UK: MOTOR MOUTH - Bello of the ball.

UK: MOTOR MOUTH - Bello of the ball. - Henry Ford, a practical man rather than an aesthete, always raised his hat when he saw an Alfa Romeo.

by STEPHEN BAYLEY, an author and design consultant.

Henry Ford, a practical man rather than an aesthete, always raised his hat when he saw an Alfa Romeo.

These are cars with a special magic, machines which cast a spell so potent that their image capital remains undiminished despite some reckless spending: all who saw one will never forget an Alfa Romeo and Nissan joint venture, which produced an atrocity called the Arna, a very deep pool of the most unfortunate mix of Italian and Japanese genes. Imagine a rorty engine in a chassis that handled like a supermarket trolley with a body designed by a demoralised DHSS committee - you get the idea.

But you forget these things with a little knowledge of more distant history; drops of crappiness soon dissolve in an ocean of romance. Ferrari's famous cavallino rampante first appeared on the side of an Alfa: Enzo Ferrari was manager of Alfa's racing team and went independent only when his bosses did not allow him to make the car he wanted. Later, some of the most sublime body designs of all time, mostly by Pininfarina, wore Alfa badges.

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