Pictures: Ian Bickerstaff
Covering the Alfa Romeo 4C for the late summer edition of The Beacon magazine, we grabbed a window of opportunity for a shoot with photographer Ian Bickerstaff. Let’s be honest, these assignments are now legendary at Motor Writer for two things. First, Ian’s technical and artistic ability mean we end up with some fabulous images. Second, they are always an absolute delight and must include a pub lunch.
With the Peak District on our doorstep, it is the obvious place to put some miles on the very pretty 4C. This rugged backbone of England is also astonishingly beautiful and offers many opportunities for a perfect automotive backdrop.
What could go wrong?
The Alfa Romeo 4C is stunning. Despite its mid-engine layout and short length (just under 4m), it manages not to look dumpy from any angle. At the front, it has a slender bonnet with fine contours running into the classic Alfa shield grill. Large air intakes dominate the muscular rear haunches and the tail is tidy and understated. Thankfully our press car sports rich Rosso Competizione paint, otherwise the alternative grey, black or white options would have blended into the drizzle.
Pounding familiar roads, the very unfamiliar 4C offered much to consider. The interior, for example, is quite at odds with the very beautiful coachwork. Bare carbon fibre sills and few luxuries all point to the true purpose of the 4C as a track car. A modest media interface and simple digital driver display complete the distractions. Visually, the 4C would be quite at home in Wilmslow or Monaco. From the driver’s view point, Silverstone and Ascari are perhaps more suited.
The biggest tell-tale sign that the Alfa Romeo 4C is less of a boulevard cruiser and more appropriate to the Alpine pass is its steering. It is possible to feel every layer of paint on the road and any contours have the car tram-lining. The Pennines, not noted for its perfect road surfaces, left the 4C twitching and tugging.
Our photography session soon looked in doubt.
At just 300 metres above sea level, we’d reached the cloud layer and visibility dropped to just a hundred metres-or-so. Pressing on, the 4C started to reveal more of its character. Traction, on the wet, greasy Tarmac proved exceptionally good: the engine mounted above the driven wheels certainly helps in a car weighing less than a tonne.
Persevering through the clouds, we also explored the dual clutch automatic gearbox. It did a fair job in picking the right cogs but – partly for pleasure and partly for setting the car up properly – we chose to override with the paddles and indeed ran in manual mode much of the time.
We might as well have photographed the 4C in a supermarket car park, such was the lack of visibility but eventually, we broke the back of the Pennines and fell out of the clouds. While not sunny (there’s a reason it is called the Dark Peak), it was just clear enough to dig out the cameras and capture the 4C in its glistening beauty.
The pictures? We’ve included just a few here to give the flavour. The Alfa Romeo 4C? Such a head-turner and what a drive. Too raw for the road and too beautiful for the track? What we will confirm is that it requires some more driving and much discussion over many a future pint.Tweet