But wait! There’s more!
It’s surprisingly hard to find an Alfa Romeo Spider owner on Instagram.
When I finally found Dean, I jumped at the opportunity to ask him about his Graduate.
But how could we not also talk about his Porsche Cayenne Turbo—the one he takes off-roading?
Fortunately, Dean’s a gearhead like us. He was happy to share.
These are amazing machines.
[tgp] Introductions: I’m very interested in both your Alfa Romeo and Porsche. (I mean, we could get into Teslas, Bimers, and other toys you may or may not currently have, but I think the Spider and Cayenne are a great start.) Tell me a bit about yourself?
[you] I’m glad you like the Alfa and the Overland Cayenne Turbo. I enjoy cars that are special but that are practical and can be used for their intended purpose. As we talked about, the Alfa is going to be a momentum race car and isn’t finished. I want to be able to daily it and carve canyons but it will be a great car to practice lines with on the track.
I also would like to mention that I have a 914. I’ve owned several very special 914s including a street/track car that had a lot of power from a 964 911. The Tesla is a perfect economy car. When I don’t feel like buying gas it’s great for going anywhere virtually free (besides the initial investment).
My 996 Turbo is worth mentioning. It’s the ugly duckling of Porsche 911 Turbos but it has a great engine that makes big power and torque and it isn’t so special that I don’t mind playing with it in the canyons. I’ve spent more time lightening it than adding power. I’ve shed about 200lbs which has made it easier to toss around and feel more old school Porsche.
I’d also like to mention the Overland Touareg that I built. It seemed absolutely indestructible and could go anywhere I wanted it to. I also used it to rescue a few conventional 4×4 trucks that got stuck. Those early Touaregs have locking differentials and reduction gears and VW does not offer those options anymore so they are cheap SUVs that should be coveted.
No matter which car I talk about upkeep is going to get most people in trouble so any of these cars can be expensive to own which has to be considered when buying one. I find it worth the effort.
[tgp] Wow. What a collection. As if I didn’t already want a Spider and a 914, at this point I’ve already spent at least half an hour looking at Touaregs, Cayennes, and 996s. (Already know I want a Tesla, or I’d have googled that one too.)
On Alfa Romeo Spiders…
[tgp] The most important automotive opinions are those of real, actual owners. As a Spider owner, could you share a little unvarnished truth with the rest of us? What do you love about them? What do you not love about them?
[you] This Alfa is a 1988 Spider Graduate. It has a Bosch fuel injected 2.0 liter with variable valve timing. It makes about 110 PS and 110 ft/pounds of torque. My main goal has been to make it as light as possible to take full advantage of the small engine. I’ve shed hundreds of pounds which makes it much quicker due to the power to weight ratio. Eventually I’d like to swap the engine for a GTA 3.2 liter Busso V6 but it really doesn’t need it.
I love driving this car on fair weather days. When it’s a little cold out the heater works great. I’ve enjoyed putting a vintage Alpine cassette deck in it that works and sounds great. The car always puts a smile on my face, however, coming from Porsches it has its downside—the handling. Adding very large 16×8 wheels and 225/50/16 tires has helped with that, but I’ve spun it twice with the original 14-inch tires.
At its limits it’s unpredictable and I’m sure this is due to the solid rear axle and very old tech mechanical steering. I don’t trust this car like I would an old Porsche, but it’s charm more than makes up for what it lacks. It really feels like a baby Ferrari to me. It’ll be a nice car when it’s done.
[tgp] How did you end up in this camp? Why have you stuck around as long as you have?
[you] I’ve owned and worked on special cars since I was 14 years old. I bought a 1975 Porsche with money I saved as a paperboy. My father and I began restoring old Porsches and VWs in our driveway and we bonded over that. He was a WWII B29 airplane mechanic in the Army Air Force in the 1940s and became a hot rod builder in the 1950s.
We did well flipping cars all through the 1990s when Porsches were still affordable. We’d have the occasional Karman Ghia or 60’s Volvo coupe, but 914s and 60’s 911s were our bread and butter. I’ve been keeping at it ever since.
