Should I Switch to Porsche 356s from Alfas?

Maybe adding a 356 to the mix would have benefits

 

While driving with Miles Collier in the Northwest Passage tour, we had a discussion about 4-cylinder Alfas versus Porsche 356s.

Miles felt that a well-sorted 356C would be every bit as delightful as one of the 105-series Alfas (1967 GTV, Duetto and Super) we were driving.

I’ve driven a few properly-prepared 356Bs and Cs, and I do find them pleasant. They are nimble and hold a line well through the turns, have enough power and brake adequately. I’m not fluent enough in their rear-engined handling to push them the way I can extend a more-predictable Alfa, but I’m sure I could learn. And it’s not as if I’m going SCCA racing with one.

But Miles raised some interesting points. He noted that I’ve been driving Alfas for nearly 50 years, and it’s taken all of the knowledge and contacts I’ve accumulated over that half century to get my little collection of six Alfas selected and put “on the button” for my driving pleasure.

He said it would be no small matter to created a collection of four to six 356s — and get them driving properly. While there are far more 356 specialists than there are Alfa specialists, it’s still a formidable challenge to find the right people to work on your vintage car — where their idea of a “right car” is the same as yours.

Further, he said there would be considerable expense involved. Let’s say the final three Porsches would be a 356B and 356C coupe, and just one 356B cabriolet (to keep costs down). That could easily be a $200,000 proposition. And a 356 Speedster or Convertible D alone would set me back over $300,000, which is real money.

I don’t think selling my Giulia Super for $35,000 is going to get me there.

In the end, I’d have to sell two or more of the Alfas I so diligently looked for — and even more diligently prepared. Then I’d have to find and buy the right 356s, and begin the process of fettling them to get them into the same “ready-to-go” condition as the Alfas.

This could easily be a 5-year process (and an expensive one).

This is my conclusion: The die has been cast with my core collection. For whatever reason, Alfas spoke to me in my teen-age years and they’ve spoken to me ever since.

I know exactly how I want to prepare them, and exactly whom I want to do the work.

Miles suggested I just find someone to loan me a good 356 for a touring event and trade them that experience for borrowing one of my Alfas.

We’ll never be able to drive all the cars we have as much as we want, and Miles believes I’m better off enjoying the small group of cars that absolutely reflect my passions — instead of veering off into a completely new world and starting over.

Perhaps I’m missing something here, and a foray into the world of rear-engine, air-sucking cars would be good for me. Or, perhaps I should recall the old — slightly paraphrased adage — “A car in your garage that you own is better than picking up something unknown on Bring A Trailer and starting over.” What would you do in my situation?

Keith Martin

Keith Martin has been involved with the collector car hobby for more than 30 years. As a writer, publisher, television commentator and enthusiast, he is constantly on the go, meeting collectors and getting involved in their activities throughout the world. He is the founder and publisher of the monthly Sports Car Market and bi-monthly American Car Collector magazines, has written for the New York Times, Automobile, AutoWeek, Road & Track and other publications, is an emcee for numerous concours, and has his own show, “What’s My Car Worth,” shown on Velocity.

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22 comments

  1. Mr. Collier offers stellar advice! As you know, it takes quite some time to learn all the nuances of a particular marque and “changing lanes” at this juncture would be both very expensive (due to market conditions) and time consuming. You really understand Alfa Romeo cars more than most and have a passion for them that would be difficult to abandon.

    It took me more than 40 years to understand 911’s, so taking on another marque to the same degree presents daunting challenges (especially at my age).

    Your Alfa’s are excellent specimens of these extraordinary cars and I’d recommend staying to course. As Miles said, you can always borrow one when you feel the desire. 🙂

  2. Stay the course, for reasons you very well stated. You have a lifetime of contacts and experiences among the Alfisti. Perhaps add some flavor with the addition of a mid ’50’s Alfa 1900?

  3. It’s always interesting to me how different marks go after the same issues from a different perspective; light, small, good handling, sporty cars. It’s enlighting to travel and to own and really get to know different kinds of cars.

  4. Variety is the spice of life. I have taken the opposite track in collecting sportscars from many different countries, with engines in front/mid/rear, driving front/rear wheels, bodies in steel/alloy/fiberglass. It’s always an adventure, but in the end, buy what you will enjoy!

  5. I’ve been a lifelong Citroenthusiast… and have a ‘too full’ stable of DS, 2CV, Traction, and SM. I’ve been working on them since I was 15 and the marque ‘is me’. That said, I’ve also been a ‘car guy’ since that time, having subscribed to the likes of R&T and SCM for many years and, therefore, hold one garage spot to a new marque so I can try lots of other stuff. Currently I have a ’67 911S SWT that I bought earlier this year and I think I’m in love. I plan to follow it with an Alfa (which one? I don’t know and that’s the fun of it all!), then an EType, then perhaps a Lancia, then ??). So I say keep your AR babies but try some other wheels too (just like you do with the 911 Turbo and Lotus!

    Greg

  6. Except for the person who wants to cash in on your lust, all comments recommend staying with the Alfas. I too suggest you keep your Alfas plus the parts inventory I assume you already have. Then the rest of us can stick with our Porsches.

