Classic Four-Cylinders Exploring Natural Beauty
Owner and Photographer: Adrian Wong
Year, Make, and Model: 1968 Alfa Romeo 1750 Spider Veloce
Location: Wales, UK
Every country is blessed with at least one natural beauty. In Australia, it’s the Sydney harbour which creates an incredible vista for sailing on a Saturday morning. In Hong Kong, it’s the Victoria Peak where narrow winding roads eventually lead you to the top of the mountain overlooking the brightly illuminated skyline. And finally for Wales, we have Brecon Beacons and the dense woodlands surrounding it. It’s like a scene taken from a fairy tale, with hunderd-foot-tall trees, mountain sheep along the hillside and often walking in the middle of the road, the mist covered valleys with sudden down pours of rain valleys with narrow stone bridges crossing rivers. It’s no surprise this is a destination for the World Rally Championship.
All these factors make Welsh roads particularly challenging to drive, and what better way to enjoy them than hearing the twin Weber, dual overhead cam engine of my 1968 Alfa Romeo 1750 Spider Veloce at 6,000rpm howling its way through the forest. It truly is something magical, but what makes it even more fun is that my friend has come along. Joining me in a spirited drive, of course it had to be something from the ’60s, a 1967 Porsche 912.
I take the lead in my Alfa on a single lane road where tree tops form a canopy, its quiet and dark here. I have the top down and can hear the distinct sound of the air-cooled Porsche behind me. It is noticeably louder than the Alfa, and whilst in the Alfa a beautiful sound is produced between 2,000-3,500rpm where you can hear the air being sucked into the carburetor, the Porsche produces a very loud mechanical sound almost like it’s roaring. The 912 is quite a deceptive car as it makes you think you’re travelling a lot faster than you really are. The roads are damp and winding, aiming for the apex in second gear I fling the Alfa into the corner, the steering is extremely responsive, I feel the lightness gradually on my fingertips and ease off the accelerator gently. Its like gravity has returned and the steering becomes heavy again, a second passes and the Porsche is alongside.
The Porsche being a left-hand drive US import and the Alfa being a UK right hand drive car, I see my friend grinning, he leans out of his window and he puts his hand out. I move the Alfa closer, we’re inches apart and I give him a high five. Like a tag-team rehearsal he now takes the lead.
This is an interesting comparison as both cars are equally matched on paper, and are iconic cars from the mid-sixties with a four-cylinder, rear-wheel drive layout. On the straights it was clear the Porsche lacked the Alfa’s power, but on the damp surfaces around the Welsh mountain roads it handled superbly though corners. The balance gave the driver a sense of confidence to commit to the turn, whilst in the Alfa there was always a sense of twitchiness which kept you on alert and often held you back from entering corners too fast. The battle between these two are in every sense Italian vs German. And clearly there cannot be a winner, the choice of one over the other is very much a personal question of one’s values: passion or precision.
After a long day’s drive we stop off at our last destination, an old velodrome which once hosted the cycling events of the 1958 Commonwealth games. As teenagers, we would ride our track bikes here late in the evening. Now we’re back again, this time with four wheels. We drive a parade lap around the dimly lit track side by side and then headed home.
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