Widely regarded as one of the top professional boxers of all time, the late, great Muhammad Ali could probably have had just about any car he wanted. Heck, he even owned an automaker at one point, but more on that later. What we’re looking at today is a classic Alfa Romeo that was once his, and that’s now coming up for auction.
Ali bought this 1976 Alfa Romeo Spider new at European Imports in Lake Forest, Illinois, just outside of Chicago. He owned it for just a short time before he gave it to his friend – the current owner – who was with him at the time of purchase.
We can’t say for sure who that friend and consigning owner is, but the Alfa is said to have featured in the book “Running with the Champ: My Forty-Year Friendship with Muhammad Ali” by Tim Shanahan – a copy of which comes with the car. So we wouldn’t be surprised if it’s the author’s.
Whoever it belongs to has put over 80,000 miles on the car. It’s powered by a 2.0-liter straight four with a five-speed manual, decked out in silver with a handsome red coachline and a black interior, and wears a California vanity plate reading “ALIBEE2.”
The Alfa wasn’t Ali’s only encounter with small Latin-flavored roadsters. As Jalopnik documented shortly after his death just two years ago, Ali was once part owner in a small Brazilian manufacturer called Puma, which made little fiberglass-bodied barchettas powered (ironically enough) by “boxer” engines from the Volkswagen Beetle.
The obscure sports cars earned the nickname “Lettuce” after a deal with a Saudi sheikh saw the cars rebadged under his name Al Fassi – which in Portuguese (the language of its native Brazil) refers to the leafy vegetable. “I guess that could be cool,” wrote Jalopnik’s Jason Torchinsky, “as long as, you know, you don’t park next to a Rabbit.”
The deal (and the automaker) collapsed when Sheikh Al Fassi was investigated for tax evasion, and only one prototype for the car that bore his name is thought to have survived. But the Alfa is up for grabs, and it could be yours if you place the right bid next month at Barrett-Jackson‘s Las Vegas sale.