Sunday 19th October was the Alfa Romeo
Duetto Club meeting day with a tour into the mountains that
started from Arona, a lakeside town on the southern tip of
Lake Maggiore. Our group of three Spiders already gathered at
Lake Como set out early and arrived at Arona shortly after 9
a.m. where we found a large lakeside area reserved for the
During the next two hours over 70 '105
type' Spiders assembled and registered, leaving at about 11.30
in an impressively long procession that snaked its way up into
the mountains west of the Lake Maggiore, overlooking Lake Orta
with its island of St Giulio. When 70+ Spiders are on the
move, the lengthy convoy is all too easily dislocated at
junctions and traffic lights, etc. To enable us to stay
together the organisers called a halt every so often -
although finding a stretch of road long enough to do this was
not easy! In this way it was ensured that all outfits were
with us as we made our way through the mountains.
After climbing for many miles our
convoy eventually left the forests and still continued upwards
through ever wilder terrain of the Mottarone. Eventually we
arrived at what was clearly the highest point at approx 1600m.
By this time the views looking northwards towards the Alps and
the Simplon Pass into Switzerland were stunning, with
magnificent snowy peaks forming a majestic panorama across an
intervening valley. It was up here that all our Duettos parked
around a restaurant named (translated) "House of the
Snow". As planned, Club members took over the large
dining area for a 'rustic lunch' traditional in the region
comprising a wide variety of grilled meats served with fried
vegetables and accompanied by appropriate local wines.
Our massive contingent of Alfa Romeos
then proceeded down again following a private road through the
forest and, once again, to Lake Maggiore but now in Stresa.
There a lakeside carpark area had been reserved for the Duetto
Club. As our convoy snaked through evening sun into the busy
centre it was clear from the boisterous traditional music and
smoking braziers that we were parking alongside an ongoing
roast chestnut party - one of many that we saw throughout
north Italy in that season.
This one was a big charitable affair
being run by retired members of the Italian mountain army
force; the 'Alpini'. Dave and I strolled among the Alfas
parked in this wonderful lakeside location finding all the
club members we could in the smoke of the chestnut braziers,
munching roast chestnuts - or at least I did: Dave's allergic
to nuts - and made our adieus. It was a great end to the Club
tour and this visit to Italy.
Dave had a tight Tuesday deadline in
UK to meet a guy needing some race engines, so by 5pm we were
driving out of Stresa. After serious jams, caused perhaps by
the reported 75.000 'Tifosi' meeting at Magello that weekend
and seemingly by all the other cars in north Italy crowding
the lakes that weekend, we drove overnight through Switzerland
- if you're in a classic Spider the St Gotthard tunnel is good
in the quiet of the night and negotiating Basel at 2.30am is
highly recommended - and eastern France past Strasburg - to
which we were not endeared by teeming rain, ill-defined road
lanes and notable lack of 24 hour services - and onto the good
French toll motorways.
After a couple of stops to catch up
with a few hours' sleep, snatched in surprising comfort in the
Spider as rain hammered down on the mohair roof, we reached
Calais in good time for the 3.30pm Monday SeaCat crossing and
after a mercifully clear anti-clockwise run round the M25,
Dave was in good time for his appointment. And how did the car
perform on the two halves of its Italian adventures?
I think this 34 year-old car's
performance is best summarised as exemplary. In terms of the
engine, it scarcely missed a beat: Although at very high
altitude the engine ran a bit roughly - presumably the Webers
found themselves a bit short of oxygen - it returned to its
familiar smooth running with a steady tick-over after
descending from the mountains.
As regards water temperature, the
needle of the gauge sat resolutely central in virtually all
circumstances - even when the car was near stationary for 45
minutes in the blistering heat of a Milan autostrada - cause
of that hold-up: a sadly squashed Saxo.
The water temperature would rise only
during sustained driving at or near the car's maximum speed (a
procedure never attempted in UK), though fortunately the
system never heated enough to cause water loss and also a few
miles at moderate velocity would quickly restore the norm.
Equally, the oil pressure gauge held commendably steady.
Although when thoroughly hot the oil
pressure would drop right down at tick-over, as soon as the
throttle was 'blipped' it would jump back up and stay up when
the engine was at operational revs. The engine burnt less than
one litre of oil in travelling over 2350 miles during which
the car averaged just over 27.5mpg (unleaded plus Castrol fuel
I thought the fuel consumption
commendable, bearing in mind the mountainous terrain and the
'stop-go' driving of much of the tour - not to mention those
spells of very high speed driving. And, incidentally, its
beautifully simple hood kept out 99.5% of the rain when
driving through deluges across Switzerland on the way there
and through France on the way back.
Overall, then, unlike its ageing owner
who failed physically during the first part of this Autumn's
travels, the Alfa Romeo Spider 1750 Veloce proved itself a
thoroughly reliable as well as a highly entertaining
Richard Winter Nov 2003.
left us in 2005 R.I.P.