Run by Mick Walsh
Owned since April 1988
Total mileage unknown
Miles since February
Latest costs £400
RECHARGED FOR SUMMER TRIPS
On the way home in the fading light from the Shuttleworth Collection’s wonderful Race Day event last October, the Duetto’s ignition light suddenly started to glow. With only 20 miles to go, I ran on sidelights where possible to save the battery and checked the dynamo the following morning. The fanbelt was tight and, after a test, I discovered that the system was charging, so the dynamo and regulator were removed for overhaul. A social call to Patrick Blakeney-Edwards led me to Guy Electrics on the recommendation of the Nash guru.
With the Alfa little used over the winter, I’d delayed getting the electrical problem sorted, but I headed over to Standon, near Ware in early spring to visit the long-established specialist. Dayrell Guy and his son Wesley rebuild a vast selection of dynamos and alternators – from vintage cars to modern coaches – in an old-style workshop with a fascinating range of equipment. Recent work has included making a starter motor for a 1927 Fiat 509A with only the original casing surviving.
Dayrell confirmed that the regulator was fine, so I asked him to rebuild the dynamo, including the bushes and armature. The finished unit was also ‘marine-ised’ to further protect against damp. It looked as good as new after a repaint, but the £350 bill proved how out of touch I am with prices. It cost £60 when it was previously done 15 years ago.
Once it was fitted and the engine run up, the red light remained on until I realised that I’d wrongly connected the terminals.
The joy of working on a classic was re-emphasised recently when I had to fit a new radiator to my 156 Sportwagon, which turned into a hellish job requiring the removal of body panels, fan and air cleaner that took most of a day. The similar task on a Duetto takes less than an hour.
Now that the car is based in Essex, a test drive is an instant joy because there is a wealth of superb roads to enjoy around Saffron Walden.
A few weeks later my MX-5 was stolen from my London driveway and, with the engine of the LeaF in bits, the Duetto has been used a lot this summer. Highlights have included a run to Grantchester for a picnic by the Cam, the idyllic area that inspired poet Rupert Brooke.
With Cambridge just 15 miles away, the Alfa is in regular use for weekend visits. Among the local classics is a lovely 1958 Bentley S1 that’s based at the Gonville Hotel and often takes guests on local trips. Elliott Murray looks after and drives the Bentley and, such is the popularity of the complimentary service, the management is thinking of acquiring a second classic.
Parked out front, it gives the hotel true style and is a welcome sight majestically purring around town.
Trips to Euston Hall have resulted in two event discoveries: the Red Rooster Music Festival and Rural Pastimes. The journey over to Bury St Edmunds and beyond to the A1088 has become a favourite route because it avoids the soulless A14. The Duetto seems to know its way to the Grafton family estate, which has pre-war Alfa Romeo connections because a former duke, John Fitzroy, owned an 8C before he was killed racing his Bugatti Type 59 in Limerick, aged just 22.
Rural Pastimes had a fine classic display, but, having not pre-booked, the Duetto was left outside among the moderns. We were in good company with Paul Hill’s smart BMW 1600, which looked cool on its wide steel wheels. We convoyed out together along the convoluted route of dusty tracks on the scenic estate, which felt like a rally stage.
The Duetto has also been enlisted for explorations to former WW2 airfields, of which there are many dotted around East Anglia. At Gransden Lodge (Cockpit, August), we followed historian Chris Sullivan along what remains of the 1947 circuit where Dennis Poore’s Alfa 8C-35 titan won the main race.
Next year marks 30 years’ ownership of MHT 567F and, to toast the anniversary, I pledge to finally repaint the passenger side and rebuild a spare engine – a task that I’ve always wanted to pursue.
THANKS TO Guy Electrics: 01920 822003 / Colin Mullan / Euston Hall: 01842 766366; / www.eustonhall.co.uk
From top: dapper Murray chatting with Liz by the Gonville’s Bentley while Duetto shows its best side; Dayrell at work; following Hill’s BMW at Euston Hall.
Gathering storm at former RAF Hadstock. Roman style, with Alfa at the Fitzwilliam.