Italian sports car fantasy … for rent
This might sound kinda geeky, but one of the coolest things about the 1987 Alfa Romeo Spider
that I drove from Morrie’s Heritage Car Connection was the dashboard. Full instrumentation! I
can’t tell you the last time I drove a car that had more than the ubiquitous speedometer and
tachometer. As my wife and I drove around town, with the top down and wind in our hair, I
appreciated watching the meters. It was reassuring to see the steady oil pressure and cool engine
temp, and knowing that the purring engine was running the way it’s supposed to.
We picked up the car at Morrie’s garage in Golden Valley on a late summer day. We were
looking for the fun and exhilaration of driving a sports car with a time-honored nameplate
without worrying about fussy maintenance or making room in our garage.
To start the experience, I took it for a short drive to get acquainted with its personality. The car
has a manual transmission. I learned to drive with a stick shift, and I’m comfortable with
shifting. But I don’t drive a manual daily, and it always takes a little time to get back into the
swing of it.
After cruising around the Minneapolis lakes and parkways, I had a pretty good feel for the car
and was ready to take it on the highway. I hopped onto Crosstown and headed toward Edina. It
was just the beginning of rush hour. The traffic was moving smoothly, but not fast. The car
easily kept pace with the traffic, and I finally had the opportunity to shift into high (i.e. 5th) gear.
Morrie’s web site cautions that the Alfa “may not please your inner speed demon.” That’s true.
The car has a 2-liter, 4-cylinder engine. Again, the web site says it best: “It needs to be coaxed a
little to make the most of it.” But the coaxing is fun. The engine revs eagerly and shifting is
quick and smooth.
The next day, my wife and I had planned a day trip to run the car through its paces. Originally,
we talked about driving to Red Wing. But I decided that would be too much highway driving. It
seemed like the car was more fun on roads that curved around a little and required some shifting.
So instead, we drove to Woodbury and cut across country to Afton, then up the St. Croix Valley
to Stillwater where we had lunch.
After lunch overlooking the river, we decided to head home. The weather in Stillwater was
overcast, humid, and a little chilly; not really the most enjoyable for driving a convertible. We
debated whether to put the top up for the drive home, but decided to keep it open. We did turn on
the heater for part of the drive. It worked just fine and helped keep us warm.
Occasionally, while driving around, we’d get a gentle reminder that this is an old car. It had
91,000 miles on it. It rattled a little bit on rough roads. And besides the manual transmission,
there was no power steering. That made for an interesting exercise in parallel parking in
Stillwater. We were cautioned that the radio doesn’t work sometimes. We only tried it once; it
didn’t work for us. (Not that you’d be able to hear the music with the wind and traffic noise.)
But the reality is, you drive one of these cars for the fun of it. And, to be truthful, you do it to
turn a few heads. For example, while we were driving on the freeway, cruising at a comfortable
60-65 mph, there was a steady stream of cars in the left lane zooming past us. We saw a few look
over with a combination of curiosity and (dare I say) envy. One of the cars that blasted by was a
Maserati. I’m sure I saw the driver ease up a bit as he passed us and give us a respectful nod.
Another example, when we got off the highway in Woodbury, we made a short pit stop at a gas
station. As we got back in the car, a man said something to us in Italian. I didn’t really catch
everything he said except for the word ‘bellissimo” – beautiful.
That made us smile.
Our guest blogger is Steve Krikava who is a retired writer who loves food and cars. He also has a blog of his own Kirk’s Picks. We look forward to more blogs from Steve next season.