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Loving the Alfa Romeo

The Italian Job Published: 27th May 2011 - 0 Comments - Be the first, contribute now!

Loving  the Alfa Romeo David Edgington with his South African-built RHD 1967 Alfa Romeo Giulia Super, the aqua di fonte (fountain water) colour scheme is original
Loving  the Alfa Romeo Not only do the engines of older Alfas emit an exciting blend of cams, chains, induction and exhaust flutter, they also look good too!
Loving  the Alfa Romeo Classic Alfas run in the family! this is Doreen Edgington’s prize winning 1967 Giulia Sprint GTV
Loving  the Alfa Romeo 1972 and a youthful looking David with the ex-Alfa Romeo racing team pick-up truck with 750 series 1290cc Giulietta engine. Where is it now?
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David Edgington has been involved with Alfa Romeo cars and parts for more than four decades. Here’s why

The first Alfa Romeo I drove, back in the mid 1960s, instilled me with what was to become a life-long passion for the product of ‘La Casa del Biscione’ (the house of the serpent), that venerable Italian establishment which provides Alfisti with so much pleasure. At the time I was working for the famous Rob Walker Garage at Corsley in Wiltshire, probably the largest and most comprehensively stocked Alfa Romeo agent in this country. Shortage of drivers was a constant problem for a performance car garage situated out in the sticks so when a request was made for someone to deliver a Giulia Sprint GT to Bristol one evening, I immediately volunteered – how I would get back was a minor consideration to a car mad, impetuous youth!

That was my first experience of listening tothat characteristic engine noise – an exciting blend of cams, chains, induction and exhaust flutter which even now calls out to enthusiasts of all ages, but which is sadly missing from most new cars. This fact was exemplified recently as I drove into a car park and switched off the engine of my Giulia Super – an elderly gent walked up and asked me to start it again as he loved to listen to the older Alfa engines! Reliability may not have been the be all and end all of Alfa motoring in those days and the dreaded rust bug was ever present, but the sheer pleasure derived from driving my 1960s Giulia far surpasses any downside of ownership. What nowadays seems incomprehensible is the incredibly short lifespan of the vast majority of 1960s Alfas, which were comparatively expensive to buy, yet reached the end of the road in well under ten years.  Undoubtedly a combination of rust and exorbitant parts prices created this situation as well as playing a major part in influencing my own personal future…

I left Corsley Garage in 1969 and started E.B.Spares specialising in the supply of Alfa parts, initially running the business from some old farm buildings in the Wiltshire village of Seend, latermoving nearby to Westbury. The number of customers increased rapidly as did demand for parts and, surprisingly, for complete cars. Wewere very fortunate in being offered two absolutely gigantic main dealer stocks, the first of which came from Rudds of Worthing. Rudd, of Ruddspeed and Volvo fame, was one of the few specialists to attempt to market homeproduced performance kits for the current range of Alfas – he even ran a 1290cc Giulietta Sprint on S.U. carburettors as an experiment! In Volvo circles Ruddspeed was a force to be reckoned with, which is more than can be said when it came to Alfa performance parts. A kit for the six-cylinder 2600 models, comprising triple Weber 45 carburettors and reground camshafts was, like the Giulietta on S.U. carburettors, shortlived. The same was true of the Giulia TI suspension kit with cut down springs. I already knew Ken Rudd from my Rob Walker period as I had driven a couple of new 2600 Spiders to his establishment in order to have hard tops fitted. So when the offer to buy his entire Alfa stock came, I rushed to Worthing in an attempt to make a deal before somebody beat me to it. Rudd showed me around the parts department and tuning shop before taking me to lunch. But when it came to the moment of truth and I offered £500 for the stock ‘delivered’, he almost threw me out. However he must have felt some compassion because having established I would have to sell everything in order to come up with the funds, he graciously accepted my offer; after all £500 was a great deal in those days.

