• First Impressions •
I went through 25 de Abril, in a sunny thursday, on my way to a calm Lisbon due to the holiday season, with one goal in mind. Pick up a 1990 Alfa Romeo Spider, drive it and still produce a good photo shoot for the current owners.
On the way to the place where I would pick up the Spider I thought of all the possible configurations that car would have, since I hadn't yet seen it, nor in photos, and I found myself thinking that it would be nice if the configuration was the same as a miniature from Joeuf Evolution, which I had since I was 6 years old, with its black body and beige interior. Life is curious, really, since when I arrived it was that exact configuration of the Spider I drove.
What a joy for my eyes! Well cared body, with that beige leather interior, making a perfect contrast with the black body, yet for more knowing that the car had been detailed for the session, which was another good surprise. A Spider as it should be, compact dimensions, low height, front engine and rear wheel drive, long bonnet and a minimum of luxury (it must be said, it was great sitting and touching on the leather of those seats). Being a mk4, it does not have chrome bumpers, a detail I saw having a bad criticism for being what made the Spider... Less beautiful, shall we say. I don't know if I agree, because I find it funny to see Spider's evolution over the years, in order to remain consistent with the competition. Come on, give an applause to Alfa Romeo's effort, will you? There is another reason to like this Spider. There are two Weber there, and how they sing well...
It's time to take the key and release the alfisti I am.
• A5, Changing My Mind •
I sat on the Spider and it began, a love-hate relationship. The only adjustable thing are those leather seats, moving forwards and backwards, and in the incline, only. I ended up realizing that this car wasn't made for a person over 90kg and 1.78m tall and that it would have to be me to adjust to the car and not the car to me. We started well! As soon as I settled for this situation, I inserted the key and ... Magic! The engine began to sing its beautiful melody, helped by the two double Weber, that gasoline smell that I like rose it was all settled. It was the right time to drive.
The destination was Serra de Sintra (cliché, I know, but admit it, you would do the same...) and I needed to get there the fas... Err... I actually wanted to try a little bit of Marginal and Guincho, too, so I had to take the A5. Strangely comfortable, it was the first impression I took of this Spider as I drove towards Carcavelos. Although it doesn't have dazzling performance, after all, it's just a 1.6 of 8v, it has fulfilled its mission well on this trip, apart from that delicious sound.
Curious, at one point all my irritability with having to adjust to the car vanished, that driving position was making sense, quite intuitive with that driving style, especially with the use of the gearbox which, by itself, is peculiar. It is a normal box in H, however, you do not change it with movements back and forth but rather down and up, awkward, interesting... And nice! I must have been attacked by the Alfa Virus, probably not that it bothers me, quite the contrary...
• Diving By The Sea •
I took the exit lane for Carcavelos, and shortly afterwards I entered the Marginal, with the roof already down. It was great to feel the wind passing in my head, but something was missing... I looked at the dashboard and noticed the not-so-old Blaupunkt, turned it on and, perfect, it was tuned to the Smooth FM exactly as a light jazz from Lou Rawls passed, "Unforgettable"... How appropriate! Exactly how the Marginal should be traveled, what a feeling, completely relaxing, totally petrolhead. It's the wind that passes through the Spider, it's the sound of that double Weber 1.6, it's the beautiful view to the sea... Arrived at Guincho, I decided that I should stop for some photos, the sea had a very inviting bluish tone and the fog doing a wrap around Sintra, promised as a background.
It's precisely at the moment that I begin to assemble the tripod and prepare the photographic material, that I start to notice al the details, and those of this Alfa Romeo are no exception. Funny how the Spider (classic) was undergoing some changes in order to keep actual and we can check a time machine in the mk4 due to this evolution. If on the outside we see the chrome bumpers disappear to give place to plastic ones, losing some square shapes, especially in the rear, making it simpler and more elegant, inside the differences are almost nonexistent, maintaining the classic and partly luxurious look. I still didn't forget about the good look and feel of those leather seats.
I took some pictures and as soon as I felt the wind rising, I closed the roof and decided to do the most interesting part of this day, crossing Sintra in an old Alfa Romeo.
• The Magical Sintra •
I decided that I would photograph along the road that passes through Peninha Sanctuary, so I followed the Guincho towards Cabo da Roca and turned at the intersection in the opposite direction, taking the road that cuts the forest in an undulating way, passing through the most beautiful views of this mountain of Sintra, and I'm glad I did it.
