Name Paulus Ferdinand
Occupation Events organiser
First classic 1963 Volkswagen Beetle
Dream classic Ferrari Dino
Best trip Around the Pindus mountains, Greece
DINO INSPIRES A MILANESE COUPÉ
During the early 1970s, the most exotic vehicle on our street sat under a faded tarpaulin; it was a rusty MGB that belonged to a friend’s uncle and was avoiding road tax. My first sighting of a supercar was while on holiday in Italy. Parked at a petrol station by one of the new autostrade was a bright red Ferrari Dino. A handsome couple was standing next to it, smoking skinny cigarettes – right by the fuel pumps!
The Dino was making a ticking noise as the engine cooled down, and the smell of hot oil and alloy was even stronger than that of the petrol spilling from my dad’s Hillman. I’ll never forget the sound of its frantic scream as it rejoined the motorway, and from that moment I was completely hooked.
Moving on nearly four decades, the closest I had ever got to driving a Ferrari, let alone owning one, was a white 1973 Fiat 128 Sport with a fake Momo steering wheel. But then a few years ago I found an Alfa Romeo GTV6 for sale in the classifieds: it was just £4500, Italian, and it was red. How could I resist? I picked it up with my son Max, who, as we headed home on a congested A303, suggested that I’d have been better off with something German or Japanese. That was in mid-summer, and every happy camper seemed to be making its way to the West Country.
As we endured the heavy traffic, I began to think that my co-pilot was correct. The Alfa’s steering felt like closing the valve on the Hoover Dam, the gearshift was troublesome and made worse by a lead-weight clutch pedal, and to top it all the electric windows refused to open. But then, mercifully, a sign signalling that a dual carriageway lay up ahead. Third gear, foot down and the GTV6 lurched forward with the most delicious howl. My stressed frown was rapidly replaced by a stupid grin, and from that moment I realised our relationship was going to be a long albeit somewhat contrary one.
Once the initial euphoria of purchasing the Alfa – and my wife’s annoying “It looks like something a pimp would drive” – had worn off, I realised that owning the car was one thing, but that looking after and maintaining it would be another. We didn’t have anywhere to store it, nor the finances for the upkeep of a 1980s Italian coupé.
Fortunately, my in-laws had a garage that housed their new Mini Cooper. After a lot of grovelling and hedge cutting, I persuaded them to park the Mini outside so that the GTV6 could live inside. A course in car servicing at the local technical college followed, which lowered the annual running costs.
Since then we have been to the Silverstone Classic, Hever Castle and the Le Mans Classic twice without a hitch, but an Alfa will always throw a curveball – such as the time when it blew its bonnet open at 5000rpm or when the horn decided to trumpet every time that I opened the glovebox! More recently I left the handbrake on while the car was laid up, causing three different engineers to use very colourful language. Thanks to TT Workshops in Bristol for sorting that in time for La Sarthe.
The Alfa is a car that’s seldom seen on British roads today, and that, along with its profile and song, is why I’ll hold on to it for as long as I can. Recent work has included having a badly welded inner wing sorted, and I’m planning to take the car to the Spa-Classic later this year – a friend has asked to come along, too, as long as we drive through the Dartford Tunnel and take out full European recovery! Let’s hope I can fix those electric windows in time.
The bright red Alfa Romeo stands out among classic Fords and Volkswagens at Bath & West Showground. The sleek Italian is a joy on country roads. Alfa is sent to workshop for wing repairs. Shiny new metal let in under the bonnet. Ferdinand Snr and Jnr with dream Dino. Waiting for the ferry en route to Le Mans.
‘My frown was replaced by a stupid grin, and I realised our relationship was going to be a long albeit contrary one’