Ron Cherry: Alfa is for love
Alpha, the homophone for Alfa, is the first letter of the Greek alphabet and the first letter in Aphrodite, the Greek goddess of love. It is very appropriate since it was for love that Brian Graham found an Alfa Romeo for wife Deborah in 1996. Not long after they had been married, Brian wanted Deborah to choose a car for herself.
“I was into Harleys,” he said. But Deborah had different tastes. “She said, ‘I always wanted a sports car,’” he recalled. So the search for a car she liked began. “As we went around, I’d point out cars and say ‘How about that one?’” he said. But no luck. Then she saw a car going by that hit the right spot. “I followed it and found it was an Alfa,” Brian said. “She said, ‘That’s the one I want.’” So he started to look for an Alfa and found one in Santa Rosa.The car was an ‘86 Alfa Romeo Spider 2000. The woman who owned it had taken good care of it. It had been garaged and carefully maintained by the local Alfa Romeo dealer. “It was her baby,” Brian said.
The car was all original, with a 1962 cc, dual overhead cam aluminum 4-cylinder engine with Bosch L-Jetronic fuel injection that produced 125 HP and a 5-speed manual trans. For options, it had power windows, air conditioning and an AM/FM/Cassette that could be removed and stashed in the trunk. With features like “crumple zones” for accident safety and four-wheel disc brakes for stopping, Alfa had been ahead of the market when it introduced the Spider in 1966 and, with its Pininfarina body, still was current in 1986. Although this one had a repaint that was not perfect, the original black leather interior was still in good shape, as well as the vinyl dash. The deal was made and Deborah drove her sports car home. “It’s her car,” Brian stated.
For 10 years, the Alfa was Deborah’s daily driver. When she drove to San Diego to see her daughter, she drove the Alfa without any major issues. “It never left her on the side of the road,” Brian said. “People are always saying that Alfas break down a lot, but they haven’t maintained them.” And Brian kept the Alfa garaged and in good repair. However, although repairs were few they sometimes were difficult.
“They’re a rare car,” he said. “Parts were hard to find. I’d go to wrecking yards. Back then, you went into the yard and pulled the part yourself. Not like now, when they disassemble the cars, then clean and shrink-wrap the parts. But if I couldn’t find a part, I’d manufacture it.” That was one of the main factors for demoting the Alfa to “occasional driver” status.
Last year, Brian and Deborah decided their Alfa needed an update. “It took a lot of wear and tear over the years,” Brian said. “It was nothing major, a dent here and a ding there.” While the interior was still great, the paint was wearing thin and the non-original top had started to rot from age. Rolly’s Body Shop took the car down to bare metal, exposing a couple of previous hits with Bondo in need of replacing. After doing that and aligning a hood that had never fit right, they sprayed it in the original Blue Mediumio Metallic.
“It looks great now,” Brian said.
Next came the top. Originally, the top had been tan with a black lining, so that the tan would show with the top up to match the tan seats and the black would show with the top down to match the black carpet. Brian bought a replacement and had Artist’s Upholstery install it. “When I took it to them and they looked up the standard installation charge in the book, it was for 5 hours and they wondered why so much. It ended up taking them 10 hours and they refused to stop until it was done.” Brian said.
Another person that helped Brian was Duke at Gin’s Little Valley Auto. He handled some problematic electrical issues.
“He’s very knowledgeable,” Brian observed. “I tried to keep it all local and they did great. Everything works and no leaks. It’s nice to do stuff locally.”
Over the years, the Alfa has accumulated 125,000 miles on the odometer. Since its retirement from front-line duty, the Alfa only gets about 200 miles a year. “I try to take it out and drive it once a month to keep it mechanically sound.” Brian said.
Although the Alfa does not get a lot of miles on it each year, the ones it gets are enjoyable.
“It’s not a muscle car, not going to beat them off the line,” he noted. “But when you hit 2nd and 3rd gear around here, it’s fun. It’s just a kick to drive on these back roads. I’d put it up against anything on an Autocross track, the way it handles.” Having driven Autocross for many years, he should know.
However, one thing should not be forgotten, this is still Deborah’s car and a sign of Brian’s love for her. And it’s ready for the road again. “I’m Italian, you know, like the car,” she said. “I’m going to start really driving it now.”
Ron Cherry’s four books, including the Morg Mahoney detective series, are available on Kindle and in print copy at Amazon. His latest is a Celtic saga, Three Legs of the Cauldron. For more about his writing, go to http://www.rlcherry.com.
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