With a recent flurry of articles on this fine site espousing the virtues of Alfa Romeo Spiders, it’s worth showing what happens when the dream doesn’t turn out so well for the owner. Sure, these are fairly solid cars if you assume an attentive owner who will keep on top of preventive maintenance and track & address suspicious noises as needed, but for many, these cars are their first toe in the water of Italian sports cars. And perhaps, as in the case of our feature car, it might also be their last. Check out this 1988 Alfa Romeo Spider Graduate for sale for $750 in Oakland, CA.
On the face of things, this car presents quite well – glossy paint, complete trim, decent body, intact top – what’s not to like? For some reason, the car is listed as having an automatic transmission, but the pictures disprove that, never mind the fact an automatic was not available until 1991. Reading further, the car is for sale by an auto salvage yard, who concedes registration fees owed back to April 2014, but offers to salvage the car to clear those out. Of course, then you have a salvage title car with all that implies and what it does to the value.
The car is also said to have a transmission problem, but it’s not clear what the nature of the problem is. Nonetheless, a rebuilt-from-used-parts transmission from everyone’s favorite Alfa dismantler shouldn’t run you more than $1000, bringing your total outlay to only $1750! Things look good, if slightly scuffed from the rear, but from this angle it also seems like a thorough cleaning will do wonders. It’s possible the fit of the top isn’t 100%, or perhaps it’s just not latched closed.
Strangely, there are also a couple of odd strings of text in the bottom of the listing, so while details like a VIN and a phone number give the listing legitimacy, do your research online and try to confirm the seller is a real business. This shot seems to show the car wearing a wheel from a Fox-platform Mustang 4-cylinder – the bolt circle matches, so it makes sense as a temporary unit, but the factory 5-star wheels are readily available.
At first glance, the interior is pretty decent and seems to only require a good cleaning, but you’ll soon see some missing controls from the dashboard and torn upholstery on the seat backs, though oddly no tears on the squabs. Vinyl seats and manual window winders are hallmarks of a base specification Graduate. The angle of the shift lever, even if it’s down in 2nd gear, is a little off too – perhaps this is part of the problem that laid the car low.
The engine compartment looks pretty decent with its yards and yards of hose, right down to the often-lost fan shroud. Checking under the radiator cap for milkshake goo and taking compression readings should give you a good basic idea of the car’s mechanical condition if it can’t be driven. Assuming this is a legitimate listing, it’s hard to see how you can go wrong trying to revive this one and passing it along to someone for an entry into the Italian sports car experience.