Found a spot after a few meters and stopped once more to photograph... And contemplate. The atmosphere was perfect, to give a certain drama to all this event and day, in fact, there are things that happen to be unforgettable and unique. The classic forms of this Spider, in this moment, have already become enthralling, that say the people who were passing on the way to the Sanctuary and that they didn't resist taking some photos. It becomes impossible, to be indifferent to the presence of such a car. I opened the bonnet for more detailed photos of the engine bay and found exactly what I was looking for. In Italy, they know how to excel in the details that add passion into the automotive world, and this Alfa Romeo, specifically the engine, is proof of this virtue. You can see a neat bay, with the 1.6 mounted longitudinally and a very interesting valve cap with the lettering "Alfa Romeo" in relief and a stylized oil cap. On the passenger side, we find the two Weber double carburetors (and how I love to see them!), and, finally, the almost absence of electronics, of which I emphasize the presence of the NGK candles cables and the battery, only, making this set into something desirable for any old-fashioned car lover.
I packed the material, leaving the camera and the tripod on the side of the passenger and went on to drive a little more, the environment in Sintra was too good to waste the opportunity to enjoy a beautiful italian spider... Again tuned to Smooth FM, I drove in a rhythm that seemed to me appropriate for this Alfa Romeo and for the road I was on, a not too calm pace, but also not too fast, just... Accelerated. It was making sense, as the sound of this 1.6 echoed along this winding road, if there was word to describe this moment, it would be "magical". Turn after turn, the connection to this Spider became increasingly intense, making the driving much more emotional and direct, but funny how, and I say it again, I didn't feel that this was a car that asked to be abused, but to be guided with respect, and maybe that's what makes Spider so desirable to a vast legion of fans. It's a different car, no doubt, with its own strong identity focused in its driving style.
Stopped again in a section that I could not ignore, wrapped in a tunnel formed by the dense vegetation, the trees enclosed by plants and whose green stood out due to the humidity that was felt, by the fog that surrounded this tunnel and that was made visible at the end of the ascent to the curve, given the sun that struck there, after all, it seems that I had found the light at the end of the tunnel... This car does match well with this environment, I don't feel sorry for the choice I made to photograph this car in Sintra, but I leave this judgement to you, fellow readers. There are still people who say that we do not have beautiful landscapes in this corner of the Iberian Peninsula, do you believe?... "This car is really cool...", I thought several times in the short fifteen minutes I was photographing. Fifteen, of which only about eight have been really used. Petrolheads, you know very well why, don't you?
Time to take a deep breath and continue my journey, this moment with the Alfa Romeo Spider was coming to an end.
• The End •
The remaining driving was done in the same rhythm, neither calm nor fast, adequate, on the way to Restaurante Montecarlo, at Parede, where I would finish the day, before delivering the Spider. I won't lie by saying that I won't make some propaganda, it would be ridiculous, but the truth is that, as a petrolhead and a person that enjoys good food, I don't find so easily a place like this that mixes a lunch with quality and is marked by the automotive world, even more, managed by a great friend of mine, who in team with a few more "homies", helped me when I had my first car. Not believing that this is a car addicted restaurant for someone like us, petrolheads? The name itself already indicates some "geekness" of this world... And I still have the bonus of having lunch watching the cars that I am photographing.
I miss that, the connection to the car, to disconnect from the outside world and concentrate on driving, to admire the smallest details, such as the care of the seams and skin quality of the seats, the way the four blinkers were activated, how the door opened by inside, the handle of the A-pillar window, the electric mirrors control knob, the ventilation vents, which we still see today in the latest Alfa Romeo (MiTo and 4C), from the ventilation control via a three-position switch (off, low speed, maximum speed), to see the lumps in the hood that would get to the headlights, grabbing from time to time the windshield frame without any specific reason, to hear the soft popcorn emanating from the exhaust, such a rich mixture of food, of feeling the smell of gasoline after a more lively drive, of details as ridiculous as the light of the reserve ignite each time it turned right... I have to stop, there are so many things to describe, that this text would never end. Of course not everything is great, this specific Spider was needing some attention at the level of suspension, the result of the 27 years of age that already takes up, there were a few glitches here and there, but... These wear and tear didn't compromise the enjoyment taken on this day.
To this date, I've never paid so much attention to the Spider, taking out the 1:18 miniature I have on the shelf in front of me at the moment I write this text, and it was never a car that made me dream about. It was just another convertible, of modest performances... Today, after driving one, I have a different opinion, I understand why it isn't just a convertible anymore, I understand why the performances are modest, I understand why it's a car so desired inside the Alfisti fans. Like Morgan 3 Wheeler, albeit at a less unusual level, driving an Alfa Romeo Spider is an experience that any petrolhead should have at least once in a lifetime, opens up horizons as well as obviously enhances our overall culture.
Finally, I have to thank this new partnership that allowed me to have one of these days and, who knows, many more, just as I have to thank my friend Mário for being always available for these adventures and my friend Tiago for making company at lunch.
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