It was September 1998, and I had just arrived in London for a new assignment with Automotive News Europe. I was sitting on a bench in Hampstead, idly engaged in one of my favorite pastimes -- just watching cars go by.
There were lots of strange and unfamiliar cars for me to feast my eyes on: Citroens, Peugeots, Rovers and exotic Aston Martins, Bentleys, TVRs and Daimlers. I certainly wasn't in Detroit anymore.
One car in particular stands out in my memory of that day -- a robin's egg blue Alfa Romeo 156 sedan. Seeing the baby blue beauty brought an instant wave of the kind of car love I used to feel as a little kid in the 1950s.
I've never worshipped six-figure supercars only hedge fund managers can afford. I prefer wheels a normal guy can buy, and the 156 was a piece of rolling sculpture priced between the Ford Mondeo and Audi A4.
With its high, high, curved flanks, swooping lines, hidden rear door handles and that jaw-droppingly sexy triangular “shield” grille, the 156 was like an exotic toucan among sparrows.
At the peak of that grille was the mysterious, circular Visconti logo, with the green serpent set next to the red cross on the white background -- an antidote to all those computer-generated brand symbols so common these days. It seemed the coolest logo I had ever seen on a car.