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Discussion Starter #1
Hi everyone,

This is a bit of a long post but I'm desperate for help/advice-- any is much appreciated.

My parents came to visit me today and brought with me a surprise present. It is an Alfa Romeo, my mother said it is 32 years old and was designed by Pininfarina. I googled this stuff right now and by some photos and the year I guessed that I have an Alfa Romeo Spider Series II. Is there any way I can confirm this?

So here are the problems:
1. The car is manual transmission, which I don't know how to use. Otherwise I picked up my driver's license about a year ago with only about 18 hours of practice. I've driven only a few times since (less than 10)-- I'm ok but parking and probably overall safety is not so great.
2. I know nothing about car maintenance/upkeep. This is my first car and it seems like a fragile one at that. What exactly to I need to keep tabs on? Where can I learn about caring for this vehicle? Should I expect any particular problems with it?
3. It's a convertible. The "roof" sucks and the rear "window" is an opaque plastic. Where can I find a replacement and how much will it be?

Anything else? I'm really worried as I feel totally unprepared for this ride. Fair enough I probably won't be using it much-- I'm a happy camper with my bike-- but this is stuff I feel like I will need to understand at one point or another. Any advice, help, pointers are really appreciated.

Thanks in advance.
 

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This is a tough one to answer. Convertibles are great fun to drive in good weather; not so much fun in cold and rain. And Alfas are wonderul cars, but all old sports cars take a lot of maintenance. Spiders aren't much suited to parallel parking, either. Their bumpers are low and too many drivers park by ear. Last time we were in Manhattan, my wife's cousin gave us a demonstration, putting his Mercedes into a spot that seemed too small for a motorcyle. It was a shock that no air bags deployed during his bashing of two innocent vehicles.

Among the many good threads on this forum is one that talks about what parts and tools to take along on a trip. You may want to hunt that one down.

Another discusses books that deal with Alfa repair and maintenance, not the least of which is one by Pat Braden.

Yet another thread lists where to buy parts, including convertible tops. Tops are a bear to install, though some Alfisti do their own.

There are even threads that talk about how to shift an Alfa transmission smoothly. With some tips specific to our type of tranny, and practice, your skill will improve. Trying to learn in or near Manhattan probably would not be fun for you, but it would certainly amuse the cabbies. Hope you have a good parking lot or industrial area to practice in. Being smooth with your shifts will make driving more pleasant and will help your transmission last longer.

Learn to make the best of the BB's search feature when you have questions. If you still can't find what you need, ask specific questions. As a final tip, I sometimes find BB threads more quickly by using Google than by using the BB's search function.
 

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Your parents are either the most loving or the most diabolical (;)); owning a Spider in NYC, NY can be a real challenge; the roads are generally poor, a garage -- or a driveway at a minimum -- is almost a necessity, the weather here is not the most conducive for Spider ownership, and a manual (especially an Alfa's) is a real thrill, unless most of your driving is going to be in traffic, not uncommon in NYC.

That being said it sounds as if you are not going to use it as a daily driver, so:
Job one is take it to a highly competent Alfa mechanic (see the NYAROC thread) and have it gone over thoroughly; no small challenge if it has been neglected. And yes, once in running order it will need regular care and maintenance, quite unlike a used Chevy, etc. As for a new top, use the search function and check out the supplier list in the Anything Alfa Romeo and Alfabb.com thread.

Can it be done in NYC, NY? Hell yes, I did it for years and never regreted it. But you are right to approach it with your eyes wide open. Welcome and good luck.
 

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Why?

First- Were you a really mean kid? Why are your parents trying to get back at you?
2nd- If you really want to keep this car to deal with...find someone to teach you how to drive a manual transmission.
3rd- Find a mechanic! A 32 year old car, of any kind, is not going to be trouble free.
4th- If the car is 32 years old, it would be a 1976, which is a series II. Your title will tell you what year it is, assuming you have a title or registration.
5th- going from a clueless novice,(no disrespect intended) to maintaining a 32 year old alfa...read-read-read! This BB has a wealth of information, but most is written a little technical for the novice mechanic. I reiterate..find a mechanic.
6th- make sure you know where your credit card is.
Have a mechanic check the car out for you. i.e. brakes, suspension, engine,transmission, differential ,lights and list for you what it needs in order of priority. Start with things that absolutely need to be done to make the car safely driveable and have it done immediately. Work your way down the list to the things that are of minor importance,i.e. Convertible top. The cars are generally tough little cars but 32 years will take its toll on any car. It will likely always have "issues". They can make your vocabulary and your bank account go into the toilet pretty quick.
It sounds like the car was a "gift". If so, you already have the right amount of money in it ($0.00). It's not likely to decrease in value, so what you spend...to a point...you should be able to get back out of it. Learn to drive it SOON because that's the real upside. They are alot of fun when working properly. Good Luck
 

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Congrats on your new spider. Most items have already been cover in the other posts but one thing I never leave home with out is my CAA card or in your case AAA. Get a membership to AAA and have piece of mind when you drive.

