The Alfisti's Wife

What's a dyed-in-the-wool Ford girl to do when her husband gets bitten by the Alfa bug? Lyn Wetzig finds that her initial caution may be giving way under the spell of the Alfa magic (Published in Oct 2001 issue of Per Sempre Alfa).

My grandfather was a German watchmaker by trade, but when he and his family moved from Queenbeyan to the small farming community of Pleasant Hills, NSW, he took on the business of Model T Ford salesman as well as that of the local jeweller/watchmaker. (He was actually run over and killed by his own vehicle.) My father is a carpenter and a Ford man, "because papa was a Ford dealer". And as soon as he could ditch the early model Chevrolet which he, in a burst of pecuniary, purchased when I was very little, he bought a Ford and so I grew up in a Ford household.

We had a brief aberration when I was in my late teens when dad bought a Torana as a second vehicle, but it was never a success. It had the interesting capacity of turning into a line of traffic and stopping dead.

Then, shock, horror, when I came to buy a car, I bought a ''73 Kingswood - one of those things that you put petrol in one end and water in the other, and it goes. This was a wonderful car - I owned it for 14 years, and took it all over the east coast of Australia. When the gear lever and the indicator broke - no problem; dad made wooden replacements. There was no power steering, and I developed biceps that had one RACQ man remark, as I pushed the Kingswood out of the garage one day, that he wouldn't like to meet me in a dark alley! The gears sometimes stuck in neutral - no problem; you popped the bonnet, hopped out and pulled the bushes apart. It had a bench seat, of course, which meant that when I drove, Pete had to fold his six feet one inch body in two to fit in the passenger side.

Pete's cars were distinctly Aussie. First an old FJ Holden, and then graduation to a Holden Ute. This he sold after we were married, were transferred to Sydney, and needed some cash! After a while, he was given a company car - and so we drove what became a string of Ford Falcons. Comfortable, cushy, roomy Ford Falcons. We then traded the Kingswood in on an XF Falcon with a staid personality - and no power steering. Subsequently, we traded that in, after eleven years, for a little Ford Laser for me.

When Peter started hanging around John Briggs Alfa Romeo, I wasn't too concerned. After all, a man has to have an interest. Then, one day he took me down to introduce me to that interest - a small car with an striking-looking front end, and a rather pert rear - the Alfa 156. I looked at my little red Ford Laser sitting outside, and thought, "but my car is just as big as this. Is this supposed to be a 'family car'? It has less leg room in the back seat than my Laser!" Still - it looked classy - and I had the car I wanted, so why shouldn't he? (Although the 166 looks tempting - what a saloon!) And we didn't have children and I ferried our parents in my car, so…….

lyn, pete and carsThe red Alfa which eventually graced our garage - a shade slightly different to, but not clashing with, the Laser - has been written about by Peter in an earlier edition of Per Sempre Alfa. As you know, he adores it….er….her. She has her own personality, sassy, and sure of herself….. The ride is stiff - "the good Alfa sporting suspension" I'm assured. The engine revs sportily - "that sweet sounding Italian sports engine" - as we surge through the gears. The car sits flat on the road - "that Alfa sporting heart". However, alas - there are no sporting seatbelts - I have discovered the "holy mackerel!" handles. My father has even remarked, "Pete really takes off at the lights like a rocket - what a wonderful car!"

In Pete's study, an Alfa Romeo clock marks the hours, and an Alfa Romeo mousepad sits by the computer. In Pete's office at work, he drinks from an Alfa Romeo Club coffee mug, uses an Alfa Romeo mousepad and has an Alfa Romeo racing model sitting on his cradenza. He wears an Alfa Romeo t-shirt and cap when we go places (I received one for Christmas - admittedly after saying that I wouldn't mind one..) and has given Alfa Romeo models to our friend's children - to "get a bit of class into them".

Even in church, Pete's Alfa crops up in our Pastor's sermons in various ways. Elizabeth Street has gotten to know the sound of the Alfa as it hurtles off the freeway, and whizzes down through the city heart (all at legal speed limits of course! As a friend remarked, "I stick to the speed limit - I just get to 60 the fastest way!"). He also rings to tell me interesting bits of information, such as "A bus tried to take me on on the freeway this morning!" or "I taught a bit of Japanese rubbish a lesson on the way home!" I try to tell him, as we sit at lights and a "hoon" in a hotted up V8 Commodore in the next lane starts revving his engine, "Remember, good breeding never has to prove itself!"

Our weekends away are planned with the "best route" in mind - that is, country roads which are sealed, yet curving - as one magazine reported, "the Alfa is at its best in its natural hunting ground - the open road." As we tool along, Pete says things like, "Wouldn't this be a nice stretch of road to take at 140?" (I reiterate - he sticks to the speed limit!).

We joined the Alfa Club and I was introduced to a new word - Alfisti - and we meet with a gregarious crowd once a month or so, scoff down Italian food, talk about things like suspension - and have weekends away doing things Alfisti's like to do - such as driving - and eating - and driving - and bushwalking - and driving and (did I mention driving?). I have been introduced to the family of Alfa - the 105's, GTV's, Spiders, 75's, Montreals, Guilietta, Berlinas just to name a few of the names of cars I have met (and my apologies if I haven't mentioned yours!) All of them are real characters!

lyn and 147And listen to this (written up in Car): "The Alfa is a gorgeous thing….. smooth in the sides, curved like a drawn bow. It has the muscular streamlining of a shark." A new actor on The Bold and the Beautiful, perhaps? Romeo and Guilietta? The Alfa 156 is a fetching car, with a real personality like all her predecessors and siblings, and despite the stiff and sometimes uncomfortable ride as we dip and glide around the curves, I have to admit to falling in love with it…er… her….

I wonder, now, about a little 147 for me? Or…(Pete is making noises about the new GTA)…. maybe the 156.. and keep it in the family to become a classic …..? - when the Laser is ready to go, of course!