Friday, October 09, 2009

Alfa Bravo

It's now been eight years since I decided to give up my company car and take the allowance instead. For most of those eight years I've been justified in making that choice as I wasn't doing the mileage to justify a company car, but in the last three months I've managed to add 4000 miles to a car that only managed 48000 in the first 7 years and 9 months of my ownership making me wonder if I wouldn't be better off with the company car option again.

To give the car its due, though, it hasn't missed a beat which, for an eight year old car even with relatively low mileage, is pretty good going. Its proven to be a reliable, comfortable and - even though I say so myself - stylish cruiser as I've hacked up and down the M4 and M5 on various trips to the South West over the last few months.

When I first took delivery of my brand new Alfa 156 back in October 2001, most of my friends and colleagues thought I was mad. An Alfa! It'll spend more time on the side of the road and in the garage than actually going anywhere they told me. I knew all about the reputation of Alfa Romeos before I bought it, but I'd always promised myself a new Alfa at some point and, as I knew I wouldn't be putting that many miles a year on it, I wasn't too worried. I just needed something that could get me to and from work and that could carry me and the family to the coast once a year for the family holiday.

But as it has turned out, the car has been trouble free in all that time. The only problem I've had in eight years has been a dead battery which only happened after a long journey to Cornwall was completed and was swiftly replaced by the AA. Meanwhile, my friends and colleagues have got through two or, in some cases three cars and all of them have seen their "quality German engineering" sitting in garages for long periods having various faults detected and rectified.

Indeed, one colleague who was a huge fan of a certain German marque even though he had never owned or driven one before (I'll not name it - but it starts with B ends in W and has an M in the middle) took delivery of his brand new company dream machine around the same time I got my Alfa. His car spent the next six months in and out of the garage and my colleague quickly fell out of love with the marque. After four years of living with a car that was never right and which he ended up despising he now tools up and down the motorways of England in a Japanese repmobile.

The Alfa has proven to be a reliable and faithful family friend. So much so that, when I started to clock up the extra miles and suggested to my family that maybe the time had come to trade it in for a newer model the missus and kids were aghast. And they were right - what would be the point? The car was paid for a long time ago, is hardly worth anything to a second hand buyer and I'm just as likely to end up with a duff new car as I am a duff old one. It still has everything I need from a car and does it with more style and panache than 90% of the cars on the road these days.

So I'm hanging on to it. Here's to the next eight years!


Anonymous said...

Nice one.

I think you have been lucky with the Alfa though - mate of mine used to get Christmas cards from his specialist Alfa mechanic!

Always a good feeling when you get a car that does what it should without breaking the bank.

I do have a 'quality German engineering' vehicle, of the Peoples Car variety and it has had 128K trouble free miles over the last 6 yourself, i'll keep it for as long as it keeps working!

Stan said...

I get Christmas cards from the dealership - but only because I always get it serviced there and I know one of the guys socially. I have another colleague who chose an Alfa 147 as his company car soon after they were released and that was an absolute dog of a car so I know I've been lucky. But you don't choose an Alfa for reliability - they are one of the few modern cars which still have a "character". To be honest, I've always found German cars to be efficient but utterly antiseptic even in the seventies and eighties - the one exception being the original Beetle.

My point about the "quality German engineering" wasn't to be critical of German cars (although I do see an awful lot of them stranded on the hard shoulder - but then again, there are a lot of German cars on our roads today). It was to point out that we shouldn't build our expectations too high. This sort of applies in life generally - not just in our car purchases. Honestly, the guy was smitten with the car when it first arrived - he sat there stroking the bloody dashboard rambling on about the "quality". A month later he couldn't bear to talk about the car!

My eldest son has already "claimed" the Alfa as his when he is old enough to drive. That's four years away yet so I'll get a bit of use out of it before then and he may have to wait a couple of years longer than he is expecting anyway!

Anonymous said...

Have recently been considering buying an Alfa myself. Good to know that it is infinitely more reliable than it's Slovakian, sorry German counterparts.

Anonymous said...

Yep - take your point about perceived reliability for German marques.

I'm quite surprised at how good mine's been - hence comment.

The mate i mentioned still relishes his Alfa memories.... they're just not as expensive now ;-)

Weekend Yachtsman said...

Stan, glad you like the Alfa.

I had a series of 'suds back in the seventies, and although they were a bit tinny they went like stink (by the standards of the day), handled like a dream, and made a noise to fill the soul with joy (especially if you drove down a narrow lane with stone walls each side, and lifted off the throttle at highish revs - aaahhh! I digress).

Of course their build quality was completely atrocious, and I haven't seen one for ages - I guess every last example has now rusted away.

Your colleage who bought a 147 may not have realised that it's just a Fiat Punto with a fancy body kit...

Stan said...

I had a Sud 1.5ti back in the eighties. Well - it was actually a company pool car that I sort of held on to for extended periods. It wasn't new, but still went like the proverbial of a shiny shovel and cornered like it was on rails.

But it was terribly uncomfortable and bits used to regularly drop off. On one occasion the sun visor dropped into my lap while on another a fairly nondescript bump in the road led to the boot lock dropping off and the boot springing violently open which then ripped the supports out. The boot then slammed down and smashed the rear windscreen to smithereens! All in all it was about a grands worth of damage and all because of a slight bump in the road. The boss wasn't too chuffed.

It's true what you say about the 147 being a Punto in drag - but isn't the 156 just a stretched out Bravo in prettier clothes?