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.

Bavarian Beauty: 9k-mi 1991 BMW 325iC

*UPDATE: the listing was mysteriously pulled from ebay*

One of my favorite car blogs and an obvious inspiration for this blog is Just a Car Geek (click here to check it out).

There's sort of a running joke on JaCG about low mileage cars that are otherwise extremely boring. Some of these include an 9Kmi Subaru Loyale, an 8Kmi VW Rabbit, and 1982 Oldsmobile Omega with just 158 miles!

This, however, is both a low mileage car and a very cool car.

It's a 1991 BMW 325iC in beautiful Laguna Green (or, as the seller calls it in original German, lagunengrun) with supposedly only 9,370 original miles on the odometer. That's pretty remarkable.

This will no doubt drive BMW enthusiats crazy.

In fact it should drive just about every car enthusiast crazy.

The 1991 E30 3-Series was and still remains the best 3-Series ever, in my opinion. It was before they designed the cars with the American market in mind (as they did with the bulkier E36), but after they refined it to near-perfection. '89-'90 also debuted new small plastic body colored bumpers for all markets that mercifully replaced the hideous "diving board" U.S.-spec bumpers. The car finally looked the way the designers intended. The E30 were compact sized, subtly styled, comfortable, fuel efficient and sporty all at once.

This is the the top-of-the-line 325iC, which features a 3.2-litre inline 6-cylinder engine and a power-operated convertible top. It also has grey leather interior, a refreshing change from the usual sand color.

Unfortunately it's not a manual gearbox, which prevents everybody from going bananas. With a stately automatic it's more of a relaxing boulevard cruiser that happens to handle extremely well. It's still great. Summer is coming up and this is a great summer car. How I wish I could just spend warm nights cruising around in one of these.

The seller does not provide a reason for the unusually low miles. He does not seem to be the original owner as well. There is also a picture showing some damage around the keyhole, which is odd for such an immaculate car. Fortunately the seller discloses this as likely being the result of an attempted theft. He also attributes the Autocheck showing the vehicle as having a salvage title to that reason as well. This could all be cleared up with a private message or phone discussion with the seller. The damage around the keyhole is unsightly, but I bet a couple hundred dollars and a reputable body shop could make it much better looking without having to repaint the whole door. A little bit of paint-less dent removal with some waxing perhaps?

Despite all that it's still a pristine and desirable car in a desirable color combination. E30 convertibles are easier to find than the sedans and coupes because like most convertibles they are kept well and only driven in good weather. But to find one with mileage this low is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.

The only lingering questions are value and what to do with it. The seller gives an indication of what he wants with the $18K buy it now. $18K is a lot, but actually pretty reasonable when you think about it. The mileage is an obvious reason, but also because BMW convertibles will always retain a certain value. On the practical side, I can't even name any new convertibles under $20K with 6-cylinder engine that would be this solid, well-built, and attractive. Definitely none German-made. That said, if the seller is open to negotiations the buyer has a lot of arguments on their side (the theft, and the fact that the NADA high retail is only $6,925).

As far as ownership goes? I'd side with keeping it for events and weekend only.

Find it here on ebay with active bidding under the reserve, and an $18,000 buy it now price.

Daimler in Distress: 1975 Mercedes 0309 Diesel Bus

When you think of Mercedes-Benz, chances are you wouldn't think of a vehicle like this one.

A lot of people misunderstand Mercedes-Benz. Correction, a lot of Americans misunderstand Mercedes-Benz.

But that's not all our fault.

When European cars started to gain traction in the American marketplace in the post-war '50s, it was in large part due to the superior products that German auto manufacturers like Mercedes-Benz offered. Perhaps as part of offsetting the cost of exportation and regulation, some of the first products Mercedes offered in the U.S. were also their very best. At the urging of New York Mercedes distributor Max Hoffman, Mercedes made a street-legal version of the legendary 300SL Gullwing with the U.S. market specifically in mind. Of the 1,400 units ever made, 80% were sold in the U.S. to people like movie star Clark Gable.

