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What should I do?

  • Take the risks and go for the Alfa

    Votes: 25 89.3%
  • Be smarter and go for the Fiero

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Hey all, I'm new to the forum, but I just wanted to ask a a lot few questions to all of you. First off, I found this s3 1987 Alfa Spider Graduate with 140k miles. It's on its second owner, and after talking to the owner on the phone he seems like a nice guy. He said he was trying to make it perfect for his wife, but then got divorced. He said that in the past few years has put in: a new clutch, top, new seat covers, rebuilt the fuel injection system, and a new windshield. He said that he's done all the work on at a local mechanic that specializes in Mercs, Porsches, and Alfas ( I looked the mechanic up he has very good reviews - 4.9 from 40 reviews), and that he has all the receipts for the work done on it. The car also has 0 rust. I asked him the reason he's selling it and he told me that he just bought another car, and no longer has space to garage it for the winter, and with the work done to it, he doesn't want to leave it sitting in a field, so he's looking to sell it to someone who will enjoy it and take care of it, even if it means taking a loss. He said that he would be open to negotiating something under $3000 for it.
Here are the reasons I want to pick the car up:
1) I'm visual arts major, and have always been a huge fan of car design. I have always wanted something designed by Pinifarina. I'm also absolutely in love with Italian artistry, F1, the history, and that general aesthetic. There is nothing on the road is like it.
2) I don't mind a slow car, and have heard that these handle and feel amazing to drive.
3) it's an Italian car. C'mon.
4) I've heard its easy to work on, and I wouldn't mind getting some more personal up close experience with maintenance and repairs.
5) I live 20 minutes away from Centerline Alfa in Colorado, so I'd never have to pay for shipping on parts. They are also neighbors with a shop that knows A LOT about Alfa Spiders, (albeit they said that they don't work on the fuel injection system).
5) Insurance should be cheap considering it would be under my uncles name, and because I'm part of the family plan and have very good grades in college.
6) Outside of this semester because of covid, the car would 90% of the time be driven in the late spring, summer and early fall, and garaged during snowfall.
7) I have family members that are now working online, so in the worst case scenario, I'll have a spare car.
8) it is the Graduate, meaning there is 100% less stuff in the car to break, including not having AC.
Now here are my reservations for picking the car up:
1) I'm 20 and in college (on an almost full scholarship), and am a bit afraid about reliability. I don't mind working on it for maintenance and some stuff, but I'd rather not be 70% working 30% driving you know. I know almost everything about how cars work, (I worked at an advance auto parts for a year and had to learn) but I don't have much actual experience. I worked a lot on my buddy's cars, NA Miata, RSX, and Mazdaspeed 3. Again, I have no problem working on it and learning, in addition to that my buddy would always be willing to help me, and he is much more knowledgeable, but still, I'd like it to be at least decently relatively reliable. Again my main concern is that I'll be working on it more than driving.
2) I'm worried about maintenance costs, right now I don't have a super stable income, but I do have something around 5k saved. As soon as have any car, I'll do some Grubhub just to put a little cash in my pocket. The reason I don't have work this second is mainly because of covid - I live with my old abuela and don't want to risk her getting sick - but I'm planning on working next summer provided everything is better.
3) I've been told by my buddy (yes the same one) that its a stupid idea, he thinks its one of the stupidest car decisions I could do. He's pushing me to go American or Japanese. Some other cars in mind that I really like are the V6 Fiero ( love the way it looks, and the interior is amazing, I've just heard it handles okay, is hard to work on and isnt very fast), the MR2 ( kind of hard to find right now ), The Firebird (I actually REALLY like this car, but I cant really find any Trans Ams or Formulas for sale at a decent price right now), and a F-body Camaro. I think the Camaro is OKAY, but I actually really like the Firebird and the Fiero and the MR2, but none of them compare to the love I have for the Alfa. I did however find a 5 speed v6 SE Fiero with 110k miles. The guy is asking $3500, but there really isn't history on the car from what I'm aware, and he's been a bit hard to work with (most likely busy tho)
4) I'm worried that I'll go upside down on the car. The guy selling seems trustworthy (esp. when compared to the other people I've dealt with, and the cars I've seen) and he says everything is working on it perfectly, but at the end of the day it's still an alfa, If I have a catastrophic failure, I don't want to end up absolutely upside down. But I guess worst case scenario I can sell it, but in that scenario I'm afraid its going to be sitting for a while on the market.
5) I'm honestly worried that I'll make a bad decision lol, and that I'll have a car I like but cant drive. I know it's not really that much money for a car, but its still a big decision for me, as it would be one of the biggest purchases I've made.

