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Spider Hunting - Alfa Romeos and the fools who want one

lokkilokki Posts: 1,200
I'm in the process of hunting down an Alfa Spider for a hobby car. I suspect that I'm not the only one who has 'spider bite fever' and thought that I'd start a discussion where those of us who are in the market can ask for assistance, opinions and warnings.
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Comments

  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright CaliforniaPosts: 45,718
    I don't see anything foolish about wanting an Alfa Spider, since the 1981--1993 models are really a bargain in terms of European sports cars that are the "Miata alternative".

    Miatas are great cars but are cramped (anyone over 5' 9" need not apply unless you are buying the very newest models) and as common as leaves on a tree. For about the same price you can score a very clean Alfa Spider, and if you choose wisely, have yourself a well-built, dependable car with way more charm than a Miata and way more reliability than an MG, Triumph or a Fiat in a similar price range.

    What are my personal rules of thumb?

    1. Don't buy a "fixer-upper" Just don't. Ever.

    2. If you are buying 1981-1993, don't expect "fast". These cars are not fast.

    3. If you can't afford a Duetto from 67-69, consider the Spiders with SPICA injection from 1970-74. They rev much better than the Bosch injected Spiders and they are faster.

    Why does everyone bad rap SPICA injection? Because nobody follows the book on adjusting it!!!! :mad:

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  • lokkilokki Posts: 1,200
    I've been taking up space in the "Project Cars - Hold em or Fold em" topic and thought that I'd pull this Alfa Romeo specific out of the clutter, and out of the way of the other posts there.

    I've owned a couple of Alfa Spiders in the distant past - a 65 Giulia like the one in the picture below - bright red and almost as nice as the one in the picture, but NOT the one in this picture.

    image

    and I also had a 74 Spider in the same color as the one in this picture... but with the original Campagnolo wheels

    image

    I wish I'd never sold the Giuila - I couldn't ever afford to buy my old car back- particularly in the condition it was in :cry: but a 74 is just about within reach if I don't get too picky.

    I also know that there are many other years of Spiders to choose from, but it seems to me that 74 was the high water mark since there were still no pollution controls and no heavy bumpers. However, 74's command high enough prices that I could get a much newer Spider, often with less miles for the cost of a 74.

    So, here are the current contenders -

    A 74 that seems to have most of the heavy lifting already done - Seller says California car with no rust; no accidents; no problems; no discounts. I'd asked for comments on this one before... and I'd made an offer on a previous listing but we failed to come to terms. A disadvantage is the roughly $700 to ship the car to Texas... driving it down would cost about the same when everything is said and done.
    74 you've seen before
    The local contenders:

    1982 Spider - Pretty but not running and not a great year. Still for the $5K difference you could make a lot of restorations and modifications. Still 82 is probably one of the least desirable spiders. (Am I wrong here?) and even with $5K to play with those bumpers aren't going anywhere.

    Dead 82

    This one is a 78 with only 81K miles, but "May need carb adjusted because car has been in Denver colo since 1999, I do have special tool for adjusting it and it goes with the car. . . Paint has one or two bad spots. Front lower fenders have some rust.

    78 that's not so great

    I'm allergic to rust.... I figure that I can get the mechanical work done or have it done, but the combination "rust and Alfa" scares me almost as much as "rust and Fiat". Additionally, the picture looks like the air cleaner for fuel injection - not the carbs for he has a special tool.

    Finally the wild card - a poor-boy paint jobbed got some bondo, probably not running but complete 67 Duetto.... it's ending as I write, but it's going to be relisted... reserve not met. This is tossed in on Shiftright's rule that it's no more expensive to restore, but a lot easier to sell when you give up.

    Duetto

    Any comments? Any other Alfisti who can't wait for the return of the breed?
  • lokkilokki Posts: 1,200
    I appreciate your advice..... you posted while I was composing!

