Thursday, 1 July 2010

Alfa Romeo - Jaguar Anniversaries

Two anniversaries on the eve of Goodwood Festival of Speed; Alfa Romeo is 100 and Jaguar 75. Jaguar is home-grown maybe even a little homespun by comparison with Alfa’s halcyon days, yet Alfa Romeo is the featured marque in West Sussex. It could have been that 100 is a nice round figure. It could have been that Goodwood has featured Jaguar in the past and thought it was time somebody else had a chance. Alfa has allure; it is one of the great classic makes with a history as old as motor racing. Jaguar has allure too; it is a classic and while its motor racing heritage hardly matches Alfa’s in grand prix racing, it has won Le Mans seven times (between 1951 and 1990) against Alfa Romeo’s four on the trot 1931-1934. The Cartier Style et Luxe exhibition will celebrate Italian design, another opportunity for Alfa to show off, with the pre-war supercharged 8Cs. These include the ex-Doune 1938 Sommer-Biondetti Le Mans 2.9 Coupe, an exquisite car in the lead by 12 laps on Sunday afternoon, when a front tyre burst on Mulsanne at 130mph. It retired with a broken valve, but you could still see the damage the tyre inflicted on the Superleggera body at Lord Doune’s small museum in the 1970s. It will be the Cartier Lawn’s 16th time at Goodwood.

XK120: Artistic. Ruth always laughs when she sees my reflection on the headlamp rim.
Both makes had charismatic founders. Both fell from grace. When the Italian government forced Alfa to build in Naples it produced the enchanting to drive but flakily rust-prone Alfasud. Jaguar had quality problems and an unwelcome legacy from the dog days of British Leyland. Jaguar quality is now a match for anybody, as the influential JD Power surveys prove. The jury is still out on Alfa’s quality yet its vigour is undiminished. A caveat on the stylish and swift new Giulietta concerns road noise. Hardly anybody, it seems these days, is capable of making a car that suppresses it. Jaguar is a notable exception. But it doesn’t get it on to the hallowed lawns at Goodwood.


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