Words & photos - Daniel Bevis
In embryo, this was a marvellous idea. But marvellous ideas don't always pan out as they should, do they?
You can imagine the board meeting where some creative type first mooted the idea: 'Hey, why don't we create a collaborative effort between Nissan and Alfa Romeo, fusing the key elements of both to make something unbeatable?' Much backslapping presumably ensued, at which point everyone went off for a long celebratory lunch and left the details to the work experience kid who hadn't fully grasped the idea. Yes, a beautiful Alfa Romeo body with a trusty Nissan engine could have been a world-beater... but switch the formula, and what do you end up with? Er, this... the Nissan Cherry Europe. (Or, if you fancy some more exotic badging, it was also available as the Alfa Romeo Arna.)
Nissan and Alfa Romeo wanted this car to take on the Golf in the flourishing hatchback sector, but the combination of uninspiring, designed-with-a-set-square looks and Italian guts that were, let's face it, not entirely trustworthy, resulted in something of a flop.
Nevertheless, I've always been one to champion the underdog, and I think this Cherry Europe GTI is a bit of alright. What do you reckon? Racy green seats, an engine that (if nothing else) looks rather pretty and, above all, a level of pristine-ness that suggests an owner who appreciates the model's position as an important chapter of motoring history. If only to serve as a lesson...
The car won top honours at the recent Concours de l'Ordinaire - you can read my report on it here. (And there are more photos here.)