Home » Truly Terrible Ideas: 1985 Alfa Romeo Spider vs 1998 Audi A8 Quattro

Truly Terrible Ideas: 1985 Alfa Romeo Spider vs 1998 Audi A8 Quattro

Sbsd 5 14 2024
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Welcome back! Today, we’re going to look at two cars you really shouldn’t buy. Really. Just don’t. I mean, they’re cheap and all, but no.

Yesterday’s old Hondas sparked a lot of “I used to have one of those” comments. Everyone has had some passing experience with an old ’70s/’80s Honda, it seems, including me. And everyone seems to be aware of how easily they rusted, including me.

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The little yellow Civic took the lion’s share of the votes, and I agree that it’s the more special of the two. It’s a cute little sucker, too; I’ve always liked how the turn signals look like fog lights on those. But for me, it’s the Accord. A little cheaper, a little further along the road to resurrection, and I can’t say no to quad round headlights.

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Now, I know some of you think nearly all the cars featured here are bad ideas. But today’s choices are really bad ideas. Like, Ishtar bad. Drunk-dialing your ex on their honeymoon bad. Skinny-dipping in a drainage ditch in Florida bad. I can’t wait to show them to you.

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1985 Alfa Romeo Spider – $1,500

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Engine/drivetrain: 2.0-liter dual overhead cam inline 4, five-speed manual, RWD

Location: Berkeley, CA

Odometer reading: unknown

Operational status: I don’t think so

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The Alfa Romeo Spider is a hard car to resist. It’s low and sleek, with those classic Pininfarina lines (ruined slightly by later updates), a sonorous twin-cam engine, and sharp handling. It made Dustin Hoffman cool and earned Niki Lauda‘s stamp of approval. And better still, it’s an Italian sports car of the people, produced in sufficient numbers to make used ones reasonably cheap and easy to find.

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The Spider saw a number of changes over the years; this third series Spider has the black rubber spoiler on the back, and Bosch fuel injection on its twin-cam engine. Unfortunately, I can’t tell you whether or not this one runs, because there are exactly zero details in the ad. It just says “Call for information.”

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What little information we do have must be gleaned from the photos, of which there are few. For the most part, it looks like a typical scruffy Alfa that has been yanked from someone’s garage after some number of years. The paint is faded, but the body looks more or less straight. The top is intact, but the back window is missing. The interior is all there, but it isn’t in great shape. But then you get to this photo:

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And honestly, I don’t know what to make of that. Why is it on top of a forklift? Is it still on top of a forklift? Is this a junkyard? What on Earth have they done to this poor car? “Call for information.” Yeah, I don’t think so, pal. Explain yourself.

1998 Audi A8 Quattro – $1,400

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Engine/drivetrain: 4.2 liter dual overhead cam V8, five-speed automatic, AWD

Location: Los Angeles, CA

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Odometer reading: 152,000 miles

Operational status: Runs and will drive, but stuck in 4th gear

Now this car I could say made Jason Statham look cool, but let’s be honest – he doesn’t need the help. This is an older A8 than that one, but it’s a cool car in its own right, with a 296 horsepower V8, all-wheel-drive, an all-aluminum body, and that good solid German road feel. It’s also, however, a product of Ferdinand Piëch’s time at the helm of the Volkswagen Group, vehicles not known for simplicity or reliability.

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The ad for this car is a little light on photos as well, but at least the seller provides a bit more information on the car’s condition. It sat for three years before coming into the seller’s possession and being revived. It does start, run, and drive, but the transmission is locked into 4th gear, I assume as part of some kind of limp mode. Curiously, they also say there is no check-engine light on. Maybe the bulb is burned out.

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In addition to whatever is going on with the transmission, it also needs brakes all around, upper control arms in the front, a transmission mount, and some other odds and ends. The seller says the timing belt “looks fine,” but that’s not a place you want to trust a visual inspection. Just bite the bullet and replace the damn thing, then you know it’s good.

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Cosmetically, it’s OK, but not great. The paint is dull, the interior has a few tears, and the whole thing just looks sort of grubby. This would be fine if it were in good mechanical condition, but being both scruffy-looking and worn out makes it a hard sell.

Obviously, the low price of either of these is just a down payment. You’ll double or triple that amount just to take care of the problems we know about, and who knows what other surprises are just waiting to be discovered? But as bad decisions go, an Italian or German car is probably less potentially disastrous than anything involving Tijuana or multi-level marketing. At least you get a cool-looking car out of it. So which one are you throwing away money on?

