By on September 28, 2011

In 1979, American car buyers could spend $10,220 on a new Corvette weighing 3,372 pounds and packing a 195-horsepower pushrod V8 under the hood… or $9,695 on a 2,700-pound sedan with an 111-horsepower DOHC four-cylinder engine, rear-mounted transaxle, and Italian style. More than 50,000 of those car shoppers chose the Corvette. I estimate that 18 adventurous souls chose the Alfa Romeo Sport Sedan. One of the 18 now languishes in a Denver junkyard, offering its parts up to lucky Alfetta owners.
This is a traditional, low-turnover yard that doesn’t hustle its inventory off to The Crusher every couple of months, so there’s a chance that someone might rescue the entire car. It’s pretty rusty and the interior has been home to High Plains critters for decades, but it’s mostly complete.
The space between the cam covers made a nice rodent-nest location. We can assume that the same rodents gnawed on the wiring and the SPICA fuel-injection lines.
This interior would be a tough restoration project. Can you smell the decaying leather and hantavirus-laden mouse urine?

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32 Comments on “Junkyard Find: 1979 Alfa Romeo Sport Sedan...”

  • avatar

    Here’s a better idea then trying to rescue that heap of trash…wait until a decent one turns up on AlfaBB for $500 or whatever the going rate for one of those is. Although as a parts car it’s probably worth about the same!

  • avatar

    The hantavirus-laden mouse urine was a $400 option back then.

    I can imagine some university professor tooling around Nederland looking for a dime bag in this car.

    “Hey Professor Martin? Have you heard the new Steve Miller Band album?” “Cool car, man.” “Whats a ‘snort sedan’?” “Oh, wait dude! I got it! It’s a car that runs on snort, right?” “Awesome!” “Isn’t that expensive?” “Do you have any snort on you Professor?”

  • avatar
    dvp cars

    ……I was a Fiat dealer for a brief period in that era. I’d forgotten how wildly overpriced Italian machinery was back then. That may explain why the Bravas and Ritmos didn’t exactly fly off my showroom floor. Great driving cars, though. By the way, your estimate of 18 annual sales is probably a little light…….if you include grey market, the tally would soar into the mid 20’s or so.

    • 0 avatar

      In the US, FIAT Ritmos were sold as Stradas. I think they were advertised with competitive base prices compared to Rabbits and Horizons, but people were aware of FIAT ownership realities.

      • 0 avatar
        dvp cars

        ……you’re right “Stradas”, but even back then I used to call them Ritmos…..the leaked factory advance name must have stuck in my brain. It must have confused my tire kickers……no wonder I didn’t sell many!

      • 0 avatar
        Volt 230

        These cars were like expensive mistresses, enjoy the ride and then pay the price, did you see the tire size? nothing today has 14 inches anymore.

  • avatar
    Rod Panhard

    The severity of the Alfa sedan’s electrical and mechanical unreliability was only exceeded by its resale. I remember seeing a very nice very low-mileage one-year-old specimen on a Mercedes-Benz lot for about 60 percent off retail.

  • avatar

    Bring back the cursive lettering of the model name! That typography evokes carefree fun (totally at odds with the likely ownership experience).

  • avatar
    Felis Concolor

    It’s fun to see the loosened lug nuts on the rear wheel and know the story behind them.

    “Whoa, cool alloys!”
    “Grab those: they’re going to look sweet on your ‘Stang!”
    “Hey, waitaminute. . .”
    “What’s wrong? They’re cracked?”
    “They’re too close together.”
    “@#$%: 4x98mm! They’re worthless; won’t fit anything normal.”
    “$#!+: let’s go.”

  • avatar

    I have an ’86 Spider that has the same engine as this car, though Bosch fuel injection. I have had it for a few years now, it is completely reliable. I did go through it and bring the maintenance up to date, tuneup stuff, hoses, fuel lines, that sort of thing. I agree that the actual build quality is not even remotely in the same universe as a German car of that era. But I drove it from Maine to DC and back last year in style and comfort! I also have a GTV-6 which is the same platform as this car, but that one is a project. Though I did fire it up and take it for a 25 mile drive yesterday for the first time in six months. Nothing fell off.

    There are actually a lot of the “Sport Sedans” (Alfetta in the rest of the world) around in Alfa circles. These were the first Alfas to use the platform with the transaxle and DeDion tube rear suspension. Also under the Alfetta GT Coupe which evolved into the GTV-6 and Milano (Alfa 75). The handling is sublime!

