The storied Italian car maker Alfa Romeo was heavily featured at this year’s New Hope Auto Show, held on the grounds of this Pennsylvania town’s high school. The Alfas, assigned their own class, were all parked next to each other, although there was no particular order to their arrangement. The casual observer would be forgiven if s/he thought that Alfa only made convertibles. Of the 15 cars present, 10 were soft tops (“spiders” in Alfa-speak). Of those 10, 9 were of the same basic body style, a design which debuted as the Duetto in 1966 and concluded its run as the Spider Veloce in 1994. That is a very long time in car-years.
Your author’s car, a 1967 GT 1300 Junior, was proudly on display, and was one of the few tin-tops in attendance. The field was rounded out with an early ‘60s 2000 Spider (the so-called Large Alfa), an Alfetta GT, a GTV-6, and a 164 sedan (the only front-wheel-drive Alfa present among all the rear-wheel-drive vehicles).
It was a rare treat for me to see so many Alfa Romeos in one place at the same time. But the real treat was provided by the gang which brought in these beautiful cars. Alfa owners are a passionate lot; they like to drive their cars; they like to show off and talk about their cars; and they like to meet and chat with fellow Alfa owners and wanna-be owners. Most of the day was consumed by conversation about our Milanese machines.
The first couple I met had arrived in their 1979 Alfetta GT 2-door coupe. “Quinn” and I happily traded stories about each other’s cars. One story I shared occurred last week. While driving to work, I spotted a car just like theirs on the road with me. It had been ages since I had seen an Alfetta moving under its own power. This particular one was mostly in grey primer, with its passenger door still red (and still wearing a large “ALFA ROMEO” decal). It was bumperless, and obviously a work-in-progress. But by the sounds it was making, I knew the driver was having a blast.
What made our roadway rendezvous rather unique that morning is that I was piloting my boss’ 2012 Bentley Continental GT Coupe, all W-12 twin-turbo 500+ horsepower of it. I’m always a bit self-conscious driving that car, and tend to stay to the right, moving at the speed limit, in order to avoid undue attention. As the Alfetta drew closer, I wanted to drop my window and give the driver a big thumbs-up. Dismissing any concern about what he might think of me, I did just that. His ear-to-ear grin told me all I needed to know.
The owner of the ’79 Alfetta GT told me that he has owned his car in excess of 20 years, and although he has done scores of maintenance and repair work on it, he considers it a mostly original car. Looking the car over, I agreed with him, as much of the black lacquer as well as the beige cloth upholstery remained as it was in 1979. These early Alfettas had a controversial dash design: the tachometer was centered in front of the driver, with all the other gauges in the center. I’ve driven these cars, and it takes some time to get used to the arrangement.
Immediately to one side of me was a Spider owner who is also a very active member of his Alfa Romeo Owners Club local chapter. He, among many other owners, encouraged me to join the club in order to become more involved in their driving events. “Bill” is a marque expert who delighted in telling me about the nuances among the display cars, including which cars were factory-correct and which were not. The truth is that he was a tremendous knowledge source about all things Alfa.
On the other side of me was another spider. “Jim” had bought this car just a few months ago (sight unseen off eBay!). It was a Texas car, in very nice shape. This was his 4th Alfa, and he told me that the drive to the show that morning was the longest he had driven the car since obtaining it earlier this year.
An hour or so after arriving, the couple with the ’79 Alfetta returned to my car to make an announcement: they had shared my story about “The Alfetta and the Bentley” with the folks in the car next to theirs, and he was the driver of that primered Alfa! “Tom” and I met and screamed over and over at each other “I can’t believe it!” After I told him that I had arrived at work and shared my photo with several fellow enthusiasts, he told me that he got to work and called his wife to tell her “hey honey, some guy in a BENTLEY gave me a thumbs-up”. (His wife chimed in that he never called her from work, and she had at first assumed that something was wrong). Of course, I clarified for him that my daily-driver Jetta was home while I put some miles on the boss’ car. He told me that I had made his day, which made me feel wonderful about the entire encounter.
The number of spiders at the show gave me the chance to document something which I knew about, but for which I was lacking empirical data: the evolutionary design changes of the spider’s back end through 4 generations, known among the faithful as S1, S2, S3, and S4. (The front end also evolved, but to a lesser degree.) Photographing each version and displaying them side-to-side clarifies the differences. It also makes it plain to this set of eyes which of these wins the beauty contest. Your opinion may vary.
Kudos to the organizers of the New Hope show. With close to 250 cars on display, the difficult logistics of successfully running such an event become clear once you spend most of the day observing it. As the cars paraded off the field, my Alfa eventually became the sole representative of the marque. Lovely cars were seen, photographed, dissected, and discussed. Most importantly, new friendships were begun, with the promise of future automotive adventures to come.
All photographs copyright © 2015 Richard A. Reina. Photos may not be copied or reproduced without express written permission.