Southern Alfa Day, well what an event! It was carefully inserted between an easing of lockdown, risk aversion and the upcoming second wave of COVID-19. This was the only AROC national event this year. It was an event to remember and a credit to the AROC organisers and conceived by John Timms and John Griffin who, I have to say, held their nerve quite literally with “balls of steel”! They recognised that club funds are not infinite and that there is a need for income generation. If AROC is to continue and thrive into the future, both in the present and future post COVID-19 landscapes, then this show was an example of what can be done safely when bringing together legislation, safety and the demand from AROC members. As well as this being a stunning location, it was definitely a credit to all concerned in the organisation of this event, especially The Thames Valley section! AROC really did everyone proud with Southern Alfa Day and showed what dynamic decision making, timing and organisation is all about. Go AROC!!
To get to Stonor Park you do not necessarily have to go through Henley-on Thames but it was early on a Saturday morning and really it would be rude not to have a look at the grandeur. Henley-On-Thames is the most expensive place to live in the U.K where the average family home and property goes for an average of £0.6 million. It looked pretty nice as I had a wander before the show. It is after all the home of the Henley Regatta, straw boater hats and club blazers.
The history of the town is extensive but one thing I found fascinating was that In 1794 The Oxford Yeomanry (The Queens own Oxfordshire Hussars) was formed-not a particularly incredible fact but one of Sir Winston Churchill’s direct ancestors Francis Spenser, First Baron Churchill and brother of the fifth Duke of Marlborough became lieutenant-colonel of the regiment. Sir Winston Churchill joined this regiment as a Captain and fought with them in The Second Boer War where he was captured and eventually escaped. He remained a vigorous supporter of this TA regiment and sent them to France in the First World War and was the first Territorial Army unit to see action in that particular carnage. Churchill sent the regiment to the defence of Singapore in the Second World War where most of the unit was captured and many died in building the Burma railway. I am reticent to research the casualty rates but the regiment headed Churchill’s funeral cortege when he died in 1965 and was disbanded in 1967. It reappeared in a different guise a few years later when the U.K government realised the acquisition of a nuclear deterrent was not the only thing needed as the cold war began to bite, and not the first irony I would come across in the town.
One of the other famous people that lives or lived in Henley-On-Thames is Russell Brand who is a comedian and activist in the field of wealth inequality and corporate capitalism, although he may not possibly have seen the irony of this himself.
Incidentally, whilst we are in the middle of a pandemic, it is also worth noting that between 1347 and 1351 that Henley-On-Thames (during the Black Death) lost sixty percent of its population to the disease and it was not until the 1500’s that the population regained its 1300’s numbers. This pandemic is no different, not because of the casualty rates but the predicted time span of four years.
So well worth spending an hour or so in the town before moving on to Stonor Park and the much anticipated and long awaited Southern Alfa Day. We’d had a rather long lockdown and the club and section really needed to get out during a very narrow window of opportunity, between the first and second waves of the pandemic, which was subject to ever changing announcements by the government and a delay in publication of the legislation. So it wasn’t until four or five days before the event that the risk assessment and council gave their approval for the go ahead. That’s really how close a run thing this event was and of the 350-400 Alfas that attended was a testament to the membership. Those that have never been to a national Alfa event would be surprised that Alfas attending are displayed by model and not in club order. It’s just another way to get different people interacting (socially distanced) from disparate areas of the country and it actually works.
The MiTo is very often thought of a young person’s car, although it was represented by all ages at S.A.D, and when I threw my MiTo into the line up the demographic definitely made me feel old! But it was good to be around young people. They are the club’s future and the MiTo fills the aspect of Alfa ownership in a way that makes long term club membership possible… not everyone can afford a 4C. Hopefully there will be another small Alfa that will fill this niche, as was the case with the Alfasud and the 147 years ago.
I always believe that what goes around comes around so I would anticipate something similar in future years. That said I rather like my MiTo QV line TCT turbo and don’t really envisage a change as it is so much fun. Rumour has it that it was modelled on the 6C and I can see some aspects of this in the design of the front end but that’s just my opinion, and let’s face it, everyone has an opinion. If you look really closely at the MiTo line-up you can see Phil Coussey, one of the AROCKES section members, second in from the left with his newly acquired QV. We had quite a chat in actual fact and we both learnt something useful about turbos and ECU’s.
There were some lovely little MiTo’s displayed and I really have to start with Phil Coussey’s. There are a few little jobs to do on the wee beastie and Phil has his own ideas how the car should look. Working as a mechanic at one of the Alfa main dealerships I am sure this will happen sooner rather than later and I wish him the best for development of the Alfa he has always wanted.