  7. Why do you need a collection of 356s. A good 356SC would be enough to give you alot of pleasure, and a very different driving experience from the Alfas (which I also love). As you know I am a Porsche guy and having had many I have also had many others (including Alfas) appreciate having a collection full of different driving experiences. For example, in addition to my Porsche 356A GT (which you know and have raced against) I have 1983 VW Golf GTI Mk1 and a 1944 Ford Jeep (just did a 340 km trip moving it from France to Germany. My wife has a 97 Fiat Barchetta. All great fun to drive in their own very different and unique way. Have fun!
    Best, Dennis

  8. I think that needs to drive an Alfa Romeo to understand why is possible to love so much this brand and why is so easy to take the “virus Alfa”. I can understand very well the Keith Alfa passion , is a special way to go, specially 105 series , and so cheap for the fun that the car gives. I have also about all the models of the 105 , Giulia Super “biscione”, Giulia Sprint Gta 1967,Giulia Ti Super 1964 , 1750 Gt Veloce 1968 and Spider 2000 1980 and each car is really a big emotion each time I drive one, whenever I find myself with a smile in the mouth.

  9. As a Bimmer pilot who started with a 1969 1602 and as a 21 year owner of a 1993 M5, I say stay with and keep the Alfas.

  10. I’d keep the Alfas. Porsches have gotten stupid expensive. I have an invaluable eclectic collection that happens to include a 30 year old Alfa….nothing like your Guilia, which I’ve seen you drive into Harold’s, and a later model Porsche that I purchased new. I have an affinity for my 5 cars that rewards me through driving, maintaining, looking at, and being satisfied with them. If I live long enough, Alfa’s may begin rising to match their German counterparts. I am not holding my breath, however.

  11. Keith, it is not because you like steak that you shouldn’t try fish… But, if I had shared the drive with you, I would have talked you into acquiring a Lotus – or two! The Elite and the Elan are both exceptional providers of joy at the wheel. And affordable. Am I helping? 🙂

  12. Hi Keith
    Stick with your Alfas. 356’s are all too close to beetles and really not THAT much fun to drive.
    Cheers Beat frm Switzerland

  13. Every marque needs the consummate enthusiast who keeps the love alive for the rest of the world. That zest helps to inspire others to see those cars in the same light that you do and helps future enthusiasts find their footing or first marque to fall for. We all have that one! Or two…

    Looks like Alfa claimed you a long time ago! Don’t switch, just borrow – Mr. Collier is correct. Ciao!

  14. Keith,
    I have two 750 Giulietta’s (F & B) and a couple of Jaguars, a Vignale Spyder and a Corvair but I’m German. My first concept for an ideal collection was an MG-TC plus a T-5 356. During college and early married life my 1968 VW convertible got faster as it got older. Three times I tried to buy a 356, a convertible D last time. Each time my wife would say it’s too much money and it sounds just like our old VW which sported an Abarth exhaust until it died from rust. I’ve been a member of AROC for 25 years but I also look forward to running with the friendly local 356 club and trading rides occasionally. Clubs could try to become less bigoted by organizing joint events and more ride sharing on tours should be promoted. Then you (we) wouldn’t be in your present quandary.

  15. Keith – interesting musings. I find myself intermittently falling in love with other people’s cars all the time and am constantly hatching plots to swap them for my own.

    Partly I subscribe to the same thinking as Rich below – better to have a selection of different cars rather than many of the same. I find the pragmatism and simplicity of English cars is a nice antidote to the Italians’ flamboyant over-optimism – so yes, a Lotus, a TR2/3 or an A-H 100 would be worth considering.

    356s are nice too… but if you’re an Alfa man I think you might find a beetle or a Karmann Ghia has rather more conceptual purity, not to mention more interesting and thoughtful styling.

    Though we’re overlooking the obvious I think: an early Alfasud is effectively a backwards 356, and about 1/10th the price!

  16. Stick with the Alfas. Porsches are so common these days. One day the herd will move on. IMHO the only really attractive 356 is the 356C T6 and the 356A may be iconic but it is still butt ugly(talk about heresy! And I even owned one-complete with a dripping glass fuel filter in the cab and wooden floorboards). Perhaps the Italians didn’t have the engineering but they sure had the design skills.

  17. I worked on Posche’s before they had dist brakes. At our shop in Southwestern Ohio we also worked on Alfa’s.that were new. Both cars were light and nimble the Alfa ran better than the 356 Normal and cornered better. The Porsche was smoother in suspension and ride. As far as I am concerned then and still am. the Alfa was a high priced English car. No creature comforts below 55 degrees a top that leaked and raucous engine noises. It is now 54 years later. I have two cars a 1957 and a 1961 plus a few 911 Carrera’s there is no comparison with any other car that I have driven that is as much fun and pleasure to drive as a drum brake normal engine 356. Unfortunately there are a lot of people “restoring” these cars that should summarly executed. Will the crazyness with these cars continue CERTAINLY I was lucky to have found two cars that I kept out of the numerous ones I owned. I also owned 550-047

  18. Dear Alfisti
    My opinion is you better stick to your Alfas! They are not only much more car for your $, they are technically much further. Yes I agree, they are a little more challenging to maintain, but you can not compare a tunes Volkswagen with racing technology.
    Have fun with them as I do with my 1939 6C 2500 SS, my 1957 Giulietta and even my 2008 159 Sport-wagon. yours Alexander

  19. Hello Keith, in my youth (1970s) I bought a 1967 Giulia Super. Not my first Alfa nor my last, but I had a lot of fun “restoring” and warming up a driver I enjoyed for over 100k miles…lol.I went everywhere. School, work, and just driving. My friend Tim also had a similar 67 Super and we had a lot of fun hunting down 356 Porshe SCs. Great vehicles but we were of the Alfa camp. There was not one 356SC that was a match for the two of us. Just a thought, the Porsche is beautiful, however my heart belongs with Giulia…

  20. “Once we start reassembling the car, it starts looking like a piece of jewelry,” Emory says. He’s currently finishing the bespoke plaid interior lining inside Linfesty’s coupe. “Every part you put on brings a little bit more life to it.” Not everyone appreciates the allure. Porsche purists have turned up their noses at the idea that not every component of these

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