During my still unaccomplished mission to replace the daily modern, I may have pointlessly burnt off petrol by the gallon, but I have been reminded of one valuable lesson. In their classifieds, vendors can and, frequently do, talk bollocks.
Adverts can promise the moon yet after spending hours driving/grinding to the promised land you find yourself confronted by a moldy lump on four wheels. Mint? Excellent? VGC? Er, no – not on my planet. I can’t remember how many times I’ve got within a few yards of a car, only to turn on my heel in order to save myself wasting any more time or catching an infection.
Given the strength of the classic car market and an itching for something fun and, er, ‘motorwayable’ rather than fanatically concentrating on one model, I drew up a short-list. Yet, I have to be honest, an Alfetta saloon wasn’t on this list because there are so few left. A quick shufty at www.howmanyleft.co.uk will tell you that there are only two Alfetta 2.0s or five Alfetta 2000s remaining in the land of the living. (I dunno – the bootlid says the former, while the logbook says the latter…)
Over recent years, the Alfa Romeo itch has come and gone, but upon each return it has increased in intensity. The big problem was finding one which was in my budget, wasn’t going to ruin me, wasn’t a wreck and that was – and this is important – a pre-FIAT Alfa.
Growing up, the folks owned an Alfetta 2000/2.0 berlina, but alas, poor old UAE 32V died a grotesque undeserving death. It was parked on the side of the road, when some speeding Barry Boy in an Office Equipe Crapi 1.6 experienced a blowout going down Welly Hill. The spotty one hit a Polo which went up the Alfa’s backside and this game of automotive billiards turned the Alfetta into something more one-humped Camel than sports saloon. Instant write-off. The Old Man then compounded matters by replacing one red three-box saloon with another red three-box saloon – a Morris Ital 1.3 SLX. (Now, whilst I would fine this funny today then, I cried when I found out.)
So discovering that Black & White Garage had what resembled our old Alfetta’s silver twin, was too much to resist because I know its commendatori, James Wheeler, and find him to be an utterly decent chap. A couple of visits established that his photos of the Alfetta weren’t subject to the aforementioned magic effect, that it drove as well as it promised and that this one-owner Bell & Colville car had a library full of service history. The only blemish being that the carburettors – after some inactivity – desperately needed a tune-up.
Now, I’ll be the first to admit that the transaxle series – the tipo-116 – doesn’t exactly have great press when it comes to reliability, rust or endowing owners with a peaceable existence, but this didn’t put me off. The reason being is that I know Les Dufty at Automeo, an engineer and Alfa specialist with an almost all-knowing molecular understanding of these cars.
The Alfetta passed his inspection, but one of the mixture screws on the rearmost Dell’Orto 40DHLA had experienced such serious force that it wasn’t going to budge for anyone. James readily accepted this, haggling was haggled, and a deal done.
It was a relief, because as any experienced car bloke knows, you get a feeling in your water and a tingle in your palms when you come nose to tin with the one. So it was a relief to know that my senses were still accurate and that, yes, here was that rarest of rare things – a good straightforward car from a trustworthy source free from Swiss Toni patter.
After the return journey and a cuppa at chez Les, no sooner had we sat down than Les was sorting out insurance and a new pair of Dell’Ortos for what was now my Alfetta. But…
Deal signed and sealed, the only problem – and it was a sizeable one – was where to keep it. The shed is full and anyway the roof is currently iffy – so that was out – and the Alfetta is too long to fit into the Midget’s garage. I can’t afford a third space, so after some begging and a lot of clearing out, the Alfa now lodges at Mum’s gaff.
All of which is really rather appropriate because some 30 years since one last lived there, an Alfetta is once again in residence. Albeit only briefly – until there is a space up at the shed.