    Certainly they were expensive back in the day, but a BMW 3-series was not much if any cheaper. Not sure how much a ’79 320i was, but I know an ’84 318i was over $18K base price. Spiders were also extremely expensive, IIRC in the ’60s they cost as much as an E-type Jaguar. Italian mistresses have never come cheap. :-)

  • avatar

    1979 Vette: 195hp from 5.7 liter cast iron V8
    1979 Alfa: 111hp from 2.0 liter all aluminum I4

    1979 Vette: cramped seating for two weighing 3400 lbs
    1979 Alfa: comfortable seating for four weighing 2700 lbs

    1979 Vette: 77% automatic transmissions
    1979 Alfa: 100% 5 speed manuals

    1972 first rear-mounted transaxle Alfa
    1997 first rear-mounted transaxle Vette

    • 0 avatar

      Vette: Still very much around and thought of as a supercar bargain.
      Alfa: Left US market in disgrace in 1995. Much-delayed re-entry still pending.

    • 0 avatar

      It’s very convenient to ignore torque figures from the smog choked V8’s of yore, but they had it. The ‘Vette had 260 or 270 ftlbs. of twist. Some simple wrenching over a weekend to remove the smog gear and add some advance to the timing would also give you a good jump in hp. Don’t think I’m saying a late ’70’s Covette was a good car, but it wasn’t as hopeless as you imply.

      • 0 avatar

        A couple weeks back, I watched a Malaise Corvette get blown away by a dead-stock, non-turbo New Beetle at Test-n-Tune Night at the drag strip. That’s pretty helpless.

      • 0 avatar

        That had more to do with being over 30 years old than being slower than a new Beetle. Here’s Car and Driver’s 1979 Corvette test results:

        0-60 in 6.6, 15.3 @ 95 mph in the quarter mile.

        As for the Alfa seeing where the Corvette went on a road course, I must disagree. Maybe a ‘$500’ Alfa could beat a ‘$500’ Corvette, but I saw a malaise era Corvette set FTD at an autocross in 1993. Car and Driver was negative enough about the C3 to inspire a lawsuit from Zora Arkos Duntov, but that didn’t keep the Corvette that CandD editors rated dead last in their Delorean comparison test with Ferrari, Porsche, and Datsun from setting the fastest lap time of any of them. There are plenty of reasons for hating Corvettes, but the reason european car fans have traditionally hated them is because they’re too quick around a track.

      • 0 avatar

        Murilee, GRM tested a Honda Odyssey versus an original Porsche 356. The Odyssey won in every category. That doesn’t make the Porsche any less of a sports car! It just means that cars have come a long, long way. A Honda Accord V6 would out-drag a hemi ‘Cuda, doesn’t mean the Cuda wasn’t a scarily fast car for its day.

    • 0 avatar

      I’m pretty sure the Alfa would eat up the Corvette on a road course. Isn’t that what a sports car is supposed to do?

      • 0 avatar

        For track work, braking 70-0 mph

        1979 Vette (L82): 198 feet
        1979 Alfa sedan: 164 feet

        Hey, I love the home team, but the late C3s were coasting on reputation. Happily for all sports car junkies the General fixed things in ’84.

      • 0 avatar
        dvp cars

        …..I’m sure you’re just baiting us there, Murilee, anybody with enough trackside experience as yourself would know that massive torque, huge tires, and a well developed IRS setup, will beat an admittedly nimble small-bore sedan anyday. The John Greenwood Corvettes were regularly invited (you had to be invited, no triflers, please) to Le Mans in that era, Alfettas were never even considered. A de-smogged malaise era Corvette is still a 140+ mph car!

      • 0 avatar

        Isn’t comparing a new-ish car to one that has had 30 years of abuse a little unfair? Let’s see what the Beetle can do when it’s old enough to drink.

    • 0 avatar

      The Alfetta based Alfa Sports Sedan was actually the first Alfa to be offered with an automatic transmission.

  • avatar
    dvp cars

    …….that near-deal was almost unnoticed when GM went under…….GM lost it’s 2 billion dollar downstroke when both sides cooled to the (dumb) idea……something along those lines.

  • avatar

    I test drove one of these in 1979 at the local Porsche/Audi/Alfa dealer. Two things turned me off. One was the short legs / long arms driving position. The other was the raw fabric edges showing on the door panels. The car’s road manners were acceptable but not remarkable.

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