It was unbearably hot last Sunday, hotter than usual for springtime in Japan. Mind you, it was the last day of spring though. Still, the hot weather was appropriate for the occasion as the theme for this Cars & Coffee meet at the Daikanyama T-Site was to celebrate 105 Years of Alfa Romeo (insert overheating jokes here). Most cars in attendance were Alfas, not that that was a bad thing as I adore Alfas – I have one myself. But what set these Alfas apart were the condition they were in. They all looked like they’d driven straight from the factory.
Alfas from the later half of the 20th Century to the 4C were there. Everything from the old Giulias, to the Gran Turismo Veloce, and even a stunning Montreal. There were also about half a dozen SZ, which overwhelmed me a bit as I’d never seen one until today. There was an RZ too and I think it was the same one I saw at the Tokyo Auto Salon.
Then there were some rarities. The 155 GTA-Z by Zagato was a particular highlight, because as much as I like to think I know about Alfas, I didn’t realise such a thing existed. Apparently most of these were sold in Japan. Another Alfa I’d long wanted to see was the Junior GT Zagato. It’s small, it’s pretty, and it’s rare. I liked it very much. There were a few Giulietta Spiders too, and even a 2600 Spider. Same goes for the Duetto Spider too, Mrs Robinson would be proud. An Alfa that stood out like a sore thumb (chiefly because it wasn’t red) was the Giulia with Polizia livery. It just needed a couple of Minis to chase.
As for the modern Alfas, well the 156 GTA Sportwagon needs a mention. The fact that it was a GTA was special enough but then a Sportwagon too made it even cooler. The Japan-only Giulietta by Ken Okuyama (ex-Pininfarina designer) was there too and drew a crowd with its unique wheels. There were two 4Cs, a red Launch Edition and a standard one in White. Both as pretty as ever.
But the 4C wasn’t the prettiest car there. Around halfway through the meet came along the almighty 8C. As it came down the entrance and into the car park, everyone came to a standstill. We all knew we were in the presence of something truly special. Now all the Alfas there were pretty cars, there’s no denying that, but none of them was a match for the 8C. Seeing it next to other pretty cars made me realise the 8C has got to be one of the most beautiful cars of all time, especially in this gorgeous red colour.
Of course being in Japan there were a couple that had been modified. The Brera with the extra carbon bits on the bumpers, the lowered springs, the bucket seats, and a completely different steering wheel caught my eye. As did the 155 with the Fast and Furious spec wing on it.
But what stood out for me was regardless of the model, or of the value of each car, you could tell the same amount of love and care had been put into each single one of them. It reminded me of why I love Alfas so much. They do get under your skin and you start to love them like they’re part of your family.
There was a guy who had brought his wife and two kids with him to the meet, after all Sunday is family day in Japan. But that didn’t stop him taking out his 2000GTV though. Seeing the 50 year old coupe packed with a family was perhaps one of the best thing I’ve seen. I’m sure if people threw logic out the window when buying a car, more would own Alfas. No they’re not perfect but it makes them feel more human.
They’re characterful cars with lovely engines and lovelier styling. They always somehow manage to feel more exotic than they actually are, and if you think about it they’re not all that expensive either. They’re often described as family cars that you can take to a track.
While the main carpark area was full of Alfas, with the odd Maserati GT and Abarth in the mix too, out parked on the street were some pretty special cars including a Maserati Merak SS, a Porsche 996 GT3, a first-gen Lotus Elise, and a BMW Z1. Later on as a few of the Alfas started to leave, a couple of ‘outsiders’ joined the party including a mint Mercedes 500E and a Volkswagen 1600 ‘Squareback’. There was a funky little Renault 4 too.
From what I saw on Sunday I think I can safely say Japan loves Alfas. I don’t think there could have been a better way to celebrate 105 years of the illustrious marque than by gathering some of their fans and cars together. I enjoyed seeing the variety and all the special ones I never knew about. It was a shame an 8C Spider didn’t show up, that’s perhaps my ultimate Alfa. Strangely no Arna either.
I know Alfas get a bad rep for reliability but all the Alfas there were able to go back home without the need of a flatbed truck. The only hiccup being the chap in one of the Giulietta Spiders stalled. I’d never heard a crowd gasp before in my life. And that was the moment that perfectly summed it all up for me. Owning an Alfa isn’t about owning a car. It’s about the experience, both good and bad.