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Discussion Starter #1
I may regret asking this, but:
I have completely disassembled my 1959 102 Touring Spider. I have done most of the work I can do without having to face a question that has been plaguing me. How original should I keep this car through its restoration? All would be fine if I could readily find the parts I need to complete it, but as I search for old parts I have to constantly ask myself wouldn’t it be better if… At first it was the master break cylinder; A split system would be safer. Then the Distributer; electronic would be great. And how about replacing those Solex 44’s with Webbers? And modern Paint colors, man!!!  The list is endless. I know some limits will be mandated by my wallet, but really! Though I wasn’t alive, I know this car was cool in 1959 without any of today’s advances, should I preserve that at all cost?
I would love to hear both sides so maybe I can make a decision once and for all.
Thank you in advance.
 

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Here's my .02 cents.

First - you may want to post this in the "Restoration" Forum: Car Restoration - Alfa Romeo Bulletin Board & Forums

Second, while I myself am not a strict "keep it original" type, I fully understand and respect those who are. If it's your car that you plan on keeping and driving, I see no reason why you can't do some upgrades that you'd like to do (with one exception: I don't think it's ever a good idea to repaint in a different color). That said - keep everything originally attached to the car in labeled boxes/containers so that the next keeper of the automobile could return it to original spec fairly painlessly.

Best of luck on the restoration, and go ahead, post some pictures!
 

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I'm with Jeff B above on this issue - more or less. While I want my own restoration to mimic the original car as much as possible, a small number of small modifications is inevitable for the same reasons you have doubts about your 102.

However - and this is a personal thing - when it's done I want to sit in it, turn the ignition key, drive off and think "luxurious sports coupé from 1972". I want a time machine, not just a working car. Warts and all. In my book it's not a restoration if it isn't taking the car back to factory spec, however troublesome and bad it was. For me it's not semantics.

If parts were unobtainable or something was just so poorly designed it was unworkable, I'd drop the Big Words and go for "working car" in an instant. Life is sometimes too short to aim for concours points ;)
 

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However - and this is a personal thing - when it's done I want to sit in it, turn the ignition key, drive off and think "luxurious sports coupé from 1972". I want a time machine, not just a working car. Warts and all. In my book it's not a restoration if it isn't taking the car back to factory spec, however troublesome and bad it was. For me it's not semantics.

If parts were unobtainable or something was just so poorly designed it was unworkable, I'd drop the Big Words and go for "working car" in an instant. Life is sometimes too short to aim for concours points ;)
Exactly my thinking.

But a split braking system would be something that I would seriously think about doing. It would not change the driving of the car, just improve safety.
Pete
 

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Exactly my thinking.

But a split braking system would be something that I would seriously think about doing. It would not change the driving of the car, just improve safety.
Pete
Hello, I have the same question for a Giulietta Sprint. I want a 100% original car but safe and durability (OK for the language?!). Some I decided to make 3 modifications:
1- the alternator changed with Dynator for more regular power with the same shape like the original Lucas.
2- the break material pipe change with inox
3- fuel tank new with steanless steal

All other parts are original or NOS. You need time to find what you need but it's the game and very exiting. But I'm lucky because my car was 100% complet and original.

Finally there is no good answer, make like you want but... do not make irreversibles modifications
 

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I think the rule we all have to deal with in these matters is pretty straight forward. "Don't change anything you can't undo." This lets you do just about anything that is bolt-on, bracketed, or substituted. Drilling holes and cutting sheet metal is not allowed in restoration work. "First, do no harm!" would be my guide.
 

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It's your car. It's your money. Do what you want to with it. There is no law on this matter, only an unlimited number of differing opinions from people who do not own your car.

There will be more people that criticize you in direct proportion to the number of modifications that you make, and fewer people willing to pay you a top price for your car.

If other peoples' opinions are important to you, consider going into charity work, or drive a Prius.
 

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I am reminded of a quote from they guy who owned the Spitfire that was called "G-Fire" when it was in England. He painted it bright red with blue pinstripes on the leading edges. It looked fantastic, but drew criticism from purists. His answer to them was something like "When you own your own Spitfire you can paint it any colour you like!" I think that plane is in the States now and is still red.
 

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I am not inclined to post to such threads since one man`s..... but I think Don makes valid points `do what you want to....`

But for what reason and where do you stop - why a ss petrol tank? The originals last 50 years with care and 20 without. Isn`t that long enough? Similarly brake lines etc etc...

If you want a modern driving classic Alfa why not just cut the body off and graft it onto a modern; sure it could be done with a bit of ingenuity.

I recently joined a rally in Italy for which club membership is required. My Alfa owned 20+ years and beautifully presented and to my thinking original requires a serious makeover for membership; suspension wrong color, cam cover incorrect, regulator cover polished, remove roll cage (never used in period), brake lines not original, interior mirror, air intake not matte, etc -- the list extends to some 15 items.... The requirement is `original` in whatever condition that might be.

I am finding the old car movement in Italy moving more and more in this direction probably following the path so successfully adopted by Slow Food.

Just my own thinking and observations....

Richard
 

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I guess when it come to cars we really can do with them what we want. When it comes to old Alfas, is the same always true? I am reminded of a few years ago, a restorer wanted to take the statues of the Erechtheum down and get them all treated with a silicone plastic that soaks into the grain of the stone they are sculpted from. It seems the modern air is mixing with the rain creating a carbolic acid. The details of the faces are eroding away with time. A plastic coat would prevent the water/acid from being
absorbed. It also can not ever be removed - and who knows how it will really react in a thousand years?