The Gullwing was a unique and special car. Mercedes would then go on to offer a remarkable series of much more practical, everyday automobiles for the next 50 years that permanently cemented their reputation as masters of craftsmanship and build quality. As their advertisements proudly boasted in the 1980s, Mercedes were "engineered like no other car in the world". For Americans, whose domestic cars were considerably less sophisticated, Mercedes truly were like nothing else.

But the reputation also had a downside. Since their cars were marked up in price, there came the stigma of snobbery and elitism. Mercedes eventually became more synonymous with "luxury" and "status" than "quality" and "durability", though even the very quality and durability that made wealthy people like Mercedes in the first place would eventually slip at the beginning of the 21st century.

But what did Mercedes mean to its home country of Deutschland? For Germans, Mercedes was no doubt a source of patriotic pride in the same way that Fords are to Americans. And since it was a domestic car for Germans, the role of Mercedes-Benz in Germany is much more populist and utilitarian.

Therefore, to Germans, Mercedes had nothing to do with personal wealth, power, and status and more about their country's wealth, power and status. And what a success story it is. Germans rose from the ashes of WWII to become a peaceful nation engaged in commercial trade. To the German individual, a Mercedes was just a supremely solid and well-made product made.

Which brings me to this glorious '75 Benz Bus.

Given the upper-crust reputation of Mercedes in America, it might come as a surprise in 2012 to find this large, dusty, dinged up Mercedes diesel bus in two-tone medical green and white, about the size of a Boston T. But here it is, solid proof of the company's track record in the late 20th century of making not just great cars but also vans and buses.

This is a 1975 309D. The owner states they are selling to because they have too many other projects. The owner says it was sold in the Unites States for a limited time in the '70s. They also say not many are left, which is probably also true. If you saw this in a junkyard, beyond the large three-pointed star on the front, you wouldn't think twice about it.

But that's the thing. A lot of mid-size to large vans and buses actually are junk. But since this is a Mercedes from the 1970s, you know the build quality is excellent, construction solid, design practical and easy to use, and the diesel engine bulletproof for many, many miles. The engine is a OM616 4-cylinder 3.8L motor. The odometer shows 267,309 miles.

What isn't clear is what this bus was originally used for. If it wasn't a grey market car and was intentionally imported by the manufacturer, perhaps they envisioned it as part of a fleet of buses for a taxi company or hotel?

I would characterize the condition as rough. Cosmetically, it will need a lot of work. The paint looks faded. The interior is a mess. Dirt and grime are just the beginning. The driver's seat is torn, and it seems that all the passenger seats have been removed. Wires look exposed and pieces missing.

The seller makes no mention of rust, but that would be another thing to look out for.

Mechanically, the seller states it was last on the streets in 2006, but has been started periodically since then. Their grammar is poor, but they seem to say it only needs the batteries charged and tires inflated to go. They also seem to say it may have a brake leak in the rear.

Although this 309D is a rare and interesting vehicle, it's admittedly harder to justify as a personal acquisition. If you intend to use it and enjoy it at all, it would need a lot of attention. This bus would make most sense for a small business that wanted a unique vehicle to shuttle passengers and could give this a modern freshening, or for a total restoration to original specs by a museum.

I have no idea what it would cost to fully restore it. It would certainly be less than a Porsche, but still requiring uncommon foreign parts. Finding the right-looking seats doesn't mean they have to be OEM, however, which could cut costs.

Find it here on ebay with a buy-it-now price of $4,500 and bidding still under the reserve. At the bottom of the page it looks like the previous owner who sold the vehicle in 1997 contacted the current seller to see if it was the same vehicle. The seller seemed to think it was. Both seemed to have fond memories of the vehicle.

Cool Box: 1990 Volvo 740 Turbo

Volvos come across my radar every now and then.

Now is one of those times. And man is it a good example this time.

