Now look at the other picture above. It’s an Alfa Romeo called the 156 and in 1997 I thought it, too, was gorgeous – and not just for a four-door saloon.
I don’t know what they were putting in the water in the mid-1990s, but in 1997 the equally beautiful Ford Puma and Peugeot 406 Coupé were launched, too.
It’s worth bearing in mind that good-looking cars were a rarity in those days. Perhaps auto makers realised that cars were becoming all quite good but all really dull to look at and needed to differentiate them somehow. I don’t know who exactly started it, but by the time the Audi TT arrived in 1998, it was becoming pretty clear that good design sold cars.
But anyway, 1997 and that Alfa. I remember sitting in an office in Harpenden in my first job in this game, sourcing pictures for a car yearbook, and receiving a print of the 156. Good grief, I wanted it to be good. At the time, SZ aside, Alfa Romeo hadn’t made a truly desirable car in my lifetime, but I knew there was a reason I should want one.
And, do you know? The 156 was good, mostly, even though it stayed in production longer than it should probably have, spawned the disappointing
GTA and, eventually, was replaced by the 159, which was… okay, for a time. But then it wasn’t and the hope, and the success, so moderate, so fleeting, was gone again.
But like Brian Stimpson, I could live with that, too. Emotions and hope and optimism are for the young, and at 40 I’m quite happy not to feel the same way as I did in my early 20s. I was content it was over.
At least, I was, until they pulled the covers off this Giulia. And so it all begins again.