Last night I was on Sunset Strip at Cafe Primo with the Elysee Wednesday group. With talk already going on as I arrived, one of the attendees remarked that there had been an Alfa 8C Competizione sighted in the lower parking deck. So I thought how wonderful and great, cool, neat-o, what nice conversation this is --but it didn't penetrate my mind initially that it was there right now. As it became apparent, I eventually got a clue as people began rising from their seats, getting up to have a look. I had just taken a seat and then found myself up again, as if I had not sat down. Alas, the night had officially begun.
As I had liked the 8C in pictures since its inception, I was indeed excited to see one in front of me --a real car parked that I could touch (although I never did touch it). So down we went and I glimpsed it right away and recognized the nose peeking out from behind another generic-looking expensive car. I ran over to it.
Being a limited-run/virtually European-exclusive market automobile, I had never seen an Alfa 8C Competizione in the metal before. If I recall correctly, the Alfa 8C was actually meant for the US market in 2008, even though only about 80 of the 500 Competiziones have ever made it here. And were I not in Los Angeles, too, I probably would have never seen one out in a public parking structure, in situ, driven for a night out on the town.
Among the valet-parked cars of black and silver Mercedes, Audis, Jaguars, myriad other higher-end sport luxury cars --all of them seemed humdrum and commonplace compared to the deeply bejeweled red Competizione. It lit up the drab grey of the parking garage, inhabited by sport-luxury fleet-cars, the 8C becoming the center of attention without even trying. Its focus was self-evident, both in its form and presence.
Up close and personal it's just a wonderful design. While beholding the shape you don't have to apologize for certain areas on it. As it seemed too good to be true, I initially marveled at it with the naivete' of a child, as if looking at a sports car for the first time and using that memory as a future benchmark. It was a visual magnet for me and particularly with females. As the few of us stood admiring it, snapping photographs, occasional cars would creep by to witness the spectacle, many of which were occupied by women looking at the men looking at the red car. The attention given to the car, too, attracted more to stop and stare at the ones who had stopped to stare --enhancing further its sex appeal.
In a world of ever-fattening and bloated exotic car designs, I was "well chuffed" to find that the 8C was not big or unnecessarily overblown in its proportions or surface features. Seemingly impossible to find today, tasteful restraint in this case was heeded, a nod to vintage sensibilities. It appeared very Ferrari Dino-like, the fenders curving and flowing back in a graceful but forceful way, creating a true body line. The eye was thence properly guided and fed all the way back to the rear, the roof gracefully rising out from the body and A-pillar without the expected seams or awkward retracements. Being so well done all around, my friend Stephen Mitchell remarked that "it makes the Ferrari California look like a 1974 AMC Javelin with those strange and arbitrary fender lines..."
To wit, both the Maserati GT and the Afla 8C, each with the same Ferrari F430 engine platform, rival in design aesthetic the F149 so-called "California," which is a generic passe' controversy at this point. How could Ferrari have, then, so lost the plot, particularly when the 8C's release date approximated the California's? And as the 8C's hood and snout appeared evocative of the front end of the eternally famous and overexposed supercar Ferrari Enzo, the 8C nonchalantly relaxed, tipping its hat tastefully to the otherwise bombastic and severe attempt on the face of that Ferrari's design. Viva Alfa Romeo.
As I write this, the day after my encounter, collecting my thoughts, it does seem that the Alfa 8C Competizione is (for me) one of the most successfully created recent sportscar designs to come along in a while. It has the elegance of the old world Italian era, hand-built, look. It is not overly-surfaced or gimmicked up with distracting or strange wind-tunnel dictated body elements. It is simple and flowing and restrained but aggressive, somewhat brutish, with its hourglass shape and beefy rear. With a quiet intensity, in harmony, the 8C's imposing form gives the impression that it had just been accelerated to high velocities, telling a story while parked.