Sometimes the right car, at the right price and the right time, comes along. So you just buy it.

That’s the case with the 1991 Alfa Romeo Spider S4 that is now on the way from Palm Springs, CA, to Portland.

A friend (“friend?” – more like enabler) forwarded me this eBay auction:

The car looked fantastic, and it had a CARFAX-supported 21,000 original miles.

I spoke with the seller and got good vibes. My good friend and Alfa fanatic Doug Zaitz was staying in Palm Springs, so he examined and drove the car. He was enthusiastic.

The seller was a retired dealer and had bought the car sight-unseen from a Mannheim Auction back east. He said the Mannheim condition evaluation “was all fives, something I’ve never seen before.”

My assumption was the car had simply fallen through the cracks. After all, what typical Mannheim dealer is looking for a 31-year-old Alfa convertible with an automatic?

I talked price with the seller. It turns out he was a long-time SCM member and was pleased for me to buy the car. He mentioned that his friends told him it would bring $30,000 on Bring a Trailer (doubtful in my mind) and he had set his eBay reserve at just under $20,000.

A little dickering and I was an owner. Funds were wired from the SCM 401kar account and the seller dropped the car off in Palm Springs with SCMer Brad Miller. Reliable Carriers picked it up and it should be in Portland this week.

It will go first to Matt Crandall at the Avant-Garde Collection for the out-of-state registration paperwork, then to Alfa guru Nasko for a look-over.

While I wait to drive the car to assess how it handles, so far, I’ve been told that chipping the engine really doesn’t do much. Others have said that a chassis stiffener might be worth considering, but Nasko is not a fan of them. Then there is the Alfaholics fast road suspension kit with shocks, springs and sway bar.

If you have any experience with any of these mods, or any suggestions, please pass them along.

It’s odd to think of a 31-year-old car seeming “modern,” but with its airbag and Motronic fuel injection, it certainly seems advanced compared to our Citroën.

Unloved by enthusiasts because of its automatic, this is the perfect way for me to have top-down seat time in an Alfa. Further, this might be a good first car for Bradley and I to tour in together. It’s not as intimidating as our V12 Jag or the Mercedes SL55.

Bradley gets his learner’s permit in May. Some of you have expressed your opinions that his first car should be a stick.

First of all, he learned to drive a stick on his Bug Eye two years ago. But more important, an article in the New York Times pointed out that statistically, it is safer to have a kid learn the mechanics of driving before introducing the elements of a third pedal and a shifter.

He will spend his first time on the road in our 2022 Hyundai Elantra, and then move to the Alfa. After he is comfortable being in traffic and on highways, there will be plenty of time for him to become friends with the Duetto, Spider Veloce, Junior Zagato and Lotus Elise.

So another adventure begins. I wasn’t expecting an automatic S4 Spider to be headed to our garage, but it was a superb example, at the right price and the right location.

I’m looking forward to my first drive in the next week or so.



  1. Congratulations!

  2. Would not worry too much about a handling kit at first – not so effective on the Spiders compared to the GTVs and Saloons. Drive it first and enjoy it and maybe try a Classic Alfa handling kit. Less ego involved than Alfaholics stuff…

    • I agree with Andrew. With this car’s low mileage and evidently good maintenance, the stock suspension is probably in good shape. Drive it as-is for a time before deciding that the car – or the ways you use this car – calls for greater handling potential.

  3. Looks nice!

  4. Vincent McLaughlin

    Happy for you
    60 days to top down weather

  5. Hey Keith, Bradley and driving ?? Have you considered the Jim Russel Highway Survival ( if they still do this ) one day workshop. Put all three of my kids in ( at Sonoma Raceway ) at the time and even did it myself once with them. Very worthwhile, lots of seat time, reduced my ( their ) premiums and bunch and actually gave me a bit more piece of mind. Have fun in the new Alfa, never stop driving. Cheers

  6. Congratulations Keith!
    Getting a modernish Alpha with a droptop and an automatic, and at a great price I think Christmas came in January for you!!
    I wanted to say that I think it’s wonderful that you always consider your young son Bradley. He’s lucky to have a great dad like you enjoy the new Alpha with your family.
    All the best Brad from Vancouver,BC

  7. anatoly arutunoff

    paid $20k for a similar car 11 years ago…it’d been a club concours winner. sold it for $6,800 a few months back; paint cracking from oklahoma summers. tach and speedo went wonky but otherwise was in fine shape. odometer worked perfectly

  8. Attaboy Keith, beautiful spider! Love the consideration you display for your son. Perhaps a manual and a third pedal could be added but maybe it would be sacrilege to alter such an original car? Not sure what your professional opinion would be on that. Loved “What’s my Car Worth”. Nothing like a drop top on a warm summer’s eve when the sun is off the occupants and the burble of the exhaust is displayed in it’s full auditory glory. Congrats from the Great White North.

  9. Congratulations and enjoy. Keep in mind it is only original once and you have plenty of tricked up Alfas in your garage. I like the Mini-Lite styled wheels or it shouldn’t be too difficult to find a set of phone dial wheels.

    As Popeye the sailorman would say (sort of), “it is what it is!”