It’s the 1980s.
There’s no internet so teenage petrolheads in Australia all read Wheels magazine to get their automotive kicks. There are all manner of car stories, interesting or otherwise, but as interesting as the stories might be, they are matched or sometimes outdone by the advertisements slotted in between them.
There were few ads more exotic than those for Alpine car audio. The reason is easy to see:
Anything featuring a red Lamborghini was instant automotive porn for a teenage revhead. It wasn’t just the teenagers that were captured by this, though. Alpine built a legacy that lasts to this day by virtue of their partnership with Lamborghini.
Saab also had audio provided by Alpine in the 1980’s. The same little clear/green buttons that looked so fantastic in Ferrucio’s finest were also available in the Saab 900 (in Australia – SW). The inclusion of Alpine audio was a wonderful bonus for Saab fans but once it became known amongst a certain group of undesirables in society, it also became a problem.
Steve Emanuel was working for a Saab dealership at the time. He now runs Saab Salvage, a recycled parts business in Sydney and I caught up with him last week when I picked up our 9000 Aero. I was eyeing off some Alpine units in his office when he told me about the problems they had with these stereos at the time.
The Alpine was a very desirable unit thanks to its great performance, sleek looks and, of course, its tie-in with Lamborghini. Saab cars both on the street and in dealerships became a target because of this. Alpine stereos became targets and seeing as there were a lot more 900s than there were Countaches on the road, you can guess which model became the focal point for break-in and theft.
The worst single instance was one guy caught with 6 stereos he’d pinched from dealer cars that he broke into. But there were many, many individual thefts. Replacing stolen radios and damaged dashboards was Steve’s most commonly completed task for a certain period of time in the 80’s.
Alpine audio made Saabs a target and Steve mentioned that at one point during those years, Saabs were considered the biggest automotive insurance risk in Australia.
The unintended consequences of an excellent advertising campaign.