Italo Project: 1979 Alfa Romeo Sprint Veloce

What is it about Alfa Romeo?

Their cars make so little sense outside of Rome and Southern California.

And you need a Southern California-sized wallet to take care of them too.

Let's see...first there's the rust issues. Then there is the poor reliability. Engine problems. Electrical gremlins. Then there is the expensive and hard to find parts. By the time you find one without all those potential problems, it's no longer fun or affordable, which was supposed to be the whole point of them (well, at least the fun part).

Yet despite that, they have a devoted following. They have racing history. They are part of the whole Italian car culture that also spawned Ferrari. They look awesome, thanks to Pininfarina (who also styled Ferrari). And they're supposedly fun to drive.

Like many others, I just like them.

The seller states this is a 1979 'Sprint Veloce' (pronounced, if I know my Mediterranean dialect, vel-och-ay). I thought this body was just called 'GT', but a quick consult with wiki informs me it was indeed called Sprint Veloce for 1978-79. At the very least I knew it eventually morphed into the very cool, much better looking GTV6 by 1984, but then the entire model ended. In 1995, Alpha Romeo abandoned the U.S. market altogether.

This being a '79 GT,  it's probably a simple four-cylinder model with a manual transmission.

It's also in terrible shape.

This car has just about every strike against it, especially as far as an Alfa goes. It looks like it's been sitting outside in New England for ages. It has poor paint, lopsided turn signals and missing trim and pieces everywhere. Worse, it has no windshield. There seems to be a blue tarp on the ground that may have covered the windshield. But given New England's tumultuous weather systems, blue tarp is no match for rain, sleet, snow, dust, wind, humidity, you name it. I imagine the interior is a damp, moldy mess.

Despite the physical ailments, the seller states the car is a special edition that ran recently. That's good news, because a crippled engine underneath this cosmetic nightmare is an absolute deal-breaker. The seller mentions the wheels are desirable, so perhaps they sense the car is at the point of just parting out and they are close to giving in.

There is no mention of rust.

I'm split on the worthiness of this one. The seller wants $1,200 or best offer, which is a good start. But given the cost of at least a windshield for a vintage 1979 Alfa and the most rudimentary engine tuneup at a local mechanic who knows what they are doing (if you can find one), you'd be looking at investing at least double or triple what you paid for it, assuming it's in the range of what the buyer wants. On the other hand, it would be a shame to part it out or let it rot into the ground. The car appears to be whole and may not need too much if you don't plan on a full restoration. This is probably a good deal if you can get it for under $1,000. Like, in the range of $500-$800.

Alfa Romeo's legacy in the U.S. is mixed. There will always be the beloved Spyder. But then there is this GT, the value of which has really never recovered, perhaps except for the GTV6. And then there are their sedans, the Milano and the 164, which are much more practical and dare I say better looking, but worth even less.

So unless you're in Rome or California and you find an immaculate one, the rest of us have to sort through the good and bad of these old Alfa cars. As long as they are acquired for cheap, they start to make some sense.

Find it here on Craigslist in Warren, Rhode Island.

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