The most beautiful car in the world. Period.

Posted on: 10 April 2017, by :

The most beautiful car in the world?

Quite probably.

alfa
Not the actual vehicle, but this is near enough.

Sometimes you come across the kind of beauty that just overwhelms. That’s what happened to me one Tuesday morning in May 1983.That was the day a silver 1976 Alfa Romeo 2000 GT Veloce came into my life.

Until that fateful day I’d been driving around in a brand new Vauxhall Astra. But that Tuesday morning I drove into a Gateshead garage to arrange a service appointment, and I was about to leave when I spotted this diminutive vision of vehicular pulchritude just sitting there – and I was hooked.

Trade plates were hastily strapped on, and the keys handed over for a solo test-drive, and thus began a love affair that was set to last a lifetime. Twenty-four hours later the Astra was returned, I handed over £1,900, and she, Giulia, was mine. All. Mine.

The GT Veloce was not just seductively shapely, with a design by Italian genius Giorgetto Giugiaro for Bertone, but it had so many dreamy features I was to discover over those first few heady days.

Like the wooden steering wheel. Cool! Like the sporty-rorty engine. Cooler! Like the foot-operated windscreen wash/wipe. Off-the-scale cool! I called her Giulia.

I didn’t care that poor Giulia was reputed to be a hapless rust-bucket. I didn’t even care that she’d been patched up (not very successfully) after a previous owner’s indiscretion. I didn’t even care that the rear seats were barely big enough to hold an averagely-bulky sportsbag. Little Giulia just rocked! I was giddy!

We went everywhere together. We deliberately sought out the hump-backed bridges, the narrow lanes and, yes, lingered at traffic lights to soak up the admiring glances. We spent many days on winding Teesdale roads testing the road-holding margins, leaping into the air on the crests and bottoming out in the dips. We were wonderfully alive and free and as one. We were invincible!

We even met the lovely Linda together…

Linda? A self-confessed Alfa groupie. I was under no illusions. It was the car, not me, she was attracted to. Linda would coax me to incredible feats of double-declutching to squeals of delight, encourage me recklessly over the limit with her simpering, and make me, with no reluctance on my part, discover the delights of the recliner button. But after a few months of this ménage à trois she inevitably moved on to some joker with a Montreal. An Alfa Montreal! WTF! So, once again, it was just Giulia and me.

But it wasn’t long before I realised, like with Diana, there were three of us in this marriage. Me, Giulia and… rust. I woke up every morning to a neat new pile of the dreaded ochre beneath each corner of the car. And every morning a part of me died a little.

As the end grew nearer I found myself casting my mind back to the good times. To the time when I managed to squeeze myself and three (count ‘em) nurses into the car on the way to a party. To the time when my pulling-power increased exponentially. And to the time when our eyes first met years ago in that Gateshead garage.

And then it was time. Giulia was part-exchanged for Giulietta, a newer and less rusty model. A tear was shed and the next chapter began.

Some years later a reluctant girlfriend and I were driving a rented Punto through northern Italy. My mission? To re-find Giulia. We pulled up at the gates of the giant Alfa Romeo factory at Arese, just outside Milan and asked the security guard for directions to the museum, Il Museo Storico dell’Alfa Romeo. To our amazement the guard handed over the key and gestured towards a building a couple of hundred metres away, inside the factory compound.

So it was that girlfriend and I gingerly unlocked the door to the famed Alfa Romeo museum, and reached for the light-switch. We giggled nervously as it dawned on us that Alfa Romeo had entrusted just us with the keys to their priceless collection! As the banks of fluorescent lights spluttered into life one by one there she was: bathed in the glow of a spotlight, an exact replica of Giulia – same colour, same model – in all her beauty and splendour. As my girlfriend raised her mocking eyes skyward I heard myself let out an involuntary gasp. Everything flooded back in that one moment and I was transfixed.

There she was… Giulia! A shinier one, and left-hand drive, but still…

Giulia, who had taken away my Alfa-virginity. Giulia, who had been my constant companion. Giulia who had, well, been there for me, thick and thin, rain or shine.

Giulia was my rite of passage, my automotive Mrs Robinson. Many Alfas have come and gone since Giulia oxidised gently away, but she was my first. And you’ll never take that away from me.

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