Alfa Owner member review
Forum name: Rico JFDD
Real name: Rico Argyris
Age: 26 (born 10/Nov/1976)
Occupation: Product Manager in a satellite communications company
Lives: In Brussels, Belgium for the moment but I intend to return to Greece (by car of course… and the car will be my Bella)
Marital status: Single, but married to my Bella
What car(s) do you drive and why?
Alfa Romeo 147 3dr 1.6 (137bhp).
Why? Well, where do I start?
My first car was a ’89 Volvo 340 (yeah, I know…) hatchback whilst I was at University. When I got my first full-time job, I ordered myself a Fiat Bravo GT and after 8 months it was trashed by another stupid driver, so I returned to the dealership and saw the brand new Alfa 147 in the showroom and couldn’t take my eyes of the car.
The front looks aggressive and yet sexy, what with the grille and the lower part intake mesh of the bumper… and those headlights… Ooohh yeah!
Walking round the car, those lovely door handles reminded me of the Alfa 156 and ever since the 156 was released, I loved them; their look, and the way they follow the design of the door/window.
The mirrors looked a bit strange to me at first, but then again, it must have been because it was me that was being reflected within. Ask me now, and I like them too.
The rear of the car has a very elegant look to it (as standard) but I must admit that the factory rear bumper looks a bit big and bulky. That isn’t a problem though as I wave replace the exhaust pipe and it helps put the rear’s features into proportion.
Having circled the car a couple of times attentively like a vulture, it was time to enter the Bella’s layer.
Obviously, I sat behind the wheel and I was mesmerised with the fluidity, clarity and elegance of the dials on/in the dash and the central console. Ah, that central console; another thing of beauty that you rarely get as a “standard” feature on other cars (OK, a similar one comes on the 307, but nowhere near the same league of Alfa Romeo class).
The steering wheel looks nice, but the dash sitting right behind it looks even better (personally I prefer the black dials compared to the white ones; with the white ones, you can see the “cut-outs” of the warning lights. – A small feature, but nevertheless…). Hehe, and just wait until you switch the lights on and the whole dash illuminates itself in a red glow reminding me of the Ferrari 355 that I test-drove in the UK (Admittedly, the 147 GTA dials are a closer match, but mine are close enough).
The seating position is as comfortable as you want/need thanks to the multitude of orientation levers and axes that you can change; and the back is more spacious than my previous Bravo and more comfortable too.
Having wiped the steady stream of saliva off the side of my mouth, it was inevitable that I was going to have to take the car out for a test drive. At first I was a bit disappointed with the 1.6 110bhp engine, but kept reminding myself that there are another 3 engines (2 petrol and the JTD) above that one… As it turned out, my insurance broker gave me a concrete “NO” in regards to the 2.0 Selespeed, so I contented myself with the 1.6 with 120bhp (hey, I was going to tune my car anyway, be it the Selespeed or the 1.6…).
I just love the car; from the moment I first saw and drive it up until including today. And I know I will go on loving her in the future.
What modifications have you made to your car?
1. Replaced pedals with Sparco pedals (silver with black anti-slip rubber).
I personally find that after having installed the Sparco pedals, they "feel" lighter and I seem to have a better "feeling" of the pedals and the pressure. And when I put on my Sparco/Puma racing shoes on, they feel even better.
2. Replaced gear knob with Momo all-aluminium model.
The Momo gear knob feels much more comfortable and is easier to use for quick shifting (when you don't really have enough time to actually get a proper grip of the gear knob. - I just push it towards the required gear, and away she goes). It also looks nicer with the alloy-look central console (A/C and Stereo).
When my brother had just passed his driving test, I let him drive the Bella (with me inside of course…) and one of the first questions he asked me was: “Where is 1st gear on this?”.
3. I have used Foliatec interior window tint (35% filter effect, as far as the legal limit for the front 2 windows allows) on all windows except the front windscreen (illegal).
