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Gene,

i am not very far from Hoboken and have two spiders. If you would like to chat, send me a PM with a phone number. Mine are a '79 and a '74. There should be a post about "Spider FAQ" somewhere here. That is a well written summary of the differences of the different series of cars. As you may have realized, there are differences in the series, and individual cars may have been modified, so it depends on what you want. You may also want to check out Pat Braden's book on Alfa's. It has a section on buying Alfas.

My two cars are very different - the '79 is box stock, while the '74 has been modified with carbs, bigger wheels and low profile tires, sport suspension, etc. Earlier cars (series 1 & 2) are not as luxurious as the later years, but also weigh less and have less to go wrong. The '74 is very sporty, the '79 less so, but nicer interior, with leather, carpeting, etc. The '74 will tear up the road compared to the '79, but the '79 is still fun to drive and handles nicely. There is nothing so inviting as a windy country road in either of them!

Make sure you read about buying a spider and get a purchase inspection by a reputable and knowledgeable mechanic (or Alfa enthusiast) when you are ready. There are several in and around Union county. While I find that Alfa's are pretty bulletproof, they do take maintenance and a little care to set up properly, and are not like working on an American car. Because they are relatively inexpensive, they were sometimes bought by people with little money and less knowledge, and may have been maintained poorly. The Spica system has a bad reputation among the unknowledgeable, but is reliable when properly maintained. Mine gives me no problems. I understand the later Bosch injected cars have some quirks, plus they are computer controlled, meaning more complexity. I like the earlier cars for their simplicity and the feeling that this was the way Alfa originally designed them, but I am somewhat of a purist.

If you like to work on the cars yourself, this BB is a great resource, and the earlier cars are simpler and IMHO, easier to wrench. I have 10 thumbs when it comes to mechanical stuff, so I have a mechanic do it. I have fun hunting for all the bits and pieces to make mine more complete and/or "correct". Each to his own!

As for expense in this part of the country, you are correct. A new top installed around here is around $1,000. I just replaced the rear bushings, the center bearing and "donut" on the drive shaft and the rear wheel bearings on the '74, and it came to about $1,000 - $1,500. (I just got the car and it wasn't well maintained). My mechanic isn't cheap, but is good. Once its done, its done. My '79 went through a variety of fixes, including an engine rebuild several years ago, and now is totally reliable. Not bad for a 28 year old car!

Hope this helps.
 

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... I am not sure about my restorative abilities and where I live everything is expensive. ...
I no longer do my own work, but as an Alfista since my college days, I'm very particular about who works on the Alfas... We are very lucky to have a real Alfa shop in Northern NJ, owned by a mechanic that worked for Alfa in Italy, and now his sons are also seasoned Alfa guys. (One of them restores Alfas, and will fabricate body parts. Long waiting list, however.) The shop is also very convenient as it is 1 block away of where you can take the train into Newark Penn Station. Feel free to send me a PM to get more information.

Best regards,
 

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IMO unless you are wanting your engine, tranny, Spica or a big valve head done any place that works on Euro cars can take care of an Alfa. The L-Jetronic and Motronic FI system are common to all Euro cars. If you want the engine, head or tranny rebuilt there are quite a few people around the country that can do it and all you need to do is pull them and send it to them.

You'll will also find that most parts are cheap for the later model Spiders compared to other Euro cars and are easy to find and in most cases only takes a couple of days to get.

Alfa's are still cheap because people are just afraid of them not knowing how easy it is to get parts and have them worked on?
 

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A comment that may be helpful when considering the Spider market

As a long time owner and student of the Alfa Spider market, I’m going to share some personal observations. I must state that this is just a summary of some highlights, intended to help a new buyer get a sense for what I have seen related to cars and the variety of prices. I don’t consider myself an authority on this subject, but I think that a newcomer would appreciate some historical background and insight, as these factors are helpful to sort through what I’m sure can be an overwhelming amount of information.