    The Duetto link above doesn't seem to work. Here it is again...

    http://cgi.ebay.com/ebaymotors/ws/eBayISAPI.dll?ViewItem&item=320411619290

    Bidding stopped at $7100 - owner wants $10K
  • lokkilokki Posts: 1,200
    The car has been stripped to metal and all the rust spots has been replaced. I have all photos to document and prove the work that has been done. Body work alone cost over 10k. Its currently primered and its waiting to be sanded , painted and put back together. This car started as a complete running car and I have all the parts to put it back together including a lot of new and restored parts :confuse:

    http://dallas.craigslist.org/dal/cto/1357135955.html

    image
  • euphoniumeuphonium Great Northwest, West of the Cascades.Posts: 3,341
    Finish the job. Stay to the end. Don't give up. You started it, you finish it. Don't be a quitter. Learn to complete all projects.
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright CaliforniaPosts: 45,718
    "Do your research a restored rust free 65 Sprint GT sells for 30 to 40K"

    Perhaps on Mars but here on earth I don't think so. This car is a long way from done is the problem.

    Besides, many people might prefer the GTV 1750/2000, which came a few years later.

    Nice car and all, but it's a long way home.

    Probably it will follow the formula: total investment / 2 = selling price. Buy it for $10000 as is, put another $30K in it to finish it, sell for $20K--$22K. Again, this is 2009, not 2006.

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  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright CaliforniaPosts: 45,718
    There you go. The Fiat 124 is not built with the quality of materials as the Alfa, but it's still a fun car to drive. $2500 sounds right as long as the "TLC" doesn't stand for "transmission, lighting and clutch".

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  • lokkilokki Posts: 1,200
    A Fiat? Hmmmmm... I'm a reasonable man, and I'm open to compromises... I'd been pondering a small loan on an S2000, or (less desirable because I'm not a fan of the looks - a Z3). But pretty as the Fiat Spiders are, a former Alfisti feels like he's stepping downwards (Yeah, I know - Fiat owns Alfa, Fiat owns Ferarri, I know) but somehow, they're not on the radar for me.

    So, anyhow...

    Here's a Spider that's in good condition and cheap.... ($3500 asked) and has been on Craig's here for a couple of weeks now (They'll probably take $3K). It's in an affluent area (Plano), which is always a good sign that the claims are true.

    http://dallas.craigslist.org/dal/cto/1328175265.html

    I asked for some more photos and the interior is pretty nice.... and the engine bay is clean - Toyota Camry neglected, if that makes sense. Rust isn't an issue here in Texas, thank God, no problems there.

    The bad news:

    1. It's a 1982 - not a very desirable year, even in nice condition.

    2. It hasn't been used in 3 years. I asked if had been prepped for storage, but no, it just sat in the garage, unused. Haven't asked if they've replaced the battery, drained the gas and 'really' tried to start it, but the impression is not.... Just - "you're never going to drive it, honey, get rid of it"

    So the questions:

    If I get in for $3K, can I get back out for a reasonable loss? If I enjoy this car, I'd get a more desirable year to play with... after learning my basics on this one.

    What's it going to take to get her running again? Change the oil; flush the radiator; drain the gas tank; new battery; change the brake fluid...

    What are the odds that it's going to require more elaborate work on the fuel system after sitting for 3 years.... put away wet?

    It's got the Bosch Fuel Injection, rather than the SPICA.... After exchanging a few emails, I politely passed on it because it's an 82... but, now I'm pondering..

    I'd appreciate any opinions....

    Thanks,

    Lokki
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright CaliforniaPosts: 45,718
    I'd play this one as "worst case scenario"---in other words, you buy it on the assumption that the worst things can happen.

    What might that be? Okay, let's take a really dark view of the future:

    1. drain gas tank, replace fuel filter, maybe the fuel pump (gummed up).

    2. four flat-spotted tires (replace all four)

    3. brake calipers frozen up

    4. hydraulic clutch system issues

    5. no ability to test drive the car, so no knowledge of other problems with transmission, etc.

    As you can see, this is a high risk car, but you may come out fine or you may get buried.

    Given that it hasn't run for 3 years, I'd place it in the "fair" category, not the "good" category as the seller has done, and I would offer no more than $1500---$2000 tops tops tops.