Seems to me the similar thing is happening to the old Alfas. Last I heard, they aren't making anymore.

You have a good one.
 

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I should know my correct designitions for Alfa's but several years ago a fellow with a late 50's, early 60's six cylinder 'Touring Spider' showed up at a local French/Italian car meet with a V8 in it.

What is tough regarding drastic modifications - especially if you've owned the Alfa for a long time - is what would make you really happy and appreciate the car even more if it had...(might be a long list for some).

I will say to some of the modify type owners is if you're contemplating drastic changes, run it by others. Though this doesn't mean you have to do, or not do, what they say. But one should really step back and ask themselves is it in really 'good taste' and are these changes appropiate to this particular year/model Alfa.

On the other hand...I just did a quick check and it appears as if there were 1,055 102 Spiders made in '59. Pretty rare. When was the last time anyone had two of the brakes fail but the other two were fine? I'm guessing the answer is zip to nil. Leave the brakes alone but make sure all parts of the braking system are in tip top shape. If going electronic ignition, get one as unobtrusive as possible. It is very difficult to get parts for the Solex's, but modern dual throat Webers would stand out. Find some closer to what was available in '59 - though finding, then buying a good pair of 40DCO3's would break just about anyone's bank account.

You didn't mention paint, but my opinion is to at least paint one's Alfa a color that was available up until the year of the car. My thinking goes like this: An Alfa owner really loves his Alfa which he just bought (obviously I'm thinking 1995 or older) and which was just in an accident. He was never pleased with the color of his car but loves a particular color, even though it was used on just a few Alfa's. I'm a huge believer in period correct modifications - again, if they were in good taste and appropriate to the car.

Biba
 

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Modifying brakes for example, depends on whether you are going to drive the car regularly or just on special occasions. Old, non boosted drum brakes could be dangerous in modern traffic. My brother has a 1967 Mustang which, unbelievably, came with a 302 V8 and non boosted drum brakes. It would have been lethal like that, so he put disks and a booster on it. He also fitted anti-sway bars to make it safer on the open road at speed because it frightened the life out of him overtaking a semi trailer at 90 MPH. Mustang purists gave him a hard time about that, but he wanted to drive the car as often as he could and be safe. Seat belts are another thing. Old cars from the 50s or 60s don't have to have them but who in his right mind would drive a car without them these days? I certainly wouldn't.
 

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Unless you have a specific goal for the car, the best bet is to keep it as original as possible. In this way, you preserve the heritage, and the value, for the next owner down the line. Mechanical parts are easily obtained.

Of course, minor modifications which can be "bolted off" are not inconsistent with this approach, and if you feel the need to make safety improvements to rationalize the inherent risk of operating a 50 year old vehicle in modern traffic conditions, it would be silly not to--unless you are a museum.

Good luck with the project!
 

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rbystro has it correct.
Other than that, be guided by your use. For shows use what is original (as from the factory). For driving, use what makes it more reliable and safe. For those who do not like the path you choose, use Italian gestures.

Dave
 

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I'll add one more thing to this conversation: For heavens sake make sure that any 'upgrades' are virtually perfect - meaning, to anyone (other than those knowledgeable in the specific model/year) viewing the entire car, nothing should jump out as an add on.

I'm in the process of doing exactly what I just said not to do (mainly the jumping out part) on my own Alfetta GT, but it at least it will be done professionally. Though getting rarer (through attrition) these aren't exactly highly valued Alfa's.

Biba
 

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Discussion Starter #16
Hey thanks for all the great feedback,
I think it will be a shifting target as I continue to restore it but all this info is greatly appreciated!
Erik
 

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I think this is quite a subjective question, and to me depends quite a bit on the rarity and age of the car as well.

For something like a 102 Spider, being quite rare and desirable, I would tend towards trying to keep it as close to as original as you can, and restore rather than replace components like the Solex 44s.

On more common cars, I don't think mods matter so much, but personally I think you should try and keep the car looking period correct, make changes that look like they could have been fitted when the car was new. I think things like modern wheels or seats look terrible in an old car, and ironically will end up looking dated in a few years.

I have to admit, when I walk around car shows, like the NMRA motorfest a couple of weeks ago, the cars I enjoyed looking at most were the dead original ones, be they restored or well preserved survivors. Admittedly, this is just looking at a static display, and I can well understand somebody making some discrete changes to make the car safer and better to drive.
 

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Discussion Starter #19
Let’s open a can of worms:

Ok here I go, I have this problem in that the gauges on my 59 102 are quite sun damaged so I went into the restore process with the idea that I would polish out the sun damaged plastic pieces and repaint the faded aluminum pieces. All went well except the plastic, which was milky yellow all the way through the plastic, not just on the surface. I have been unable to find better plastic pieces so I decided to break from original and sprayed the aluminum backing plate a metallic gold color to make the clouded yellow dials not look so bad. Here are the results (Minus the needles which I am in process of remaking):
 

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Discussion Starter #20 (Edited)
I should add:
One of the reasons I like this approach is that even though the style is changed the parts are all still original to the car. I can easily reverse the paint back to original by re-spraying it to black if I regret the change later, and I end up with a almost new looking dash.

One general question:
When I took apart the Gauges the color indicator lights were laying loose in the bottom of the can. I remade them using two nested nylon tubes, but I have no reference as to what color goes with what indicator, anyone know?

Thanks,
Erik
 

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