Great New Zealand Archetypes: The Alfa Driver



One time recently, I glanced over at our DVD collection of James Bond titles.

I wondered, at what time in my life did I decide this was ok, to actually make a point of collecting James Bond movies, and to actually sit around having conversations about who did it best, and argue a case for Daniel Craig?

The simple explanation is that at the time, I was an Alfa Romeo driver.

Certainly not the worst type of actual driver. That’s been reserved for the Audi.

Alfa drivers are usually harmless morons. They are usually stuck somewhere outside of Europe like Australia or New Zealand, and in order to vicariously live their sad little suburban lives in the Old Country, from which they have no claims to heritage, they decide to buy an Alfa.

They don’t do it sensibly, either. Sensible would be to not buy one, ever. And if you did lose your mind and get one, you’d go to a dealership and buy a mechanical warranty, right?

Wrong. Alfa people buy them, sometimes sight unseen from places like Invercargill or Seatoun, off the Alfa Bulletin Board, or Trade Me.

Let’s stop in at the Alfa Bulletin Board, briefly. This is a place where frustrated (mostly men) sit and compare Alfa nightmare stories, but continue to hunt for them, buy them, try to drive them and try to sell them. It’s a bit like a mutual masturbation society. But, in keeping with the super-sterile world of the Alfa driver, there’s no touching.

The Alfa drivers on these boards are usually architects, designers or teachers.  Their Alfas are characterised by horrible cambelt issues or just a casual head gasket job at $4k.  They always have dash lights flicking on and off indiscriminately.  The windows go down once and stay down, forever.

These poor souls have avatars containing obscure Abarth scorpion details and have nicknames like Alfi and Italfa, even though they live in suburbs called Wadestown and Ellerslie and their names are actually Michael or Jonathan. It’s truly a place where they can share their dash light conundrums and while nursing their cup of Chanui.

Off they go to work each day, in their daily driver, usually a 156 or 159, but at home, under a cover, we might find an Alfasud or other utterly pathetic, rusty, broken example, the hopes, dreams and fears of the owner all loaded against the hot mess like an awful high-interest loan loaded up against an asset you have since lost.

On long weekends they spend five hours being towed back from Whitianga on a tow truck, and itch to get back on the bulletin boards to tell their tale of woe, and perhaps get some amateur diagnosis going so they can fiddle around on the weekend, trying to cheaply fix the oil pissing out of the engine, or just pretending everything is okay in their life, when in reality, this Alfa disease is waaaay out of control and everyone knows it, especially SWIMBO, who begs Michael or Phillip or whoever to sell everything and buy a nice Hyundai.

“But Hyundai doesn’t feature in Quantum of Solace”, Michael explains, while nursing his stemless glass of Syrah, bought from a wine club earlier in the week.

And as he thumbs merrily though his full collection of Marshall Cavendish “The Cars of James Bond” and spreads sawdust on the huge pool of Texas T in the driveway, the wine warms his soul and the poster-map of Italy bought from K Mart fades slowly in the dappled afternoon suburban light, while wafts of Jamie Oliver Pasta Machine–made pasta creep throughout the house, and all is well in Alfi Scorpion-boy’s world.

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