Nothing to do with performance, but I like the way that there is a uniformity of colours on the outside of the car: Black and Red, I love this colour combination. I find that this also helps conceal the B-pillars. The car actually looks quite "stealthy" when driving at night, as there is very little people outside can see...
1. Replaced the original alloys with 17" OZ Super Novas.
Changing alloy sizes need a bit of thought as the wrong choice can completely undermine a car's performance and looks. I chose to go one size bigger (from 16" Alfa Romeo alloys to 17" OZ Super Nova alloys) and put some good tyres.
The result of putting slightly bigger and lighter alloys is that I have gained slightly as far as the top speed in concerned (With the current set-up, I have done and checked that the car reaches a maximum of 216km/h on a flat motorway).
1.a. Following the replacement of the alloys, I originally chose Goodyear's Eagle GSD F1 tyres (215/45ZR17) but I have now changed to Dunlop's Sport SP9000 (215/45ZR17) which seem to provide much better grip and control.
I took the car onto a track day with the previous set of tyres (Goodyears) and found that although the grip was decent, they suffered a hell of a lot during a day’s "hard" driving. Since I have replaced them with the Dunlops, I have driven "hard" both in the wet and on hot dry surfaces and the tyre treads seem to still be in a very good condition. The actual "response" that I get from the tyres (particularly the front) is excellent, a real feeling of control (but this can also give way if and when required to do so…)
2. Replaced original back box and exhaust pipe with a Remus exhaust system.
On its own, and after being "warmed up" the noise is slightly deeper sounding that the original back box and pipe. Combined with the K&N filter modification, there is a slight increase in mid range acceleration (throttle response) and the noise has only improved (especially when accelerating between 3500rpm and 5000rpm).
3. Removed original air filter and tubing and attached a K&N sports cone air filter with a shorter tube.
On its own I don't think it would do anything substantially noticeable, but I did this conversion after the exhaust and I can certainly notice a difference (I also purchased Race-Technology’s Performance Meter and the results are quite promising: 0-100km/h in 9.27s, 137bhp).
4. Replaced original springs with Rotec springs resulting in a lowering of 4.5cm.
Having changed the springs (not the suspension) of the car and thus lowering the car by 4.5cm, I can definitely say and witness that the car's handling has improved enormously. I have found myself going into and out of tight corners at a considerably higher speed than before having the springs replaced. There is a noticeable reduction in the car's roll and pitch, however you now feel even the smallest of bumps and holes in the road (probably due to me not replacing the suspension yet; ah yes, that small inconvenience called “money/cash/dosh…”).
You enjoy track days. Tell us about your experiences and on which circuits you have driven?
I see track days in 2 categories:
Firstly, a track day is an opportunity for any driving enthusiast to drive and experience certain conditions that are not available and definitely not allowed on the public roads. I am talking about tight chicanes, proper driving lines into and out of corners (using the entire width of the tarmac) and not forgetting of course the speed.
Secondly, I view track days as one of the very few and real opportunities made available to the general public in order to test the performances of the individuals’ cars and sometimes put some of the cars “up against each other”…
So far I have attended one track day with my Bella and that was on the former F1 circuit of Zolder in Belgium. As usual, the day started out with grey skies and by lunchtime, the rain had gate-crashed the party and was there to stay. Despite the weather conditions, I had a great time and was very happy to see that both the Bella and myself had the capabilities to catch a Porsche 944 and overtake it on several occasions (apart from the straight line sections, where a lot of heavy swearing was done. Aimed at the Porsche and not the Alfa of course.)
Tell us about your website, How it started?
My website is titled “Rico JFDD & The Red Pepper” (Rico JFDD being me and The Red Pepper being my Alfa 147). It all started quite unexpectedly really; I was messing around with trying to learn html language and in order to test my (crappy) improvements, I required to find a way of publishing the pages.