So ultimately, I just want some advice. The alfa is a dream car for me, but I'm worried that I'm in over my head and that it'll be too much for me to handle, but I'm also concerned that this will be one of the last times I'll be able to get one of these for a reasonable price.
Final Questions:
Is this a stupid idea? Should I go for the Fiero?
Do you think it would be reliable enough to be a summer daily?
How expensive have you found your spider to be on a yearly basis? Both from an insurance/maintenance standpoint?
Do you think it wouldn't be a good first 100% self owned car? (for the past few years I've taken care of and driven a CRV, but it technically wasn't mine lol).
If I do go for the car, what are some tools/things you all consider absolutely necessary? What are some items of preventative maintenance that I can invest into to make it as close to fool proof as possible? What are some big things/sounds too look and listen out for when buying an s3?
So with NO BULL****, tell me your honest experience with your spiders, and tell me your honest opinion on this idea. Try and be as unbiased as possible.
There are some photos of the car below.
Thank you all so much,
Juan






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Buy it. You can do the work yourself and once its made ready, it will be reliable. Parts are inexpensive and the car is a joy to own and drive. You cant put a price on smiles nor aesthetics.

PS great job on the scholly. You playing hockey or ??
 

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But Mad North-Northwest
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Man, unless you're a lot wealthier and a much better mechanic than I was at 20 (and it does not sound like you are) I'd say any classic car would be a really, really bad idea. Stuff that old, paying someone to do the work can get real expensive real quick, not to mention the surprise repairs that are inevitably going to pop up on an old car. And it's not like you can just take it down to your local cheap-o mechanic for stuff.

I don't buy either show cars or junk, I buy drivers. And every Alfa I've bought so far has taken at least a year before I really felt it was sorted and reliable. Can you afford to spend the time and money on it? If something breaks and it's a grand to repair (and I guarantee that'll happen) is that something you can shrug off? Can you handle being without the car for a week or two while waiting for parts to get to you, or for your mechanic to have time?

I know what your heart's telling you, I've been there, but listen to your head. I would suggest getting something a lot newer, more reliable, and more common. Then start buying tools and learning how to wrench. When you've got better skills and better financial security, then buy the classic car.

Miatas are great. Fun to drive, reliable as anything, easy to get worked on, tons of upgrades and aftermarket parts, and they've been around long enough that there's one for any budget. If you want a roadster that's a great place to start.
 

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I’m in the buy it camp, but....
Only if you are working on it yourself, if you are going to be a chequebook mechanic then don’t.
I’ve found my Alfa’s to be as reliable as anything else. Any car you buy, you are going to have to learn it. I agree with Tom above, it’s going to take a year of driving, fiddling, tinkering to get you and it up to speed, I would add that would be the case for any car you buy that’s in your budget, Alfa, Fiero, mr2, trans am. Pick your poison I guess.
I also currently own an 86 MR2, about the same skill level wise to work on as an Alfa spider, engine bay is more cramped but timing belt changes weren’t as bad as I thought they would be. MR2’s are a Small car, it will carry you, a passenger and a jug of milk. I have a personal rule about do not own a fwd v6 car, that rear head is generally a bear to deal with, I think the Fiero would fall in this camp.
Miata would be a more hands off choice, also consider 91-94 Honda Civic hatchbacks, both my kids have one, so I’ve tinkered on them lots, still parts support from Honda for them, which blows my mind.
Buy the Alfa if you are patient and have a sense of adventure.
 

