Italian cars returning to US? I can't wait!

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    An old nameplate could return to the US if the Chrysler-Fiat deal goes through.
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Here’s a big upside of Chrysler’s forced marriage with Fiat: Italian cars are coming back to the United States. Probably.

I am very, very excited.

That is because the best car I ever owned was Italian. It was a 1986 Alfa Romeo Graduate convertible. Black, with a black interior.

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Lost youth

I know what you’re thinking – I’m just remembering my wind-in-the-hair days as being more fun than they actually were. But the style of the car was only part of it. It was a tank, too. Never gave me a moment of mechanical trouble.

The engine was an old four-cylinder design that had had all its bugs wrung out decades earlier. The sheet metal was heavy. This came in handy in the accident. (More on that later).

Plus, it had this great factory-installed button on the shift console. You pushed it, and the taillights got brighter, even though you hadn’t put on the brakes. This was a great way to get people to back off of your tail in traffic. It would probably be illegal now. It might have been illegal then, come to think of it.

The lady in the Grand Am

Anyway, I was buzzing down Washington's Massachusetts Avenue to work one morning, top down, probably thinking about the fiscal year 1988 budget resolution. Unfortunately, my car was so low that other drivers sometimes overlooked me, and that’s what happened. A diplomat’s wife in a Pontiac Grand Am, going the other way, turned left and slammed into my fender.

I lost the fender, and my hood. But the Alfa was solid. The Grand Am looked like it had hit a limestone wall. It was totaled. (Nobody was hurt, in case you’re wondering.)

I’ll bet there is some sort of GM-Chrysler-Fiat metaphor I could spin out of that, but we’ll leave that be for now.

An Alfa return?

Fiat owns Alfa Romeo now. It has tentative plans to introduce two Alfa models in the US, as well as provide Chrysler with small-car technology based on the popular-in-Europe Fiat 500.

Italian style, plus heavy sheet metal, and weird buttons. I can hardly wait.

Got your own memories of Italian cars? I hear some people, uh, had problems. Please send them along by e-mail or Twitter. If I get enough, maybe we can stitch them into a cover story for the new Monitor weekly.

– Monitor staffer Peter Grier contributed this post from Washington.

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