Alfa Romeo 164 winter car

Alfa Romeo 164Maintaining 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.

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Hindsight: a year after the garage fire

_DSC5411My older brother outbid me on a 190E 2.3-16 three years ago. I’d sent him the link on the last day of bidding.  Shared my reservations about taking in another needy West German export.  At the time, my 91 318is and 84 GTI had no problem converting my free time into bruised hands.  I faltered; my brother won. 

Our dad owned a 2.3-16 for a brief half year 4 years prior to the bidding.  But for reasons unknown, our dad’s heart shrank the fall of my freshman year of college, and he sold both the 2.3-16 and his 73 BMW 3.0CS.323329_10150370300891799_1619460789_o


Franco-Italian Tennessee

DSC_0108With almost two years of Alfa ownership on the books, I’m wise enough to recommend picking up a spare engine with any Alfa acquisition.  That, and change the timing belt every three years, whether it needs it or not.  It probably needs it.

So, when Taylor brought his 164Q home, we reduced a perfectly good 24V V6 to its most vulnerable state: timing belt lying on the floor, water pump in a bucket, and cam gears free to rotate as they please.  After torquing each fastener to spec, indexing the cams with cam dies, and tensioning the timing and serpentine belts with the Alfa Romeo weighted arm tool, we counted exactly zero spare parts, but somehow ended up with an angle grinder, a heli-coil set, and a lot less weekend than we started out with.

Now, we trust our work, but given the fact that retrieving a spare 12V engine usually requires crossing state lines, you can count on crossing time zones to find the nearest 24V Alfa engine for sale.  Having a spare provides the peace of mind for timing belt changes in your parents’ garage on company holidays – and a spare engine is cheaper than just the labor on a timing belt job at an independent Alfa shop.

Last summer, we found a 24V Alfa V6 for sale in Lenoir City, TN, just southwest of Taylor in Knoxville.  Taylor went down to check out the engine, where he met Marty.

Porsche 944 V8 in Motor City


DSC_9551Dan grew up in a dry county in Kentucky, home of Bourbon whiskey. Quite a dissonant combination at first thought – a dry county and Bourbon – but nearly 1/3 of Kentucky counties carry forth the torch of prohibition. And, not straying far from his roots, when Dan got around to buying his first sports car during his junior year of engineering school, he chose the dead sober Porsche 944.

Now, I drive a 90 hp VW Rabbit GTI, so believe me when I say that I don’t mind slow cars, but a stock 944 lacks the verve of a slow hot hatch. The ample ratio of grip to power – likely a boon to track performance – smothers the appeal in day-to-day driving. But, boxed fenders aren’t a common sight on modern roadways. And those fenders, along with proper proportions, atone for the antiseptic driving experience, at least in the sub $5k used German sports coupe category.

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Embracing American Muscle, Mullet Edition: 68 El Camino SS 396 L78


My introduction to the mythical El Camino was typical for the species.  I had driven my 84 GTI – complete with its perpetual, post-precipitation door chime – 100 miles to State College, PA with three goals:

  1. Visit my brother
  2. Stop the door chime
  3. Drive an El Camino

The owner of the El Camino, Mark, had recently driven his Malibu wagon with a 4-speed, side pipes, and racing seats, to Alabama, where he traded cars with his mom.  With his move from grad school to a full time job in D.C. approaching, Mark resorted to the flexibility of his mom’s offensively 80s El Camino to relocate his household belongings, and his Ducati.


Getting by without owning a truck – a BlythBros. guide

For many DIYers, the pickup truck provides essential utility.  Find an RX-7 with a blown wankel on Craigslist?  You can either tow it home behind a truck, or if you’re in a salt state, simply punch your shoes through the floorboards and Flintstone it home.  Building a workbench for indiscriminate hammering of car parts in your garage?  Throw the lumber into the truck bed and haul it home.

But, for those who don’t frequently depend on that level of utility for their livelihood or hobby, is buying a dedicated work truck the best solution?  I’ll explain my hobby situation, and why I think I managed better without buying, say, a $5,000 work truck.

In the past year, I’ve been able to complete the following without buying a truck or borrowing one from a friend:

  • Drive 300 miles to buy a 12V Alfa V6 for my Milano
  • Tow my Alfa Milano 300 miles when I moved
  • Drive 75 miles to pick up a 12V Alfa V6 to rebuild for a friend
  • Tow a 68 El Camino SS 250 miles home after it died in Chicago
  • Drive 500 miles to bring home the entire drivetrain and subframe from an Alfa 164Q
  • Purchase lumber for two sets of 8’x8′ shelves, and a 16 wheel tire rack
  • Drive a refrigerator home
  • Pull my thrashed Alfa Milano off of the Tail of the Dragon