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1978 Alfa Spider
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Hello! One month ago I purchased a 1978 Spider (115.41) painted in Dutch Blue. It is a lovely car in pretty good mechanical and cosmetic condition. This is my first Alfa Romeo and I am enjoying learning all about Alfas, researching maintenance, restoration, and modifications. I purchased this car, not only because I believe it is very beautiful and fun, but also because it gives me a project to focus my spare time and energy on. New 2-seat convertibles are available with more performance and excellent reliability but they just don't have the uniqueness and intimacy of a classic sports car.

The goal of this car isn't just to enjoying driving, but to also enjoy the process of maintaining and modifying. I thought others on the forum might like to see my efforts and, hopefully, offer ideas and insight along the way. So lets get to it.

Here is my starting point. Painted in Dutch Blue I think it is quite striking. Dutch Blue is NOT the original color as evident in the engine compartment. Originally the paint was Cream. The body is a little wavy with plenty of dings, but with no "apparent" rust. I've got a sneaking suspicion that a total strip down would reveal some hidden surprises.

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1978-alfa-romeo-2000-spider-veloce-010.jpg

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Okay, so what now.?...

While the car is in good condition there are plenty of odd jobs to perform.

The first thing I did was remove the sun visors. After only two days of driving, they were driving me mad. They would flip down in my line of sight at the most inconvenient time and didn't seem to help much. I've driven the car every day for the last month and I LOVE not having the visors in the way. I didn't even investigate if the visors could be tightened to eliminate their most annoying behavior, but I'm not sorry.

Just a word on my plan for this thread. I am simply going to post my maintenance and mods as I go, hopefully with pics, with the idea they might be useful to others. I am open to any/all comments.

Brad
 

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Welcome! Love the color. Part of my early-morning driving circuit goes through McKinney, south of the airport, and around part of Lake Lavon.

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I should have started this thread with a thank you. These forums have already been invaluable in helping me figure out how and what I want to do. It is really great to have such an active and helpful community. Now, on with my next job.

The first mechanical job I attacked was the Oil Vapor Separator canister. One of the first forum threads that caught my I was the " A Permanent Solution to FAILED CORRODING Oil Vapor...

My engine was definitely weeping oil everywhere, and based on these forums and the visual condition of the OVS I guessed it was clogged. I did a quick, "blow in tube" test and confirmed my OVS was not breathing and likely increasing crankcase pressure. Based on the forum above, I purchased the kit to build my own. The kit looked (and is) high quality and looked easy to build. I built the separator from Ricks parts and now its probably the most expensive thing on the car you were to count my hourly rate. The actual construction was not hard, but was fairly time consuming. I found the construction fun though.

No the bad, as soon as I installed the part, the car now idled way too high. My best guess is that the idle/SPICA was setup with a clogged OVS with no air flow in the vacuum line. I had to plug the intake manifold vacuum line to restore my idle. Yes, I am planning on tuning up the SPICA in the future, just not yet. Also, even though I have SPICA fuel injection, and purchased the OVS configuration supposedly for the SPICA, I really needed the other configuration. The difference is the outlet is 90deg on the bottom for my configuration and not straight. I didn't think it would matter in my case, but I was wrong. The hose on the bottom is difficult to install and I don't like the routing at all.

In retrospect, I think I would either just remove it entirely or replace with this $27 part found on Amazon and pointed out by another forum thread. The OVS DID need replacing, it was clogged and I believe I was getting a fair amount of crankcase pressure driven oil seepage.

Even though it works as designed, is high quality, and cost a fair amount, I suspect it will get removed before too long.

See, I just didn't spend enough time researching the forums first!

Here is the old OVS
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Here is the new one. It is all brass but I painted it black to match the OEM look.
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Discussion Starter #5
Rich,

Beautiful car. I live in New Hope, just north of McKinney Airport. My wife and I drive a 20 mile loop through Altoga, Melissa, and back every day in the Spider. The roads are awesome and at sunset it is a wonderful drive. The previous owner sold this car because he had purchased a Duetto. He just got it out of the paint shop and we are planning a drive together soon. You are welcome to join us if you are interested.