I’ve owned over 20 Porsches and, most notably, I daily drove a 1986 911 Turbo with over 300,000 miles on it which I was very proud to show the reliability of the car. It’s in my blood. I can’t imagine ever stopping. What makes it possible for me is my knowledge of the cars and ability to work on them myself. When the job is too big I have very skilled but affordable mechanics help me out. I shop around to find the best deals on parts and I am very careful with my budget.
What makes it possible for me is my knowledge of the cars and ability to work on them myself.
Doing what I do isn’t for the faint of heart. I just welded a new front end on the Alfa [the other day] and I’m covered in burns, but I saved myself thousands of dollars by learning to weld.
The Alfa Romeo community…
[tgp] How’s the Alfa Romeo community doing these days? Where do y’all hangout, share tech, and whatnot?
[you] Since I’m new to Alfa Romeo, I’ve had to do a lot of research. The online forums have been very helpful. I also shopped around for vendors and dedicated experts who have been essential for this project.
Everyone I’ve reached out to has been happy and excited to share their knowledge. It’s a wonderful community and reminds me of how the Porsche community used to be. The people who own these cars and the experts that work on them have great attitudes which can make or break the joy of owning a car.
[tgp] Dean, your history and collection is too good to leave at just the Spider. Can we talk about #offroadcayenne? Not many Cayenne owners take their machines off-road. How does it do? What do you love about them? What do you not love about them? (And what have you got planned for yours?)
[you] I feel like the Overland Cayenne Turbo was the logical next step after off-roading a Touareg. When the Touareg was first introduced in 2002, it was meant to be the off-road vehicle to beat them all and it really is. It won the X Prize for autonomous off-roading! It beat out Hummers and Jeeps for that distinction.
The Cayenne at its heart is built with Touareg DNA, which is the same DNA as the ultimate fast car being built in the same factory by the same engineers: the Bugatti Veyron! In the early 2000’s Porsche and VW started making real money and wanted to build the ultimate cars and trucks and they did.
Since then, they’ve backed off the over building and engineering that was packed into their cars between 2002 and 2010. So for me, the 2008-2010 Porsche Cayenne Turbo is at the top of this era of ultimate VWs. This is the only Cayenne that has the 4.8 liter twin turbo direct injected engine that was used most of the last decade in the Cayenne and Panamera Turbos that also has locking differentials and reduction gears.
They really only built the best Touareg/Cayenne/Q7 for three years. It’s very fast, faster than a Lamborghini Countach. It can out-corner most sports cars. It’s very comfortable on the highway. And the computer and reliability is fantastic. This is an SUV that can possibly out perform a Jeep off-road, but still drives extremely well on the highway or has fun carving a canyon.
As a demonstration VW towed a 747 with it. I’ve personally pulled dead weight out of sand and snow with very little effort. With a few minor modifications, it has over 650 horsepower and torque, and with the six speed, shiftable torque converter automatic, it has most of that torque at extremely low RPM when you need it. It also pulls very hard to nearly 7000 RPMs.
There are two large down sides to all you get with this amazing truck:
- Gas mileage is terrible. I have seen as low as 8mpg. It can get 20 on the highway, but it’ll usually average 14 so budget accordingly.
- Things do fail and have to be fixed. I pride myself on using the gears to slow me down so the very expensive brakes will last. Despite how surprisingly reliable it is when I use it for very hard off-roading, sometimes I find myself needing to replace shocks or bushings at some point. I doubt you’ll find an off-road vehicle that doesn’t require upkeep after triple black diamond Jeep trails, but being a Porsche means you either pay a lot or shop around to get the best deals—and you better have a mechanic that you really trust and knows these cars well, otherwise it will be way too expensive and a life of frustration. For me it’s been mostly bliss with the occasional fear of going bankrupt!
[tgp] How did you end up off-roading a Porsche? Why not something more mainstream?
[you] Porsche and VW spent a lot of money making the 2002-2010 Cayennes off-road beasts. I hated that all of them ended up being soccer mom cars here in the US when in Europe they were being rally raced. Once I was able to afford one my goal has been to show how really well built the early Cayennes were.
