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Love AlfaBB and all the expert advice here. Great set of people for great little cars- it was invaluable to me during the 6 months or so I researched Spiders before pulling the trigger and buying one.

I think a thread from the pov of a new Spider owner might be helpful to someone following the same path. Because, from a practical sense, buying a more than 20 year old convertible- made in Italy- is nuts. Unless you have a solid chunk of change and a garage for your stable of toys, which I don't. So as it began to dawn on me that I was heading inexplicably towards Alfa ownership (girlfriend: "can't you stop talking about that **** car?"), I had to ask myself questions of a philosophical nature. One of which was, how important is it in life to have the highest expression of technology you can afford?

And therein lies the beauty of an Alfa Romeo. Question answered: not so much, there are other things that matter- a lot.

I lost a lot of sleep over this. I'm a car guy, a driver- I like speed, power, and control. I've had a number of cheaper sports type cars (MGB's, Sciroccos, etc) and muscle cars (Camaros, Firebirds, etc) but the car I had at the time of the Spider-bite was the highest expression of automotive technology I could afford (admittedly, not much). I loved my 02 Mustang GT with a few Roush mods, a toned down but gorgeous body (no wing, Bullitt scoop delete, clean grille, platinum paint, etc- not a boy racer look at all). It was an amazing car to drive- an ubercar. It dominated on any kind of road and going through the gears was pure bliss. I had it for several years and never thought of selling it, just keep refining and perfecting it.

And yet… the interior was made of the same kind of cheap plastic as a bucket you can buy in Wal-mart. I upgraded what I could inside the car but still, it was a letdown every time I got in. Short of a total- expensive- custom interior I was stuck with that. And then I moved to Santa Monica. It seemed a little harsh in traffic (lowered, dynaflows) and the nature of driving here just stokes competitiveness. The Mustang delivered on that, in spades. Everywhere I went was a dramatic vortex of V8 yell and blurred scenery, mixing together to create an over adrenalized driver- me. It was getting stressful just to go to Chipotle at the Malibu Country Mart: "Why does that guy have such wild eyes… what's wrong with him?"

Hate to admit it, but I was also beginning to feel a little foolish driving the Mustang. When I sold it, I could hear the buyer drive away for several blocks. I realized, 'oh my god, I was that guy- the neighborhood a-hole!' It would have also seemed wrong to neuter the Mustang's sound- it was rich perfection- so in a sense it was best for it to go- intact. Let the girl who bought it terrorize Redondo Beach on a daily basis. She's young and gorgeous- in that car it'll all work together.

Long way of saying where I was coming from when I started to look at Alfas and why it was a shock to think I might actually buy one.

The Mustang seemed like overkill. And every other car in Santa Monica is an ubercar also- overkill. An automotive river of people charging powerfully, comfortably, safely to…. where? The speed limit is 45 on the PCH up to Malibu. If you take a Porsche or Ferrari on Sunset how fast do you have to go to 'feel it?' Fast enough to end up dead if you make a mistake or in jail if you get caught. With an ubercar the bar is much higher to find mastery and enjoyment, because that takes place at or near the limits of performance. It's where the mystery is. Jockeying in traffic in a 180mph car is not where the mystery is.

Not that you have to drive that way all the time, but you get my drift…

The first thing I noticed when I test drove a 92 Spider Veloce was the weight in my hands via the shift knob and steering. Something was different here. My first impression (other than, my god, that car is so small but so beautiful..) was a sense of solid 'realness' that surprised me. And that was what I was after- a tactile connection with the ghost in the machine. It had been a long time since I'd driven old sports cars so this was a revelation. I could feel that wheel and shift knob in my hands still, as I went to sleep that night. Images of the Alfa were like a song lyric I couldn't get out of my head. There was no turning back…

And so began the hunt for the right Spider.

--- Ok, if you've made it this far- thanks for reading my overlong post. I'll update the thread with some more stuff: why I decided on the car I got, pricing irregularities, crucial mods (imho), etc.

Here's the car I bought:
 

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Caution: you have now entered the Purple Haze of Alfa ownership. Your affliction is great. Enjoy. Great write-up.
 

