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 just watching cars go by.
My eyes feasted on lots of strange and unfamiliar cars. One car in particular stands out in my memory -- a robin's egg blue Alfa Romeo 156 sedan. The sight of it brought on a wave of the car love I used to feel as a little kid in the 1950s.
I've never worshipped six-figure supercars. 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 swooping lines, hidden rear door handles and that sexy triangular "shield" grille, the 156 was like an exotic toucan among pigeons. Topping the grille was the mysterious, circular Visconti logo with the green serpent and red cross. Today, that logo is an antidote to the computer-generated brand symbols that have since become so common.
The 156 was designed by the great Walter de'Silva, and it cemented his international reputation.
Geoff Barton, our news editor, bought a 156. A couple of years later, I asked whether he was still happy. Mostly, he said, except for some quality glitches, such as the time the car deposited all its oil on his driveway. Such unreliability and some mediocre cars helped doom Alfa's earlier efforts in the United States.