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Guilty Pleasure Alfa Romeo Milano

Welcome back to Guilty Pleasures, the weekly column lauding somewhat embarrassing cars that we shouldn't want... but secretly can't resist. We visited Japan and Detroit for the first two episodes, and now it's Italy's turn. We're going to travel back to the 1980s for this one, to revisit a now-nearly-forgotten sports sedan favored by low-level S&L Crisis bagmen and aspirational New Jersey cocaine dealers.

These days, you talk to a serious Alfa Romeo fanatic and bring up the Milano and there'll be this uncomfortable pause in the conversation. Sure, the Milano was way cheaper than the BMW 325 ($12,850 for the base Milano Silver in 1986, versus $19,560 for the cheapest BMW E30), and more powerful (154 horsepower from the Milano's V6 versus 121 horses under the BMW's hood), but what was the deal with the strange hit-from-behind upward bend in the rear body line?

It should go without saying that the savings on initial purchase cost were wiped out the very first time your new Milano had to visit the shop— which probably happened early on— thanks to the absurdly complex engine and maddeningly fritzy electrical system, but those Milanos that survive today are the Darwin-tested survivors of countless owners who never reached the "screw this, I'm scrapping this thing" point in their relationships with their cars.

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Alfa Romeo Milano in 24 Hours of LeMons racing

As a result of this selection process, in which only Milanos that lucked into excellent build quality have survived, we've seen the Milano thrive as one of the most reliable 24 Hours of LeMons race cars. That's right, you can get a Milano for under 500 bucks and you can beat the living crap out of it on a road course for a full weekend and— in most cases— it won't blow up (of course, if it does blow up, you're out of luck; a single head gasket replacement took a highly skilled LeMons team 14 hours to perform).

If you want a nice Milano these days, you need to pay a bit more; some Craigslist searching turned up this 3-liter Milano Verde with 66,000 miles and an asking price of $3,200. I admit it— I've been looking for a solid Milano for my personal fleet-O-heaps, in spite of the advice from my knowledgeable Alfa-obsessive friends who insist that I'd be much happier with a GTV.