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oh man.......you have just entered the twilight zone;)

good photo too!....now, take your girlfriend for a drive......I bet the "can't you stop talking about that **** car?"
will turn into
"let's go out for a drive".............pretty darn soon!....... :)
 

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Nice write up. Welcome to the experience. Had a Spider and while she didn't really "do it" for me, she was nice in a "kissing your best friends sister" sort of way. My Alfetta GTV was like the rowdy girlfriend you take to see ZZTop. My current Alfa is a more sedate 164 who my girlfriend (now wife who's Italian) said "old guys with gold chains on their neck drive those" yet as our fellow poster opines, it's now her preferred carriage. It's frequently spoken that it is immensely more enjoyable to drive a slow car fast than a fast car slow...

Your experience will be one that is truly yours and one that no one can take away. Enjoy and post pics. ciao, chris
 

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Great post and welcome to the addiction! No known cure.
 

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Discussion Starter #8
Thanks for the encouragement and i'm glad you all like the post. This is all from 'beginner's mind' so I don't claim to be an expert on Alfas. Hope it helps possible new buyers too.. Now on with the Experience….

That first gleam in my eye- I remember it distinctly. For years I had a near Tourette response whenever I saw an Alfa. “Alfa Romeo!!” It just seemed like the necessary thing to say, loudly and with Italian intonation, whenever one was in sight. Interrupting serious conversation while driving- no worries, life must be enjoyed and - look!- there goes one right now. That guy’s gett’n it!

So my girlfriend was not taken by surprise when we were driving around Rancho Palo Verde shortly after moving to Santa Monica, just to explore the area.

“Alfa Romeo!”
Yeah, ok. But what were we talking about again…?
“Wow- look at that Spider, that’s something else.”

And it was. It was an S4 (not that I knew the nomenclature at that time) in Rosso Red with a tan interior and it looked exceptionally good for a Spider. It was parked on a pull off at the top of a cliff overlooking the ocean. The owner was photographing it with Santa Catalina in the background. I pivoted to keep it in sight as we rounded the curve, going by. Unfortunately, I was also driving. These kinds of things have caused trust issues with the girlfriend while I’m behind the wheel, regardless of my skill set. But I did manage to suck in a lot of that little car before we rounded the bend and did not drive off the cliff. It was a sterling moment.

“I think it winked at me. Wasn’t it beautiful?”
I guess, but it was so small… Like a toy car.
Small is good, I thought to myself. And kept thinking.

A month or so later, after getting discouraged with ubercar culture, thinking ‘maybe it’s time…’ I strolled though craigslist. Just to see what’s there, you know… And there was that very Spider Veloce, cliffs and all from that day. I tried to tell myself it was not actually a sign and maybe I should check out old Audi TT’s because they’re far more practical and safe. And I did, but kept coming back to ogle that Alfa.

The Rosso Veloce price was 16.5k. Ouch! Everything on it was perfect (except a/c), though, with miles around 80k. I’d remembered seeing various Spiders much, much cheaper than that so I thought, ‘maybe I can find one comparable but for a better price’ and still have some of the magic of that Rosso car. Massive research followed (thanks AlfaBB!).

Since Spiders were made for over 20 years there’s a lot of permutations to choose from, all with pros and cons. In CA what you get for a pre-76 car is a modifiable engine (performance- yeah!) but trade off in looks (in my mind- totally subjective, I know many love the 70’s cars) and refinement. After the Mustang I wanted a bit of refinement.

The S4 to me is the ultimate expression of the kamn tail Spider, looks wise, and has a galvanized body to help with rust issues- but it’s also somewhat heavy. I knew from research that any Spider would benefit from a chassis stiffener and almost no one’s a/c worked (for a/c scoffers, I don’t enjoy sitting in traffic top down with the mid-day sun blasting me, especially on trips to inland LA), so that would be an expense for probably any Spider I got. But S4 it would be.