In the first few years of business between three and four hundred Alfas of varied description passed through our hands, possibly the most unusual being a mid-1950s pick-up truck powered by one of the first Giulietta 1290cc engines which came over with the Alfa racing team, was crashed by one of the mechanics and remained in this country. Another rarity was a 1900cc Super Sprint, all original even down to the Borrani spoked wheels, which came from alocal air base where it belonged to a rather eccentric Wing Commander. When the late David Butcher (then the ‘B’ of E.B.) and myself arrived to see the car we couldn’t get past the guards at the main gate who refused to believe two civvies in a mini van could have any business with top brass evenwhen Butcher played his ace card telling them he’d been a ‘Brylcream boy’ (having done his national service). When the top man finallyappeared he was riding a tandem pushbike with a moped engine on both wheels! After witnessing a bout of saluting, followed by some shouting and more saluting, we were ushered past the grimacing guards with Butcher feeling the need to use fingers to indicate there were indeed only two of us!

The 1900 shared a garage with an Aston Martin DB 2/4 and had been unused for a considerable period. The price of £125 was considered just within budget until the bonnet was lifted to reveal an engine withoutcarburettors. “The carbs have been loaned to a friend,” the top brass informed us, “but I’ll get them back and send them on providing you buy the car.” Young I might have been, but green behind the ears I wasn’t. Even in those days I could picture the scene at spares emporium A.F.R.A. In Milan should I enquire the cost of a pairof carburettors for a Super Sprint, the eyes heavenward accompanied by the statutory ‘Mamma Mia’ which proceeds a number of lira (in those days) with endless noughts. So I offered £100(still a lot of money) with the promise of the balance upon receipt of the carburettors – which thirty-six years later I am still waiting for!

At that time there were few outlets specialising in used Alfas but fortunately we stocked a good selection with sales revolving around 2600 Sprints, Spiders even a few Berlina saloons, plus all types of Giulietta, Giulia Sprint Gts as well as Giulia saloons. In the 1970s we sold an amazing number of Alfas which,in retrospect, was probably because we pitched the prices on the low side; after all it’s no good claiming to be an enthusiast and then charging over the top for cars! Although a considerable number of 1960s and 1970s GTs and Spiders have survived, it is ironically the Giulia saloons which now rate high on the collectable stakes.

Twenty-five years ago Giulia TIs and Supers, both in 1300cc and 1600cc form were commonplace, a cheap Alfa providing brisk transport for an enthusiast plus family. Sadly a marked lack of interest during the 1980s allowed these saloons to deteriorate to a state where any long term repair would have been uneconomical, consequently only a handful of really good examples remain. My first Alfa was a LHD Giulietta Sprint fitted with a 1600cc engine with GTA modifications, the engine being prepared by an Italian mechanic at Rob Walker’s garage. Some thirty-eight years later I’ve reached my 19th; it’s a 1967 RHD Giulia Super built by Car Distributors, East London, South Africa. Like so may cars built in South Africa it is a mishmash of whatever parts were available at the time, in fact a nightmare for students of originality.

In 1969 it went to Mozambique (a Portuguese colony) and in 1975 it was taken to Fafe in north of Portugal where it belonged to a lady who gave it to her lover—-but retained the paperwork herself. The owner then subsequently sold it to an Alfa enthusiast in Lisbon who had the arduous task of locating the woman in order to acquire the essential paperwork. When five years ago I received a phone call from Portugal offering me the Giulia, I was somewhat sceptical even though the vendor assured me of its 100 per cent reliability and original condition. Tongue in cheek I told him I’d buy it, and pay his return air fare, if he drove it to the UK. A few days later, a tired and dejected Portuguese arrived on my doorstep after travelling 2000 miles in three days in a rather dirty looking aqua di fonte (fountain water) coloured Alfa Romeo Giulia Super. With almost 200,000 miles on the clock this lovely old Alfa rates as a senior citizen and is treated as such, providing pleasurable summer motoring. Surely this is what classic car ownership is all about!

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