A very long post (sorry) as the subject is close to my heart:
I've owned Alfas since 1984 - first a 33 Green CL then in 1998 my 916 GTV TS. Both bought from new. My 33 lasted over 100k miles/15years and I still managed to sell it for £1,100. My GTV is 13 years old and (as some of you may see from other threads) I'm now starting to tidy up the engine bay, will replace the braking system and start to sort out the dents on the bodywork with a possible respray in 8C colour over the next year. It's just coming up to 70k miles (cambelt due soon) and has let me down just once, when a friend borrowed it for a 500 mile motorway drive, after the car had been 3 years stood idle in a garage, and the belt tensioner went.
Alfas have given me years of enjoyable and reliable motoring. I now work partly overseas and am entitled to a company car. They refused to let me have an Alfa because of depreciation so reluctantly I took a BMW 3 series. I was waiting to be wowed by the famous German reliability - what a joke. In the first year it needed a new steering column, the cruise control broke and after 3 years the whole sat nav i-drive system went. After 5 years, the internal carpet has worn through. Of course, all covered by manufacturer's warranty with my employer but, if this had happened to an Alfa, it would have made the Sunday papers. The first 5 years of both my GTV and 33 ownership were completely trouble free.
And, if my gtv conks out for good tomorrow morning, what gripe could I possibly have - it's 13 years old and has more than paid for itself and, unlike the bmw - the ownership of which actually embarrasses me, has given me untold pleasure.
Some observations on Alfa ownership after 27 years:
1. If you are a "warning light person", stay away. You need to take pleasure in owning, driving and "feeling" the car to get the most out of it, not wait for some clinically designed check system. It should be a joy to regularly check the car. Similarly, you should probably stay away from De Rosa and Colnago bikes in case the chain comes off and eat Heinz spaghetti instead of De Cecco or Barilla as all that boiling water can be unreliable.
2. It's a race to get to the end of your journey, not a race to get into 4th gear. Change gear when the engine tells you, not when the Highway Code says. These cars are designed to be high revving and I actually get better mpg on an Alfa driving that way. When a non-Alfa guy drives my car, I can usually feel the pain of the engine straining doing 30mph in 4th. They then learn how to drive it and immediately become dissatisfied with their other car.
3. Change the oil very regularly and always use a premium brand and the right grade.
4. Find a good Alfa specialist. I've met so many great guys over the years. A particular nod to Bianco where Gary and Harry helped me add another 5 years onto the life of my 33 and are still my automatic preference when anything needs repairing despite having moved out of London. There are some cowboys out there but I've found most Alfa specialists to be friendly guys who take an interest in getting things sorted and who have a wealth of knowledge - too many to mention, but those who have really helped me when up against it are the boys at Alfa Mania, Ken when at Alfaman and now at Autodelta, Adrian at Alfa Aid, recently Autolusso and many years back Brian Howard in Amersham. This forum surely shows this kinship too. Is there a BMW forum? If so, it probably has loads of threads like "Trouble: Screen wash has run out - main dealer is shut and I'm not in the AA."
5. Don't take advice from anyone non-Alfa specialist without checking. When my gtv's tensioner broke, obviously the power steering went. My friend called the RAC for a tow. They tried to convince that the car could still be driven 100 motorway miles back home. Anyone who did not know a bit about engines would have followed this pathetic advice to possible disastrous consequences.
Alfa til I die. My gripe - they are becoming less Alfa ( wouldn't we all prefer an oil pressure gauge like on the 105 to an airbag warning light?) and losing some of that character. Del Boy once said about music "I don't care what they say, you can't whack The Who" - had he never heard a revving 4 in line 105 series GTV?