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: https://www.ebay.com/itm/255334064979
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.