I Did a Silly Thing
What not to do when buying a used Alfa GT...
Some say that you're not a true petrol head until you've owned an Alfa Romeo. These people also tend to warn you that are in for a life of car related expense, pain and misery. These people are, and as it turns out, they're (almost) correct. But before I tell you why they're right on all counts, let me tell you why I did it in the first place, after which I'll move on to why I've been much sillier about this than any sensible, rational, person should ever be..
Mercedes Be Gone
Regular (ahem, this is my first article in about 12 months) readers of my work here may be familiar with the bargain basement Mercedes C220 CDi I picked up from a scrap yard in February of last year for the princely sum of £500 (those that aren't, you can check it out here: drivetribe.com/p/my-latest-bargain-basement-benz-JRFSFufYSSGnOu0fLM3gaA?iid=T9IA-NrxTVWLhoyOWXQ8ww).
After 14 months of completely hassle free motoring (save for the battery running flat a few times due to under use during lockdown and my stupidly wiring the power for Bluetooth adapter for the stereo to a permanently live feed), a lady driving a Nissan Joke decided she liked it so much that her car would enjoy a short sharp bout of vigorous anal.
Unfortunately, lacking the good manners to use lube or even make a gentle entry, this resulted in quite serious damage to my poor Merc's rear end, which inevitably resulting in it being declared in insurance write off. Which of course would be the second time, though much more serious than when I'd bought it. Suffice to say, I'm glad I replaced the previously damaged rear crash bar before this happened.
While I waited for my insurance to sort it out (which thanks Sheila's Wheels (5p a year cheaper than their sister company Esure in case you're wondering) was almost completely hassle free) I was provided with a brand new Mercedes C220 CDi to use while the claim was settled, my cheque sent out, and an extra week with which to look for a replacement car while the cheque cleared.
I cannot stress the benefits of courtesy car cover enough..
Rather than spend the time looking for a sensible car, I instead decided the best course of action was to put nearly 1000 miles on the new Merc in the space of three weeks, tearing up the country lanes in Staffordshire and the Peak District, pushing the limits of the car and my talent to the maximum. No, I didn't bend it, but the on the way home one evening I did manage to pick up a speeding ticket, in no small part thanks to not really realising how quickly I was going due to the absence of the increased road noise etc that accompanied going north of 70mph in a car 182,000 miles on it.
As a result, when the cheque arrived (for three times what I paid for my old Merc 14 months beforehand) I needed to find an alternative car sharpish, and promptly set my eyes upon a gorgeous looking (though slightly accident damaged) Alfa GT.
I did not use this time wisely..
In the immortal words of Jeremy Clarkson, "what could possibly go wrong?"
Mistakes Are Made..
My first mistake, buying an accident damaged car made by a manufacturer with a history of questionable build quality, is obvious. But, it did mean that I was able to secure a somewhat fetching Bertone styled Cloverleaf spec. Alfa GT for £960. The price (some £2,500 less than an undamaged car of similar age and mileage) was very attractive, and left me just over £500 to spend on any unforeseen issues.
The second, and rather obvious mistake, was to buy a car with limited (only to the MOT) history, and that, thanks to Covid, I was unable to inspect before delivery.
Hidden Problems Emerge
The broken head light quickly turned into two when it became apparent that the the adjusters were broken on the near side, requiring me to source two replacements. Changing the lights on one of these is not straightforward. On a Fiat Panda or a Mercedes 190E you simply pop the bonnet, unbolt the lights and replace, in about 5 minutes. On the Alfa if it's two hour job, ideally completed with assistance from a friend, thanks to the need to remove the front bumper and, unless you've got smaller hands than a certain former American president, the front wheels and wheel arch liners. Thankfully I was able (having tracked down the previous owner who had initially intended to repair the car) a set of lights for £80.
But of course during this process, I then discovered that one of the oil cooler hoses had perished and was leaking oil. Several phone calls to Alfa dealerships (who wanted £200 for a rubber hose) and breakers (who inevitably didn't have any in stock because they're so expensive new) I decided to replace the oil cooler with an aftermarket unit (£40), both of the hoses (£70 for the pair) and hose adapters (£35).
After another week waiting for the parts, I finally got it on the road, only for the brake pad warning light to come on within the first 10 miles on the road.
A Car History is Revealed
Having found an almost disintegrated invoice for an EGR valve deletion in the boot and obtained the headlights from the previous owner, I then received a message offering to send me the owners manual and service history for the car, revealing it had actually been well maintained, but also that it obviously been driven like it was stolen at every opportunity. This was evidenced by an invoice from Halfords for brake pads for life and a stage 2 remap from Alfa specialists Autolusso, boosting the BHP by 20%, which obviously explains some of the creaks from the suspension and the inability of the front wheels to cope with hard acceleration.
So Should You Buy One?
With all of the work done it was time to get on the road properly and in fairness, the Alfa has taken me to both Newcastle and Norwich from Stoke in the past month, delivering a very respectable 50mpg on average and putting a big smile on my face.
There are still plenty of faults to tackle, and I'm sure I won't get to all of them before I get bored, but overall, it's been worth it, if more expensive than I would've liked, and if you're considering one, I'd strongly urge you to spend more money on a well sorted car that hasn't been driven so hard. Such a car would doubtlessly cost upwards of £3000 though, so probably wouldn't count as a true #PovertyPetrolHeads car..