Then I saw a 2017 diesel that must have been one of the first uplift models with the new honeycombed front end. There’s quite a few entries at The Register’s web site at https://www.mitoregister.com that discuss this new front end and it really is worth a bit of a read if you are into your MiTo. Personally I prefer the old front end with the distinctive old fashioned and instantly recognisable grill. But that’s the thing with the MiTo that you can do what you like with them without the “tut-tut” of the purists of more classic Alfas. Personally, I keep mine mostly original, but that’s just me and that’s what what I like.
Then we had a rather lovely yellow MiTo and what looked like a QV on a 61 plate from 2011 or there about and it really did look well looked after. I was really impressed with the shut lines and general condition of the vehicle. I did not get a chance to chat to the owner as they left early, but for some reason this MiTo just really pushed my buttons and who can resist a car with a replica model on the dashboard!
Talking of model cars on the dashboard another MiTo that was impressive was this one with a wrap to match. This time with yellow callipers and yellow insets up front in the grille. Now that is really attention to detail!
But my all time MiTo of the show was this beauty which I absolutely adored. Personally I would have had different wheels, but as with all MiTo ownership, if it works for you then that is absolutely brilliant and should be applauded for the tastes of the owner. It was a really nice looking MiTo (I called it the “Grey Ghost”) and a virtual rosette in first place gets symbolically awarded to the best MiTo in the show… just my personal opinion you understand.
There’s always the chance to pick out your own personal favourites at a show like this so I thought I’d indulge myself as I wandered round chatting to other members and I’ve included those that leapt out at me whilst I was wandering aimlessly around.
Firstly there was the 1969 GT 1300 Junior. This revised GT 1300 Junior had the early “step-front” body. This series of GT 1300 Junior was the only model with the step-front body shell to have the boot release lever mounted on the left hand side. All other step-front models – Giulia Sprint GT, Giulia Sprint GT Veloce, and early GT 1300 Junior had the boot release on the right hand side… and to quote Michael Caine – not a lot of people know that.
You don’t often get to see the march of time and the next generation of a car at the same car show but nearby was a 1300 or 1600, 1972 GT Junior and by 1972 was starting to look a bit like a 1750 GTV. The front end has been revised by removing the characteristic step. Two headlights were retained and were still joined by the chrome strip and two air intakes now appeared under the grill and production ended in 1973. Being a 1972 I suspect it’s a 1600 but not having spoken to the owner or taken a photo of the rear end I could not be sure.
One of my personal favourites is the S4 Spider 2.0 litre and I had to do a double take on this one as it looked almost identical to mine until I took a closer look and realised it was an American import, left hand drive automatic and fitted with air conditioning dated 1991. The difference being there were no wing repeater indicator lights and the centre console was modified for the air conditioning (incidentally the side repeaters are the same on the 33 for the European S4 Spider). Everything else was just so familiar and it was a beautiful example.
Another car that I was rather smitten by was a 1971 Zagato Junior 1300. It is 10cm longer than the 1600 Zagato Junior that removed a lot of the overhang at the rear and was introduced in 1972. The 1300’s floor plan was based on the Spider and the 1600 on the GT. It was never a best seller despite its looks which makes it even rarer than most other Alfa classics.
As you know, the legend that was Jon Dooley has recently passed away and one of his cars, although he was rather reticent to admit ownership of that particular 1961 Giulietta TI, was an older 1958 Giulietta TI (Turismo Internazionale) in black. This car is a variant of the very successful Giulietta Berlina which was introduced in 1955. It had lovely bench seats and quite possibly a synchronised gear box that started to appear on these vehicles in 1958 and boasting an outlandish 65 B.H.P but lacking the 1959 facelift for that model but a very nice looking original car.
I met Jon Dooley once at the Quex classic car show in June 2018 and spent a very enjoyable afternoon listening to the exploits of his racing past. You can find that article here at https://www.arockes.org.uk/quex-park-report-10th-june-2018/ and featured below is Jon Dooley and his Giulietta TI in yellow together with an engine bay that you could have literally eaten your dinner off.
Keeping the Jon Dooley theme going there was a 1976 Alfasud TI 1300 that was originally owned by Jon Dooley’s wife, who used to do the shopping in it. Jon Dooley took this vehicle to third place in the British Saloon Car Championships in 1981 and won the 1300 class. The car was sold in 2012 to Chris Whelan, who I last saw racing this vehicle at the Lydden Hill circuit on the 13th September this year. He again plans to race this Alfasud at the Goodwood member’s meeting in April 2021. The vehicle still retains its original livery from when Jon Dooley owned and raced the vehicle.
The location for Southern Alfa Day was stunning and I am sure AROC will be wanting to visit there again in the future. Stonor Park itself is steeped in history and has been in the same family for over 850 years. The story of which I will save for the next time we visit this lovely park. Well what a fantastic day and quite possibly the last event to be held this year as COVID bears down on us again over the winter. Members will always find things to do and I hope they will tell us all about it here. I am sure there will be other things to report to you as the nights draw in but until next time – stay safe!