I always thought Volvos were cars people secretly hated but drove because they felt safe. Why else would anyone subject their garages to such 'bland, boxy' styling?

In the white suburban neighborhood of my childhood and adolescence, Volvos were ubiquitous, but they were just as often driven by teenagers as adults. This didn't help the impression of Volvos in my mind. The Volvos owned and driven by the teenagers I knew were dinged up 850 station wagons or the ultra-utilitarian 240 sedans.

I didn't fully appreciate Volvos until the internet age. Then I was able to read rave reviews, fully digest the vast cult following, and see how their values held pretty reasonably, especially for the now-legendary 240.

Turns out that they were actually pretty decent cars. Those teenagers were pretty damn lucky (in many ways beyond what they drove, too)!

Like a lot of European cars from the late 80s to mid 90s, Volvos were extremely durable, well-built, ergonomic and reasonably fuel-efficient. And yes, safe.

But what a lot of other Europeans cars had that Volvo lacked was some semblance of a sportiness.

One of the first cars to change perceptions about Volvo was undoubtedly the 740 Turbo.

The 740 was introduced in 1982 as a whole new range of vehicles for Volvo and lasted until 1993 when it was replaced by the much-lauded 850.

In 1990 the vehicle was given a facelift, replacing the ugly U.S.-spec quad square lamps with larger and more uplifting single-unit pieces and smoother once-piece bumpers.

Also new for '90 was the Turbo, which featured a 2.3-litre intercooled turbocharged inline four-cylinder engine that produced 165 horsepower. Styling wise, swept-star alloys and a stealthy blackened front grille signify the Turbo model. On the rear trunk lid, the badges, in typical 1980s manner, are wonderfully informative, denoting "Volvo" then "740 Turbo" and then beneath that "Intercooler". Why thank you! Fortunately, all badges to wear proudly.

And while the styling may have been once considered stodgy and dull, today it feels delightfully minimalist, conservative and handsome. The angles are crisp and clean. Lines end where you expect them too. The shape just makes perfect sense. Given Volvo's post-millennial shift towards completely uncharacteristic shoulder curves and wild taillights,  their memorable, now "classic" look from the 80s to the mid 90s is aging just beautifully in the minds of many, yours truly included.

I found this 1990 Volvo 740 Turbo offered by a dealer in New York. I've seen a few of their listings on ebay for other vehicles before. They always seem to have unusually good looking and relatively low mileage European cars from the 80s and 90s, complete with decent descriptions and a ton of high resolution photos, a big plus for me when viewing cars online.

With only 88,441 miles on the odometer, this 740 was either driven sparingly over the past two decades or was driven frequently at first, then stored for a long time. The seller mentions the vehicle only had one owner, another plus, so either scenario is plausible.

Whatever the reason for the low miles, assuming they are accurate, the vehicle qualifies as a survivor. The body looks straight. The seller claims there is no rust. The car was obviously washed and detailed prior to photographing so the tires look slick, the alloys crisp and the black plastic dark and clean, again another plus.

The all-black plastic and leather interior is just as good.

Volvo interiors are just as all-business as the exterior. Sharp angles. Function over form. Clean, uncluttered, easy to use. It's been said that you can find everything even if you are blindfolded. The interior of this particular 740 is clean, with no apparent rips, tears or stains on the broad seats.

On a whim I actually googled the VIN and found a vehicle with the same VIN for sale as salvage. I guess that means it was either an insurance loss or donation at some point prior to its current offering. The odometer was reading 88,435 then.

The dealer probably bought it for dirt cheap and now intends to flip it for maximum profit. That's all fine and well, but I'd make sure to question them thoroughly on the full history and what repairs they did, if any.

How many can be left? And in this good shape? For under $5K you get a solid, low-mileage turbo Swedish sedan. That's so much more car for so relatively little money than most new cars today.

Find it here on ebay with only a buy-it-now price of $4,500.