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Discussion Starter #1
I read a thread that indicates driving differences between the Spider models. My only experience is with my 1991 S4. I understand the spiders got heavier but also a bit more power. What are the driving differences between the models?
 

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Push hard and live
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I’ve not driven an S4.

S1. Teenager with firm everything. Eager, but erratic. Looks good without clothes.
S2. 20-something. Got her act together. More predictable, but indications of a future heavy top and bottom. Still edgy, but has learned..... things.
S3. Domesticated. Civilized. More predictable. You are dreaming of the firmness of the S1 and the edginess of the S2. Always gets you where you want to go. Unfortunately.
S4. At the country club. With the tennis pro, not you.
 

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DP...An interesting observation.

I just bought my first Alfa. I looked at 2 locally. a bare bones 78 that needed a lot of untangling and serious clean up. But was mostly all there did run...sorta. Or a loaded 84 (AC power windows, etc), very clean by comparison, ran well enough, but also needed a LOT of minor things all put back together. The cost of getting the 78 right will make it as much as the 84 outright.

I ended up going with the 78.

The S2 just felt like it had a soul. It was more spartan, more pure, felt more like a classic sports car. The song "Red Barchetta" comes to mind.

The S3, as nicer as it was and probably a better deal considering the cost and time to fix the 78...well it just didn't seem to have a soul. It just made me think "Miata".
 

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I agree with the those posts. The older cars feel more like vintage sports cars. Also there is less to go wrong which affects driving experience as you are less likely to be annoyed by stuff that is not working properly.
 

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Discussion Starter #5
I bought my S4 after never riding in any year Spider. I never gave a thought to model driving differences. After owning the S4, I learned more about the differences but I still haven't driven any other Spiders to have my own impression. I suggested we buy one of each but the wife crushed the idea! Love to hear more comments.
 

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I’ve not driven an S4.

S1. Teenager with firm everything. Eager, but erratic. Looks good without clothes.
S2. 20-something. Got her act together. More predictable, but indications of a future heavy top and bottom. Still edgy, but has learned..... things.
S3. Domesticated. Civilized. More predictable. You are dreaming of the firmness of the S1 and the edginess of the S2. Always gets you where you want to go. Unfortunately.
S4. At the country club. With the tennis pro, not you.
Always gets you where you want to go. Unfortunately.

Good one Don, but not true for me. I/we have been stranded on the roadside several times. Not sure if my wife will ever get in our '85 graduate again, ever. But I was asking for it, the specimen is a victim of the hurricane Sandy. At one point in her past, she was submerged in the Atlantic, ocean that is.

OP: best of luck with your new S2. You will find the help available here is very valuable and just good spirits abound
 

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I’ve not driven an S4.

S1. Teenager with firm everything. Eager, but erratic. Looks good without clothes.
S2. 20-something. Got her act together. More predictable, but indications of a future heavy top and bottom. Still edgy, but has learned..... things.
S3. Domesticated. Civilized. More predictable. You are dreaming of the firmness of the S1 and the edginess of the S2. Always gets you where you want to go. Unfortunately.
S4. At the country club. With the tennis pro, not you.
I tend to agree, as there is no replacement for simplifying and adding lightness.

A couple of caveats.

1 - 1974 and earlier S2's are much better driving than the later ones. The last of the Spica injected engines were dogs.
2 - The power steering in the S4 kills the driving experience for me. It turns the car into a cruiser.
3 - One of the best Spiders I have had the pleasure to drive was a modified S3. It had a Mike Besic rebuilt engine with head work, cams, and exhaust along with a stiffer suspension and chassis stiffener. The car was a ton of fun, and really responded to the right foot in acceleration and handling. You can turn any of these cars into fine driving machines with some off the shelf parts.
 

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Worth pointing out that the mechanical differences between the models are pretty minimal. Same basic twin cam engine (minor displacement variance for the old ones), same suspension design, same transmission. I think most of the difference in feel comes from weight (earlier ones lighter) and reduced NVH in some of the later cars (including from switch from carbs->SPICA->EFI and introduction of catalytic converters). But early spiders command a premium for a reason- most people think they are more both prettier and better driving.

If you don't want to pay the premium for an early spider, you can take a LOT of weight out of S3 and S4 spiders without doing anything too drastic. Lightweight battery (they have 10lb jobs that work great now), ditch the spare/jack, delete A/C (doesn't work all that well even when it works anyways) will drop over 100lbs. I will probably be down ~300lbs when it's all said and done, though my modifications are what I'd call "drastic."
 

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Odie,

I’m daily-driving a 77 now, manufactured late 76. It would be quite similar to yours.