After having got the Red Pepper, I was browsing the net for any information and pictures of other 147s that had either been tuned or where their owners appreciated them as much as I did. Among a lot of mediocre junk, I found the AO site and couldn’t believe my eyes! Cool! Finally a proper site that knows what it is all about!
Seeing that most of the members have their own website/web space, I thought that it was about time that I shared the Red Pepper through the cyber-community as well as on the public streets.
Having set up the first version of the site, I got some useful feedback and advice from friends and AO members (who I consider friends as well).
That was the beginning and the rest is history as they say.
What started your passion for Alfa Romeo?
Hmmm. There doesn’t seem to be one precise moment or spark that started my passion for Alfa Romeo cars. I would rather say that the passion and “Alfisti virus” that I have recently been struck with evolved slowly as I have always been interested in cars.
The closer you are to driving, owning and then modifying your car, the more seriously you look upon cars and car makers. We all have childhood ideas and pre-conceptions about cars that other people drive, but when it comes to us driving a car, we thing of them differently.
I was born and grew up in Greece (just outside Athens) and in the mid to late 70s there were a lot of Alfas in Greece. I distinctly remember during a family holiday, I pointed to an Alfa Romeo and proclaimed to my Dad (only other person in the immediate family to have an interest in cars) that the targeted car was an “Alfa”. My Mum apparently asked my Dad for confirmation or if I was just pointing and saying “Alfa” to everything; anyway, Dad confirmed and my Mum asked me how I knew that. Simple: The rear lights were the only ones which resembled the 2 “L” shapes like in Tetris; whilst trying to explain this to my Mum (a woman don’t forget), I accidentally touched the rear light to show her the “L” shapes and the alarm went off scaring the living crap out of me…Ever since that moment, the make Alfa Romeo held a special place in my memory.
More recently, and having experienced the PlayStation game of Gran Tourismo, I discovered the fantastic Alfa 155 tuned to perfection. I loved the car and didn’t really want to drive any of the others unless I really had to (race rules or performance imbalance).
As I said, the passion and lust of Alfas didn’t just dawn on me all of a sudden; it was a slow progression of smaller experiences. Another example was when a former colleague of mine (during a summer job) offered me a deal: he would lend me his GTV if I drove him to the airport of Friday afternoon after the office and also went to pick him up on Sunday night. Duh! The way I feel about cars and driving, and everything to do with the sleek GTV, what the hell do you think I said! I enjoyed myself in that GTV more than you can imagine (so did a couple of friends….), but alas, the car was way out of my price range at the time and the weekend trip only lasted one weekend.
I had heard all the hype and crap about previous Alfa “oil-burning” engines and the unreliability factor that was associated with rust-bucket Alfas; but all this seems to be absolute crap with the development of the Twin Spark engines and judging from personal experiences I completely disagree with any of the oil-burning rumours.
Ever since seeing the 147 in the showroom and subsequently owning one, I absolutely love the car and the brand; just look at the other superb models to roll off the Alfa design boards: GTV, 156 sportwagon and not forgetting the awesome GTAs.
What do you like most about Alfas?
Everything. The styling, the value for money, the “feel” of the car both as a passenger and especially as a driver (to copy the BMW marketing slogan “a driver’s car”). All you have to do is translate the Alfa Romeo slogan “Cuore Sportivo” and it gives you “Racing Hear”; and that is just what an Alfa is and does. It strikes a cord in everyone’s heart and has a sporting heritage to be proud of. (I was recently reading an article in the “Classic Car” magazine about an Alfa Romeo V10 engine that was developed but unfortunately only tested.
When you tell people that you drive an Alfa Romeo, they start asking more and more questions because they want to know more about the car and the feeling you have. It is so far from just an ordinary car.
What do you like least about Alfas?
If I had to thing of something I least like about Alfas, I would have to think quite hard about resulting with some informed opinion.
