Jamie, oil was just topped up. I've put another litre in just to make sure, and it's now at max.
Is it more likely to be the tappets than the big ends?
And does anyone have any idea of the costs involved?
I've been quoted silly money (2k-5k inc. labour), and a couple of garages aren't even considering looking at it, they went straight for the replacement engine. That sounds a bit radical (and money hungry) to me.
If the 'Alfa Workshop' in Royston is not too far from you they really know their stuff on all Alfas. Maybe worth getting an opinion or quote from Jamie whos runs it, very reasonable rates as well. I've used them and have been very pleased, saved money and better service.
Depending on how much you paid for the car,it sounds to me like something has obviously gone badly wrong which is a real shame.
I agree with ghostydog,the garages don't really know whats wrong with it and the trouble with that is that you will have to pay them just to find out what it is and then fix it which will very quickly run into big bills.
I think you're best bet would be to sell the car on as is.