Still the original poster here. I've had a few minor crashes (yes, I'm an awful driver) with the car, and managed to fix the bodywork myself. My spray painting has become surprisingly good.
The car is still going great, and if anything, the engine feels even better than it did before. The twin spark really does pull like a train at high revs, and sounds stirring while doing so.
A few caveats for anybody buying an aged example: the relatively cheap Bosch solenoids do wear out at the 150000 - 200000 km mark, and it would be a good idea to preventatively replace the lot. They can cause some funny problems, which seem like something serious, when in fact all you need to do is unplug the old one, toss it in the trash, and put in the new one. Voila! Bella runs again!
Traffic where I live has become much heavier of late, and I find the car doesn't like slow stop-go driving. It gets quite hot. It's possible that there are deposit buildups in the cooling system due to different anti-freezes being used. Time for a radiator flush methinks.
Other than those niggles, I couldn't be happier. Fingers crossed for the next 50000km...
Sorry, what I meant are the three pronged squarish electronic gadgets in the box next to the battery. There are two large black ones and about six smaller red ones. I'm not an electrician - possibly the correct term is relays. I had a lot of gremlins thanks to these little devils. Problems that seemed like something more serious. I replaced these and magically the car was OK again. It seems that they eventually wear out and need replacement... it's not the end of the world, because they are relatively cheap, even from Alfa.
Thanks for the reply! I love reading reviews on this site, because it gives ideas of what things usually go wrong commonly, and also an idea of whether or not it is actually fixable.
Original poster again.
Much as I enjoy the system when it works, I have to advise against buying a Selespeed model.
A few months ago, the gear changes went on the blink again, and my mechanic said it was the pump motor. This is usually a wallet-breaking exercise, but this chap is an Alfa specialist, and he managed to re-brush the motor for relatively cheap.
A few more months of fun, then the gremlins again. I'm really not a fussy owner, and tend towards the DIY. I personally repaired and replaced all the non functional window switches for example. Stuff cars do normally don't faze me.
But this Selespeed is a royal PITA. It would work normally, and then suddenly decide I could have only 2nd and 4th gear. Then it decided to stop of its own accord at a robot. I had to push it across the crossing, where it decided to work again, no problems. More of this followed.
Argh! Back to the mechanic, who removed a connection box linked to the actuator, and linked the wires to each other directly. Apparently with age, the connector box commits suicide, and needs to be replaced or removed in favour of a direct connection.
Again, my mechanic saved the day with a light bill and great service. I'd punt him, but apparently this site does not allow that.
The car is again performing flawlessly... but for how long, is the question.
This car is on 210000 km, and probably 90% of my hassles have been with the Selespeed. The engine is still brilliant and everything else is OK too. Still a great drive. But the Selespeed version is not recommended for reliability.
Original poster again. Just wanted to say that it's 2013 and I still have the Alfa. I've had zero problems for the last six months, and am still enjoying the car very much. I'm getting braver with it, and really pushed it through some S bends near my work. It's actually amazing how grippy it is through the corners, especially considering its age and that the shocks likely have never been replaced. I will probably drive it until it falls to bits or gets written off.
Original poster yet again. 2014 and I am still driving the Alfa. Last night I had a very enjoyable blast along the highway at high speed, and the engine is still going marvelously.
There is a temperature sensor that ensures that the coolant stays at the 'correct' 90 degrees temperature. It has died and the water pump now circulates coolant continuously. This might be a problem in a colder climate, where the engine struggles to keep warm, but in sunny South Africa I have the opposite problem, and have decided not to replace the sensor.
There was also a slight crack in the plastic nozzle leading into the coolant expansion tank, which meant that I was losing coolant, adding to the overheating problems. A little bit of fibre glass and overlapping rubber hose has cured that problem.
Still very happy with the car.