Heavy Metal Affliction - 2017 Alfa Romeo Giulia Ti Sport Q4
There’s something special about those who love Alfa Romeos. They don’t just love their cars; they know every detail about them. Granted they have to, since reliability has never been Alfa’s strong point, but there is something about these cars that makes their owners some of the most passionate car people I have met.
It’s not just the cars either, it is their history, which includes winning the first world championship Grand Prix race ever held, which led to a legendary status in motorsport. Enzo Ferrari founded his racing team as an Alfa Romeo entity, and it’s not a big leap to say those cars influenced the very nature of the Ferrari brand.
From the earliest Alfas that won races such as the Targa Florio or the Mille Miglia, to the latest Giulia Quadrifoglio Verde model that just came out in the Samsung QLED Car Pack for Forza Motorsport 7, Alfa Romeo has always delivered unique designs that are fun to drive.
Forza Motorsport community photo contest entry from GAMBLERCAKE01
I met Fred Russell - Gamertag MO79396 – an admitted lifelong Alfista, during the first few days he worked at Turn 10. After a career in the printing business, Russell heard about an entry-level role as car researcher and applied for it. It turned out he was hired for a slightly more technical role that soon evolved into sourcing cars for Turn 10. That role led him around the world to some of the most exquisite car museums, collections, and events in existence.
One of my favorite stories from Russell was when he was invited to lunch with none other than Sir Stirling Moss. Moss’s wife said to her husband, “You sit down here and talk to [Russell]!” These are the opportunities a man like Russell finds himself in, and his lifetime of loving cars and his attention to details made him a champion conversationalist for even the likes of Moss.
As someone who sourced cars for Forza games, Russell pretty much had the dream job for a car guy: travel the world in search of the most unique production and racing cars ever created. With his networking skills, Russel built an ever growing pathway to practically any car in the world. He earned his bonafides when he took on the challenge to find a car Turn 10 had been hunting for but could not find, the renowned Alfa Romeo 33 Stradale, and not the one from the Alfa museum. Four days later Russell had not only found one, but gotten permission from the owner to use it in Forza.
Five years later, Russell had sourced innumerable cars and banked over a million of airline miles. When an interesting job offer came along, he had to consider it. What could be a better than what he was already doing? As it turns out, a long time car-collecting friend needed a new curator. He took the role, and while I can’t mention the owner’s name, the collection is one of the most valuable in the world, and contains three of the most notable Alfa Romeos on the planet among similarly impactful Ferraris, Mercedes, and other significant marques.
As curator, “I have the tough job of sharing the stories with guests, driving the cars around, and showing them at events,” Russell said. If you have followed the Heavy Metal Affliction Instagram, some of the rarest cars shown there were made available by Russell in visits to Turn 10 or the occasional surprise visit to my home. The owner likes to drive his cars, and it’s Russell’s job to make sure they are ready to be driven.
You could say Russell has been living his life in preparation for the job of his dreams. “Not bad for a college dropout who spent too much time playing cars,” Russell said. Going back to Russell’s youth, he sold his 1971 Honda N600, took out a loan, and bought a red 1976 Alfa Romeo Alfetta GT that was built to the specs he had written on his wish list. The previous owner bought it to impress his girlfriend. “His plans must have worked,” Russell said, as the owner had to sell the car to marry his now pregnant girlfriend.
To own the two-year old Italian sports car, Russell quit college, lived with his mother, and ate sack lunches while working full-time. The upside of that was the adventures he had in the car, including a road trip to Ketchikan, Alaska, where he and a friend were only passed once, by a silver Chevy shortbox pick-up --the only truck to make Russell’s lifelong vehicle wish list.
There were speeding tickets, some he talked his way out of, others he didn’t. When he later sold the Alfetta GT, he instantly regretted it. He has owned 14 other Alfas over the years and currently owns three 164s, a 1979 Alfetta Sport Sedan, and his most recent purchase, a 2017 Giulia Ti Sport Q4. While travelling abroad, Russell drove one of the first four new Giulias built, then he drove one of the first models to come to the states. “I drank the Giulia flavored Kool-Aid early on and was hooked,” he said.
While the Quadrifolglio Verde model wasn’t an option financially, the Ti Sport Q4 was. Russell was on a social call to the local Alfa dealer; as President of the Northwest Alfa Romeo club such tasks are customary. When the salesman showed Russell a model with all his need boxes ticked, he ended up driving it home.
“It doesn’t matter if I’m stuck in traffic or being chased by a madman in a Fiesta ST on twisty back roads… it is fun and makes me smile,” he said. Since I was that “madman” in the ST, I can attest to not only Russell’s driving acumen, but the handling and speed of the Giulia. Over the course of 1,000 miles over a weekend on Washington and Oregon’s best roads, he provided a gorgeous and elusive target to chase.
My passion has always been old Volkswagens. So I get it. A car doesn’t have to be dependable to make you love it. It’s how a car makes you feel. Getting to know Russell and his fellow Alfa-afflicted friends has also taught me that it’s okay to let cars guide your path. You never know where it might lead you, but you can be guaranteed it will be a good ride.