Photography by: ©2014 Toni Avery
You know the feeling. The one you get when something you love stops being made. Like your favorite flavor of ice cream. I feel that way when Eggnog latte’s go out of season at Starbucks. But nothing can be as heartbreaking as when your favorite automaker stops producing cars for your country. That’s what happened to me when Alfa Romeo left the USA for a “break.”
I grew up around Alfa’s. My dad time trial raced a pristine GTV6 and a 1971 1750 GTV with the Alfa Club. I watched my mom learn how to drive stick in my dads GTV6 from my baby seat, so I’ve been told. And I experienced my first broken heart when my dad sold our perfect 1972 Montreal. All 60 pounds of me running after it in the street.
When Alfa announced their comeback to the USA I could finally stop holding my breath. After many failed attempts to make a comeback in the US, the major tease Alfa dubbed the 8C, and again more delay, Alfa returned. The Alfa Romeo 4C is a stunning piece of metal finished in the finest materials with the heart of an Italian.
When we all realized at the street drives during MPG Track Days that the Alfa wouldn’t be available till we got to Willow Springs we signed our names away on the wait list in hopes of piloting the Italian masterpiece. I was about to be reunited with Alfa again.
After what felt likes decades, my name was next on the list and I carefully stepped into the 4C. The car is much easier to get in than my Lotus Elise and the seats are much more comfortable, holding the driver in place. The cockpit felt more roomy with plenty of space for the driver and passenger without feeling like sardines. Even the flat bottom steering wheel was perfectly placed. Everything was just so beautifully crafted with every detail thought out perfect. From the carbon fiber door sills to the intricate red stitching applied throughout. I went into this expecting an Italian version of my Elise, because that’s the rumor I had heard. But sometimes expectations can cloud your judgment.
Accelerating into the first turn the car felt heavier than I expected. The blip up and down shifts sounded very cool with an abrupt, short deep tone. It was harder to turn than I expected, with no power steering and feeling like it weighed more than my flyweight Elise at 1,960 pounds. I felt like it needed some sort of assistance. But again that’s because I was comparing it to my Lotus with no power steering and incredibly easy to turn.
One of the biggest downfalls to driving such a popular car is that once you get in it, it’s been run hard and not always right. An example of this were the brakes. I felt there was a slight delay between my pressure on them and the actual braking taking place. I’ll blame that on a whole mess of journalists ringing the heck out of the car.
The biggest letdown wasn’t the car at all, it was when I saw the checkered flag entering the straight on the beginning of my second lap. When the track closes down for lunch it really closes down, no matter how long you’ve been waiting to get into the thing.
They might have felt bad that I didn’t get my three laps in because when I got out of the car they asked if I’d like to take it and get a couple of shots. I said yes before they could finish their question. That’s when they handed me the keys and told me to bring it back when I was finished. You want to know what Christmas in October feels like. There you have it kids.
Great article Toni. I expected more from the Alfa.
Thanks! The Alfa was great, just not enough time to experience just how great it was.
Great article Toni, your observations are spot on. I was the last person to drive the Alfa 4C at the #MPGTrackDay, I hit some debris at an apex near the last turn on my second lap and flattened the right from tire. Still a great car, similar in many ways to the Lotus Elise, just bigger and heavier but not by a lot. I wish Alfa luck and it is certain that the first owners are lucky people.
Thanks! I’m glad you got to drive it but sorry about the outcome.