Surviving A Big Trip Just After A Big Restoration
Photography by Jethro Bronner
This is a continuation of Jethro Bronner’s epic journey in a classic Alfa Romeo. Read the introduction here.
In December 2014, I drove my car for the first time. I rolled it down my dusty home town road, with no hood, just to know how it felt. I had been dreaming of pointing the nose down the drive for two years. Finally, what had been a shell for so long, merely a collection of parts, was now a car. It was alive and it felt brilliant. My neighbours could barely believe that the little blue Alfa, the one they had asked about at every meeting and chance encounter, was finally rolling down the road on its own steam.
By new years eve, I had the Alfa running well enough for its first adventure, in the driving rain, down a mud road to a friend’s farm for the night. “Are you sure this is the night you want to have a break down?” my mum asked before I left. I thought it was just as good a night as any. Needless to say, I made there just fine. But I did blow the fuse for the windscreen wipers, and drove home squinting through the rain.
In the week following, I sent the car into Pietermaritzburg to have a professional look over the car; it was there that an afternoon thunderstorm caught me, leaving the car battered after golfball-sized hail crashed down on it. 113 dents, but no broken glass. I couldn’t believe my luck…or lack of it.
By the time my car had been repaired, it was almost Easter. A friend got in touch and asked if I could bring it down to Cape Town for The Cape Alfa Club’s 50th anniversary. The event was to be held at the prestigious Franschhoek Motor Museum, and I couldn’t resist. I spent a week doing some finishing touches before setting off on a 2800 mile road trip to Cape Town. With only 722 miles since the engine rebuild, I set off through the Drakensberg of KwaZulu Natal, the wide open spaces of the Eastern Cape and along the coast at Port Elizabeth. Here I met Greig Smith, a prominent Giulietta Collector and we convoyed from there, through the desert heat of the Karoo, to Cape Town. Grieg asked to swap cars for a little while, and I gladly accepted, taking the wheel of his ’58 Giulietta for a drive down the coast.
At the museum, I was joined by dedicated Alfisti from across the country, and even a few from as far away as Kenya. I had never seen a Giulietta SS in person, and here there were three. I walked into one hall and was faced with a Le Mans-winning Porsche, a Ferrari 288 GTO as well as an F40, F50 and Enzo. There was a genuine Jaguar D-Type and two Mille Miglia Alfa 6Cs. There was a Maserati 250F and 150S, It was all rather a lot to take in. In fact I walked straight out again, so I could take some time to mentally prepare before returning. I was a kid in a candy store.
In the weeks following, I retreated to “the Observatory”, an up and coming neighbourhood full of cafes and bars, before readying myself for the drive home. Cape Town is definitely the classic car capital of South Africa, and of the whole continent. It’s impossible to go out without seeing a ’60s Rolls Royce or a Mustang or a Ferrari. The Alfa seemed at home on the winding roads around Cape Town and Camps Bay, and looked just right parked up on Long Street or Kloof.
The weather eventually forced me onto the road as the last of the Cape’s summer days gave way to wind and rain. I drove the coast road, which does in fact run out of tar, becoming a wide dirt strip through farmlands, to Cape Agulhas, the southernmost point in Africa. From there, I overnighted in Mossel Bay. In the morning, the weather had caught me. I drove South Africa’s famous Garden Route in the rain, all the way to Grahamstown. I was feeling slightly sorry for myself, but when I caught a glimpse of two 1950s MGs heading the other way, tops down, suddenly the Alfa felt a little more comfortable, and I adjusted my heater and settled in for the long drive home.
Our first 2,800 miles together had passed in bliss. I was confident that the car would make it to Ireland. I spent the next couple of months at home, finishing up the mountain of paperwork required to cross African borders by car, and making small adjustments to the Afla, mostly just for refinement.
On the 27th of June 2015, I gathered friends and neighbours for a final cup of coffee before heading north…