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Allow me to start with the most basic question. Is this your first car? Or have you owned several before and cut your teeth a bit? There’s no right answer, but it’s definitely a factor in the decision.
 

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Discussion Starter #7
Allow me to start with the most basic question. Is this your first car? Or have you owned several before and cut your teeth a bit? There’s no right answer, but it’s definitely a factor in the decision.
First-ish. I've had for the last few year a Honda CRV that I dd for most of high school. It wasn't legally mine, it was my uncles, but I took care of it. In terms of "cutting my teeth" I guess kind of? I worked at an Advance Auto for a while and I read a lot and watch a lot of youtube, so I have quite a bit of car knowledge, but not necessarily experience.
 

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A Fiero v. an Alfa...that's just about blasphemous.

One car was a failed GM experiment that lasted 4 model years. The other is a beloved roadster, star of tv and screen, that ran from 1966 to 1994.

Working on an Alfa is easy, plenty of parts suppliers, easy access to all areas of the car, plenty of support on-line. And...you say you live 20 minutes from Centerline.
Fiero...yeah, none of those things.

Finally

Chicks dig Alfas.
 

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Discussion Starter #9
I’m in the buy it camp, but....
Only if you are working on it yourself, if you are going to be a chequebook mechanic then don’t.
I’ve found my Alfa’s to be as reliable as anything else. Any car you buy, you are going to have to learn it. I agree with Tom above, it’s going to take a year of driving, fiddling, tinkering to get you and it up to speed, I would add that would be the case for any car you buy that’s in your budget, Alfa, Fiero, mr2, trans am. Pick your poison I guess.
I also currently own an 86 MR2, about the same skill level wise to work on as an Alfa spider, engine bay is more cramped but timing belt changes weren’t as bad as I thought they would be. MR2’s are a Small car, it will carry you, a passenger and a jug of milk. I have a personal rule about do not own a fwd v6 car, that rear head is generally a bear to deal with, I think the Fiero would fall in this camp.
Miata would be a more hands off choice, also consider 91-94 Honda Civic hatchbacks, both my kids have one, so I’ve tinkered on them lots, still parts support from Honda for them, which blows my mind.
Buy the Alfa if you are patient and have a sense of adventure.
I actually love Miatas, but NA's are near impossible to find under $6k in my area. I'm also 6'3, and have trouble with space between my leg and the handbrake on the Miata (esp the NBs, which are more usually in my price range). The same might be true for the Alfa, but I wont know until I try it. I've talked to quite a few people and they told me they're essentially much less reliable Miatas for taller people.
 

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But Mad North-Northwest
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You're gonna want to see if you fit. I wouldn't say the Spider is really designed for tall folks.

The biggest problem is the driving position: Italian cars seem to be designed for "short legs long arms". If you're built like a chimpanzee you might be okay. Me, I'm 5'9" and glad my legs aren't any longer than they are.
 

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Discussion Starter #11
Buy it. You can do the work yourself and once its made ready, it will be reliable. Parts are inexpensive and the car is a joy to own and drive. You cant put a price on smiles nor aesthetics.

PS great job on the scholly. You playing hockey or ??
The guy says its supposedly in perfect shape, he told me he dropped it off a bit ago at his mechanic and told him "fix any big issue with it" so its DD ready. Idk how true this is, but supposedly he has receipts and would cover a ppi.

Also thanks! I actually got a diversity scholarship for being a minority with perfect grades in high school (4.6 GPA, weighted for taking college courses). But I'm actually now playing rugby on the highest college level available in the US.
 

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You're gonna want to see if you fit. I wouldn't say the Spider is really designed for tall folks.

