leather smelt and the way everyone looked longingly at it’s beautiful lines. It was a perfect drive over twisting mountain passes and through the long tunnel between Italy and France. I still remember the noise that thing made in the tunnel and the fact that I was smiling from ear to ear - all the way to Monte Carlo.
How common are Alfas in Finland? Is there a large interest in Alfas there?
Until recently Alfas were not that popular in Finland. Not surprisingly they were not thought to be a good car for sub zero temperatures. However, the 156 changed all this when it beat VW and Toyota (Finland’s most popular cars) in a Finnish winter motoring test (correct me if I’m wrong Jarmo). Finns seem to place even more faith in these tests than Brits and consequently the 156 sold like hot cakes in the more affluent areas of Southern Finland (cars are very. very expensive here). The 147 is also gaining in popularity but still faces stiff competition from the Golf, a firm Finnish favourite.
I have seen a few old Alfas, particularly an immaculate Montreal and a few Sprints, GTV’s etc seem to be kept as summer cars. I’m sure all these owners are also well acquainted with the infamous Luigi, said to be the best Alfa mechanic in Finland
More information can be found about Alfa’s in Finland at the Finnish Alfa Romeo’s owners club: http://www.carf.fi/.
How did you get to live in Finland?
It was 1997 and I was washing dishes in a hotel kitchen in Cambridge. I saw an interesting ad in the newspaper asking for volunteers to work abroad as part of a 4 month long European Union marketing initiative or, a Euro skive, as they were known then! To cut a long story short I got an interview and was presented with a choice of 3 destinations – Greece, Holland and Finland. I was then told to join one of 3 lines to meet the representatives from each country.
I was in the line for Finland and upon entering the room I must have had a similar GTV type, “glazed look”. There before me was one of the most beautiful blonde women I had ever seen. You know when a beautiful woman is talking and you’re just inanely nodding? Well, that was me. Suffice to say I never even bothered queuing to hear about the other destinations
What do you like most about Alfas?
Even though they are mass-produced they are inherently exotic. I think they always will be.
I like their strengths in the face of adversity. They are not a sensible choice. With the exception of perhaps the Arna, they all look great but you know deep down that they may not be as reliable as other marques. Perhaps I’m wrong; perhaps this is a preconception that people have loved to reinforce over the years, but this forum would indicate that AR still has to iron out a few “glitches”.
I love the fact that a great deal of people love to hate Alfas or rather, put them down. I find it most amusing. Why is it that Alfa’s provoke such a strong reaction from these people? Do they secretly like Alfa’s but would never dare to buy one for fear of being ridiculed?
I love the exhaust note; I love the badge, the round air vents, the look on people’s faces when they say, “oh, you’ve got an Alfa Romeo”. As if to say “but you seem quite sensible and you don’t seem to be short of money, and you’re such a nice lad…”
What do you like least about Alfas?
Despite occasional jibes about reliability on this forum I can honestly say that there isn’t anything I really dislike about Alfa’s. There are things that concern me like the forthcoming 800 quid service and the ability of AR to maintain the title of “motoring legend”. Like many people have said though, you just have to look at them and all is forgiven. They’re the business aren’t they
What would be your dream cars?
A black GTV (without fire damage) I would also like a new and an old Spider and GTV, a 147 & 156 GTA, oh, and a Sprint, perhaps a 166 for longer journeys too. Did I mention the forthcoming Brera? Other marques – Citroen SM, Lancia Beta, E-Type, any Aston, Maserati Ghibli, Ferrari Daytona, GTO, F355
What will be your next car?
I think we all know that the next Alfa Coupe, in whatever derivative it is, will be hard to resist.
What car would you least like to have?
I really dislike fast cars with no class. With this in mind, you will not find me behind the wheel of any fast Ford or it’s Far Eastern contenders.
What would be your ideal drive in an Alfa, (destination, passenger, driving music, etc)?
The aforementioned Monaco dash with my little brother. We would be singing our hearts out to The Beatles accompanied by the roar of the glorious Alfa Romeo twin pipes.
Any humorous Alfa or car related stories you wish to share with us?
One particular memory was on the way to an Alfa meet in central England in some stately home. I think it would have been in about 1994. A mate of mine had a 33 Boxer 16V Cloverleaf and crikey that thing was fast. So fast in fact that we were clocked doing 137 mph by a Police Vauxhall Carlton that loomed up very quickly in front of us. Anyway, the Policeman came over and said “in a hurry gentlemen” to which the driver replied “yeh, we’re off to an Alfa meeting”. Not amused, the Policeman took him to the Carlton to be driven to the local nick by his colleague.
The funniest thing was when he came back to the 33 to drive it to the station with me and another mate in it he looked visibly excited at the prospect of driving the Alfa. I was sitting next to a Policeman who was driving a rosso 33 and making oohing and aaahing noises. He even went back to the station on an alternative route than the Carlton, regularly commenting that “it’s pretty good in the corners lads” and “it really pulls when you put yer foot down”. Priceless!
What interests do you have outside of Alfas?
I’ve always been quite keen on outdoor sports and have been rock climbing for many years both in the UK and abroad. Mountain biking is another fave and I’ve been biking in much of Europe and Africa. I also used to do Karate for much of my miss-spent youth.
More recently I’ve developed a bit of an interest in cooking but I guess that’s the TV’s fault. Besides that I am interested in fashion, but that’s partly for my job and partly because I used to be a model, plus the usual things like pretty girls and drinking (which luckily are also part of my job)
Tell us something nobody knows about you. (e.g. special skill, ever been on TV, etc)
A year ago I thought I would never be able to drive. I starting taking driving lessons in the UK, much like all the rest of the 17 year olds, when one day my instructor asked me to read a trucks number plate. I couldn’t. With that he immediately told me to get out of the car and get my eyes checked. I promptly did this and found out that I had split retinas and glasses etc may not help me to meet the sight requirements. As I’m sure you can imagine this felt like a tonne of bricks had been dropped on me.
Many years later my girlfriend encouraged me to take my driving test here in Finland with glasses, as the medical / sight test comes before the lessons rather than in the test as in the UK. With much trepidation I went along, and low and behold I passed the sight test, even to the extent the Optical Surgeon told me I don’t even need glasses to drive. I then took the long and exhaustive Finnish driving test and passed with flying colours. After being a car fanatic for years and then thinking I would never drive, you could have knocked me down with a feather!
After realising the above ambition I’m careful what I wish for
What do you like most about Alfaowner forum?
Firstly and unrelated to motoring, I think Alfaowner is an oasis of decent folk and intelligent comment in a desert of Internet nonsense. The forum is never malicious and a sense of decency always seems to prevail. Sure we have our tiffs, and sometimes it is a bit infuriating when threads go way off topic when all someone wants is some sensible advice, but in the main its all good, healthy banter.
There are also some great characters on AO (you know who you are) and I personally like to chat to people from all over the world. Where else can you get help from a bearded Norwegian when you need to install a car alarm? Cheers Hoygs
Any favourite threads, posts you wish to share with us?
Far too many to list, although I have enjoyed some particularly funny exchanges of witticisms with Pete and Aisha over the last year. If memory serves me correctly the funniest was about what kind of people drive what kinds of Alfa i.e. GTVs - Tarts, Spiders – Hairdressers, 156 – Perverts, 166 – Old Farts etc, etc
How would you like to see the forum develop in the future?
More of the same please. It’s great to see new features and new topic areas appearing all the time. It’s a useful service and much more than that, alot of fun is had by all. Thanks for a great service. Keep up the good work.