2017 FIAT Spider

Though it's assembled in Japan, the latest FIAT Spider is as close as many of us will get to buying a new Italian sports car, Alfa 4C notwithstanding.  Final assembly takes place in Mazda's Hiroshima assembly plant, while Termoli, Italy is the origin of the 1.4L MultiAir powerplant  The exterior is convincingly Italian, if a bit overwrought.

Reviews are mixed on FIAT's alterations to the Miata formula.  For one, critics generally favor the Mazda powertrain to the torquier FIAT unit.  On the suspension side, the FIAT reportedly corners with less body roll, which is great for transient response, but can rob ultimate grip, which plays a large part in driver confidence in a small sports car.  Further, while the Miata saw an upgraded transmission with its latest redesign, the FIAT is stuck with the old Miata gearbox - never an outright bad thing, but inferior in this case.  But, we haven't driven the new Spider yet, so we'll reserve judgement for our first test drive.

Year: 2017
Model: FIAT
Engine: 1.4L I4
Transmission: 6-speed manual
Mileage:  0mi
Price: $27,285


Included Packages Technology Collection Radio: AM/FM Bluetooth w/7" Display Integrated Voice Command w/Bluetooth Nav-Capable! See Dealer for Details Pandora, AHA & Stitcher Apps ParkView Rear Back-Up Camera Remote Proximity Keyless Entry Additional Options Transmission: 6-Speed Manual Remote Proximity Keyless Entry Technology Collection Engine: 1.4L I4 MultiAir Turbo Pandora, AHA & Stitcher Apps Quick Order Package 21D 50 State Emissions Radio: AM/FM Bluetooth w/7" Display Integrated Voice Command w/Bluetooth Premium Cloth Seats ParkView Rear Back-Up Camera It delivers plenty of power and excellent gas mileage! A turbocharger further enhances performance, while also preserving fuel economy. All of the following features are included: a tachometer, variably intermittent wipers, and power windows. It features a standard transmission, rear-wheel drive, and an efficient 4 cylinder engine.

Keeping in tradition with the intent of a sports car, this base "Classico" model is low on frills.  Nice touches, such as a leather-wrapped steering wheel and leather shift boot maintain a respectable level of appointment inside the cabin.  The base model wheels are arguably the prettiest on offer, and do complement the retro feel of the design with a more traditional aspect ratio tire.  If tan cloth were available, we would have selected it, but currently only black cloth is available on the Classico models.

Would we put our money into a new Spider?  Well, we haven't had the chance to test drive one yet, so we don't know how well it would stack up to a Miata for us.  We test drove the new Miata in spring of 2016 and were rather impressed with the old school sports car feel, not to mention the proper sporty exhaust note.  As far as appearance goes, we'd probably vote in favor of the Miata as well.  That said, we do prefer to drive an Italian car when available, so our solution would be to buy a Miata and slap some Alfa emblems and Spider badges on - best of both worlds!


1991 Lancia Thema 8.32

Periodically, one will spot a Lancia Thema 8.32 for sale, usually in an opportunistic import & flip scenario.  As recently as March 2015, a nice specimen of this rare, Ferrari-powered FWD Italian executive saloon appeared on this site with an enthusiastic (Ferrari sounds) yet cautionary (better be friends with a Ferrari mechanic) CICFS analysis.

Was the 8.32 European royalty in its day, albeit perhaps an elusive monarch who was admired but few ever saw (e.g., Queen Beatrix)?  Let’s say that I witnessed exactly one example during my three years in Germany.  As a breathless attendee of the 1987 Bremen Auto Show, I recall there being but two cars on display that were locked from peasant-entry:  the Porsche 959 and the Lancia 8.32 (feel free to insert obligatory Italian central-locking reliability joke).

Many of you know how this almost-mythical four-door 308 come to be.  In an automotive act akin to NATO’s settling on a 120 MM smooth-bore cannon for its various members’ main battle tanks (my earlier M1 had a relatively skinny-necked, rifled 105 MM main gun), the Swedes and Italians developed the Type Four platform to underpin the Saab 9000, Fiat Croma, Alfa Romeo 164, and Lancia Thema, respectively.  That cooperation begat attractive, space-efficient, and relatively-mainstream 1980’s – 1990’s sedans that, naturally, spawned special editions such as the Alfa 164Q; Saab 9000 Aero; not sure if I recall the Chroma’s flagship; and of course, the 8.32.

