Is an "enthusiast car" pornography, or is it art? Don't answer just yet, because I'm not asking the question it sounds like I'm asking.
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Thanks for the reply Jack; I knew you'd have fun with that one. You are correct that I was thinking of the British view of Alfa rather than an American one. IMO there are two types of American Alfa Romeo owners. The first was the Graduate superfan as you mentioned. The second is a fellow who grew to love Italy through their boarding school education in Latin, and summer trips to Italy, but read enough Gramsci in college to performatively self-flagellate themselves for their wealth. Ergo they now drive a Giulia Quadrifoglio.
Unfortunately a first-gen Neon, or even an NA Miata, is out of the question for me as my father recently passed away, and I am my mother's only child. My mother might accept me dying for my country, but not death by F-250 King Ranch.
It seems worth noting that Alfa-Romeos were not British cars, so the US equivalent of an Alfa-Romeo could be any car available on the US market that was fun to drive on the rare days it worked properly. Therefore, I would say that the US equivalent of an Alfa would be something like a second generation Jetta GLI or any of a dozen other disposable diapers from Germany. Millions of Hondas are disqualified by being good cars.
I remember my engineering buddy making the quip that if you want o go fast at the 'Ring, get a Viper, but if you want to go fast at any local racetrack, buy a Neon.
Amusing little buggers for sure. My daily-driver Breeze (2.0L 5-speed) has been more fun to drive over the past 297,000 miles than I envisioned when I bought it primarily for its MPG. At this point I refer to it a a science experiment, as it's held up almost miraculously: only a worn-through corner of the driver's seat bolster. It's the playful buddy in a garage full of more serious and powerful vehicles.
You are right, I used to Autocross with some Neon guys that were amazing! Also I saw one die of electrical failure pulling into an event. My girlfriend drove her father's neon through college and it was the reason I always carried tools on my car, to this day it sits dead in the driveway where it was parked around the turn of the century. They were both wonderful and impossibly bad all at once.
"Only the almost nonexistent rear drum brakes threatened to put a stop to the fun." I just know there's a joke in there you didn't use. I never owned a Neon but my brother did. It served him well and was passed down to his 3 teenagers in sequence. The first used it to deliver pizzas and there was still enough of it left for the other two to use in turn. It eventually succumbed to rust, not teenagers, and to this day my brother says it's one of the best cars he ever owned (in its own way).
Jack: As usual, great article. Of course, I am a bit biased. By the way, we will be racing next week at Willow Springs under the new team name (NUCKINFUTZ). When are you going to join us again? Don’t forget to bring whatzername?