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Next section meeting - Thursday 31 August at The Bull Hotel, Bull Lane, Wrotham, Kent, TN15 7RF.

Italian Car/Bike Show & Country Fair, Honnington Farm - Sunday 1st September 2013

Ferrets are curious creatures and have been around for centuries. In the middle ages they formed a part of a highly effective hunting team with birds of prey. The ferret would be sent down the rabbit burrow to chase the bunnies up and the hawks would do the rest! Ferrets were dinner companions in the great halls of England where they patrolled the floors keeping the rats at bay. Rich ladies often had “pet” ferrets and they would sit at table dozing in the folds of a gown ready to pounce on any unwanted furry creature who happened by. There is a portrait of Elizabeth I in a grand frock with a small white ferret on her sleeve. The picture is called the "Ermine Portrait of Queen Elizabeth the First," and it is owned by the Marquess of Salisbury and displayed in the Courtauld Institute of Art.

Now what on earth have ferrets got in common with Alfa Romeos? Not much really but on a glorious Sunday a week or so back the Alfisti of Kent, with guests from Surrey and surrounds, gathered in a field with ferrets, birds of prey, dogs of all descriptions and numerous examples of Italian machinery, all strictly under control of course! It was one of those sultry days which summer seems to offer up too infrequently.

Alfas were the predominant species on display in a parking arrangement which could be described as intimate, so much so that there was insufficient space for all Alfas to be parked together and our cars formed isolated break off groups dotted about all over the place.

Jeff enlisted members with camping expertise to erect the new regional headquarters tent. In previous years at this venue the erection of such a structure in the Honnington field would have had more in common with preparations for the Battle of the Somme. I would imagine a General Melchet character setting up a divisional headquarters in two feet of mud using a swagger stick to beat his wallahs! Not so this year, our new tent was up in “jildy jildy, quick time!” and Jeff did not have a swagger stick! Next year’s task at Bromley must be to purchase one of those “electrostatic microfiber wax drag dust dusters” or Ken Dodd tickling sticks to enable all things official to be conducted with due ceremony. Actually, I’d like some feedback on said tickling stick – does it really drag dust without scratching the paint? Can someone write an article on the science of tickling sticks and car cleaning?

A nice tent it is too and plenty spacious to seat a respectable group of alficianados and enable such wide ranging activities as lunches and informal debates on the diverse motoring stories of the day. David “4C” Smith pulled off one of those interesting shopping trip and with ferret like skill returned with a selection of club magazines from the 1980’s. Now these really are a fascinating read, particularly to those of us driving cars from that era. One magazine even had a short and optimistic note on the collaboration between Milan and Nissan to make the Arna! “4C” recently had his Alfa experience hugely enhanced when his Spider recently decided to bring all four cylinders to the motoring party before this he might have been known as “3C”! Hurrah!

On routine trench patrol, a regular feature of our Alfa gatherings, we were accompanied by Robert, Doug’s dug! The intrepid pair had travelled together in the Spider, cutting a very good looking duo sitting side by side upon arrival into the field. Only leather flying helmets could have improved the look! It was as if Tin Tin and Snowy were among us!

On walkabout, we watched in horror as a large Cadillac tried to trim a layer of paint from the side of a beautiful Jaguar. We admired several glorious Ferrari’s, one of which was a 250 GTL Lusso (I think). Concurrent to our venerating the wonderful styling of Pininfarina (with whom we have shared another field), Robert was introducing himself under the table to the Ferrari dogs. There is a photograph of the Alfa male dug meeting other motoring dogs.

The Fiat 500 Owners (old ones – cars not owners) had an extravagantly spaced display of those wonderful bits of buzzing machinery. There were yards of space between each cinquecento so they looked quite lonely. I expect most of us are more used to seeing these cars parked about an amoretti biscotto’s width apart along the strade at piazze of Rome or Milan.

On a more telling note, however, and this is for you car price watchers, a good condition 1960’s Cinquecento will now cost you more that a good condition used Fiat 500!

Our trench patrol took us past a solitary Montreal which seemed to have formed its own display area next to a Cappuccino bar. When passing by, we had a brief conversation with one of those “classic car enthusiasts” who knows everything about everything. You know the sort I mean. He can tell you all you need to know about any car on display. At Honnington he seemed to have chosen “the Montreal” as his specialist subject, and he advised us, with no shortage of confidence, that the car had originally been designed as a mid engine vehicle but the engineers could not fit the engine in the space allocated. Don’t you just love such conversations! It’s a bit like General Melchet addressing the troops before the first of many great pushes and saying … “Bah! Don’t worry chaps, Jerry has’nt invented the machine gun yet!” Do you believe him or not!

How do you deal with it? Do you nod wisely and say – “well fancy that” while quietly wondering how your new found friend had managed to loose so many brain cells and also whether his condition might be contagious. Do you look around for a high rise building that may be focussing sun rays on the poor man’s head? Alternatively, do you speak out and point out such details as the height and body position on the wheelbase and the finer elements of the Bertone design, including (as it truly was) the fact that vertical stack of air intakes in the rear pillars were an artistic statement intended to create the illusion of a mid engine layout to what was always intended as a classic GT front engine car. Well, Doug, Mark and myself elected to nod informatively and say nothing! Cowards, I hear you shout! You are probably right but then who are we to destroy a fellow human’s self confidence on such a nice sunny afternoon. We allowed the “expert” to withdraw confidently in the knowledge that he had put us ”in the know” on one of the car design secrets of the 1970’s!

High on the score sheet of nice Alfa’s were a pair of 155 Silverstone models which were very nicely presented and also a rather nice GTV Cup owned by Phil of Lipscombe’s Fiat sales department. Our Zoe Yellow spiders looked good too and did not seem to have attracted their usual collection for motoring entomologists.

Finally, our treasured award for carbuncle of the day went to a replica, kit car, counterfeit, call it what you like, version of a certain Italian luxury car. At first sight the wheels were wrong, at second sight the front end was set too low, at third sight the rear roof line was too high … on subsequent sightings I found the roofline seemed to grow higher and higher! Sadly, it was the only thing in the field which spoiled the view from the tent! However, as they say … beauty is in the eyes of the beholder … now I’d just like to ask a few questions of the designers of the Arna!

John Third

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