First, I’ll start with the series 4 Spiders (’91 - ’94). The series 4 are great Spiders. They are the most advanced of the series, with dual electric fans, Bosch Motronic, 11 mm cams, power steering and driver side airbag. These cars are modern and still relatively new. Many are still owned by their original owners, or second owners and an important observation is that Alfas were expensive cars when new. Thus, they are owned by people who garage their cars and take care of them, even if these people are not Alfsiti. Furthermore, if someone pays mid-twenties for a car and sells it a few years later, they are not going to sell it for peanuts, ensuring that most don’t fall into the hands of someone who can’t afford to maintain it. Hence you find many good examples, albeit with asking prices commensurate with their condition. This is not to say of course that there are also many series 4 cars that are past their third owner, and have not enjoyed the same level of care, and are hard to sell. In any event, the relative new age and condition places the average series 4 that comes to market in a pricier range. (It does not mean that they are the most desirable of the Spiders by any means, but more on that later.) Some objections that have been raised relate to the weight of the car, and the large knee bolsters that make the interior feel a bit cramped, especially for taller drivers.

Now, I’ll go to the other end of the Spectrum: the series 2 Spiders (’71 - ‘81/’82). All series 2 cars were fitted with the once mysterious SPICA mechanical fuel injection. Due to issues with understanding its maintenance or the search for additional power, many have been converted to carburetors. Of the series 2, 3, and 4 however, SPICA injected series 2a cars (’71 - ’74) are the fastest with the ’73 and ’74 models considered the most desirable, since in stock form they have more hp than any series Spider, and are also lighter in weight. 1974 was the last year in the U.S. where cars were unaffected by smog requirements and hence, the series 2a cars do not have catalytic converters or the air pump that was fitted to the later models. The cosmetic appeal of the series 2a models’ chrome bumpers and clean body lines also enhance their desirability. By now, most of the series 2 Spiders have been through many owners and few are in same well-cared condition that one would find a typical series 4 in. In fact, many have been rescued and cracked dashes, torn interiors, and faded tops with cloudy windows are common. Examples that have retained their originality or have been restored, while not common are certainly available. Make no mistake about it however; a ’74 series 2 Spider in excellent condition will cost more than a comparable series 4.

The series 2b (’75 - ‘81/’82) belong to beginning of the anti-smog era, and in their day were fitted with the power limiting air pump. Their SPICAs were also progressively de-tuned as the years went by in order to meet the increasingly tougher emission regulations. They are the slowest of all the Spiders, and many have had their SPICAs replaced by carburetors, which is the European set-up. While the European set-up yields a very fast car, this can create a registration issue, depending on state regulations. (It should be noted that all car manufacturers struggled with regulations during those years and all marques of the period suffered from similar power reductions.) Furthermore, the series 2b were also fitted with the black oversized rubber bumpers to meet minimum crash requirements, and this was also seen as detracting from the otherwise pleasing lines. For these reasons the series 2b have always lagged behind the other Spiders in desirability, but they are every bit a Spider. As far as interior comfort improvements, Alfa made upgrades and refinements over the years, such as going from rubber mats over bare metal to full interior carpets.

One thing that all series 2 Spiders have going for them is that they are 25+ years old, and their historical status makes them eligible for certain “antique” events. There are also events that limit the cars to those built before the smog era, so the ’74 and older cars have a further edge. Certainly age and eligibility for events do influence price, and as cars age they do go from “daily drivers” to “Sunday drivers”. An example of that are the series 1 Spiders, which I am purposely not discussing since these have achieved a collectible status (not just because of age, for sure) and have increased in price dramatically in the last two years. As one can probably surmise, this also highlights that the series 4 cars will not be historical until 2016 - 2019, and it is a factor that should be considered when evaluating the use one will be able to have with a classic car.