Good Luck.
 

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Hmmm. 32 year old car, un-restored, not weather-tight in Manhattan .... sounds like fun! Almost like camping! Well, congratulations on your new present. Did your parents know the previous owner? If so ANY info as to the history of the car (maintenance etc) would be invaluable to you. The good part is that the car is running, and wasnt left dormant to turn into a big (yet beautiful) paperweight. If the car has been well maintained, then you are in luck... as the issues will be more cosmetic, rather than seek and find mechanical or electrical. As for the ragtop, they can be purchased from many places, but if you are on a budget you can pick up a vinyl replacement top on ebay for 169 plus shipping. Good luck on your old-new car... I am sure we will be hearing lots from you! :)
 

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welcome new alfista!

I bought a 1992 Alfa Romeo 164 a few months ago. My father had the same model but his was a 1993, so i knew the cars drive well, and so i was looking on craigslist and i found someone selling his 164 for $700, knowing how well the cars drive i decided to snatch this opportunity (mistake?), knowing full well that the car needed work. Well, going to school for mechanical engineering i figured it'd be a good learning experience!

Regardless, i've been lurking the Alfa BB for quite some time now, and finally after seeing this post, i finally decided to register!

David, me and you are in the same boat. Yes the 164 is a newer model, not quite as old as a spider, but essentially the same boat. Luckily my father had a passion for cars long before i bought mine ( i saw had because once he got married it seemed to disappear and that i never knew this about him until after i bought mine! (you can say Alfa has made me and my father close!)), and he had a lot of tools to work on it. So definitely follow some of the other bb-ers's advice, like someone said a wealth of information, but i would also like to add, that if you dont have any tools at home, probably invest in a set of wrenches and sockets (METRIC! Italian car= metric units!) in the least.

Other than that best of luck to you! ....and myself! (I actually just started work on mine (re-torquing the heads(if you dont know what that means dont worry, i didn't know either))) and keep in touch!

btw, a little love goes into these cars, and the satisfaction you get out (in working on, let alone driving) is invaluable!
 

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i keep my spider in manhattan.

i hate it.

the roads suck and the garage is expensive.

but it is the sacrifice i have to pay to be able to enjoy a wonderful car.

i use it on the weekends outside of the city.

i have no regrets.

good luck!
 

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DWRZ,
Your post may be the closest I've seen to a Scam post on the BB.

However, in any event welcome.

If in fact your post not a ruse, you can get lots of help here for free.

As for your Series II's suitability for a young driver that is mechanically challenged for now and who can't drive stick...

Well if your parents pay your credit card balance you should have no problems.

Enjoy....
 

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Discussion Starter #11 (Edited)
Hi everyone,

Thank you all for your responses. It's really nice to know that there is an experienced community out there that I can look to for guidance.

I've started to slowly make up a to do list:
1. I'm going to have a few friends teach me the basics of manual transmission, and if I find a driving school near here, maybe take a few hours of lessons.
2. Since I have to park the car outside and it doesn't have any safety system I'm aware of, I'm going to buy one of those steering wheel locks. I'm sure those are probably no less difficult to overcome than bike locks, but I figure it can't hurt.
3. Make a copy of the keys.
4. Get in touch with the previous owner (my mother has his info-- she says he took very good care of the car...thanks for the idea, peterlund).
5. Replace the top. This seems to be like it will be expensive but I need a rear window and the ability to drive in everything else besides sun. I think everything else in the car was kept up pretty good so I hope at least for a bit I won't have to deal with that.
6. Get a car cover-- it rains a lot here and I have to keep the car outdoors.
7. Learn to maintain the car or at the minimum to diagnose problems.
8. Slowly fix up/renovate the car over time.

Also, I guess I should have clarified-- though I live in NYC, I'm now up at college in Middletown, CT. I guess for this the advantage is that I don't have to learn to drive in traffic. Unfortunately it's harder to get anything here and we have terrible weather. One immediate question-- if I buy a top, should I get it installed by any mechanic here or should I drive down to an Alfa Place place in New York City, instead?

Gary-- thanks for the info, I'll look up the threads. I looked up the book too, but one reviewer said it lacked any real info on the Spider. :\

Frank-- that's another thing on the to do list. AAA.

Alessandro-- definitely let me know how things go, it looks like you've got a bit of a head start on this.

lbgalfa, silverspider, thanks for the NYC info and advice. I'm kind of glad I've got some time in Middletown before heading back to rush hour traffic.

