Owning a Classic Italian sports car is an unattainable dream for most gearheads; some are just too expensive, others need too much work.
Oftentimes, the joy really is worth the effort, but you have to choose your poison wisely, because in the wonderful world of Italian cars, it is dead easy to get burnt. Between all the electrical gremlins and the never ending corrosion, some models are definitely best avoided, unless you are a truly dedicated fan.
If you are going to say no to a muscle car, it better be worth it. Hence, here are 5 classic Italian sports cars worth the pain, and 5 we wouldn’t touch with a barge pole.
10 Would Buy: Lancia Fulvia Coupe
Prices are steadily on the rise for these pretty little cars, but for all their quirks, they are well and truly worth it in the right condition. Like any cars from this era, corrosion is always going to be a concern, but the biggest issue is the complicated little narrow angle V4 (think VR6, just smaller).
In the right state of tune, it is a wonderful engine, but there are only a handful of people left on this planet that know how to work on these engines. With enough effort, you could be one of them…
9 Wouldn’t Buy: Lancia Beta Coupe
When Fiat took over at Lancia, everything got streamlined, including their choice of sheet metal. The interior was also mostly left to the Fiat parts bin and their only saving grace was the Lampredi twin cam.
Build quality also left through the back door, and all of a sudden, there were thousands of Betas with wonderful engines running around Europe literally dissolving in front of their owners. In some countries they were forced to buy back the rust piles and this put the company on the ropes. In truth, they never really recovered.
8 Would Buy: Alfa Romeo GTV6
One of the last truly beautiful things Alfa Romeo left us with before they got swallowed by Fiat was this transaxle GTV.
Perfectly balanced in the corners, wonderful power delivery, and that sumptuous soundtrack from the Busso V6 engine sending power to the rear wheels through that transaxle. It was obviously far from perfect, but if driver engagement is a priority, this should be near the top of your list.
7 Wouldn’t Buy: Alfa Romeo GTV
Technically, you can pick up one of these front drive GTV’s for almost the same price as a good transaxle GTV, but we wouldn’t recommend it.
Most are powered by the erratic 1.8-liter twin spark engines. They are quite slow, doing 0-60 mph in 9 seconds. Technically slower than the ’80s GTV6! If you are willing to pay just a little more, the Busso can become yours, but you have to accept the fact that all that lovely handling gets canceled out by the heavy transverse V6. Best leave this to the die hard Alfisti…
6 Would Buy: Maserati Merak
A lot of hate is directed at this particular Maserati, it is as failure prone as any Italian car, but it comes with a few French quirks too.
It was made while they were owned by Citroën and developed around the same time as the SM, one of the most beautiful French cars ever made. The Merak is also painfully beautiful, more so than the bigger Bora, and if you can get its V6 in tune, it really sings.
5 Wouldn’t Buy: Maserati Biturbo
A lot of hate is also directed at the Biturbo, which is barely a sports car but seriously the worst Maserati.
It is worth dirt for a very good reason. It was made on the cheap, and sold for more than it was worth, turning many customers against the brand.
4 Would Buy: Fiat X1/9
Although now infamous for its propensity to rust, those Bertone lines are more than worth the risk of unexpected corrosion.
It is a tiny little Ferrari, with a mid-mounted inline 4. The car is poised in the corners, and it’s a genuine driver’s car that just embodies exactly what a sports car should be.
3 Wouldn’t Buy: Fiat 850
If you think the X1/9 is slow with a 0-60 mph time of around 10 seconds, then you have another thing coming with the 850. If it does actually still make it to 60 mph, it will take at least 20 seconds to get there.
It is a pretty little car, but is dangerously slow, if you plan on driving the thing anywhere outside your neighborhood.
2 Would Buy: Ferrari Testarossa
Technically, there are now a handful of six figure muscle cars. Hence, if you were to get the slower V12 Ferrari, that is what you would be saying no to, because it is more or less the minimum price of entry.
What you get for your money is the quintessential Ferrari, designed for wannabe Italian racing drivers and extroverts all over the world. It is what it is, and we love it for that.
1 Wouldn’t Buy: Ferrari Mondial
If the Testarossa is for wannabe racing drivers, the Mondial is for those just desperate to tick off a bucket list item.
Even though it is one of the cheapest Ferrari’s money can buy, we still wouldn’t get one. Even by ’80s standards it was slow. Today, it is just a slow, uncomfortable car that costs a fortune to keep on the road.