Year: 1991
Model: Lancia
Engine: 3.0L V8
Transmission: 5-speed manual
Mileage:  170,000km
Price: €13,999

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1991 Lancia Thema 8.32 

Bei dem angebotenen Fahrzeug handelt es sich um das exclusive Lancia Thema 8.32 Modell mit einem überlegenen Sportwagen-Triebwerk von Ferrari.
Der V8-Motor stammte aus dem Ferrari 308 GTB Quattrovalvole mit 32 Ventilen und wurde speziell für den Einsatz im Lancia Thema überarbeitet.
Sie haben hier die einmalige Gelegenheit, mit geringem Kapitaleinsatz, ein luxoriös ausgestattetes Fahrzeug mit einem heute, in dieser Qualität von keinem Hersteller mehr verbautem Interieur zu erwerben.

We all know what’s happened with competing sedans of that era.  Cosworth 190E’s have become scarce, both in the U.S. and in Europe, with pricing well along the hockey stick trajectory.  Surviving Alfa 164Q’s and Milano Verde’s are more common, but values have also risen somewhat.  To the CIAFS staff, prices of 8.32 listed have seemed optimistic, as if the admittedly-cool Ferrari component makes the car worth five times more than, say, a 9000 Aero in similar condition.  Armed with our recent successful self-import of a 1991 MB 300CE-24 with dogleg stick and Hugo Boss-style cloth interior, our senior (oldest) staffer concluded one recent winter’s night that he’s savvy enough to try his luck with an 8.32.  Abetting that transaction were a very forthright seller, a Bosch shop owner acting in a quasi-consignment capacity, plus an exploratory visit from Blythbros before money changed hands.  Such factors aren’t likely to converge for future searches.  Moreover, given our German-language skills and many warnings about buying a used car in Italy (with our considerable Sicilian bloodlines, we’re allowed that act of discrimination), we’ve narrowed the search for Germany.  We’ll count on a combination of the attributes described in the ad, photo quality, and gut feel.  And of course, U.S. importation laws (some combination of EPA, DOT, and Customs) do not allow cars of less than 25 years’ age.

The first candidate was a beautiful private-party car near Nürnberg with relatively low kilometers, extensive records including a recent timing belt, and a fair price.  The market agreed, and the car lasted mere days.  We’re therefore describing a dealer-listed car with great attributes and a killer front plate.   The August 1991 manufacture date makes it legal, and the claimed 170,000 KM equates to around 4,000 miles annually.  Maintenance records would reveal whether this is a just-out-of-storage example that would need attention to gaskets, fuel system, suspension components, tires, etc.  The photos point to very mild interior patina and near-perfect exterior condition.  I didn’t say a perfect actual exterior, because the black color doesn’t hide that this car makes a Volvo 740 seem curvy.  And even the wood trim and dash scarcely take the interior out of the dour zone.  The present EURUSD rate puts the €13,999 asking price at around $15,000.  Tack on $1,000+ for ocean shipment, a TBD amount for inland trucking, plus another $1,000 for customs duty and miscellaneous port charges, and the grand tally is in the $17,000 - $18,000 range.  Fly to Germany to make this a vacation like we did with the CE, and you top out near $20,000.  We don’t recall ever seeing an 8.32 listed in the U.S. for less than $25,000.  What we don’t know is ultimate transaction prices.  Either way, for (insert plain sedan name – Corolla, etc.) money, one can have a coveted, mellifluous, square sedan that’ll definitely be royalty at cars & coffee events.  If that excites any readers, CICFS will be happy to be part of the sourcing, logistical, and retrieval process.


CICFS Blog: our Alfa Romeo 164L winter car

Crosspost from our personal blog, Blythbros.com

Maintaining a mental inventory of the local Alfa classifieds bears a certain risk.  That risk came to light last winter, when a last-minute cancellation left me in Pennsylvania without a ride or flight back to Michigan.  A simple problem, unless left to my internal problem-solving model.  All models are wrong; some are useful.  And, when I'm left in charge of calibrating the models, they point invariably to Alfa Romeo as the answer.  Cognitive bias, to put it lightly.  I was going to find a cheap Alfa to get me home.