    This way, you have about a $2000 budget to spend and still come out "even".

    The seller is in error here, in my opinion, because he/she should have revived the car. They want the benefit of selling a running, driving car, but don't wish to bear any expense to actually have a running driving car.

    Can't have your cake and eat it too.

    If you accept their responsibilities and deferred maintenance, you need to be compensated. This is not some rare piece. If they say "well go buy another one if you don't like the price"....well, that's pretty easy for you to do.

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  • lokkilokki Posts: 1,200
    Yeah, that makes sense.

    With a little more looking, here's a 79 that has the SPICA instead of the Bosch, and is running. He's asking $5K, but if he takes $4.5K, I'd still be better off than spending $2K and maybe getting the sleeper running $2K later.

    http://dallas.craigslist.org/dal/cto/1329617931.html

    Still it's a 2a with the heavy bumpers...

    Sigh... maybe I can make myself hold out for a 71 - 74 Spider which is what I really want....
  • Id like to buy a spider convertible but would like some advice on the 'better models' out there. Would spend up to maybe 8 - 9 K. I only read negative remarks about spiders??? Any starting advice?
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright CaliforniaPosts: 45,718
    I'll bet you 99% of the "negative" remarks came from people who have never owned one.

    These Spiders are delightful little cars and if you buy the 1982-1993 models, very reliable cars with their Bosch fuel injection system. Of course, don't buy a RAT because you'll never catch up to the person who paid a little more and bought a well-cared for car.

    The earlier spiders from the 70s are nicer-looking to most people, and rev higher and are generally more lively and powerful, but they do have SPICA fuel injection, which can be rather fussy if you don't know how to set it up properly.

    Also many people don't like the 80s Spiders because of the rubber ducktail on the trunk.

    The design got cleaned up in the 1990s, ,but you will pay considerably more for this more handsome car.

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  • lokkilokki Posts: 1,200
    http://dallas.craigslist.org/ndf/cto/1406020313.html

    This 1978 Alpha Romeo Spider Convertible has less than 63000 original miles, is 90% fully restored and runs excellent. It is now the car I'm driving every day. 5 speed, Classic Red exterior, Black Interior. It can be used as a daily car or you could do a little more work and show it. I drive it every day now and almost every time someone says something about it at a stoplight. This is a fun car that will turn some heads.

    Frisco Automotive has done lots of the work, so you can ask them about the condition of the car.

    This really is a beauty

    In the last year:
    New Paint Job
    Engine taken out and inspected
    New timing Chain
    New Top
    New Stereo System
    Regular Maintenance done
    New muffler
    New Alternator and Electrical inspected
    New door handle
    New Headlights
    Fixed some interior upholstery

    To get it perfect
    Minor dents
    Replace seat upholstery
    Door handle sticks sometimes

    Asking $5,400 - I lost my job last month and that's why I'm letting it go for so cheap...not because something's wrong with it.

    I'm going to take a look at this one this evening.

    Comments?

    I have a second to look at this weekend (previously mentioned) - another nice car (79) and clean but it's been asleep for 5 years in a garage.....
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright CaliforniaPosts: 45,718
    I guess it matters what he means by "minor dents". If the nose is pushed in (most of them are) that's not so cheap to fix.

    It's good that the top end was done, as this can be a weak spot in the Alfa. They have soft valve seats as I recall and the valve stems will stretch out. Also they can leak oil *externally* from the head gasket, in the back area of the head.

    Parts are readily available for these cars, including upholstery kits, little bits and pieces, you name it, so that's good.

    What's not good is finding someone who can work on them competently. This is *not* the person who works on Mercedes, Audi, Saab, MG, Skoda, Peugeot "and Alfa Romeo".

    You need to find someone who knows and loves Italian cars---preferably an Italian, who was no doubt trained as an apprentice. THEN of course you have to find one who isn't too *clever" an Italian, and watch 'im closely---LOL!

    I miss, and think about, only a very few of the many many cars I've owned.