I agree that the later S2s were emasculated to a degree. Mine has had the engine reverted to an earlier spec, the suspension much improved, and the bumper-weight is half-corrected. Very nice driving car. I found a 10548 cam to put on the intake side in a few weeks.

To be fair, the S3s were more civilized cars. Much better rust proofing, fiddle-free injection, electric windows and, in some, mirrors.

I wouldn’t recommend dropping an L-Jet injection system in the ocean, anymore than your IPad. Electric computer bits don’t like that. You could probably pull a Spica S2 out of the ocean, drain everything, and replace the fluids, and off you’d go. The body would just evaporate within six months.
 

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But Mad North-Northwest
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If you want a retro feel with the S4, stick with the 14" wheels and 185 profile tires. The Veloce alloy phonedials are heavy, and combined with wider tires they do change the feel of the car.

My '91 is still my favorite of the Alfas to drive, just because it's so dang fun and usable. Best Nord engine Alfa ever put in a Spider: you've got high compression pistons, high lift cams, digital fuel and timing maps with digital mixture trim, digital VVT control, active idle control, 4-into-2 exhaust, OBD 1 self-diagnostics, and no significant smog add-ons to speak of besides a cat converter.

As with any Spider a chassis stiffener is a good investment.
 

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Discussion Starter #11
Considering a chassis stiffener. Wouldn't all series spiders suffer from the same cowl shake? Was there only one engine option for the S4 spider?
 

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In my experience the S4 had much worse cowl shake than the earlier Spiders. They did some reinforcement or such that changed the resonance of the car. Before I added a chassis stiffener to my S4, it seemed like everything vibrated separately when hitting a bump. Now, everything vibrates in unison ?

And, just one engine for the U.S.spec S4. The Veloce designation was for wheels, top boot, trim etc.

Considering a chassis stiffener. Wouldn't all series spiders suffer from the same cowl shake? Was there only one engine option for the S4 spider?
 

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But Mad North-Northwest
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In my experience the S4 had much worse cowl shake than the earlier Spiders.
I think a lot of it is the wheels. The phonedial alloys add significant unsprung weight, and the 15" tires have lower sidewalls. With the same suspension otherwise I suspect it transmits a lot more force to the chassis.
 

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Best Nord engine Alfa ever put in a Spider: you've got high compression pistons, high lift cams, digital fuel and timing maps with digital mixture trim, digital VVT control, active idle control, 4-into-2 exhaust, OBD 1 self-diagnostics, and no significant smog add-ons to speak of besides a cat converter.
= 90 HP at the wheels. Have fun.
 

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In my experience the S4 had much worse cowl shake than the earlier Spiders. They did some reinforcement or such that changed the resonance of the car. Before I added a chassis stiffener to my S4, it seemed like everything vibrated separately when hitting a bump. Now, everything vibrates in unison ?
On the S4's Alfa went to a long tube off the A/C compressor before the hose started. This is where most of the vibration comes from. It would make the whole dash vibrate and resonate Its the hose that runs from the compressor to the evap. Alfas cure was to hang a big weight on the hose.

My cure was to have a hose made that eliminated the metal tube.
 

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But Mad North-Northwest
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Jim, please. This is an Alfa: they wouldn't just slap a weight on a hose. That is a calibrated mass damper! :D

In all seriousness if the weight is there on the rubber section then it won't vibrate. That said, that hose has about 8" of metal making a 90-degree turn off the compressor before the rubber, and it's not uncommon to see a metal fatigue failure where the hose attaches to the compressor. The compressor is also an unusual "stubby" Sanden version (SD-108?) that's difficult to find replacements for. So keeping the A/C working on an S4 can be difficult.
 

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You stay classy,
Ed!

I am drinking to that with a wee dram of Glenfarclas - it rhymes!
 

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Jim, please. This is an Alfa: they wouldn't just slap a weight on a hose. That is a calibrated mass damper! :D

In all seriousness if the weight is there on the rubber section then it won't vibrate. That said, that hose has about 8" of metal making a 90-degree turn off the compressor before the rubber, and it's not uncommon to see a metal fatigue failure where the hose attaches to the compressor. The compressor is also an unusual "stubby" Sanden version (SD-108?) that's difficult to find replacements for. So keeping the A/C working on an S4 can be difficult.
They still vibrated. Just not as bad. I was having hoses made at an a/c supply house that eliminated the metal tube back in the early 90's.

The bigger problem with the weight is it helped the line break faster at the fitting then it did before the weight was added. I changed out a lot of those hoses under warranty.

The weight was just a corrosion zinc for a inboard boat prop shaft

That is a calibrated mass damper! You must be an engineer. :)
 

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Discussion Starter #20
Hilarious! Somehow I learned there were two engine options for S4s but it didn't make sense to me. Was the suspension essentially the same thought the models?
 
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