By Oliver White
When I first came across the Alfa Romeo 4C I was a vehicle technician working for HWM on the Alfa Romeo and Jeep brands. I was instantly a big fan of the design and ethos of the 4C, it was different, stunning to look at and not crammed full of electronics and gadgets like some of its competitors. I also liked the lack of sound proofing, power steering and even a decent radio, it made you focus on driving the car and immersing yourself in the sensations that this car gives. It wasn’t till I made the transition from a vehicle technician to a salesperson that I really had the chance to drive the 4C properly and in turn fall in love with the thing. Part of the Alfa Romeo sales training was a visit to Millbrook Proving Ground. If you have not heard of Millbrook proving ground before, it is a vehicle testing facility based in Bedfordshire, one of the largest in Europe. First opened in the 1960s it has been owned by General Motors, Vauxhall and is currently owned by Spectris, who supply precision instrumentation and controls, it is now used by multiple manufacturers to test their vehicles as well as to train staff and also host customer events. There are multiple different test tracks within Millbrook, firstly there is the Alpine section, and this has steep gradients, sharp corners and off camber corners to really test the dynamics of vehicles. There are also outer and inner circuits that allow the handling and dynamics of vehicles to be tested to the extreme. Other circuits include a 2 mile high speed bowl and a mile long straight.
When we arrived at Millbrook we did the safety briefings and a few classroom based lectures about the vehicles, once this was completed we were taken out in the 4C firstly by the “Pro Drivers” to give us a run down on how the vehicle drives and certain controls and then we were put in the driver’s seat. The first circuit I experienced was the 2 mile high speed bowl. This was a great experience as I had never driven on a banked bowl before but in truth it did not really show what the 4C was all about. Once we came off the bowl we were directed to the Alpine circuit, this is really where the 4C came into its own. The lack of power assisted steering and how low you sit in the car really gave you a good feel of the dynamics through the corners, between the corners the Torque from the engine launched you down the straights to the next sequence of corners, the intake is right by the drivers right ear so you really hear the Turbo and paired with the race exhaust, which has no silencers really gives the car some theatre. Once we had completed two laps of the alpine circuit we then did the mile straight where we learnt about the different launch controls that can be used and we also did some high speed emergency stops, the 4C was well balanced through these tests and had plenty of braking force. For me it was the Alpine circuit that sold the car to me, it was so involving and the car really does overload your senses when pushing the car, I was grinning ear to ear. It’s funny how I have gone to Millbrook to learn to sell the 4C and the course sold it to me!
Over the next few days I was playing with the specification on the configurator that Alfa Romeo had on their website and ordered the car in September 2016, Alfa Romeo at the time had a pool of 4Cs which were built and sitting in Italy ready to go, luckily they had one in the exact specification I had ordered which saved me waiting for the car to be built from scratch (6 months). The car arrived at HWM on the 19th of December 2016 which so happened was my day off, I raced over to HWM in excitement and was over the moon to see the car sat in the customer parking. The car was then taken to the workshop for its pre-delivery inspection. I was in a very unique situation as being a 4C trained technician I was able to carry out the inspection by myself, which I thoroughly enjoyed and this also meant I was able to take delivery of the car on Christmas Eve 2016. The best Christmas present ever!
This is part 1 of many (not sure how many yet!) and I hope my experiences will provide a helpful insight into the 4C and my personal ownership experience. Thanks for reading