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(Image credits: Craigslist sellers)

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Cpt. Slow
Cpt. Slow
29 days ago

I had an A6 of this era. I shook hands with my mechanic the last time I took it to him. “Do you want me to fix it?” “If you don’t make me take it home, I promise I’m never coming back here.” “Deal.”

I got the better end of that transaction, I think. But I still kinda miss it. Great seats, lovely to drive when it worked.

Last edited 29 days ago by Cpt. Slow
AlterId
AlterId
29 days ago

You have to think of the worst-case scenario: If you never get it running, which will look best in your backyard? È ovvio!

Brau Beaton
Brau Beaton
29 days ago

Alfa all day long. No matter what condition, there’s a massive community around these cars. Parts are still easy to find and relatively cheap. Driving one is a dream. Nicely restored they’re a quick sell.

Dogpatch
Dogpatch
29 days ago

Just say NO to the Audi.No one on here can afford to keep throwing parts at that piece of crap.

James Carson
James Carson
29 days ago

Alfa. It is fixable. The Audi would be an ongoing trainwreck with stupidly expensive parts. The Alfa while having spaghetti electrics doesnt have magic digital smoke. The hard parts for the Alfa are available from various third parties.

Freelivin1327
Freelivin1327
29 days ago

I’ll take the Audi

“Curiously, they also say there is no check-engine light on. Maybe the bulb is burned out.”

This is fucking hilarious…I never even thought of the light going out…now that’s the sign of a bad car when even the CEL is broken ha ha

BentleyBoy
BentleyBoy
29 days ago
Reply to  Freelivin1327

Actually they should replace the CEL with a row of illuminated dollar signs, the more that are lit the worse the problem (former A6 owner here).

Top Dead Center
Top Dead Center
29 days ago

The Audi, do some tactical driving course and pretend you’re in a knockoff Ronin movie (also not an S8).

Myk El
Myk El
30 days ago

In the great words of Fats Domino…I’m Walkin’…

Cal67
Cal67
29 days ago
Reply to  Myk El

You will also be walking if you buy either of these.

Jason Roth
Jason Roth
30 days ago

I don’t even see the point of starting with that Alfa. Just pay double and get 3X the starting point.

OTOH, I’m not sure $3k gets you an Audi that’s much closer to being a daily driver.

Would I be crazy to use the stuck transmission as an excuse for a manual swap?

Hugh Crawford
Hugh Crawford
30 days ago

I live about two miles from an Alfa restoration shop, or maybe something like this —

https://tipo184.com/

Justin Short
Justin Short
30 days ago

For mark’s money , I’m going with the Alfa

Danger Ranger
Danger Ranger
30 days ago

I voted Alfa, as it should be easier to push.

Turbotictac
Turbotictac
30 days ago

I accidentally made this a perfect 50/50 split. 243 to 243. What are the odds

ColoradoFX4
ColoradoFX4
30 days ago

A8. There are numerous Audi-specialized shops in my area.

Jmfecon
Jmfecon
30 days ago

When I was a kid, I loved this Audi A8, and dreamed about owning one. But, despite the look aging relatively well, this one is in a terrible shape. The Alfa will be a cooler project car.

FloridaNative
FloridaNative
30 days ago

You had me at “Alfa Romeo Spider”

Mike F.
Mike F.
30 days ago

If I’m going to be stuck with a messed-up car, I’ll take the Alfa. If nothing else, I’ll get some questions answered:

Why a forklift? Really. Why?
How did they get it on top of the thing (it’s not on the forks, correct?)
Which photos came first: those of it on or off of the forklift?
What the hell kind of place is it sitting in, anyway?
Etc.

I’m betting the Audi would end up being a pretty expensive proposition.

OrigamiSensei
OrigamiSensei
30 days ago

I wouldn’t touch the Audi with a 10-foot pole unless I needed a parts car. My best friend has a 2001 S8 and although I swoon over the looks it has been a disappointment to drive and trying to maintain it is a nightmare. Dropping to an A8 from the S8 just makes it even less desirable.

At least with the Alfa you’d have the hopes of coming up with a beaten but usable and fun weekend driver.

Shooting Brake
Shooting Brake
30 days ago

I’ll take the Alfa as it will make for a very unique Weather vane. 😉

Pneumatic Tool
Pneumatic Tool
30 days ago

I think I’d rather have an Alfa that offers no information on condition than an Audi that does – especially this kind of information. There’s nothing good hiding behind those details.

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