Junkyard Find: 1979 Alfa Romeo Spider Veloce

Murilee Martin
by Murilee Martin
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Alfa Romeo Spiders weren't especially difficult to find in American car graveyards as recently as 15 years ago; I saw perhaps one for every three MGBs or Fiat 124 Sport Spiders during my junkyard travels back then. Today, the MGBs and 124s keep showing up in Ewe Pullets just as they always have, while I might find one discarded Alfa Spider every few years. Here's the latest one: a '79 in a yard (on the aptly named Dismantle Court) just to the east of Sacramento, California.

junkyard find 1979 alfa romeo spider veloce

This car looked familiar, and not just because I know so many Alfa Romeo aficionados.

I had visited Dismantle Court in the spring, finding a pink Opel GT and one of the last Camaros to clank off the line at the notorious Van Nuys Assembly plant. I took a photo of a trio of "builder" cars available for sale on the way in, and one was today's Junkyard Find.

Planet Auto tried and failed to get $1,800 for it, eventually putting it out in the ordinary self-serve inventory. That's a bit surprising because the body was in good shape. I think just about every Northern California Alfa lover has a hoard collection of at least a dozen Spiders awaiting repair, though, with no room for more.

Nice try, junkyard humorist, but this jibe only applies to Fiats. This should have been Andiamo Lesti Fumando Assai ("Let's go fast and smoke a lot").

Meanwhile, a quartet of fighter jets was stunting overhead on full afterburner. At first, I thought they were the Blue Angels F-18s because San Francisco Fleet Week was coming up soon, but it turned out to be the F-16s of the USAF Thunderbirds practicing for the next day's California Capital Airshow.

A junkyard shopper bought the camshafts and associated hardware before I got here.

If this is the original engine, it's a 2.0-liter rated at 111 horsepower and 122 pound-feet. That's impressive when compared to the power numbers of the '79 MGB (67.5 hp), the '79 TR7 (88.5 hp), the '79 Spitfire (52.5 hp) and the '79 124 Sport Spider (86 hp).

However, those cars were a lot cheaper than the Alfa, which had an MSRP of $11,195 for 1979 (about $50,449 in 2023 dollars).

The 1979 Triumph TR7 convertible listed at $11,195 ($50,449 today), while a new 1979 Fiat 124 Sport Spider cost just $7,090 ($31,951 now).

A closer price match for this car is the same-year Chevrolet Corvette, whose MSRP was $11,425 ($51,486 after inflation) with the optional L82 engine.

That Corvette had more than twice the Alfa's horsepower (225), but it scaled in at nearly a half-ton heavier and handled like a drunken rhinoceros compared to the nimble Italian. Did anyone buy one of each back then?

For an extra $600 ($2,704 in today's bones, or clams) the Alfa Romeo Spider Veloce buyer of 1979 could get a three-speed automatic transmission. While I have managed to find a junked Fiat 124 Sport Spider with two pedals, an example of the slushbox Alfa Spider has eluded me so far. This one has the five-on-the-floor manual.

It appears that this car lived on the car-killing streets of San Francisco, a quarter-century back.

These cars in decent, running condition sell for respectable money nowadays, but not enough to make the restoration of one like this a profitable venture.

The U.S.-market Alfa Spider didn't change much in general appearance and chassis design from the 1971 through 1994 model years, and it didn't look a bit old-fashioned at the very end. Other than the Citroën DS, what other cars can match that?

1979 Alfa Romeo Spider Veloce in California wrecking yard.

1979 Alfa Romeo Spider Veloce in California wrecking yard.

1979 Alfa Romeo Spider Veloce in California wrecking yard.

1979 Alfa Romeo Spider Veloce in California wrecking yard.

1979 Alfa Romeo Spider Veloce in California wrecking yard.

1979 Alfa Romeo Spider Veloce in California wrecking yard.

1979 Alfa Romeo Spider Veloce in California wrecking yard.

[Images: The author]

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Murilee Martin
Murilee Martin

Writer d'Elegance Brougham Landau.

More by Murilee Martin

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3 of 20 comments
  • Carson D Carson D on Oct 23, 2023

    I believe that the 11/79 production date makes this a 1980 model, and I also recall reading that the 1978 and 1979 models were the ones to have if you wanted to keep a California Spider SMOG-compliant while running decently prior to the 1982 introduction of Bosch EFI. Either the efforts to meet tightening emissions controls made the 1980 model problematic or the standards became much tighter that year, standards which still need to be met on cars registered in California, where pedophiles can give out free fentanyl across the street from an elementary school, but you can get a ticket for parking your car on your property.

    • Redapple2 Redapple2 on Oct 24, 2023

      sir. the commies have destroyed CALI. It s not livable for a sane person with a normal paycheck (for working a real job- if you suck off the dole, you re in great shape- stay). As the country goes more left, it will get worse. Get out while you can.

  • ToolGuy ToolGuy on Oct 23, 2023

    I clicked on every one of Murilee's links and now I missed dinner. :(

  • MrIcky Haven't these been out for a while? Is the news just that Japan gets them now too?
  • JTiberius1701 Jaguar Contour....
  • Analoggrotto How pathetic, as Telluride ATPs continue to soar with a model released in 2018, Toyota is living in the past, bringing back old heavy truck frame junk like this to sell a few hundred copies. They can't even remotely compete on reddit for the toast of society who enjoys the finest AVMs and ATPs by signing up for the finest SUV for under $100k and only #2 to the Purosangue beyond that. This is like the Miata of 3 Row SUVs, you can pay more but not get anything better.
  • Dukeisduke The trans brake locks the transmission in both Drive and Reverse, holding the car while you get on the throttle to bring the torque converter up; when you release the button, you GO!
  • Canam23 In the early 80's I was buying old American iron in Southern California, cleaning them up and selling them. Before the internet you could get some really good deals because no one knew what things were worth. I started with a 56 Lincoln Premiere that I bought for $400 and sold two days later for $2000. I had a Swedish buyer who told me he would take anything in good running order with lots of chrome and 30 years old because that's when they could be brought over without penalty. It was a lot of fun and some didn't sell as well as others. Then I had kids...;