Now, the series 3… Introduced in ’83 as the Spider Veloce, with Bosch L-Jetronic fuel injection (Bosch FI was actually intorduced in 1982), Campagnolo Daytona (5-star) alloy wheels, leather interior, power windows, remote mirrors, digital clock, cloth top and optional factory air conditioning, it presented a new level of luxury. The Bosch fuel injection restored the power back to an acceptable level and coupled with the new luxury level, the Veloce was well received, except for the trunk mounted rubber spoiler. The spoiler, albeit functional, was controversial to say the least. The Veloce was the only Spider model offered through ’84. In ’85 Alfa added the Graduate version. It was a “base” model, mechanically identical to the Veloce, but with steel wheels, vinyl seats, vinyl top, and manual mirrors. At $5k less than the Veloce, it sold well. As ’86 was a transition year for the Alfa, to many followers of the marque, the series 3a Spiders (’83 - ’85) represent the ideal balance in a Spider. The cars have the traditional wood steering wheel, the dual pod tachometer and speedometer, the traditional instrument layout, all of which retain the classic, luxurious and roomy interior, yet they are mechanically modern and very reliable.

In ’86, the start of the series 3b, Alfa updated the Spider interior. The instrument layout and went from individual gauges to a single pod cluster, and the wood steering wheel was replaced by a vinyl covered one. (Different steering wheels, including Momo wood wheels, where offered as options.) The Veloce leather seats were improved with much better quality materials, and provided better support. The speaker set-up was also upgraded and went from 2 front speakers in the kick panels in the series 3a, to an additional set mounted on the rear deck. 1986 also saw the introduction of the Quadrifoglio model, a new top-of-the-line edition. It was similar to the Veloce , but it had spoilers all around, special badges, and came standard with a hard top fitted with overhead lights and a rear defrost. The Quad also had 15 in. phone dial wheels, as opposed to the standard 14 in. 5-star wheels. (The wheel style was a big hit, although over the years their heavy weight has caused them to fall somewhat out of favor with performance oriented owners.) The Quad came in only three exterior colors: red, silver and black. Regardless of the exterior color, all interior carpets were red, including the trunk, and all leather seats were light grey with red stitching. This version sold for $3k more than the Veloce and was also well received. Enthusiasts that are not looking for the classic dual pod interior, consider the Quadrifoglio as the most desirable of the series 3b (’86 - ’90) editions, although the Graduate edition is also very popular for its simplicity.

In general, when looking at the condition of series 3 Spiders, one will find that most have also gone through several owners and they can be in rough shape, with cosmetic and mechanical issues. Series 3 cars were not inexpensive to service at any dealer, and this has also taken a toll on many examples. It is not uncommon to find non-working A/Cs, sometimes with components completely removed from the cars, and often with the explanation that they A/C never worked well (a myth for sure) or that it makes no sense for a convertible. One also finds Veloces with vinyl covered seats and vinyl tops as opposed to the original leather and canvas materials. Quads are also often missing their hard tops and their soft tops have been re-covered in vinyl. All of these condition factors affect price, although with the variety seen in the series 3 cars, this can be difficult to assess. (I have seen leather covered seats in very incorrect colors passed as “concours correct”.) Other principles that affect pricing related to age and use also apply to the series 3, especially since the first cars of the series are now reaching historical status, but the later models are eight years away of that milestone. As always, well-maintained cars will command a higher price.

Best regards,
 

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Buying a Spider

Enrique:

An excellent summary for everyone, including myself.

The dash/instrument configuration that you're referring to is the difference between the pointed separate pods and the rectangular curved dash containing all of the instruments in the 80's? I actually prefer the later dash configuration as far as contemporary and easier to read, although, we never owned one. They were just out when we were up in San Francisco and I sat in one at Martin Swig's San Francisco Auto Square. I found them much more comfortable overall than the '73 or '74; more compact in a way, aesthetically pleasing, and everything within easy reach or view; I'm short by any one's yardstick; I don't know if that could be one of the reasons. Performance wise, Pat preferred the older cars and especially the ones that he could "Weberize." My Berlina has been "Weberized" for example.
 

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Thanks for the info, Cheryl.

The Spider I bought new in '85 was the last of the twin pod dashes. My wife is short and she prefers the newer monopod style. I on the other hand, am a bit taller and find that even with the seat all the way back, find the newer monopod is more difficult to read than the twin pods we had when we were married. I also liked the gauges in the dash where the A/C vents are now.

Yeah, yeah, we were married a couple of months after I bought the new '85 Graduate in the Fall of 1985 (Monza Red w/black TXAlfa). You might say we've now gone back to future with our Series '93 Spider (Rosso red w/black Leather).
 
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