    I miss my:

    '71 MGB roadster (BRG, tan interior, lite mods)
    Renault R8 Gordini
    '86 "breathed upon" Alfa Spider
    66 Olds Toronado (awesome!)
    Jaguar XK140 Roadster (banana yellow, black wires)
    My brother's Fitch Corvair
    Porsche 928 (but I don't miss the repair bills).
    63 Buick Riviera (what a ride but what a pain)

    I'd kill for:

    A clean 60s Alfa Spider or Sprint that I could yet afford (daily driver---no trailer queen!!)

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  • lokkilokki Posts: 1,200
    The nose looks OK in the pictures, and being an S2a with the 5 mph bumpers, I think it will be.... my second Spider (back in the late 70's was a 74 with a much prettier nose, but well, can't find one ....)

    He says it was painted last year, so I am curious about what minor dents means...
    I like to think that you'd fix anything that wasn't really 'minor' when you painted it. Yeah, the engine work, the new top and the new alternator are kind of pluses in this case, I think.... Still, you can never tell till you see it in person.

    I am not expecting great performance from this puppy; but I do like winding a dohc through the gears.... I really enjoyed my Spider years- although I have to confess when I bought my first Integra 10 years later, it had every feature that the Alfa had possessed - quick dohc; 5 speed; 4 wheel discs; decent handling; and then threw in Japanese reliability.... sigh...

    and I hope that eventually I can dump the cats, change the header, and maybe even bump the compresion with some new pistons.

    As for " Finding a Tony", I've found an interesting guy outside of Dallas who is Fiat/Alfa fixated and has a shop specializing in them... Even has a Fiat transporter truck, for rescue missions... I've talked to him and -0ver the phone- and he seems about right. Romantic enough to have fallen in love with Italian low-end sports cars, and worn by experience enough to be pretty pragmatic.

    I talked to him about the costs of resurrecting the 'sleeping beauty' that I'll look at Saturday. What he said matched up with my fuzzy memories of the 70's.
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright CaliforniaPosts: 45,718
    If you're willing to invest you can make those 70s Spiders move right out...but we're talking a head that breathes and cams that go with it, and ignition work here.

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  • lokkilokki Posts: 1,200
    Well, went to look at the 78 Spider last night. Body is straight and - (I love Texas!) rust free.... It's been a garage queen it's long and pampered life - even pulled the spare and (although the drain plug was -missing- the well wasn't even corroded :) let alone rusted.

    The seat are shot of course, and none of the gauges are working.. The speedo sort of works, but the tach is dead. Not unusual as I understand things. The other gauges I suspect got disconnected during the engine pull that was done for the timing chain.

    Minor dents were really what we call "hail dings" - minor stuff under the Maico respray but at least in the original (same paint code) red. Top is vinyl but new exhaust is a nice dual tip ansa.

    The bad - 64K miles.... on the original clutch I'm certain. The release point has my knee up around my throat. New clutch needed

    64K miles on the original ball joints and bushings. My 74 Spider tracked nice and tight. This one has 1/4 mile of slop in the steering

    Not only the 2nd gear synchros are shot.... it was hard to get into first and reverse without grinding sometimes.... Maybe the clutch?

    The Ugly maybe. Fresh oil on the drivers side of the cam cover... but it we found that the OLIO cap was loose..... Hope that's the reason for the spray. Engine was clean but not "Cleaned up" so the loose cap seems likely as the reason.

    The rest of the stuff. is minor or cosmetics (needs new tires) sticky door handle etc.

    Oh here's a question - on the driver's side of the engine is something under the alternator that he says (and he doesn't know much but he hasn't had the car long) is an air conditioning compressor but there's no A/C in the car? My friend's guess is a smog pump of some sort... I don't know, but my 74 sure didn't have it. The owner also claims power steering "that doesn't work well at low speed". I don't remember power steering on 70's spiders..

    He's asking $5400, I'm thinking $4600 or $4800? I have another Spider to look at this weekend, but it's a 'sleeper' that hasn't been out of the widow's garage in 5 years...... If it's just as clean but a lot cheaper, maybe..... but 2 sellers and one buyer is always nice....
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright CaliforniaPosts: 45,718
    take a total pass on that car. It's not worth half of what he's asking, by your description.