Now, I have a history of rationalizing Alfa purchases.  As my first Milano Verde sat engineless in my apartment garage, I convinced myself to bring home an Alfa 164LS daily driver.  That 164 made it two weeks.  A year later, that same Milano Verde burned down my garage, 3 other emerging European classics, and the majority of my backyard; I was back in a Verde within 45 days.  Then there was the ran when parked Alfetta GTV shipped to my garage from California.  And then the ran when parked GTV-6 we towed home from Indiana.  Necessary, all of them.

DSC_1527_DSC7238_DSC7241DSC_0648 Continue reading CICFS Blog: our Alfa Romeo 164L winter car

Save an Alfa: GTV-6 Edition

“When you see me on the block, homie you don’t know me,” the seller of this GTV-6 pronounces from his front valence, but we do know that he finds a certain “Kady” and “Hari” to be important, based on his windshield decal.  What else do we know?  Let’s parse through the photos included in this vague Craigslist ad description to find some information.

First, the car has been aerodynamically altered – bumpers were removed, presumably to reduce drag on the racetrack, and a single plane spoiler has been engineered to decrease lift  while maintaining a palatable level of drag.  Surprisingly, the side mirrors were spared during the optimization process, most likely for a proper view of the trailing field on the racetrack.  The interior is above average for a tan leather interior, based on what we’ve seen.  Though the rear muffler is from a faster and more furious era, don’t be too quick to write it off, at least sonically speaking.  Busso V6s are nearly impervious to the fart can – just hide it under the rear bumper to convey at least a modicum of taste.

Year: 1985
Model: Alfa Romeo
Engine: 3.0L V6
Transmission: 5-speed manual
Mileage:  Unknown
Price: $2,500

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1985 Alfa Romeo GTV-6

Mechanically speaking, we rely on the seller’s description.  A hot dog 164S 3.0L V6, rated at 200hp new, supplants the original 2.5L V6.  In all seriousness, 3.0L GTV-6s are encouraged.  No word on the last engine service, but as we’ve made clear in prior Busso V6 write-ups, the front end engine service is very reasonable to complete either in your home garage or in the trust of an Alfa mechanic.  Around $1,000 or a Saturday – your choice.  The transaxle, likely the original unit with an open diff, is claimed to shift without synchro grind on second gear.  If true, remember to pause in neutral between shifts if you buy the car; patient shifting goes a long way in preserving shift quality.

Clearly this is not a car for a non-mechanical type, or someone looking for a no-excuses car for this spring.  But, for the value shopper, we believe that unreported rust would be the only way to weaken the business for this offering.  Swap the Verde wheels tea tray, bumpers, body cladding, and rear hatch sans spoiler from the parts car onto the 3.0L car, take the car into the shop for some economical but respectable paint, and work out the smaller items like brakes and suspension after you get the car back onto the street.  Sell those fat Borbet wheels to recoup some cost, and make a determination on the parts car.  If you have room, keep it around; otherwise, a weekend and a 6-8 large plastic totes will shrink it down to size.


Save an Alfa: Milano Verde Edition

Simple mission: someone please retrieve this ailing 1988 Milano Verde.  Yes, the one that has been sitting for a very long time in the New Mexico sun.

Issues?  The paint has faded to magenta - we say rock it.  The Recaros are ratty - Centerline International has you covered with replacement upholstery.  The car has been sitting - service it.  The area where the doors meet the fenders have rust - ignore it!  It's a $1,400 Verde, and it's all there.

Year: 1988
Model: Alfa Romeo
Engine: 3.0L V6
Transmission: 5-speed manual
Mileage:  73,685
Price: $1,400

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1988 Alfa Romeo Milano Verde


I am selling an 1988 Alfa Romeo Milano 3.0 V6. This is a very rare italian sportscar. They are getting hard to find. Very peppy and fun to drive. 5 speed manual transmission, ac, power sunroof and windows. Factory sport seats. Is sitting for a very long time and has a fuel delivery problem. Probably just the fuel pump. Runs on starting fluid. Body is in decent shape for sitting outside for so long. I got stuck with my bmw projects and lost interest. Clean title in hands.

A certain rat rod Verde certainly sprang to mind when we found this listing.  Something about the, uh, unique design of the Milano lends itself to rattiness.  Get it running, then hit it with a solid front end engine service, go through the suspension bushings, and so on.  These cars are surprisingly resilient- take advantage of it with this one.

This very much classifies as something we would buy with our own money, but do not quite have the space for.   Let's save this deserving Verde from a parts car or scrapyard fate!