Tell Us About Your Horrible, No Good, Wonderful Alfa Romeos

Autodromo’s GTV6, a paint job and a set of wheels ago. Photo Credit: Raphael Orlove
Autodromo’s GTV6, a paint job and a set of wheels ago. Photo Credit: Raphael Orlove

I still have a copy of The World Of The Automobile by Ralph Stein by my desk, a prewar red Alfa Romeo 6C 1750 spread across its full cover. So has my Alfa Romeo experience been largely limited over all these years.

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I saw a few Alfas driving around my hometown in Northern California growing up. I had a great ride in my buddy Bradley’s GTV6 a few years back, Busso V6 roaring up the Hudson Valley.

And I finally got myself behind the wheel of two Alfa Romeo 4Cs, courtesy of Alfa Romeo, a couple summers ago, quickly falling for its creaky, clunky turbo-boost-on-a-skateboard vibe.

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But I’ve never had a chance to suffer through the sweet pains of Alfa ownership. I dream of the 6C that may someday be mine.

For now, what are your stories of the Alfas in your life?

Raphael Orlove is features editor for Jalopnik.

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DISCUSSION

mike-mckinnon
Chairman Kaga

Mine’s nothing special. It’s a 1982 GTV6. This is her.

I bought her (definitely a feminine pronoun thing for this car) for $2,000 from a kid in San Marcos who by all indications was in over his head. He’d bought it from a family member after it had sat in a field for nearly 20 years, thinking it could be quickly and cheaply rehabbed into a quirky autocross beast.

He was so wrong. Just.... so wrong.

The good was good and the bad was mostly obvious. It started and ran without any real issues. It even stayed running long enough to get home. There was rust, but none of the structural areas like shock towers that doom Alfas to the parts car category. I figured it would be a relatively low-cost but long-term project that I could eventually sell. Or not.

That was about 10 years ago. Many of the problems that were obvious the day I bought it remain, like the dried out interior materials and the creaking rear suspension. Other problems, more serious, have emerged and been dealt with, like the worn out front suspension and steering components, or the time it sucked a stray 10mm bit-driver into the #1 intake valve, or when one, more than one, or even all of the ignition components stopped conducting electricty after they got hot. Or the rotten brake hoses. Rotten fuel hoses. The plugged fuel tank relief valve. The lights that stopped working, and consequently the gauges - all of which required rewiring along with the addition of relays (the GTV6 didn’t use many relays for things like headlights, opting to route the full electrical load through the switch, which after some years of service would begin to smoke or even catch fire). Or when it would shut off, totally off, when I turned left.

Then there was the time I decided, after watching a few YouTube tutorials, that I could repair the structural rust and repaint the car in my garage. Other GTV6 guys had done so quite successfully (look for the SloppyJoe build on Petrolicious and the AlfaBB for a great example). I ended up spending about $3,000 on that misconception.

I also came to the conclusion two years ago that installing a new A/C system couldn’t possibly be that difficult. No fucking clue how or why that happened. After buying a new rotary compressor, hoses, fittings, condenser, and fittings, I realized it was, in fact, somewhat more difficult than I’d expected, especially when the original evaporator and/or expansion valve leaked. Bigger fish. Some day...

But as of today, the car starts and runs. It idles at about 1,000 RPM and doesn’t miss. It pulls hard, especially for a 35-year old Italian GT car that by most measures of reality should be contained within a bucket in the back of a barn somewhere, all the way to its somewhere something maybe around 6,500 RPM redline. I’ve gotten a double thumbs-up from a guy in an Aventador, and a McLaren driver actually followed me until I stopped because he used to have a GTV6 when he was in his 20s, and he’d offer to buy mine but his wife would slaughter him. He just wanted to say hi.

And I did actually try to sell it. Once. The prospective buyer came by, liked it, wanted to drive it. The keys were missing. He thought I was trying to scam him with a jankyass non-running car. But no. My youngest daughter had actually taken the keys off the counter and put them in her purse, a fact she could not remember until about an hour after the man had left in his new 4C.

With every year that passes, it becomes simultaneously more and less likely I’ll sell the car. It’s a supreme paradox of emotions. I promised myself out of frustration the next major breakdown would be resolved, followed by a sell-off. I also promised myself that I wouldn’t abandon my gearhead passion project. This feeling of love/hate is sort of the defining characteristic of an Alfisti. You can’t imagine yourself without the car. It’s a bit like owning a 1965 Gibson SG doubleneck. It’s useless, it’s infuriating, but God does it make people worship you. But you also can’t tolerate another dollar, another bleeding knuckle, another argument with the wife, another day/week/month trying to figure out why the car. Just. Won’t. Work. But then it does, and you hit that damn reset button again. Maybe it’s Stockholm Syndrome. Milano Syndrome...