Brad
 

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The second job I attacked on my new Spider was a "tune-up". I bought the "kit" from Centerline (NO AFFILIATION) that included both rear and front fuel filters, main and SPICA oil filters, and spark plugs. The car had been pretty well maintained but I think its always a great idea to start fresh. The SPICA oil filter cavity had some sludge so I suspect that filter had not been replaced as frequent as the others. I also bought new red spark plug wires more for cosmetics than anything. The wires that the car had looked and felt to be in excellent condition. I also bought set of wire separators from Amazon just for cosmetics. I think it really looks nice. I would like to remove the broken plastic hose guides from the valve covers. The hose isn't there anymore and I don't expect to replace it. The main problem is the brackets are held in place by pop rivets so I will have to remove the valve cover and have someone TIG the holes. I'll save that for another time.

Here is a shot of the engine with the new spark plug wires. You may see a few other upgrades/mods here if you look close. I will be posting about those soon.

Brad

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I was going to wait a while before I started just for fun cosmetic upgrades but I couldn't resist. I recently installed the Euro Headlight covers from Classic Alfa in the UK. I was really pleased with how quick and affordable the shipping was (NO AFFILIATION).

The headlight covers were a bigger pain than I expected. When I removed the existing headlights and trim, the paint hidden by the trim had flaked up revealing its previous cream color. I had to sand down the buckets and get matching Dutch Blue paint to repaint just the buckets. I got the paint in a spray can from a local paint supply. The paint doesn't exactly match due to fading on the rest of the car. Getting it in a spray can also means it doesn't include hardener so the paint is much more fragile. You can't really tell the paint doesn't match because the new paint is completely inside the new headlight covers. I think the final installation looks great.

Here is what I found as soon as I removed the old headlight trim. Note, I've already moved the headlight bucket to behind the opening.
I couldn't figure out how to get the headlight bucket through the opening, so I put it in from behind using the wheel well opening. Moving the bucket this way requires removing the pins from the headlight connector, moving the headlight, then reinserting the pins. In hindsight it might have been easier to disconnect the wiring in the engine compartment, but my way wan't bad.
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A closeup of the paint flaking. Once sanded back to "good" paint the area was significantly bigger.
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This shows both headlight buckets prior to painting. The bucket on the right is in the original position and the
one on the left has been relocated as required by the covers.
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Here the driver side is ready for primer.
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Something no one mentioned (that I saw) was the need to remove this screw boss. The boss is where you attach
the US spec chrome finish trim on the headlights (at the bottom). If you don't remove this it prevents the headlight from seating on the inner fender bucket studs. They are easy to simply break off. I hate making changes that aren't easily reversed.
.
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This is the primed, but not yet sanded headlight area.
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Finally! Fully painted headlight buckets ready for their finishing.
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The headlights were a little finicky to install through the opening but it can be done. Also, the fender structure with the studs mounting the buckets had to be bent just a little to get the bucket to go on. The kit came with stainless edge trim to dress the bare openening. I needed to trim the length to get it to fit. Also, the driver side had previous body work that made the edge thicker but the trim still fit.
The two slots in the fender on each side of the headlight opening on both sides needed opening up bigger, and one was covered with combination of bondo and steel from previous body work and had to be created. The covers on my car required some sanding on the edges in a couple of spots to get a nice fit.
Here is the final product. I'm pretty happy with the way it turned out. I hope others find this useful.
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I really struggled with what to do on the exhaust. The car had a loud buzz above 4000 RPM that came from the exhaust. In the beginning I mistook the heat shield on the downpipe as major corrosion so I thought I needed a new one. I couldn't find a new downpipe for the 1978 but a complete early/euro exhaust system seemed like a really good value. The downside is the emissions compliance. Here in TX they don't check the emissions but theoretically check that the all of the emissions pieces are there. In practice I don't believe they verify much visually but I'm definitely taking a risk. I plan on keeping some of the parts so I can restore it back if necessary. Since the new exhaust relies on the early/euro two piece exhaust manifold I purchased a set off of eBay. I think I really lucked out finding them and they were very affordable. The end result is an exhaust system without a catalytic converter and no provisions for the emissions air pump.

The first thing I did was remove the emissions air pump. The pump and brackets are super heavy. Once removed it was obvious the pump bearing was failing and was the source of higher RPM vibrations. There isn't really any horsepower gain removing it but the engine vibration in my case was soooooo much better. I would like to find the large engine front case plugs that would let me replace the air pump mounting studs/bolts, but I haven't found them anywhere.

