I have read your report “A Tale of Two Alfas” and also Mr. Tongue’s reply and as the latter must be unaware of what actually happens to Alfa owners, I am writing to place a few facts on record. As an aside on the subject of spares and service, anyone who has approached his insurance broker regarding an Alfa will have heard the tales of the difficulties experienced in the past. I am afraid that whatever Mr. Tongue may say or however cross he may get, the fact remains (based of course on my own experience) that Alfa bodywork is abysmal, pieces do drop off from time to time and that Alfa Romeo themselves are completely disinterested in any difficulties. Having had a Lancia Flavia saloon for three years, with its impeccable bodywork and engineering and extremely helpful service station at Alperton, I could not believe that an Alfa could be so bad and it is only the considerable interest and help which I have received from the service dept. of Messrs. Halsales of Penge which has sweetened a very bitter pill indeed. As my requirements were for a 4-door family saloon with some “poke” and sporting characteristics, last March I reluctantly exchanged my Lancia for a new 2600 Alfa Berlina and my experiences since should serve to illustrate my comments on Alfas mentioned above. It is trite that after waiting three months I eventually had not one but two test drives and these have proved the uselessness of such unless they are extended over a few days. The first was for on hour around Hyde Park and along the A4 in heavy traffic conditions and the second in a 2-year-old car quite different from that which I eventually bought. This latter was represented to me as being clapped out but it was nevertheless much more quiet and comfortable than my own. Now to some of my experiences in detail:—
1. The driver’s seat is one of the most uncomfortable that I have ever sat in. It is to soft that I sink right into it and the cloth upholstery sticks to my clothes and ruffles them up —it is most comfortable when only wearing trousers and shirt. In addition the seat will not go back enough to allow my legs to rest comfortably—my height is only 5 ft. 11 in. This problem is as put to Alfas who were uninterested and in consequence we tried to move the seat runners back, but this was found to be impossible as the retaining nuts are “captive” within the base structure. There the matter rests until a solution can be found.
2. The noise level at speed is so great that the wireless cannot be heard when over 70 m.p.h. (over 60 m.p.h. if the defrost control is open) and has to be turned off. Alfas were again disinterested and I therefore have to gel the car to Luton for £20 worth of sound-deadening to be fitted, though I doubt whether the high-pitched whine in fifth gear can be remedied. The difficulty, of course, is arranging for the car to be taken to Luton and back.
3. The front quarter-lights are novel. That on the driver’s side had to be ground before it would open and then it was found to rattle when open in the dry and to drip water on my knee in the wet. When closed the rubber sealing strips fit so badly as to cause considerable wind-noise. That on the passenger’s side was more considerate—it just fell off—and had to be stuck back again with Bostik as recommended!
4. The tool kit is, interesting. OriginalIy, Alfas provided a wooden box if tools fitted on to top of a skeleton metal-structure in the boot, but later they presumably decided that Alfa drivers do not really ned tools and hence a slab of polystyrene has been substituted for the tool box and a piece of rubber draped over it to cover it up.
5. Fourth gear will not always engage and Alfas say that there is a high spot which should wear off in time. However, with five gears to choose from, the simplest solution is to leave out fourth gear altogether.
6. The “blurb” advertises a 2-speed screen wiper and is furthered by having two “on” positions for the control knob. Unfortunately, the wipers operate at the same speed for both positions. Alfas are again disinterested.
I hope the chairman of T. & T.s will note the foregoing, though I imagine he is fairly well acquainted with the problems of Alfa owners and I can only suppose that he wrote his letter with his tongue in his own Alfa.
G. L. Sternton.