The Alfa Romeo GT: A story of ill-fated love

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alfa4Forgiveness. We forgive loved ones, friends, even occasionally, enemies. It’s an essential feature of the human experience. But would you forgive a car maker, and how often?

At first sight, you are smitten. You are drawn to the sensual curves and glorious, siren-like songs of their devilish creations, only to have your heart dashed to pieces…

This is a latin love affair that subconsciously, you know is probably doomed from the outset , yet you seek it’s embrace willingly. The object of your desire is moody and rebellious, still you filter out these flaws with dreamy, adolescent indifference. You wilfully ignore the quirks, overlook the glaring flaws, become blind to the bunny boiling in the pot. Those close to you warned of the pitfalls from the outset, and you ignored them, irritated that they would question your good judgement, and slightly hurt that they don’t share your admiration for such an obviously superior example of the species. You pity them slightly for what is clearly a petty manifestation of their envy.

Taken in the summer of 2007 are photos of the objet du desir, two days into the honeymoon, freshly bathed and dressed in a lascivious gloss, ready to hit the town. That compact, beautifully formed body actively solicits errant carnal attentions. Witness the embodiment of the design gospel according to Bertone. Behold the Alfa Romeo GT.

Have I exceeded the allowance for sexual metaphors? The anthropomorphism laid on a little too thick? Sincere apologies. I’m guilty of intellectual laziness. When writing about Italian autos, these hackneyed comparisons flow easily. Still, there are too many similarities between buying an Alfa and personal relationships. Don’t let the beauty hypnotise you. As I drove south from the home of a private seller in Manchester, UK, there were already a number of issues I found difficult to tune out. Such as the leaking frameless windows and the squeaking rear hatch. No, they were not symptoms of an abused auto. Visit the Alfa forums and read similar tales of woe. Normally quite sensible men, seduced by the allure of the marque’s heritage, not to mention those magnetic looks, throwing down good money for a new GT. Only to confess weeks or months later they can no longer ignore the myriad faults. Ominous hinting at a premature, heart-wrenching finale to the union.

I lasted longer than most. Like an addict in denial, I soldiered on, spending hours fixing rattles, sealing window frames with foam strips to quiet the wind noise, tightening bolts and securing loose trim. I could silence a recurrent squeak with well-aimed silicone spray at ten paces. Individually, all were minor issues, but collectively, they spoke of a laissez faire attitude to quality control, and poor component integration. Then came the costlier incidents. Clutch problems, brake faults and wheel bearings. Each visit to the rather well-heeled Alfa mechanic drained more from my bruised and battered bank account, as I took no heed of the naysayers, defiantly defending the good name of the brand and the model I’d chosen to the bitter end.

And bitter it was. One afternoon in the office car park, about to leave for home, I turned the key, only to witness a billowing cloud of grey smoke from the exhaust, while the engine coughed and spluttered to a stop. In Greek mythology, similar omens foretold of impending Olympian wrath. The smoking start failed to repeat itself again for a number of days, but reappear it did, perhaps three or four times over as many weeks, before I took the car in to that grinning Alfa mechanic once more. That was the last time I saw my pride and joy in running order.

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