Next I removed the old exhaust manifold. Based on previous cars I was really dreading removing the nuts. As it turned out the nuts were practically hand tight on the old manifold. They obviously came off easily. The air pump manifold tubes pretty much fell apart on their own as soon as I removed the manifold. I am sure some of my noise and exhaust leak was from from that tubing. The rest of the exhaust came out surprisingly easy. The rear silencer also had a small leak. It was very apparent that my annoying buzz came from the heat shield on the downtube section.

I cleaned the eBay two piece manifolds and painted them with VHT Flameproof paint in silver just to pretty them up. The paint caused a smell the first hour or so of operation but is gone now. The mainfolds installed easily and look great.

I also purchased the exhaust mounting hardware kit when I bought the exhaust and am glad I did. Initially I didn't replace the exhaust hangars with the new ones from the kit but discovered once I was done that the rear tailpipe hung too low and offset. I went back and replaced the non-stock hangars with those in the kit and now the tailpipe hangs just right.

After all that, what is the difference? I was surprised the exhaust sounds pretty much the same to me. The good news is the annoying buzz and bad vibrations at higher RPMs are gone making the driving experience MUCH better. Also good, the engine bay looks much cleaner with the two-piece manifold and no air pump. The bad news is I probably could have removed the air pump belt, welded or removed the heat shield, maintained full emission compliance, and spent less money and time. As is, the parts I put on weren't that expensive in the big scheme. Also, I did not expect, nor did I notice, a distinct performance difference before and after. I probably gained a couple of HP and reduced weight by 20 lbs.

All told, I probably spent about $420 to replace the entire exhaust, including manifolds and shipping.


Here is the engine with it shiny new exhaust manifolds. Also, all that remains of the air pump and brackets are the two large studs where the brackets mounted to the cylinder head. I would really like to replace those studs with the plugs that other engines have but I haven't been able to find them.
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Here is the new exhaust. Don't judge on the cleanliness of my chassis and diff. I haven't got that far yet. :)
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I forgot to mention that on the 2nd drive after my headlight cover work, my passenger headlight low beam went out. I bit the bullet and pulled the headlight and checked it directly on the battery. It checked good. I used a multi meter on the headlight connector and while voltage was a little low, it too looked good. Finally after quite a bit of head scratching I checked the headlight harness connector near the passenger side of the radiator. The connections there were corroded and a little contact cleaner plus dielectric grease corrected the problem. This was really frustrating because to get the headlight out required undoing and redoing quite a bit of the headlight cover installation work. The covered headlights look way cool, but they definitely make maintenance a bigger pain.

Brad
 

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Nice write up Brad. I am also an owner of a 78 Spider, which funny enough, was originally cream. I'm curious....How many miles? And what condition is your SPICA?
 

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Nice write up Brad. I am also an owner of a 78 Spider, which funny enough, was originally cream. I'm curious....How many miles? And what condition is your SPICA?
I believe the car has about 123000 miles. Of course it only reads to 99999 but it doesn't look like 200000 or 300000 miles :cool: As for SPICA..... That is a good question. The car starts pretty good, but idles very low after first starting. Seems to run strong, and no apparent fuel in the oil. My best guess is.....The cold start valve may be defective, and the thermo-actuator is an open question. Also, some occasional backfiring when backing off the throttle means the fuel cut-off solenoid might be defective as well. One of the projects I intend to undertake soon is a complete **** tune-up following the manuals and Wes Ingrahms guidance (found here on the forums). One of the first things in the setup is to verify the thermo-actuator, cold-start, and fuel-cutoff so I will find out then where I stand. As I said, the car runs very good and strong after a very brief warm up so I'm hoping nothing too serious with the SPICA.
 

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Thanks for sharing. I will be looking forward to more updates as you proceed. Love the photos!
 

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Okay, so what now.?...

While the car is in good condition there are plenty of odd jobs to perform.

The first thing I did was remove the sun visors. After only two days of driving, they were driving me mad. They would flip down in my line of sight at the most inconvenient time and didn't seem to help much. I've driven the car every day for the last month and I LOVE not having the visors in the way. I didn't even investigate if the visors could be tightened to eliminate their most annoying behavior, but I'm not sorry.

