Monday, 17 January 2011
I introduced my Alfa Romeo 156 in this post from a few months back. And tonight, at 21:14 GMT, somebody else will own it. Of all my ownership experiences this has been my briefest. So what happened?
Well, I happened. It’s all my fault and Alfa Romeo enthusiasts around the globe are welcome to throw unpleasant smelling things at me and call me names.
A few months ago it became apparent that my old Audi needed some work to stay in its prime. It also became apparent that fuel prices were becoming ridiculous and a more economical car might be a good idea. But what? Well, petrol cars were out as I didn’t really fancy anything smaller than my car; so it needed to be a diesel. But diesel cars hold their money. In order to get anything I vaguely liked I’d have to shell out several thousand quid. Tricky to do when you’re saving for a mortgage.
Like a thunderbolt from the heavens, suddenly one morning an Alfa Romeo 156 diesel was sitting next to my usual parking space at work. A 2005 model, the incredibly pretty facelifted model, it was love at first sight. I’d always loved the 156, when it first came out in ’98 I used to drive one on Gran Turismo 2.
It wasn’t until I was compiling the entry list for the cars we were sending to auction, that I found that the Alfa was ours. It had come in against a C-Class diesel, and was far cheaper than any car as pretty as it was had any right to be. A quick word with my manager, a thorough look over the car and I knew it had to be mine. After convincing him to let me buy it rather than sending it to the block, my card numbers were entered into the faceless cash-sucking terminal and I owned an Alfa Romeo.
It then sat at work for a few weeks. Every now and again, on company insurance, I’d take it out for a drive, and it felt great. I had no regrets whatsoever, a diesel Alfa Romeo would give me at least a quarter better fuel consumption than I was used to, plus that tall sixth gear would make high-speed cruising nice and relaxing. And it did. On the occasions I drove it I thoroughly enjoyed it, with its surprisingly crisp cornering, supple ride and beautifully shaped leather seats. One such drive was to deliver it to my house. Half an hour away, it gave me a chance to try it on fast roads where the high torque output made in-gear overtaking a breeze.
Once it was home, my plans began to go awry. After multiple phone calls to an assortment of different insurers, I couldn’t find anyone who would insure me in the Alfa for anything like a reasonable price, the average figure turning out at about fifty percent more than I was paying for the Audi, a faster, surely more boy-racer type car. With insurance looking far more expensive than I had imagined, the money I would save by turning to diesel began to look a little less impressive.
Then there was the Audi. For all its Germanic predictability and lack of charisma, it’s a damn reliable car, in great condition and still pretty good to drive. Also, being twelve years old and with A/C that hasn’t run in over three years, it’s probably worth the better part of piss all. The Audi, as far as I had concerned, was not only mine but had also done all its depreciating. Additionally, to make it saleable I’d need to change the rear wheel bearings and find out what the annoying noise is from the front left wheel. To add to all this fun, I couldn’t remove the wheels as I had lost the key to the locking wheel bolts (of which more anon).
So with no insurance, I can’t drive the Alfa around, and with no wheel bolt key I can’t repair the Audi. At least the Audi runs and is taxed, insured and reliable aside from the bearings. And then it hit me.
The Alfa, worth very little even though only five years old, is still depreciating at a rate of knots. My best course of action was to take advantage of the low price I bought it for, and put it up for sale, there might even be a little sniff of profit to be made. This was a difficult decision to make, the Alfa is a beautiful car from a marqué I’d always wanted to own, but this particular 156 was the right car at the wrong time.
My incredibly patient girlfriend still drives around in her ’95 Peugeot 306 and is perfectly content to do so. Why shouldn’t I be happy in my ’98 Audi? On top of that, of the two of us she is proven as being by far the better at putting savings away for our future. While she was safely stowing money away, there was I spending it on beautiful pieces of Italian automotive sculpture.
So, there it is. My Alfa Romeo is for sale. One day, when I can afford a car, I’ll buy another Alfa. This time round, though, once I’ve recovered what I spent, every pound of profit I make will be met with a deep sigh of relief. With any luck I can contribute towards the Chris ‘n Nicola Future Fund, and also pay for the jobs I need to do on the Audi.
It also means that I’ll be in my Teutonic terror for the foreseeable future.