I’m happy to see others now following my lead. There’s nothing like the surprise when I get to a very technical summit and someone eventually walks up to me and says, “You did that in a Porsche?!” They were made to be the ultimate off-road truck so that’s what I use it for. I can’t imagine using anything else to explore hard to reach places.
The #offroadcayenne community…
[tgp] What’s that like? Where do y’all hangout, share tech, and whatnot?
[you] The Cayenne off-road community is still extremely small. There are not more than a handful of us at this point, but people are slowly catching on.
Last year was the first year I started to see others in the US doing what I have been doing for the past half a decade. I believe there will be a lot more of us now that the initial cost has come down. Resources are limited, but I can think of a couple people now I could search and ask questions if I need to. I think anyone with the resources to start building dedicated overland parts for them now will do very well soon. So far I haven’t hung out with anyone else who does what I do but I’d love to get a Southern California group together or join one!
This gearhead life…
[tgp] When you think about automotive culture in general, what stands out as being the biggest issue we should be working on together? What’s your biggest concern and what should we be doing about it?
I mean, I love happy gearheads. I love the guys that do it out of love for the cars, the craft, and the challenge. I don’t like how concerned people get over purity or investment opportunities. I don’t like it when people only do it to make money or to cheat money out of people. I like the honest fun that it can provide and the camaraderie!
[you] The biggest challenge going forward is going to be who is going to take over when people my age or above get too old to run the show. When I was a teen, the old timers were great. We all shared the same sense of joy and it was like we were all in on a secret. We’d rent race tracks and have track days to really explore the limits of our cars and our personal abilities both as drivers and technicians. We weren’t afraid to break things and fix them ourselves. We weren’t afraid of cars that needed a lot of work and we weren’t perfectionists.
We were like a bunch of kids who never completely grew up which made it fun. I’d like to see that spirit continue. I’m willing to pass my torch to anyone who does it for the sheer hell of it and who truly wants to learn the history of the cars and how they work.
Yes, the right car can appreciate in value and I’ve made money, but that shouldn’t be the point. The car’s value comes from its intrinsic value. It’s a collection of parts and those parts along with what they can do means it has value to me and how much fun I can have with it—that’s it.
I’d also like to point out that fossil fuels are going to eventually die. So as a community, if we want to continue to use internal combustion special cars, we need to decide what technology to use to sustain our passion without getting in a huff over the end of fossil fuels.
I am migrating to ethanol. There are people trying to recycle carbon from past emissions to combine with hydrogen to create a reusable gasoline. I’m all for any tech that can sustain this passion. We need more investors and engineers working specifically on this otherwise we will end up with $20/gallon gas and a bunch of cool cars we can’t afford to drive anymore, which would really be sad.
I love the underdog gearheads. The ones who make do and find creative ways to have cool cars on small budgets. If you have a lot of money, great, the sky’s the limit—but I hope that, in the future, the common enthusiast can reasonably own or build his dream car and actually be able to use it.
I’m all for working class people with fun cars—after all, it’s the working class people who built them in the factories and who dreamed about them as kids. There’s nothing like having to save up your money to buy parts and buy that car that was long out of reach. I will always root for the underdog as well as admire the wealthy car collections.
[tgp] Who’s made the biggest difference in your life with cars? How so?
[you] I need to shout out to Automobile Atlanta and George Hussey. For Porsches, he will always take the time to talk to someone if he can and he provides parts worldwide. He’s a very big name in the classic Porsche world, but loves helping the small guy get his project done.
I’d also like to plug R2 Racing Shop in Santa Clarita. I’ve been going to them for help since they opened and these guys are as fair and honest as it gets.
Eddie’s Auto in Indio, California, is a very small VW shop that can do anything you need on a 914 Porsche or VW. He’s really one of a kind. He has helped me convert several 914s to 911 engines and he always came through.
Santos Alfa Romeo in Los Angeles is as good as it gets for Alfa Romeo repair and for restoration, advice, and even modifications. If they don’t do it, they know who can. They’ve connected me to Alfaholics in the UK who are top notch and some domestic suppliers for new and used parts.
I’m sure I’m leaving out a ton, but those are the big names that come to mind who have been essential for me.
Would you like to know more?
- Look Dean up on Instagram: @dean_fredrick_clark