Just a word on my plan for this thread. I am simply going to post my maintenance and mods as I go, hopefully with pics, with the idea they might be useful to others. I am open to any/all comments.

Brad
I own a 1978 Spider as well. I am not new to A-R but I am new to this BB.
I will be interested in seeing how you progress. The sunvisiors made me laugh. If that's the worst thing it's all downhill from here.
 

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@AcroBoyBrad , welcome to the club! When I begin a new Alfa project like this, (in respect to the engine) I begin with the basics. A proper Alfa NORD engine tune-up begins with removing the valve cover and setting the engine to #1 TDC on the firing stroke (cam lobes facing the fenders, not each other). Then check for absolute correctness of the timing pointer and the crank pulley marks. Now would be a good time to clean the 4 marks and add some paint so that you can see them clearly. Once you have found TDC, you can check and adjust, as needed, the timing chain tension. Next, check the cam timing at the front cam caps. Then, check the valve clearance. After that is all sorted, and before you reinstall the valve cover with a new gasket, half moon plugs and fiber washers, you may want to remove those broken hose holders attached on top. Some weld the holes shut and then polish or paint. I have also seen rivets installed with smooth heads and RTV and o-rings on the inside. Or, source an older VC that doesn't have the holes. There are some painted and also powder coated ones for sale here, from time to time. Only after these checks and adjustments have been completed, you can move onto checking and adjusting the ignition system and the fuel injection system. GL with your project!
 
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Discussion Starter #16
Thanks Andy, I will definitely follow your advice. I will try to post pics and how it went. It will be at least a couple of weeks before I start that. I've already given thought to making a simple TDC tool with a dial indicator for precise TDC measurement similar to others on these forums. I have read several times in the forums I really need to sort everything else on the engine before messing with the SPICA. Right now I am pretty happy with the way the car runs so I'm not in a big hurry. I think I will have someone weld up the VC holes. I haven't decided if I want to polish or paint the VC. If I paint, I am thinking black crinkle paint with polished logo.
 

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I couldn't resist starting some of my cosmetic changes. One of the first is changing the tail lights. I had a broken taillight lens so I ordered a set of brake and Euro turn signal lenses to replace my old ones. I took both taillight pods out and performed a thorough cleaning. Once out it was obvious the remains of the old lens gasket was literally as hard as a rock so I also ordered a new gasket. I got the new lenses installed but now I have intermittent issues with tail lights, turn signals, and brake lights. The issues definitely seems related to the tail light clusters but I need some to spend more time diagnosing the issue. The whole car has electrical issues so no telling what I might find. I also don't have backup lights but that could be related to my exhaust install. I've got to get the car jacked back up to assess the backup light issue. The good news is the tail light lenses look great. I know my activities are pretty haphazard, I am currently picking simple tasks based on weather and convenience. My garage is still filled with my other project and that project takes most of my time.

Here are the tail light pods after removal from the car. Note the old gasket material is clumping and hard as a rock.

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Here are the new tail lenses installed

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If you have room to advance your ignition timing that will help your low idle.
 

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The next thing I started (but of course didn't finish) was the grill retrofit. I started by removing the old front bumper and tiny lower grill chrome. With the 78 bumper off, the car immediately had a very different look. For the new grill to fit I had to remove a small triangular body panel behind the old mini-chrome grill. I rough cut it with a body saw and then used an angle grinder to grind the flange and spot welds away. Afterward a quick prime and rattle can paint job and it was ready for the new grill. The pic below is after I had cut and ground down the sheet metal. I really should have taken a pic before I cut the panel so you could see the starting point. Sorry.

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I fabricated a U shaped bracket to attach the Euro grill and mounted the grill with it. I also fabricated some temporary turn signal light holders from some Lowes aluminum angle so I could keep driving the car while finishing the front grill. I haven't decided for sure what to do about turn signals long term. Even unfinished I am pretty happy with how the car is looking. The following pic shows the U-shaped bracket I fab'd and where I tied it into the existing structure.

grillbracketsmall.jpg


An here is the final result.

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I've got some material coming for the next step on the grill.
 
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