The biggest problem is the driving position: Italian cars seem to be designed for "short legs long arms". If you're built like a chimpanzee you might be okay. Me, I'm 5'9" and glad my legs aren't any longer than they are.
Yeah, haha. My inseam isn't TOO big, but you're totally right. This is all under the assumption I fit.The owner is 6'2, 270p and he said he fit well, but I'd have to try it myself. It's an hour and a half away, so if I'm gonna go its under the condition that I'm actually interested in buying. Don't want to waste my time or his.
 

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Rugby is cool, my youngest played rugby all through high school.
Assume the seller is doing a sell job and that it has concealed rust.
Is that an old Spica airbox mounted to the end of the airflow meter?... likely plan on changing engine bay vacuum hoses, they look original. Ask the seller if he receipts for engine bay fuel hoses.
Is there a local Alfa club where you live? Maybe you can find someone to go with you to check it out.
 

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Sorry, the car is very worn. I would not encourage you to buy that exact one. Save and buy a more pristine example.

Good luck!


1993 Spider Veloce
2016 4c Coupe
2018 4c Spider
 

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I agree 100% with Tom (Gubi). If this were for a second car, I would say buy it. Absolutely. I purchased my first Alfa when I was 21, BUT, I also had a jeep, and the Alfa was only 4 years old at the time. As a young college student with limited resources, you need something that's reliable. Something you know that when you put the key in the ignition its going to get you where you need to go. Even a well sorted DD Alfa will get finicky at times. Its more a question of WHEN will something break, not If. I'm sure there are plenty of parts on that 33 year old car that will need attention soon. The price reflects that.
 

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I’d say if it’s your hearts desire then go for it. But be prepared to get the experience you say you lack. I run fixed operations for a large dealership and I can tell you while experience at an aftermarket parts store helps, it’s not all you’re going to need. Be prepared to buy a set of half decent tools, craftsman should be fine. And spend some money on literature. There’s countless books and shop manuals on these cars. A well sorted Alfa is as reliable as anything else (especially a fiero). And it’s a car that should provide an unparalleled pleasure. But if you’re not prepared to pick up a 3/8 wrench and go to work then shy away. I wish you the best of luck with it.
 

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I bought 89 graduate in good running condition. Then crack in radiator, then needed valve cover gasket, oil sending unit, oil vapor separator, vacuum hoses, both fuel pumps quit and other stuff but I could fix myself, about $1,000 in first year with some non essential things like seat foam and covers Second year was new alternator. Started blowing oil out front seal and water in exhaust. So now getting transmissionrebuilt/ new clutch and top end done and front and rear engine seals and new brake lines. $4,000. Lots of fun when it was running and as said in prior posts, it may take a while to sort out 40 year car and yes you will be upside down. But this car is passion of love and I have financial resources at this stage in life.

At your stage, I suggest don’t buy it.
Get a Miata, I had one of those and Alfa at same time and Miata didn’t require any money.

Congrats on college and rugby team. I wrestled at Duke and know how much time/effort required being on varsity team.

Best of luck whatever your decision.
 

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But Mad North-Northwest
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Sorry, the car is very worn. I would not encourage you to buy that exact one. Save and buy a more pristine example.
I didn't even look closely at the pics. Yeah, that engine bay looks pretty dirty and tired. That's not a great sign.
 

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My 6'4' brother and I shared a '63 MG Midget at college. It was an absolute shambling wreck...and some of the most fun I ever had.

Part of the fun is finding out about the car and fixing it's faults.

I tend to think that our age and experience is getting in the way of a young man's potential positive experience.
 

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But Mad North-Northwest
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I tend to think that our age and experience is getting in the way of a young man's potential positive experience.
The counter-argument to that is that some of us are old farts who are trying to relive our misspent youths by making some poor kid suffer through the harrowing experience of trying to keep an Alfa running on a budget 😆
 
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