And that’s where the weirdness of the Spider market comes in. There is no real standard in pricing. The Rosso car was 16.5k and stayed for sale for months (I checked CL every few days for it, for inspiration). Then a black orig owner 93 Veloce with 39k came up for 13.9k (better but still sort of high, plus it had a cracked dash). Then there was the Spider in the Bay Area at 7.5k, with around 60k miles. And another black 93 original owner in the Valley in ‘mint’ (turned out to be very un-minted: there’s very little reality in the Valley, apparently) for around 11.5k. These things were all over the map.

And I drove most of them (except the Rosso car). What struck me on the con side about all of the Spiders was the feeling of being under-powered (more on that later), cowl shake like a 15 yr old on a first date, a tight fit inside for a 6’3” man, and old tires that gave a knobby ride. The pro side for all of them was that certain something, an elevation of significance, that is intangible but why we buy these kinds of things.

You know the feeling: a slow tightening of the spring, a casual attitude that, at some undefinable point, becomes obsessive, a feeling that life cannot be right without that certain something (or someone, at times) in it. I’d worked my way through the local Spiders. I’d even tried to get the Rosso car down enough to afford it (it was soooo close, but no). And then a black 92 up in Martinez popped up at 8k. It was a long ride, a risk, but in the ad and Carfax it seemed as good as the 13.9k car (which I was trying to bid down to 11.5k). A mechanic would have to check it out first. If it lasted. Why wouldn’t it sell immediately? It was a 2 owner car, originally from SF, had records, was clearly gorgeous, and the a/c worked (!!). I mean, everyone was looking for S4 spiders, right? There’s no way this car would last at that price…

While the girlfriend was at work I arranged a one-way rental (prophetic? stupid?) to Concord. It was a 5 hour ride over the Grape Vine and up the Central Valley, if I kept it at 85mph, and I could be there by 8, with a little light left for a look and drive. If the Spider was unambiguously horrible, I could take the rental car back the same night and pick up some roses for the girlfriend on the way. If it looked and felt good then I’d stay overnight and bring the car to a mechanic in the morning.

“It’s worth the risk, baby. If it’s good I’ll have a few thousand left over from the price compared to the same car here in LA. I gotta find out.”

Her response- ‘it seems kind of extreme to just take off like that over a car’ was in my ear as the rental agent handed me the keys to some form of Toyota as I set up the meeting with the owner’s son for that night via cellphone. I didn’t care. It was an Italian sports car. I’d been ‘patient’ for months, looking at all the angles, doing the research. That part was over now. It was time to pull the trigger. I would have gone to Colorado that night for the right Alfa at the right price. And it was good to feel that way- about anything- again.

Next I’ll write about the trip and the car itself. Thanks for reading, if you made it this far.
 

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Are you describing a car or an affair? ;)
 

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That was beautifully written. What do you do for a living? Lovely car and sounds like it was worth every penny!
 

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Are you describing a car or an affair?
An affair with his new Italian mistress :)

I’d been ‘patient’ for months, looking at all the angles, doing the research. That part was over now. It was time to pull the trigger. I would have gone to Colorado that night for the right Alfa at the right price.
Some time you do have to participate. It isn't going to roll up to your house and ring the bell saying here I am, here I am!

Many happy (s)miles!
 

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From what I have found with my wife, an admittedly small but significant difference. The difference between occasionally sleeping in the garage versus permanently in another house/motel/hotel, not that I have experience in the latter or plan to.
 

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Beautiful thread, completely understandable. Did you notice the quote from Dante in the fine print on the plate when you opened the door: " abandon hope all ye who enter here"?

Congratulations and welcome to the Funny Farm with the rest of us.

Ed
 

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great writing too.............the adventure (so far...more to come?) sort of reminded me of one of my favorite books ever, Steinbeck's "Travels with Charley"........only you are travelling with "Alfie":)
 

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My first in 75 and still have her. Wife predates by a bit though. More Alfa mistresses added along the way. ;)
 

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Good story, look forward to hearing about the ride home. One question, did you move to Santa Monica from out of state? The reason I ask is, your crack about the "Valley" is fairly typical of an out-of-stater after they have taken up residence in SM. Good luck with your car and welcome to the BB.
 
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