JalfaK-- I'm not and never have been a "mean" kid. :) The decision can really be traced to my mother. She's a big antique fan. I grew up having to always be careful in the house because everything was old and fragile. In fact it's probably why I always generally tend to go with gear that can take a lot of abuse and which I can be rough with. :D So it makes sense that this is her kind of car-- I'm sure she'll be very happy when... I... eventually put it all back together. As for me, maybe if it were my choice I would have gone with some kind of hybrid automatic cheap/low maintenance thing. But I guess this way I will probably learn more about autos than I would have otherwise, so perhaps not having it easy at first will be a benefit in the long run... I hope. :)

Elio-- not a ruse! I'd be glad to post a photo of me with the Spider. And yeah, it's a mismatch-- a complex car for a barely experienced person-- who's very busy with school and work at the moment (the reason I have not driven in the last year was that I was studying abroad in Italy). But I'm committed to learn what I can-- in fact if anyone can suggest a good guide to how an auto works (not just an Alfa)-- from the basics to the details-- I'd much appreciate it. Otherwise how does one usually learn to open up a car and tell what's right and what needs work?

Last item: as for $-- I earn $350 a month. It can't all go to the car... so things will be slow, though my father said he'll take care of the top and cover. :\ We'll see...

Again, thank you everyone. It is very reassuring to know there is an active place I can go to with questions. I've posted in another forum I signed up for too-- no response there so far.
 

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My first car was a 1960 Spider that I helped my folks restore from a medium deplorable condition, 37 years ago (you do the math). I drove it all year: on Long Island, into NYC, to high school, college on LI and in PA and in upstate NY - I put over 100,000 miles on it as my only driver. With over a half tank of gas it was great in snow; but upstate NY winter salt killed an Italian sports car. Of course, I grew up with Alfas, worked on it myself (I'm a girl) and needed to depend on it. I just restored another - same year, with many of my original parts, and I still love it! And that's most important - you must drive an Alfa with your heart and your butt and love it, or get a Miata!

Your folks must have had a reason - and not a diabolical one - or they are just cool! Embrace it!

Since my family works on its own cars, I am gunshy of "real" mechanicss, so be careful who you find. Talk to other owners. NY Alfa Club is a good start. Listen to what's been said about reading the BB and find some local folks. Don't just go to a local mechanic and expect him/her to know the score. Bide your time and find someone good. Get a decent manual - Haynes (do they make them for Alfas?), maybe. I have an old Glenns and AutoBook that I always carried, plus orignal factory shop manuals for mine. Not Chiltons!!!!

NYC is not the greatest place to have a beginner Alfa, so after you're sure it runs, get out in the country and play around. Find an Alfa owner friend and learn to drive stick - and never stop!!! With early ones, 2nd speed synchro went early. So, all the folks I taught to drive stick on my original could drive anything after that. Find someone who'll show you how. Don't just learn to shift - learn to DRIVE STICK!! These are different concepts.

If you're not mechanical, GET mechanical. You need to know the basics, or aforementioned shops may rip you (and they may not even know it, 'cause they don't necessarily know Alfas!). Be an advised consumer and driver. Finding tops is easy (even Whitney's aren't bad); installing and fitting is tricky. Find that club member and get him/her to help - or you help them. But, even if the rear window is shot, as was said in a movie by an Italian driver - what's behind you is not important.

Alfa Spiders are succeptible to nose crunches, as they're low; park defensively. My mother's '86 Spider has wayyy less clearance under the engine compartment than my '60 - don't know where yours falls, but straddle holes, don't fall in them. You must be an aware driver in an Alfa - no dropping it in holes, no flying over RR tracks - but, if you're good to it, most of the time it will be good to you. Yes, you'll learn Italian - words that start in "f" being your favorites - but, give it time and learn to love it. And, if after 6 months or a year (of good weather), if you can't love it or have the patience for it, sell it to someone who can. And get that Miata. But again, listen to your butt - if you're meant to have an Alfa, it will wrap you in its arms and love you!!

alfagirl56 - near Watkins Glen,NY
 

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Glad to read your response to everyone's input; sounds like you're on the right track. RE: theft/vandalism - I NEVER locked my spider - at college, in NY, etc. (of course, that was 30 years ago!). If there is anything they want in it, they'll slit the top. Not worth it. Put it in the trunk, or better still, don't keep anything important in it. It's more likely folks just want to look at it anyway (if it's ratty, it might not look like there's anything good in it.)

There is a very active Fiat/Lancia club in New England, and they welcome all Italian car owners. Contact info. below. They do seminars, workshops, rallies, etc., and once you're on the mailing list, they'll keep you in touch.

