1979 Alfa Romeo Sprint Veloce
Update, 5/22/13: This car has since had a full body restoration, repaint and front suspension rebuild. As much as I was reluctant to redo the car, the rust was slowly getting worse, and how can I refuse a suggestion like that when it comes from my wife! And she was right, the new paint really brings out the details of the shape, and makes the car look like something special. The lowered front suspension and refinished wheels also help. It still needs a lot done to come back from years of California sun exposure, and service to the a/c system, but at this point I’m quite happy with it.
Since I bought my spider in 1991, and then a new VW Golf GL in 1997 to supplement it, I had pretty much been content with saving my money and driving my two cars. As with most car nuts, I did still scan craigslist and eBay on a regular basis, and one day on the late summer of 2005, this car popped up. It was listed with no asking price, so I read the ad and forgot about the car. However, it returned to craigslist, several times.
Eventually, in September 2005, after returning from a trip to Germany and just before the next trip there for my grandmother’s funeral, the seller posted a new listing saying something like “buy it or it goes to the junk yard”. Smelling a good deal, I called him up and asked a few questions about the car. It sounded pretty decent, so I went up to Pacheco (near Concord) and took it for a short drive around his lot. The interior was reasonably clean, it had recent valve rear brake and rear bearing work, and it ran & drove. There was definitely rust, but not in the places that kill these cars, and the little spoilers in front were even intact. Halfway there, so I asked him about the price… well, he’d originally been asking $1200, had one guy come by before me who offered him $350, but said he’d take $300. I asked if $250 was possible, he agreed, and we had a deal! I went back home, met my sister with her jeep, and we drove up to pick up my new car!
Before its drive home – the picture with the paint wet flatters it, as it’s actually faded & rusty. Registration, the old battery from my spider, a new cat, new fuel filler hose, and a smog test were all it needed for me to get it driveable and legal.
Since then, I’ve done a bunch of work on it, some cheap and some not-so-cheap:
- New fan switch knob. Motor and heater both worked when I put this in!
- New wiper blades.
- Rebuilt driveshaft with new giubos.
- Used SPICA from Alfa Parts Exchange. This failed in an oily mess back in 2007.
- New Sumitomo HTR200 tires.
- Rebuilt rear suspension with GTV6 springs and new transaxle mounts.
- New tailpipe.
- Replaced all flexible brake & clutch lines.
- New waterpump and coolant lines, except the lower one which is NLA.
- New exhaust header. I stupidly cracked the old one while using it as a lever to shift the engine while installing the driveshaft.
- Stainless European-market bumpers. This really lightens up the car, both aesthetically and on the scale.
- Bent back the fender liners and scooped out a cup of dust, dirt, etc. from behind each front wheel.
- New ignition switch.
Now you can see roughly what needs doing when you buy an old car like this. However, I still think I got lucky in that I now have a solid, reliable car that seems to burn less oil than my spider. It’s been on a few tours and two major road trips – one to Palm Springs and one to Vancouver via Seattle. People say these cars are slow, but my feeling is that compared to its contemporaries it’s reasonably quick, and will cruise well above the limit comfortably (on an offroad course to be sure!). The car is still no thing of beauty, but I like having a car I can park anywhere without worries.
Not sure how I feel about the stance. Admittedly, this was with the car packed full, but I think I will lower the front a bit when I rebuild the suspension.