For years, the Italians have built vehicles that have captured the eyes of children, the hearts of drivers and the sanity of many mechanics- Many of whom would make a late night phone call to a priest, with hopes that they could exorcise whatever evil spirits were preventing a seemingly functional car from starting. This was a common story with Italian cars for years and yet, despite the fact that unreliability was a hallmark of Italian engineers, they did do something amazingly right. They built cars that captured your soul and made you look past the fact that it left you stranded in the middle of an intersection. The love affair with the Italian automobile was like cheating on your significant other- It involved being crafty, the occasional bragging to your friends and ultimately costing you a lot of money. But is that still true?
About 18 years ago, the last US-Spec Alfa Romeo 164 rolled out of a showroom and marked the end of Alfas coming to America. The sad part was, that most American consumers could care less for the most part. To be honest, the average American consumer cared less about the way an Alfa "rewarded" it's drivers and cared more about owning a vehicle that would not run the risk of inciting drama whenever you turned the ignition key. Truth be told, Alfas of that generation weren't necessarily unreliable, but rather the ongoing maintenance required to keep them running strong outweighed the driving pleasure and unique style that was synonymous with the Italians.
Perhaps it wasn't the additional amount of blood, money and tears that went into Alfa ownership that detracted the American consumer? What if the 164 (whose underpinnings were shared with the Saab 9000) wasn't unique enough to make you care less about a little thing like reliability or a limited dealer network? What if Alfa didn't offer a clean-tailored sedan to the middle-class businessman, but rather stuck firm to their roots and offered a vehicle that you couldn't take your eyes off of and begged to be driven? Welcome to the new 4C and welcome Alfa back to America.
Is is not too often that I anticipated a comeback this much. Don't get me wrong, I did enjoy watching Rocky Balboa regain respect six times over, but even the magic of the Italian Stallion is no match for the elegance and grace of this Italian Cinderella Story. While Alfa Romeo was spending time back in the "old country," it's parent company Fiat was going through some changes of it's own, swapping out executives as often as it's own county changed heads of parliament (Please Note: I am of pure Italian ancestry and get a pass on making Italian jokes). This shuffling of management paved the way for a charismatic, passionate, black sweater welding, visionary named Sergio Marchionne to take charge of a struggling Fiat in 2004 and bring the brand back to it's former glory.
Jump ahead to now and you might have noticed that America is now feasting on Fiat 500s, and 500Ls. One other thing you may or may not have noticed is the new Dodge Dart. Since Fiat acquired Chrysler in 2009, it was only a matter of time that Chrysler received the touch or Mr. Marchionne and the new Dodge Dart (and Jeep Cherokee) was a direct result. Both vehicles inherited their platform from the Alfa Romeo Giulietta and benefit from the same award-winning MultiAir engine technology shared by Fiat, Alfa Romeo and to be found in an upcoming Ferrari (which is also owned by Fiat).
So why am I thankful for Alfa Romeo? Why am I not thankful for Mr. Marchionne or for Fiat? It's simple really, to the car aficionado, the Alfa Romeo marque is tied to a legacy of automobile racing, innovation and building vehicles you can't help but have a love affair with. The new Alfa Romeo 4C truly embodies all of that, but also offers a level of obtainability (somewhat) that one may not get to have with a Ferrari or Lamborghini. When the Alfa Romeo brand comes back to America early next year, I can assure you that the 4C will undoubtedly become one of the most sought after vehicles on the road. Hopefully by this time next year I can be thankful that I could have driven one first-hand. Happy Thanksgiving!
What are YOU thankful for today? Share your thoughts in the comment section below!
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