The nimble little sportster of The Graduate fame is now a mature, if slightly portly, cruiser with a tidy little tuck to its nose and tail. Sort of like what Mrs. Robinson most likely had.


As described by the seller: One registered owner, West Coast car, totally as new condition in every way. Virtually like the day it left Italy. Only 22,500 careful miles, no accidents, never smoked in. Attractive yellow exterior draped inside with luxury features including original black suede leather seats and door panels. Uniquely factory equipped for a European 2.0-liter roadster with power steering, air conditioning, power windows, locks and mirrors, AM/FM stereo with cassette, factory Campagnolo alloy wheels, correct Pirelli P-Zero tires, plus speed control. LoJack keyless entry alarm with interior movement sensor, color Alfa logo mats for shows, plus an extra daily set of mats and a fitted car cover. Original high-quality cloth top and window, and like the entire car, beautifully preserved. A very rare opportunity to capture a daily drivable reliable classic Italian sports car.

{analysis} This 1992 Alfa Romeo Spider Veloce Convertible sold for $27,540, including buyer's premium, at the Barrett-Jackson Scottsdale auction held January 22-25, 2004. The price, at nearly triple the high SCM Price Guide value of $10,000, represents an extraordinary result.

The 1991-1994 model Spiders were the last series of a 23-year production run for the 2-liter open Alfa. From the time the "square tail" model was introduced in 1971, the evergreen Spider went through many changes due to safety and emissions regulations. Most did not enhance the sporting nature or the looks of the car. Power decreased, ride height was raised, and large rubber bumpers and spoilers spoiled, if you will, the looks.

But not all changes were bad. The SPICA fuel injection system was jettisoned in 1979 in favor of a Bosch system. This finally solved most starting and drivability issues. The chassis was re-engineered in 1982, adding stiffness and vastly reducing cowl shake, although even with the car here you could easily mix a milkshake by just setting a glass on the dash and driving down the road.

The final updates came in 1991. The rear of the car lost the rubber-lipped spoiler for a smoother, more integrated tail, and newly fashionable body-colored bumpers appeared. A driver's side airbag was also added. For the upmarket "Veloce" model (the name at this point denoted only a higher level of trim, with its 120-hp, four-cylinder engine identical to the base car), these changes joined leather and suede seats, air conditioning, power windows, power steering and stereo cassette radio. The nimble little sportster of The Graduate fame was now a mature, if slightly portly, cruiser with a tidy little nip and tuck to its nose and tail. In other words, it had gone from being Kathleen to emulating Mrs. Robinson.

Since most older Alfa Spiders have had at least one impecunious owner (if it ain't broke, don't fix it, and if it is, how cheaply can I have it done?), buying a '90s car offers at least some reassurance against age-related afflictions. Yet even these cars are now over a decade old, meaning the factory warranty is long expired and a documented service history is just as desirable as on a vintage example.

Spiders from the 1990s are more resistant to rust than earlier models, though their steel is still not up to galvanized Porsche standards. This said, it is necessary to make sure that the drain holes in the doors have not been blocked or they will collect water and corrode from the inside. A prospective buyer should also watch out for badly repaired front-end damage on the nose, a common problem in areas where "touch parking" is practiced.

Interior trim was also improved from earlier models, though is still prone to looseness, rattles and breakage. Parts are easily obtained, however. While the suede and leather seats are attractive and comfortable, they do not wear well.

The interior of the Veloce Convertible pictured here was one of the reasons it stood out. The seats were unmarked and the carpets were as-new, making the observed 22,587 miles believable. Even the printed Alfa logo on the AM/FM cassette radio was unfaded. The original Campagnolo wheels were free of curb rash and were wearing new tires. The panel fit was excellent, and the original yellow paint was in very good condition-its only blemishes were a few minor stone chips touched-up on the front bumper.

So for a nearly new car, was the price that far out of line? Well, to compare, a 1991 Alfa Spider with under 19,000 miles recently sold on eBay Motors for $14,000 (ending early with the "buy it now" option). This was a Florida car in white with a tan interior, with all service records that, from the pictures, appeared to be as nice as the Barrett-Jackson car.

Furthermore, as Alfa Spiders are rarely used as year-round transportation in parts of the country that experience winter, there are no shortage of low mileage cars from the early '90s for sale. While many may not be as well preserved as our example, they offer good value if you're not concerned about a door ding or two.

As a collectible, the pre-1970 round tails will always be the "real deal," though the final Spiders are the best of the post-1974 cars and therefore should hold their values better. But it will be a long time before a '92 Alfa is anything other than a used car. Buying one in as-new condition is a viable alternative to a Mazda Miata or four-cylinder BMW Z3, but for $27,000 you can order a new Miata and have change left over.

This sale appears to be a combination of a superb Alfa Romeo Spider and a little of that legendary "Barrett-Jackson magic" at work. While we often say the price guide goes out the window for a #1 condition car, in this case the buyer's wallet went with it.-Donald Osborne

(Photos, historical and descriptive information courtesy of the auction company.){/analysis}

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