When you think of Belgium, Alfa Romeos aren’t the first thing that spring to mind. Luckily, photographer Sian Loyson opened our eyes to the country’s young and vibrant Alfisti scene.
The passion for cars runs deep in our family: when he was a major, my grandfather supported the once-famous Zolder race track, which is right next to my house. My mother also loved going to Grand Prix and has dozens of stories to tell. In the beginning I was interested in classic cars in general. Then a friend recommended an Alfa Romeo GTV6 – I wasn’t convinced at first, but I kept reading about it until I fell in love. At some point I bought one. Since then I only see Alfas.
The first GTV6 I owned needed a complete restoration so I sold it and bought my current car – a 1983 GTV6 painted Rosso Alfa. When I got in the car for the first time, a new world opened up for me – it was so good! I love driving it. It’s not as fast as a modern car, but I can enjoy it to the fullest. This is driving fun! The car drives really well because of the transaxle layout, but the only downside is the gearbox – it’s so poorly designed.
A while ago my friend Rafael and I went on a road trip – he in his Alfa 75, me in my GTV6. We drove 300 to 400 kilometers a day, from Belgium to Luxembourg, through the Vosges and back through the Black Forest in Germany. Road trips like this build a bond with your car. The car is with my grandfather, so sometimes I don’t see the car for a few weeks. When I see it after a while, the smell, the sound it makes, it all makes me smile.
There are many aspects that make Alfa Romeo such a fascinating brand – from racing history to design and development. Alfas will always be cars to love, they’re not for everyone – and they don’t have to be.
For as long as I can remember I have had a passion for cars and vintage cars. When I was a toddler, my father owned a blue Alfa 166 2.0 V6 Turbo. I remember it had a greyish interior and a wooden steering wheel. When I was older my mother owned an Alfa 145 T. spark – ugly, but it had about 130-140 hp and a hole in the exhaust *laughs*. It was like a rally car, my mother hated it.
My current car is an Alfa Spider “Beauté”. I also have an Alfa 33 QV 16v which I was able to buy very cheaply – it’s a long-term project. The Spider is perfect, I drive it very often. My grandmother bought it new in 1991. This special edition was only available in the south of France and only 120 were built. It’s like the “final issues” we get today. It has the QV engine and all were two tone: white on top, blue on bottom, white wheels etc. The car still belongs to my grandma but I keep it along with the other cars in our family collection.
What I like most is that it is so unique. Nowadays you don’t see these color combinations on production cars anymore. And again the wooden steering wheel. The QV engine produces a wonderful sound and it’s an easy car to drive. The condition is not perfect but it fits the history of a family car. I drive it for fun, mostly in the summer, or better yet, with the top down on a sunny fall day. Driving is so peaceful.
My father was a coachbuilder, so I actually grew up around cars. I’m Italian and grew up in an Italian neighborhood here in Belgium; There used to be a lot of Alfas. When I was 17 my father did some repairs on an Alfa Romeo 166 2.5 V6 that belonged to a friend. I didn’t have a driver’s license, but after begging my father for a long time, he let me drive me home from the car wash. It was the first time I felt what power is. The experience has always stayed with me.
Italians are proud people and so am I, that’s why I love Alfa. In addition, the mechanics have always been perfect. Their design was amazing and they have such a great history. I drive an Alfa 159 every day, a 1300 GT Junior when the sun is shining and am currently restoring a 75 2.0 Twin Spark Allestimento Speciale Numerato. I used to have a regular 75 2.0 Twin Spark, still do, but it’s a wreck. The car was freshly restored, stood outside and someone drove in. Anyway, now I’m using it as a donor for my 75 2.0 ASN restoration project.
I bought the 1300 GT Junior when I was 17. I didn’t have a driver’s license, but I really wanted a classic car. It was dirt cheap. The car had a little rust on the underside but we fixed the problem and we repainted the whole body and finally repainted it the color it left the factory: Giallo Okra. What I like best is the sheer joy of driving. I’ve owned it for almost 10 years now and it still drives like new. The car is alive and it communicates when you drive it. It’s like the car is an extension of my body, it’s so unique. The car is registered for daily use, so I drive it whenever I feel like driving it – the only downside is the lack of comfort. For long journeys I prefer the Alfa 75.
I’ve already been to Italy with my Alfa 75. People go crazy when you drive a car like that there. As I said, Italians are proud people. Anyway, I was driving and got stopped by the police at midnight. I was very surprised as I did absolutely nothing wrong. They just loved my car and wanted to take a closer look. After a good chat, they let me go on one condition: I had to leave with smoking tires. Only in Italy!
My father was a huge car enthusiast and when I was younger he often took me to car events. He was a car salesman and I loved going to the shop. He did a lot of good deals over the years – and he kept many of the cars. It’s like a hobby that’s out of control. There’s a picture of me unscrewing our Montreal’s license plate in my diapers. So I grew up with cars. My dad is struggling to get in the car now so I’m keeping it.
Alfa Romeo cars have always been very progressive. To develop the Montreal’s engine, they fused two 1300 Giulia engine blocks into a V8 engine. In addition, all Alfas are to be processed in the same way. I own an Alfa Romeo Montreal, Giulia Nuovo Super 1600 and 1300 and an Alfetta GTV.
For a number of years the Montreal sat under a rack of exhaust systems and unfortunately one of them fell off and smashed the windscreen. Finally we found a Montreal specialist in Switzerland. He was 76 years old and was apparently a former mechanic at the Alfa Romeo Museum. I’ve never experienced anything like it: It started at 7 a.m. and by 10 a.m. the engine and transmission were already out of the car. Here in Belgium it would take 2 days. He remade the whole car like they did at the factory with original parts. And if there weren’t any pieces, he made them himself. We stayed with him throughout the project, visiting twice a week for two weeks. It was quite an experience.
When the car finally got home, I drove it for the first time. What I like best about my Montreal is the engine, a 2.6 liter V8. And of course the design. The front end is amazing to look at. Imagine driving it in 1972. There is no car I would rather drive.
Photos: Sian Loyson © 2022