I know what the most nervous thing on the road is. It's me, moments after slipping away from the dealership in my brand new and pristine Alpine A110, into the busy rush hour traffic of an unfamiliar city. You should have seen the gaps I was leaving to cars in front. I gave kerb stones such a wide berth white van drivers were diving up the inside. But after waiting most of this year for it, and precisely one month after seeing it on the production line at the factory in Dieppe, I am finally in possession of my new car.
I arrived at Alpine Manchester - by no means my nearest Alpine dealership but by all accounts the best - to be met by the unfailingly helpful Ian and my A110, which was resting quietly underneath a skinny-fit black dust cover. I'm entirely new to this new car buying thing and had no idea what to expect of the day. Before we pulled the cover off I signed some paperwork, showed a couple of forms of ID, poked around a display car with the dealership's Alpine technician for 10 minutes and grew ever more twitchy. I just wanted to see my car.
The truth is, I wasn't entirely convinced by the spec I'd chosen. I wasn't sure if the Thunder Grey paint was going to be brooding enough to bring out to the A110's meaner side, or if it would look ultra metallic and a bit, I don't know...luxe. And I wondered if I'd cocked up in not speccing the blue brake callipers. But the instant the cover was peeled back, I was made up. I know others will think it bland but for me it's just so, and I reckon the grey paint is just the right shade and texture. I don't think the blue callipers would have worked with the grey bodywork, while the 18-inch Fuchs wheels look spot on.
What a relief. I had a gander around the cabin and asked for the Sabelt seats to be dropped to their lowest position. Half an hour later I was ready to head back to Bristol, happy as anything, but not at all prepared for that strange brand of anxiety known only to first-time new car buyers. It was horrible. In some ways I am a meticulous person - have you seen my kitchen worktop? - but with my cars, owned personally or on loan, I tend to take the view that they're made to be driven and as a result of that, they will not remain immaculate for long.
But it almost felt like a shame to drag this virginal, unmarked thing out of the equally pristine showroom and place it on the highway where stones and road filth and careless drivers swarm in all directions. The car's bodywork will never look as clean as it did that moment, nor will the interior carpets ever be so free of dust and muck. I hate myself for being bothered by that, but there we are. I'll get over it.
I'm going to have paint protection applied very soon so I can relax into ownership a little, rather than stressing every moment about little stone chips and scrapes. Then I'll just get on with it. As I type, I've only driven the car directly from Manchester to Bristol. It still feels too new to sit in. The official Alpine line on running in says 1,800 miles below 3,500rpm, which seems a lot. My annual mileage limit is 8,000 (more than enough given most of my time is spent in press cars) and if I followed that in a linear way, the car wouldn't be run in until January.
Sod that. I'm told 1,000 miles will be more than sufficient, so the plan is to tick off that distance as swiftly as possible, letting the brakes and tyres settle in first, then building up gradually towards the upper reaches of the rev range. The odometer was showing only 25 miles when I collected the car, but that journey home made a decent dent in the 1,000 mile target. I'll knock off another 300 or so over the weekend. The car feels like it needs a little time to loosen up. It's tense, like a knotty shoulder in need of a massage - the engine is tight and the gearbox a little jerky when coming to a halt. I'll see how those things develop over the coming miles.
So I've got the car but I'm still waiting. Waiting for those 1,000 miles to roll around so I can finally drive the thing the way it wants to be driven. And waiting to stop feeling nervous, so I can begin to enjoy owning this thing as much as I know I will.
Car: Alpine A110
Run by: Dan
On fleet since: Oct 2019
List price new: £50,000
Last month at a glance: The long wait is over. Let the running in begin