Fleetwood Mac – 1977
As a sports car enthusiast, I am well versed in the taking of ‘calculated risks’. So with that said, and at the risk of sounding much older than I feel; in the “good old days” you could always rely on car makers to reflect their brand identity and even their country of origin in the products they made. You would expect a Mercedes to be meticulously engineered and built perfectly to sooth its owner’s fevered brow. Just as you would expect Citroen to build something crazy and flamboyant with fins, wings and suspension filled with unicorn farts. Of course the Brits could always produce something absolutely amazing that usually ended up slightly on fire.
Fast forward to today, and brand identities have been watered down to a few fancy LED strips in a headlight design or the ever-increasing size of BMW’s kidney grilles. Cover the badges, lights and grilles and it would be very hard to tell cars apart, and even harder when you drive them. With more and more emphasis being put on making the driving experience refined and comfortable rather than involved and fun, it really does become difficult to spot differences between car makers in most segments. It means that buyers now choose their sporty coupe based purely on the badge or the extras list rather than what it is actually like to drive.
But there was a time when 2 cars, in exactly the same segment, would have appeared as chalk and cheese to each other. In the late 60’s and early 70’s the BMW 2002 and the Alfa Romeo GT Junior, would have been competing in the same market segment, but you need only look at them to see they are 2 very different cars, clearly reflecting their national- and brand- identities.
The achingly beautiful Alfa with the famous ‘step-nose’ design and rounded sides that make it look wider and sportier – and certainly appear far larger in pictures, than it actually is. Step inside and you’ll find a typically 70’s dash with beautifully designed gauges perched almost on top, behind a gorgeous thin rimmed 3-spoke steering wheel. The seats even look like those 70’s Italian office chairs you used to see in expensive lawyer’s boardrooms.
Reportedly the little Alfa also makes the driver work a little harder than most cars. You have to drive it, man-handle it a little and it will reward you, but only if you’re willing to put in the effort. It leaves no doubt in your mind that this is a proper Italian – you can almost imagine it waving its hands about and gesturing as it talks to you.
By contrast the sensible German is much more form following function. The straight edged design is still an iconic and beautiful shape, but somehow less romantic and more engineered in its appearance. Looking at it, you get the feeling that the engineers built the mechanicals first, then handed it to the designers and said, cover this with some body work in a very efficient manner. The little BMW looks very purposeful, and even more so in this stunning 2-tone colour combination with racing stickers, that I am told add at least 10 horsepower.
Inside, it’s much the same story. Straight lines all over the dashboard, a neat instrument binnacle with clear precise instruments laid out in a very logical way. No flair or design for design’s sake, just business. The owner tells us the 2002 is actually a very easy car to drive and could even realistically be used as a daily driver. Very German, very BMW.
In truth, both of these cars are incredible in their own way. Each beautiful and pretty in their own way. Both sound awesome too, in their own way. Two very different cars, but both utterly brilliant…. In their own way.
And I keep stressing those 4 words because this is the first piece I have written for Carbs and Coffee since founder, Rob Peche (and owner of the little Alfa pictured here), handed me the keys to the Carbs and Coffee kingdom. Rob created Carbs and Coffee to bring like-minded petrol heads together, to share stories and appreciate each other’s cars. Now there are many car ‘clubs’ like that around, but Carbs and Coffee, very much does things in its own way. We don’t leave our get togethers in clouds of tyre smoke. We eat our donuts rather than drawing them on the tarmac outside. We have our fun in the mountains sure, but when our convoy rolls into town, people stop to look, and they are happy to see us, they need not run in fear of being run over by the M-Power hooligans. Of course we also produce beautiful photographs and write about our experiences here.
Carbs and Coffee really is something special, and I think that for a little while, we maybe took it for granted. Like the old BMW and Alfa though, we do things our own way, and we can be very proud of that. I certainly count myself very lucky for all the memories we’ve made on the road and the fact that I can enjoy my outings with these guys, and not have to worry about the safety of myself, my car or my family. I think myself extremely fortunate to know a group of amazing people, with an incredible and varied collection of cars, many of whom I have come to call friends. All thanks to the fact, that Carbs and Coffee did things, in its own way.
Rob, what you have built here is so much more than you know. At times when I’ve found myself in a bit of a rut, or experienced problems at work or just in a negative headspace, a Carbs and Coffee breakfast run made me feel human again and made me smile, sometimes for the first time in weeks. I’m pretty sure some of the guys who have interacted with you and the rest of the group will be able to relate too.
So even though Alfa*, and perhaps much more so BMW, have somewhat lost their brand identities over the years, I promise I will do whatever I can to keep the Carbs and Coffee brand true to its identity. So that we can all continue to do the things we love, in the cars we love, in our own way.
A massive thank you to Rob and Jared for bringing these stunning cars out, and of course to Carbs and Coffee’s columnist Corne van Zyl for taking these incredible pictures.
*To be absolutely fair, Alfa have actually started clawing back some brand identity in recent years, rather than just rebadging Fiats.