My life as an Alfa Romeo fanatic did not begin by choice, it began by accident – and I shall explain. I have always been very passionate about cars, especially sports cars. As a kid growing up in Puerto Rico my father always had all kinds of cars and one of my favorites was his glass top fifties Ford Victoria he brought to the island when we came to Puerto Rico from New York. He also had a yellow fifty-seven convertible that I was fond of. There were other interesting cars but these appeared to have the most lasting impression on me. The feeling of driving in a beautiful day along the beach or the country road in an open car full of kids, loud music, and happy parents was and still is like a heavenly experience.
As a teenager, my love and increasing fascination with cars was consolidated by admiring a 1961 190SL Mercedes convertible that belonged to one of my uncles. This car did not mean much to me until the car was left at our house for sometime while he and my aunt went on a trip to Spain. A nice dark green car, I used to sit and pretend that I was driving as Simon Templar (from the Saint) being chased by some bad people.
These experiences led me to my very first automotive love, and to be perfectly honest, Alfa Romeo was nowhere in my radar screen. As I grew older, I used to stop by the Mercedes and Jaguar dealer showroom floor to spend what it seems like endless hours admiring the Jaguar XKE V12 and the Mercedes Pagoda side by side. I was trying to make up my mind as to which car would ultimately receive my unconditional admiration.
The battle was fierce, I could not sleep, it was a very tough choice, but I needed to make up my mind. How could I betray the car that sealed my love for convertible sports cars? A decision had to be made and the Jaguar XKE V12 convertible was the car. I really don’t want to go into the details, but this car is in my view an absolutely astonishing machine with all the attributes of British snobbery, majesty and pride. Again, dark green was my choice for the color.
I graduated from high school and decided that I was going to see the world and skipped my college path. I joined the army and ended up in Europe for the next three plus years. WOW! What a Mecca for automotive machinery! I have never seen so many kinds of cars; different colors, styles and the list goes on and on. Yet, Alfa Romeos, even though it was the first time I became exposed to them where no where in my radar screen.
My parents persuaded me that I should go to Texas and attend college; so after my military experience I ended up in Texas; young, married with month old twins and full of aspirations. I was working for an oil company and going to college part time. My desire to own a convertible was not far from my mind but galaxies away from my pocket. I always talked about cars with colleagues at work; especially my dream car.
The day came that I was ready to buy that special car; it was going to be a dark green XKE V12 convertible. I searched the newspapers, called people and went to see cars but it seemed that I had not made up my mind yet. One of my working buddies by the name of Kent kept steering me away from English and German cars to an Alfa. He kept telling me that “Lionel, you look good in an Alfa!”. I would ask, “an Alfa?” Kent would say, “yes! an Alfa! It is that Italian look about you that makes you an Alfa driver.” Yet, still no Alfas were on my radar screen.
Since the Alfa Romeo dealer was down the street from my office, Kent and I would stop by the showroom floor during lunch time on a regular basis. We looked at the Alfas and Lancias on the show floor as well as other cars but none of them ever got my attention. I just did not care for the cam tail spider!
One day I stopped by a mechanic shop not far from where I used to live so that they could take a look at my Volvo wagon. It was a woman mechanic who only worked on Alfas and Volvos. When I went back later to get my car I could not help to notice a car almost hidden in a dark corner of her shop. I asked her what kind of car it was and her reply was, “it is a 1963 Alfa Romeo Giulietta Spider”. It was a dark grey with red interior. I got closer to take a better look and it was love at first sight. I began to stop by the shop more often so I could learn more about these older Alfas. From that point on my interest in cars was diverted; I was on a mission.
I had to find a car like that. I asked the mechanic if she wanted to sell her car and she replied, “never, I drove that car off of the showroom floor new”. Looking at the newspaper classifieds I had found the car. It was a 1963 Giulietta convertible; and that is how I came into the Alfa Romeo world. Since then, I have owned many Alfas and has became like an addiction that I cannot seem to cure. I am very passionate about Alfas and for some reason I have become enslaved by this passion.
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