Again, the best informed opinions can only be from my own experiences and not just hear-say; with the 147, the only little niggles that I can recall are certain relatively small details regarding the build quality/assembly and the servicing. But lets be fair about things, the servicing is a dealer/garage issue and shouldn’t directly reflect the Alfa Romeo brand; they are Alfa representatives, but they didn’t design or build the cars.
What would be your dream cars?
If money were no object, a McLaren F1 GTR.
On a more serious note, I would like to have a 147 GTA with a few visits to Zender, Novitec and a few displays of Recaro, Sparco and Momo inside; but allow me to clarify one main point regarding the 147 GTA: I prefer the GTA to my current 147 solely on the engine performance, regarding the styling modifications, I honestly prefer the current 147 styling (none of those big black mess type stuff on the rear bumpers and round the front).
What will be your next car?
As long as the Red Pepper keeps a smile on my face and my heart beat racing (which it is doing just fine at the moment), I will keep her for as long as she keeps me.
If I had to change, and could afford it (both to buy and insure), I think it would most probably be between the 147 GTA with modifications or the 156 GTA.
A close third would be the new Seat Ibiza.
Yes, OK, there are others with higher performances at similar prices, but I haven’t found one with the overall appeal and class of the Alfa range. A current colleague of mine is thinking of getting a Subaru Impreza, but I told him to have a look inside before signing on the dotted line. IMHO, no thanks M8.
What car would you least like to have?
VW Beatle. It reminds me of half a lemon turned upside-down sitting on 4 wheels… It looks like a toy, an over-scaled Barbie doll car where you put Barbie and Ken inside and push it along your front porch to pass the time.
What would be your ideal drive in an Alfa, (destination, passenger, driving music, etc)?
On a semi-serious note, I was watching a television program a few months ago all about the Gumball rally across Europe (If I recall correctly, the race started in London and wend to Moscow and back again). Now, give me a 147 GTA with a good supply of tuning, enough money for the participation fee, petrol and speeding fines and you can put anyone you want in the passenger seat with me as long as I do the driving, I don’t care!
On a more realistic point, I always wanted (and I will) drive down to Greece from Belgium once as a non-stop trip to see how quickly I can get there. The return trip would be in a much slower pace, stopping to visit and see various cities and attractions along the route (like the Imola race track, the Maranello establishment, the Alps…).
I’m not too bothered about musical preferences, as long as they steer well clear of classical and that techno/electric stuff; groups like Bon Jovi, Faithless, the Doors, and other similar styles are acceptable to the Red Pepper and myself.
Any humorous Alfa or car related stories you wish to share with us?
Hehehe, I got a couple…
1. I had a small accident with my Mum’ ’96 Mini about a year ago (the Red Pepper was in the garage for routing servicing, 20,000km) and on the way home from work I passed by one of the Universities. As the traffic lights just outside the front entrance turned red (or dark orange as they are in Greece. Green=Go; Orange=Go; Dark Orange=Keep Going)), I stopped behind the car in front of me and was second in line. Whilst waiting for the light to go green, I was browsing the female students as they were walking out of the university gates (as one does at traffic lights in those circumstances). Out of the corner of my eye, I noticed that the car in front was pulling away, so I put the tin can (you know I mean the Mini…) into first and pulled away too, trying to absorb as much and as many of the female students (maybe I could give one of them a lift…), when all of a sudden there was a loud BANG, CRASH, CLANG accompanied with a jolt.
I looked forward and the guy in front had stopped in the middle of the road and was waiting for a gap in the on-coming traffic in order to cross over onto the other side of the junction; I on the other hand didn’t exactly see him, but instead I felt that he was there. We pulled the cars over to the pavement, get out and settle the insurance details. Just as I am getting back into the Mini, I notice that the students outside the university gates are following this situation as if it was a reality TV series like Big Brother. (Needless to say, I returned home alone).
2. During my time at university in the UK, and my passion for cars and driving, I got a part-time job as one of the minibus drivers for the Student Union, driving sport and society clubs to fixtures during the days and drunken students home in the evenings.
