Piston Slap: When to Exit the Alfa?

Sajeev Mehta
by Sajeev Mehta
piston slap when to exit the alfa

Mike writes:


About five years ago I bought a 1982 Alfa GTV6 from a kid who was in over his head. I paid exactly $2,000 for the car, drove it home, fixed up the ignition system, suspension, various other bits, and drove it on weekends or whenever the traffic in Austin wasn’t too atrocious. I enjoyed the hell out of it, rusting fender wells and kick plates notwithstanding. The engine is amazingly, shockingly, damn near perfect. For all of the rust and decay elsewhere, the drivetrain was well cared for, and ran like a top.

With the help of the AlfaBB guys, I got the car into shape. It spent almost two years in a DIY restoration that involved removing all rust, straightening the body, and paint. Of course it still needs work; it is, afterall, an Alfa. I installed some later Recaro mesh head seats, cleaned up the interior, rewired schizy electrics, etc. In terms of show car score, maybe a 4/10. But in terms of every other GTV6 I’ve ever seen on the road? It’s an 8/10.

Trouble is, I’ve had two daughters since I bought the car. Finding time to just replace the fuel filter takes a month of planning. I’m consumed by anxiety whenever I drive it, worried that if/when it does develop a real problem, I simply won’t have the time to fix it. Let’s not even get into money (aside for the curmudgeons – we are doing well, in that we save more than we spend, own our home, and have no debt). I love this car. I love the way driving it makes me feel. But I don’t think it’s for me anymore.

Here are three scenarios, but I’m open to more.

  1. I keep the car, but rarely drive it. The value of the GTV6 is slowly rising, and based on conversations at a recent cars & coffee, I could expect the car to be worth quite a bit more than I’ve put into it (about $8,000 so far) over the next few years. This idea makes me sad, though. The car is meant to be driven.
  2. I sell it. I have no idea what to ask. Probably $8,000-8,500 based on recent transactions. Then in a few years, when the kids are a little older and I have more mad-money savings, I buy an S2000 or something along those lines.
  3. This is my favorite… I trade it for something of more or less the same value, but more reliable, more Japanese (probably), and equally fun and frivolous. Maybe even get a little cash for mods and restoration on top of the deal. Something I could use to get back into autocross would be ideal. Obvious answer – Miata. I sorely miss my ’94 Integra GSR to this day, too.

What say the commentariat?

Sajeev answers:

All three scenarios are do-able and very logical. With your current finances and a super cool car like that, well, you can’t go wrong. I would combine 1 and 2, driving the Alfa on occasion until the right buyer shows up. Said buyer needs to pay a premium (i.e. not a fire sale auction price) and love it like a true classic car enthusiast. Think of yourself as one of those folks who cares for rescue dogs. So to speak.

Or perhaps a combination of 1 and 3? Nothing wrong with having a toy, especially when it’s less of a time/money drain on your life.

No matter, I wouldn’t consider option #2 by itself. That implies the Alfa is something you should sell for a price, no matter what the future life of the vehicle shall be. That’s a mistake, because anyone who restores a classic car understands the value of their hard work…and understands that they are merely a temporary owner of a piece of history. A rolling historical artifact that’s more than the sum of its parts, and more than just one person’s pride. So it demands to be treated more than a mere commodity that can be sold anywhere!

Give it a fighting chance, take the time to find the right owner for the Alfa.

[Image: Shutterstock user cleanfotos]

Send your queries to sajeev@thetruthaboutcars.com. Spare no details and ask for a speedy resolution if you’re in a hurry…but be realistic, and use your make/model specific forums instead of TTAC for more timely advice.

Join the conversation
4 of 66 comments
  • Djn Djn on Mar 13, 2014

    British Cars come and go. German cars get traded in every 3 years Japanese cars are like appliances If you sell the Alfa Romeo, you will regret it for the rest of your life. Trust a long time Alfa owner, the GTV6 is one of the best.

    • See 1 previous
    • Guevera Guevera on Mar 13, 2014

      @Morea We both know you belong with the Alfa Romeo

  • Honfatboy Honfatboy on Mar 17, 2014

    I wanted a GTV6 sooo bad. Couldn't find one in West Texas. Bought a Milano. Didn't know what I was doing. Took a $4k loss. Can't mention Alfa Romeo in front of my wife. Now, I have a 2001 Accord with a five-speed. Say what you will--it's not nice--but I smile as much driving it as I did with the Alfa and the nightmares are gone. Sometimes I think, "If this car was mechanically the same, but was an Alfa Romeo, I'd never trade it." Call me whatever name you want.

  • Azfelix From certain angles the bonnet appears oversized with respect to the rest of the car - like a skinny teenager wearing a bulky sweater nicked from her older sister's wardrobe.
  • Tassos This is way too god damned OLD, 21 years old to have all the necessary options you need TODAY. You need a 10 year old or less car. AND if you give us THIS POS, a 21 year old model, that is not even a LUXURY car, whoever pays $10k for a Golf, And I Do NOT care what anniversary it is (they are all UTTERLY INSIGNIFICANT) deserves to get this MOST UNRELIABLE AND COSTLY TO REPAIR OF ALL LOUSY ECONOBOXES< EVEN THE DOMESTICS AND THE KOREANS.
  • Tassos As you say, Toyota confirmed this on TUESDAY. Today is WEDNESDAY. Why is everything on TTAC held back one or more days before you tell us the NEWS when it is NO MORE THE NEWS?
  • MRF 95 T-Bird You can find a decent and far more stylish Audi TT or an S4 of a similar vintage for under $10k.
  • RHD "In all situations, the grip of the tires (225/40R18 front, 225/35R18 rear) brings with it road noise."Are the rear tires actually smaller than the fronts??!! Adding just a bit of sidewall would take care of the bumps and rough ride. I'm not a fan of BMWs, personally, but this is a very enjoyable car. There are times when driving a convertible is pure bliss, and with a bit of power it's fun as well. (And certainly a better drive than a gussied-up, overpriced German taxicab!)