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  • Thanks for the advice. I am looking at probably an 80's model, I guess the Bosch F I is easier to deal with than the SPICA?? I do not have much automotive experience. I kinda like the rubber tail on the alfa. I will keep on hunting..

    Thanks
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright CaliforniaPosts: 45,718
    It's not so much the SPICA--it's that it needs so much work, and that the paint is a cheapo job.

    check these out: much better cars:

    http://sfbay.craigslist.org/eby/cto/1412639025.html

    http://sfbay.craigslist.org/eby/cto/1411649845.html

    http://sfbay.craigslist.org/eby/cto/1408864617.html

    As you can see, you can still get a lot of Alfa Romeo in your garage in the $4000---$6000 range without having to work on it the minute you get home.

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  • lokkilokki Posts: 1,200
    http://atlanta.craigslist.org/nat/cto/1413509358.html

    This one looks pretty, I think... IF I can get the guy to call me back.

    Interestingly enough, it's the color of my original 74 spider.

    The only two spiders in the world that weren't red, black, or silver.
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright CaliforniaPosts: 45,718
    Yes that car does look interesting.

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  • lokkilokki Posts: 1,200
    Missed that one.... :cry: Still hunting :shades:

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  • isellhondasisellhondas Issaquah WashingtonPosts: 17,881
    Talk me down before I do something very stupid.

    At a car show yesterday, I spotted what HAS to be the nicest Alfa Romero Spider in the entire
    state. A PRISTINE in every respect, 67,000 mile 1993.

    Factory removable hardtop, perfect interior and exterior. Dark Green, factory mag wheels,
    air conditioning, power steering and what seems to be a pampered life after talking to
    the owner/seller.

    Asking 10,750. Anyone have any thoughts? Shifty?
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright CaliforniaPosts: 45,718
    Sounds good to me! The hardtop alone is worth $1500 bucks.

    These later Spiders are pretty good cars---they aren't fast at all, but with German electronics reasonably reliable, good-looking, and while a bit flat in the market right now, will only go up in time.

    parts are no problem but your biggest challenge will be to find a good and HONEST Alfa mechanic to keep up the maintenance.

    Weaknesses are leaking head gaskets (from the rear, you'll see oil dripping), bad synchros 1st and 2nd (very common, live with it if it's not too bad), fan blades breaking off (get an aftermarket fan or maybe yours is all electric by 1993).

    I drove my Spider all over the country with no problems.

    They are roomier than a Miata by far and make an MGB feel like a dogcart.

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  • isellhondasisellhondas Issaquah WashingtonPosts: 17,881
    Wow...quick response! Thanks!

    So, it sounds like the price is in line to you?

    I wish I had taken pictures. You wouldn't believe this car!
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright CaliforniaPosts: 45,718
    Might even be a little money on the table for you, if the car runs out right. 1994 was the "last of the spiders" for the USA, so the last model years, without the rubber whale tail, and w/ hardtop and deluxe interior, are the most valuable.

    Keep in mind that the newer Spiders, from about 1981 onward (post Kammback models) behave in pricing like USED cars, not classic cars.

    What that means is that the older they are, the cheaper they are (and the newer they are, the more valuable).

    Ditto Miatas, 80s and 90s Porsche 911s, (except turbo) etc etc.

    Just remember, they are fun, but not fast.

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  • isellhondasisellhondas Issaquah WashingtonPosts: 17,881
    I really appreciate and respect your advice. I may just persue this.

    We didn't discuss price. I won't do that until I am realy to actually buy a car. He is asking 10,750 and there is probably some room there.

    Aside from a never driven Trailer Queen, I don't know how it could have been any nicer. Still, I need it like a hole in the head.
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright CaliforniaPosts: 45,718
    Well take 'er for a spin, see if like the power level, the driving position, etc. and by all means play with all the knobs and switches. The AC should work really well---mine did.

    Also if the hardtop is on, you're going to have to remove it to inspect the soft top.

    Maybe you DO need a hole in the head---I mean, to relieve excess pressure! :P

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