It cannot have escaped the attention of any true motoring enthusiast that 2010 is the Centenary year for the much loved Milanese marque, Alfa Romeo. A number of special events are planned throughout the year, and these will supplement the numerous other activities involving Alfa Romeo which take place every year. One of these is the Spring Alfa Day, organised by the Alfa Romeo Owners Club and which is the first opportunity of the year for owners of the marque to assemble and show off their prides and joy. This year the event took place at the historic country home of Lord Cecil, Burghley House, on the outskirts of Stamford. Encouraged by a weather forecast predicting glorious sunshine, I made the long pilgrimage to go and pay homage. Here is what I found.
The organisers were doing the utmost to park cars in groups, by model type, and collected many of the Alfa Red cars to form a stunning centre piece. They did a pretty good job, and this added even more enjoyment to the event seeing the cars so well displayed. The sun obligingly did shine, with clouds only appearing in mid afternoon, but this did generate some challenges with the shadows, so the reason why you get the back of some cars and the front of others is all to do with their angle relative to the sun.
Following the arrival of a single pre-war model early in the day, a further 5 cars appeared later. I think all these cars were various types of the 6C1750, and all were utterly splendid. Chatting with the owner of the first car to appear, she told me that she had owned it since 1964, and paid the princely sum of £25 for it. It did need a certain amount of restoration. One of the items still evident is a bullet hole, which she showed me, located just behind the rear edge of the bonnet. I was delighted to hear that at least one of the other cars will be headed to Milan for the global Centenary celebrations in June. Great to hear that, valuable though these machines are, these treasures are used, and not just wrapped up in climate controlled museums.
This car was the last of the six to arrive, and was attracting much attention, as it is “new”. The story emerged that the owner had bought a chassis and a number of “bits” and has recreated this truly wonderful machine. bravo!Giulietta
No examples of the Berlina or even the regular coupe, but we were treated to the sight of both an SS and a TZ1. Splendid!
The Berlina model was launched in 1963. It was very expensive indeed for UK buyers, and sold in small quantities. More recently, it has become very popular for use in historic racing, but the display cars today were all still equipped for the road. The Nuova Giulia models were never officially imported to the UK, but many have found their way here.
The GTC model was shortlived and only a small number were made. It was an unexpected treat to see three of them at the event.There were 4 examples of the Giulia Spider, but amazingly, I seem to have missed them all with ,my camera. (they were in shadow problem areas)1750/2000 Berlina
A larger offering to complement the smaller Giulia Berlina range, this green car is a familiar entrant at many an Italian Car Show.
105 Series GTV
Examples of all the different variants of this long running model were well represented.
A long line of Spiders, showing all the body styles from the early Boat-tail models, through the Kamm tailed cars, the ones with the US-inspired plastic addenda and the final cars with yet another revised tail.
Now gaining the reputation that they deserve, these GTs were made in small quantities from 1970 to 1975. Lovely, and not quite as intimidating to own as reputation suggests, or so I am told.
Just one example of this rather bravely styled coupe.
A good showing for Alfa’s first front wheel drive car. Although these cars are rarely seen on the road, and even at events are not a common sighting, I learned that there are about 100 cars known to the ‘Sud register. Mindful of all the comments about how an Audi engine is too far forward, I was intrigued to see just how well forward the ‘Sud’s engine is. As it is a flat four, though, it is mounted low down, and we all know that the car was renowned for its awesome handling characteristics. Most of the cars were Series 3 models, but there was also an early Ti car. One of the late model cars was for sale, and it was tempting!
As well as the saloon/hatch models, there was a particularly pretty coupe model, the Sprint, and there were several of these at the event, most of them early cars.Alfetta
No sign of any of the Berlina models, but there were plenty of the GTV Coupes.
This rather boxy saloon car was launched in 1977 and was on sale for 8 years. There are few survivors, but a couple were on show at this event. One of them is a very rare car, as it is one of just 320 2.0 Turbo Autodelta cars. The owner lives in Nuneaton, at least some of the time, as he told me, but he also has a property in Italy, so the car is still licensed, tax-ed and MOT-ed there.
This car never generated quite the same affection as the ‘Sud which it replaced. Or so I thought, until I talked to a couple who had brought both their 33s up from Clevedon, and who told me how they had restored a number of 33 models. The Giardinetta model is extremely rare, as it sports the Veloce body kit that Alfa offered when the car was new, but few of which were sold.
Launched in 1985, to celebrate the 75th anniversary of the marque, these cars have a certain cult status, not least because their rear wheel drive chassis and near perfect weight distribution thanks to the rear mounted gearbox gave them excellent handling.
There were three of these supremely elegant large saloons at the event. Sadly, none of them was in perfect condition. The best one had been ruined with round headlights (not even the Americans did that to the car!). It really does seem that few of these cars have survived.
Six of these characterful cars showed up. All coupes, and all in red.
Much derided when first launched, these Tipo based cars were improved beyond all recognition after a couple of years, with the wide body, quicker steering and some more potent engines. They have a real cult following these days.
Surprisingly, there were more of the five door, 146 models, than the 145 cars, which is not usually the case. Early cars still had the flat four engines, before these were changed for the 1.6 and 1.8 Twin Sparks. Also quite surprisingly, none of the well respected Cloverleaf or Ti cars were on show.
There were a lot of the very lovely GTVs and Spiders, which were in production from 1995 until 2003, including one example of the facelifted model with the 3.2 litre engine. One of the attendees was very excited at seeing this, as he said that only 32 ever made it to the UK.
Widely recognised as being the “car that saved Alfa”. this elegant saloon won the European Car of the Year award in 1998, and was praised for being better than the 3 series at the time. The initial range was augmented by an elegant estate car, the SportWagon, diesel engined cars and the potent GTAs.
The facelifted car came late in the life of the 156, and was a presage of the new styling direction that Alfa was going to adopt. I never liked it quite as much as the original style.166
Alfa hoped that this car would repeat the success of the 156, but it never quite managed to do this. There were several examples of both the initial model and the facelifted cars.
One of the best looking family hatches of recent times, which enjoyed a 10 year production life.
A true four seater coupe, based on a hybrid of the 147 and 156, this stunningly pretty coupe is likely to end production this year. That can only increase its collectability, but judging by the number of cars on show, it is already much loved.
There were plenty of examples of Alfa’s latest Coupe and Spider cars.
Plenty of examples of Alfa’s latest small car, the MiTo.
The organisers made sure that the only cars in the display area were Alfa Romeos. There were some interesting cars in the car park, of course, including these:A splendid display, as I am sure you will agree. A few model types were conspicuous by their absence: Alfetta Berlina, Alfa 90, Alfa 6 and – perhaps less of a shame – the Arna. Nonetheless, there was lots of variety, and I really enjoyed seeing all these cars. I also have to record the fact that the owners with whom I chatted – and that was more than few – were universally friendly. Everyone seemed to be having a good day, enjoying the cars, the setting, their picnics, meeting up with old friends, and chatting to strangers. I have to say it, but this is a rather marked contrast to an event at Gaydon organised by its marque club which I attended in August 2007 and vowed “never again”. I’d rush at the chance to go to another AROC event!