"A TALE OF TWO ALFAS"

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115

Sir,
In spite of your invitation for readers to either confirm or dispel the anxiety expressed by your contributor, his remarks would have elicited a reply from me in any event. As Chairman of Thomson & Taylor (Brooklands) Ltd., I take strong exception to implications contained in your report. The impression which you have given is that Thomson & Taylor’s were responsible for providing you with cars for road-test purposes. This is not so. Since the creation of Alfa Romeo (G.B.) Ltd. the provision of cars for this purpose has been entirely in the hands of that Company and it so happens that we have been expressly forbidden to lend cars for such purposes. I can only think the promises to which you refer were made by Alfa Romeo (G.B.) Ltd., and not by Thomson & Taylor. In any event, it so happened that the cars which you required, particularly the S.S. Coupe, were not readily available, and even if Thomson & Taylor had been permitted to provide a car for your purpose it would still not have been possible owing to availability. [Or non-availability?—ED.]

In the past we have, I know, lent cars to you for road-test purposes, and even when it was difficult to make a suitable car available. Consequently, I resent all the more the implications that we were unco-operative, particularly when it was not within our power to resolve the matter.

Regarding the clutch failure, I am surprised that you should once again criticise Thomson & Taylor for a mechanical failure which was unfortunate but could, so easily, have happened to any car. Considering the fact that we collected the car but couldn’t put the matter right immediately to suit you, I am quite sure it cannot possibly be a condemnation of our service facilities. It would have been far worse if the car had been returned to you with the linkage to the clutch pedal re-connected and then you had subsequently had gearbox trouble.

Thomson & Taylor has for years built up an excellent reputation for service and has given a considerable amount of assistance in motor matters generally, and particularly in their relationship with the Press. To say that your faith in servicing facilities of Alfa Romeo has been jolted upon the flimsy grounds given, I am sure your readers will agree, is completely unjustified.

I am equally sure that the report does not give confidence to readers of MOTOR SPORT in feeling that the statements which are made are sound, logical, based on fact, and not vaporous expressions of unfounded opinions.

Regarding the rest of the article, some of the statements which you make about the technical points of the two cars I feel must be engendered by the jaundiced and biased view created by the original disappointment which you had over the availability of cars for test. No doubt either Alfa Romeo (G.B.) Ltd. or Alfa Romeo S.P.A., Milan, will be taking up this matter with you.

In conclusion may I say that it is a pity that a periodical of the standing and reputation of MOTOR SPORT should have seen fit to publish an article which, in every way, is infused with rancour and ill-temper, as is so clearly shown by the fact that the statements made are inaccurate, biased, distorted and without some facts having been logically checked.
R. E. TONGUE, Chairman,
Weybridge. Thomson & Taylor (Brooklands) Ltd.

[At the risk of making Mr. Tongue take even “stronger exception,” I will reply briefly to the points he raises. The promises I referred to came very definitely from T. & T.s staff, because I am going back several years, when they were the Alfa Romeo concessionaires in this country—we used to ring them up frequently, and I have called at their Cobham showroom to receive their promises in person from one of the sales staff—I think the gentleman who promised cars was a Mr. Fifer. But the Alfas never came our way. . . .

In fact, some considerable time ago, when Mr. Tongue was making a Speech at a luncheon held to publicise the intention of Alfa Romeo to expand in this country, he pointed to me and said ” There is someone over there who knows how good these cars are,” or words to that effect. To spare his blushes I did not interrupt. But I was able to tell Mr. Tongue afterwards that I had never had an Alfa Romeo for test from T. & T., in fact had never driven one, except for a secondhand blown 1,750 lent to me by Street & Duller before the war. Mr. Tongue seemed astonished—but still no Alfas came our way, until the 2600 Sprint in 1963, which came from Alfa Romeo (G.B.) Ltd. (We had been to Milan to try them in 1957 but were not allowed to drive them because someone had forgotten to take out the necessary insurance.)

So I shall be most intrigued to learn from Mr. Tongue on which occasions he “lent cars to me for test purposes, even when it was difficult to make suitable cars available.”

I did not criticise T. & T. or the car because the Giulia TI lost its clutch— only for the fact that after they had towed it away Alfa Romeo (G.B.) Ltd., or their publicity people, ignored us completely. A tentative date was mentioned, when we rang them, for resumption of the test but—after that, not a peep. The Giulia S.S. was delivered on time, but in dubious condition. Its licence had expired but although I pointed this out when telephoning to inquire what oil it preferred, in the absence of an instruction book, nothing was done to render the car legal, and on returning it to an elusive address in Sloane Street the indifference was icy. When I said my faith in Alfa Romeo service in this country had been jolted, I was basing this on correspondence, and opinions expressed, not merely on the road-test experience. What it amounts to is this—I liked the Giulia TI very much during the brief experience I had with it. The clutch failure wouldn’t deter me from becoming an owner, if it could have been repaired in It day or two. But if the gearbox is suspect, or has to come down every time the clutch ceases to function, I lose faith in a car; especially one I have thought of buying for years but have never been encouraged to try.

I am sorry Mr. Tongue’s loss of temper seems to have made him dictate the libellous paragraphs at the end of his letter. To suggest that because one test car amongst hundreds gave trouble I deliberately wrote an unsound, illogical, unfactual, and vaporous report is it ridiculous retaliation, unworthy of an ex-racing driver. It describing the engine as delightfully smooth and eager, the steering as very commendable, the gear ratios as well spaced, the interior as imparting an air of quality, the driving position as excellent, the four doors as shutting impeccably, the brakes as remarkably good and the ride as notably pitch-free, was biased, should have at least though it bias in a direction Mr. Tongue would enjoy! In fact, I really liked theist: aspects of the Giulia TI. I was hampered in reporting on these Alfa Romeos by the early demise of one and the condition of the other, and I did suffer a little mild disappointment, if not surprise. I have also read another report which didn’t exactly drool over the S.S. . . . I did my best under the circumstances but I suppose Mr. Tongue is entitled to think my report unsatisfactory. I strongly deny that it was infused with rancour, etc., etc., etc. Why should it be? I had thought of choosing a Giulia TI as the next Editorial car but there are lots of other makes besides Alfas.-ED.]