Tim Beeble, President
Northeast Coast Chapter
Fiat Lancia Unlimited
63 Grassy Plain Street
Bethel, CT 06801
203-734-4954
Fiat 124 Spider - 1974
Fiat Lancia Unlimited
email: [email protected]

Good luck,
alfagirl56
 

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Discussion Starter #14
Thanks alfagirl, really appreciate your input. It's great to hear that despite its fragility the car can last quite some time/distance.

I've got just two questions:

I was thinking of locking the car as a way to protect the car, not its contents. I have to park it out in the open. Should I still look into something, or is it pretty much a lost cause?

About getting mechanical, I agree completely. But how do I get there? Where do I start?

I totally agree on the spirit of driving this thing. Can't wait to get it setup!
 

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Thanks alfagirl, really appreciate your input. It's great to hear that despite its fragility the car can last quite some time/distance.

I've got just two questions:

I was thinking of locking the car as a way to protect the car, not its contents. I have to park it out in the open. Should I still look into something, or is it pretty much a lost cause?

About getting mechanical, I agree completely. But how do I get there? Where do I start?

I totally agree on the spirit of driving this thing. Can't wait to get it setup!
Don't worry about anyone stealing the car, it probably won't start when they try. Just kidding, glad to hear you are going to give it a go. lgbalfa got it exactly right.
 

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Dwrz,

Congrats! I'm personally restoring my first and only Alfa that I got when I was 17 in 1987!

You may have gathered from the board, that Alfa ownership is a love/hate relationship. If the car didn't have its wonderful alure, it would never has survived its failures.

You'll quickly find you either love or hate the thing. If you hate it, just cautiously approach your parents and tell them. Once they disown you, you can sell one of us your car.

If you fall hopelessly in love, like I did, then you have my sympathies, but also my support. Think of this board as a user support group full of junkies.

WHAT YOU NEED, AND WOULD BE A WONDERFUL THREAD FOR THE BOARD, IS A LIST OF VERY BASIC NEWBIE MECHANICAL UNDERTAKINGS THAT CAN PROVIDE IMPROVEMENTS TO OLD AND NEGLECTED ALFAS.

I'll start one and we'll see what happens.

Daniel
 

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I thought you had to take a test before you could get an Alfa.

Just like this one for sale in Craigslist Atlanta.

Alfa Romeo '91 Red/Tan, 67,000 miles - $6250 (Alpharetta)

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Reply to: [email protected] [?]
Date: 2008-09-13, 9:13AM EDT



1)You get in your Alfa in the morning and it doesn’t start, you,
A)Hop in one of your other cars and look forward to an evening of tinkering on the Spider.
B)Call AAA to tow the car to Bob’s and curse “that **** Alfa”.

2)You notice an oil spot on the driveway under the Alfa, you,
A)Put a drip tray under it
B)Call AAA to tow the car to Bob’s and curse “that **** Alfa”.

3)A clip breaks on the top boot, you,
A)Hit #1 on your speed dial and order another one from International.
B)Call AAA to tow the car to Bob’s and curse “that **** Alfa”.
C)Who needs a stinkin top boot?

If you answered B to any of the questions, don't call, you need a Miata. If you answered A, you’ll like this car.

Starts every time, ready to drive to California, good syncros, nice interior, good body, paint just okay, ANSA exhaust, 67,750 miles (shows 26k with certified replacement odometer @ 41k). No big issues but plenty of tinkering still left for your enjoyment.

The bottom line is 91 Alfas sell for $12,000+ on eBay, this one is $6k. It ain’t perfect but it’s worth the money. Too many cars, one must go. 678 361-7997


Found via Jalopnik.:D


Found On Craigslist: Alfa Seller Makes Use Of Multiple-Choice Test To Weed Out Crybaby Buyers

Dave
 

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Dwrz,

I feel your pain. I got my 1st Alfa, a 4 year old 1964 Spider, when I was 17 a loooooog time ago.

Unfortunately I let the engine get 2 1/2 drops low on oil and ended up spinning all of the main bearings after owning the car for less than 1 month. I ended up learning a lot about the car from that experience.

I would suggest looking at the maint or owners manual. By all means keep the oil levels up.

There are going to be some irritating issues that will crop up. You will need to pick your battles. Until you have the car reliable as a daily driver I would resist spending any money on cosmetics.
 

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dwrz, I'm only about a half-hour south of you. My time lately has gotten to be in very short supply (only free every other weekend, sometimes) but I'm overdue to visit a friend in Middletown, and I need to stop in at Matt's Music, too. I'll try to make a point of getting up your way, and if I know I'm coming up, I'll PM you to let you know. Maybe I can round someone else up, too.

Did your parents drive the car there from NYC? If so, that says a bit about how it's running right there.

As an aside, Middletown used to be like a ghost town (Main Street was downright desolate), but it's really blossomed in recent years. Lots of arts activity, some great restaurants, etc. I hope you get a chance to wander off campus and look around.
 
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