You DON'T Need to Own an Alfa Romeo to Be a Petrolhead

Alfa Romeos 1 photo
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Despite decades of making weird cars, the Alfa Romeo brand is still worshiped by millions of people, most of which have never actually driven one. Why? Not because of the glorious history of an Italian company that was a jewel on the Italian car manufacturing crown. Not because Enzo Ferrari worked as an Alfa mechanic and that Henry Ford used to say "whenever I see an Alfa I always raise my hat." But because of journalistic buzzwords that have been bundled up in a ball of misconceptions, probably the only thing still keeping the company afloat.
Years ago, before Fiat reduced Alfa to a shriveled up brand that sells hatchbacks, a trio of television hosts working for the BBC often stated that a car enthusiast must have owned an Alfa Romeo at some point before they can be considered a true petrolhead. That mantra stuck and pops up all the time, either online or down at the pub, where couch-surfing connoisseurs blast their opinions.

Now that didn't bother me at all until I read a comparison test of three exciting new sportscars recently. It was a Top Gear review, though not one done by the TV hosts, and in it the 4C was criticized on every front. The ride was too harsh for the car to be used on a regular basis, the powertrain response below that of a German competitor and the unassisted direct steering was nowhere near as great as Alfa made it sound.

And so I couldn't suspend my disbelief when I read the conclusion, which at the time I felt had been forced upon the editor: If you're going to build a dream car garage, you need to own the Alfa 4C… because otherwise, you're not a true petrolhead.

Dismissing the MiTo and Giulietta is too easy for me to attempt it. Nobody will actually contradict me when I say they're not true Alfas and that's because the "true petrolheads" are dreaming of owning older models.

I will admit to lusting over lots of Alfas residing in the second hand market: 147 GTA, the Brera, the GT and 916 GTV. They all look great, but nothing about them screams "desirable" any more and they are a huge commitment in terms of maintenance.

Classic Alfas? Now you're talking – 1967 Spider, 33 Stradale, 1952 Alfa Romeo C52 'Disco Volante'. That's the stuff of legend though and it's either for wealthy people like Ralph Lauren or older gentlemen who spend their time sourcing parts, mixing additives into their gas and worrying about valve adjustment. Billionaires and old people – is that what petrolheads are?

In my opinion, a true petrolhead works hard to enjoy his hobby, has common sense and saves all his money to buy a Subaru STI or a Honda S2000. He likes to autocross on the weekends and knows how external reservoir dampers on a Clio 182 Trophy work.

I know Alfa owners will hate me. But think about it this way guys: you probably have friends who think you bought an Alfa because Jeremy Clarkson says it's cool, not because you actually have good taste in cars and spent months finding the perfect one. And how about those MiTo owners who don't know where the engine is and what it does – do those people do the brand justice?

Maybe I'm being too harsh, not on the brand, but on the people who love it. Still, somebody needed to say something about it. A conclusion? You really don't need to own an Alfa to be a true petrolhead, but if you don't respect the classics, you must not have a pulse.
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About the author: Mihnea Radu
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Mihnea's favorite cars have already been built, the so-called modern classics from the '80s and '90s. He also loves local car culture from all over the world, so don't be surprised to see him getting excited about weird Japanese imports, low-rider VWs out of Germany, replicas from Russia or LS swaps down in Florida.
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