I Was Reunited With This Alfa Romeo And Drove It Straight To The Nürburgring
Photography by Kimm Saatvedt
Life with classic cars can bring surprises. I love old Alfa Romeos, but sometimes I sell them on to realize new dreams. Recently, totally by chance, an old acquaintance came back in my garage.
This is how it all happened: My job is to find and sell classic sports cars for clients. Some, I take in commission, and others, I find for people. By chance, I was about to demonstrate a Porsche 968 CS in Germany. I decided and combine this drive with a trip to the famous Oldtimer Classic at the Nürburgring, a mecca for classic sports cars and historic racing. Only four days before departure, a Norwegian customer struck a deal on the Porsche, and suddenly I had no car to go in.
Normally, I am very happy when customers buy my cars, however, this time, not entirely! Luckily, I have several cars in the garage, but all unfortunately needed service. You know, sometimes you’ll put up a good fight and still lose. I thought the trip was not about to happen. I think that when driving to the Oldtimer Classic, it should be in a classic car—if you do something, do it right.
The stars were aligned that night. A phone call came out of the blue, the Alfa Giulia which I drove to the mountains of Geiranger two years ago was suddenly for sale again, would I like to buy it back?—“Sure, can I pick it up tomorrow!” was my swift reply. That night, I dreamt of driving the 1977 Giulia Super 1600 to the Nürburgring. Sometimes, reality has a way of proving dreams wrong–would it happen this time, too?
I regretted the decision imminently when I saw the car. It was not longer immaculate after standing for two years for advertising purposes outside a furniture shop in Oslo. Rain and wind had battered the car. It looked sad and sick—I must be mad, I muttered to myself. But I got it going after pouring petrol straight into the twin Webers, and managed to get it reluctantly home to my house. To get some motivation, I started things in absolutely the wrong way: rubbing and polishing the car. (Hey, I think a clean car is a great motivator.)
As there was little time until the ferry from Oslo (Norway) to Kiel (Germany) would leave, I was in a hurry. I had three days to make it all work: safety first. Four new tires were ordered and a friend blasted my rims, which I again painted in classic gold (as a homage to the vintage racing Dinos). The look was as important as function.
Fluids were changed, and air filters and carbs cleaned. A fresh set of NGK plugs and adjusting the timing—at least the engine ran all right. But it kept stalling, so I synced the Webers as well. Working day and night for 48 hours, the car was finally finished. It sounded and looked great, but my overall confidence was low: when I picked it up it hardly had any oil or water. That is never a good sign.
Having driven the car only a couple of miles before boarding the ferry, all kinds of scenarios entered my mind. All of them with the same result: A blown up engine. But good friends have a way of making you forget. Our company were two guys in a 2008 Maserati GranTurismo (with double our top speed). My small 1600-cc engine has its work cut out, I was thinking.
However, my co-driver photographer Kimm is always positive—what could possible go wrong? He kept repeating the words, almost as a mantra. What went wrong then, as it turned out: nothing. Well, almost nothing. I cranked the engine a little too much for my liking before it finally fired when we were about to leave the ferry. It needed constant caressing by the throttle, and the rain was simply pouring down. “Hurray, the wipers were working and we were in Germany!”
I had not tested those so it came as a welcoming surprise. The first couple of miles, the rain kept speed down. Good for us and good for the engine, but finally the rain stopped and the sun came out. There was really only one thing to do: bury the throttle into the carpet. The Alfa stumbled a bit: it seemed to decide whether to die or keep on going. Luckily for us, it chose the latter. With every mile it simple ran better. We were living life in the fast lane.
After fuelling up, something was terribly wrong. Noises from the back sounding like squealing pigs meant that we had to stop as fast as possible. Slowing down, and then parking close to a road tavern, we just sat quiet for a minute before getting out of the car. “The End” by The Doors emanating from the car speakers did not get our mood up.
Reality, though, did. The new wide tires were touching the lips of the rear fenders. Carefully repacking everything forward, and inside the car was just the thing needed. We were back on the road again. (Later on, we did some DIY mechanics my mom would be proud of.)
It is funny what a classic car does to people. Everywhere, people were giving us thumbs-up. Slowing down at one point, we saw a silver Volkswagen Passat following us, making daring maneuvers to get closer. First thought, it was the police…but a smiling Italian screaming from the Passat window made it clear that we were just to be arrested by Italian passion. The closer we got to Nürburgring, the more classic cars and racecars on trailers we met. They waved, and we waved back. We were part of a pack, not of wolves, but petrolheads with a mission. On the small roads to Adenau, we gave chase to a Porsche 2,7 RS. Of course he could just have blown us away, but he enjoyed the chase and let us keep up.
Stopping the car in Nürburg – parking it on the grass, sitting down at Pistenclause and drinking that first cold beer. That was a slice of heaven. The Giulia brought us there, we made a connection. If you have a classic car and is thinking of selling it; go for a long drive in it first, then decide: maybe you are on to a relationship for life.
Life can have a twist, you know.