A year after joining the team, the Welfare officer (person in charge of the minibus services) appointed me as the bus service and team’s co-ordinator. Great news for me, not so good news for her.
The team of drivers, was absolutely fantastic; we would arrange to have the best guys on the same shifts so as to be able to have mini drag races up and down the high street as well as trying to establish crazy records and then beating them.
Without going into too many details and secrets, some of the records awarded were for the “longest distance covered whilst driving the minibus in reverse”, if I remember correctly the holder drove from the Student Union all the way round campus, past the security guards at the gate and onto the main road for a considerable distance. Another was awarded to the driver who had the “craziest passenger on their bus”; this record ended up being shared between two drivers, one had a guy who climbed onto the top of their bus (yup, that was mine) and whilst the bus was driving in one of the close-by towns, it got pulled over by the police only to reveal to the driver that they had an “extra” passenger on the roof; the other record holder was a driver who had a girl so wasted in the front of the bus, that she flopped her **** out in order to try and get him to drive her home first (unfortunately, I wasn’t driving that bus; but the driver who was driving the bus was already engaged. Shame). And one of the best records was set (and never got re-attempted) by the whole team of drivers all in one bus at night driving along a country road and then suddenly, the driver chose to take what he called “a scenic short cut” across a field; so yes, we swerved off the road in a Ducati minibus, into the field and then the driver thought it would be even better if he switched the lights off and continued driving. Madness; but a solid laugh. The same driver also forced a Porsche 911 onto a pavement in London as he was swerving through traffic whilst returning from an unofficial “shopping run” in London.
What interests do you have outside of Alfas?
Pretty much everything and anything related to cars, driving them, racing them, motorsports. Some people used to call me “Petrol Head”, but that is too common and doesn’t describe me enough.
I used to go skydiving (during university) and I am a pretty easy-going person when it comes to trying out new activities (and positions).
Tell us something nobody knows about you. (e.g. special skill, ever been on TV, etc)
I have met the late Princess Diana during a visit to a London hospital; we both walked out of separate lifts and into the hall and I couldn’t quite believe my eyes. But true enough, it was her; what’s more we had a very pleasant conversation and she gladly accepted to pose for some photos together. She was a truly sweat and precious person, and will definitely not be forgotten.
Not this will mean anything in particular to the AO forum members, but in the university halls of residence during my first year, I was the one that set off the fire alarm 4 times during the same night and didn’t get caught!
Loads, that’s what keep s me going to be honest. I want and will drive an F1 car round a race trace as fast as I can; I would like to have my own company (not too sure in what business field yet, but opportunities are just around the corner); I have an ongoing project for the Red Pepper’s enhancements; I’d like to cross the Atlantic in a small sailing boat alone; I’d like to take a trip into space and orbit the Earth; and loads more ambitions.
What do you like most about Alfaowner forum?
Firstly I like and appreciate the layout the whole AlfaOwner site maintains; it is easy to navigate and get around from the moment you enter the site through until you are ready to log off (very hard thing to actually get yourself to do).
Within the Forum section, the categories are clearly divided into sensible sections and within the postings seem to be very informative, pleasant and well constructed. Of course this is a great credit to the forum members as well, since they are the ones creating, reading and replying to the posts.
Any favourite threads, posts you wish to share with us?
If you’re looking for some very good and interesting threads, I would highly recommend that you enter the forum and have a look at the posts that are marked as “Hot Topics”. I am not going to publicly name some of the great members, as they are all great in their individual ways; some just seem more “in tune” with my sense of humour and their comments are well appreciated and well read by me.
How would you like to see the forum develop in the future?
To be honest, I don’t have any great ideas or theories on this; I have installed a forum on my site, but nothing compares with the AO site and forum; mine is a mediocre forum/disaster.
In light of everything and the stats gathered by the numbers of members, visitors and posts… I would suggest that you continue as you have been. (I would stay clear of any pop-up windows and sponsoring messages, headers…)