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Discussion Starter #1
My newly purchased 86 Quad is clearly in need of much rubber replenishment. I've been going around and fixing the basic things to get the car working properly and have sorted out all the lights and replaced brake pads. I also replaced my dented trunk lid with one off of ebay. Cost $99 with $125 to ship! Refurbished the old spoiler and hit the bumpers and black trim with some bumper paint and voila! It is looking much better than how I bought it.

So, I think that since it runs well enough, I want to focus next on the suspension. Clearly,Alfa never intended these cars to go 28 years without some rubber tie rod changes. So I plan to start from the rear (looks easier) and start changing things out.

Going through past posts, I've decided that since this is just a driver,(no racing), I'm sticking with mostly stock stuff including springs. I should also say, I have limited Spider$$$ for this effort. Not none - just limited, so I need to spend it wisely.

The cost of Konis, Bilsteins, and other high end shocks are out of my reach and still do the other stuff. KYB's just don't make sense. I looked at Classic Alfa who has the original replacements and that looks like what I want. Then I ran into a post where a guy put on some Gabriel shocks. I can find the exact shocks he listed for $20 each at my local Auto Zone.I can get a whole set cheaper than one single of anything else...I know you get what you pay for. Thought is that I could improve over my ancient Spicas and get enough life from these until I can upgrade to red Konis.

Thoughts and experience appreciated!
 

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Do you have good reason to believe that your current shocks need replacing? You could spend money and have a worse handling car. Some cheap shocks are too stiff. Push down one corner of the car and watch it rebound. If it just returns to the original position in a single movement with no oscillation then that shock is probably OK.

A car of your age is more likely to need new joints and bushings in the front and they will have more impact on the handling.
 

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I agree that the shocks should be checked and replaced only if they're worn, not because they are old. More so if budget is a factor. The cars mileage and use may be better indication of shock wear than purely age.

I would check the front ball joints and tie rods... And consider adjustable upper A-arms....and the trailing arm bushings....if age is at concern since these are likely to have gotten hard and less compliment with age.
 

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Some cheap shocks are too stiff.
That would be my worry. I'm not sure where you found the reference recommending Gabriel shocks for an Alfa. They could be fine - there is no reason why street shock absorbers need to cost $100+ apiece.

But the risk is that someone determined that a specific Gabriel part will physically fit an Alfa; e.g., the extended length, compressed length and mounting configuration are close enough to bolt in. But a shock that happens to fit may have been intended for a '65 Buick or some other vehicle with twice the mass of an Alfa. So while those shocks may be correct externally, their internal valving will be too stiff.

You might research the Gabriels further to see what other cars they are specified for; if MGB OK, if GMC truck no.

Keep in mind that the rear of an Alfa spider weighs practically nothing. You really want soft rear shocks for street use. That's why adjustable Konis are nice - you can set the rears on full soft.
 

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Discussion Starter #5
Been thinking along the same lines as everyone else. What I know is that, yes, all the ball joints, tie rod ends, bushings and all are shot. I can look at them and see that the rubber is checked and old. Same goes for engine/tranny mounts.All that will be going in due order. The car has 128,000 miles and the shocks don't seem right to me. Car's damping response doesn't seem right to me. As a mechanical engineer I think I understand what that means.

As for the Gabriels - I don't know much about the vehicle, but the AutoZone match is for a 1.3L Suzuki Samurai. Not an Alfa Spider to be sure, but not a GM truck either. I'll have to round up that other old thread and see if I can figure out how to link to it.

So, for me, some cheap shocks that would upgrade me from the old Spicas for less than the price of one anything else is an over and above kind of thing. I'm still doing all the other.
 

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Here's your link (not sure what you're doing wrong there I just paste links into the body of the message):
http://www.alfabb.com/bb/forums/spider-1966-up/249234-gabriel-shock-part-number.html

his link is missing a semicolon after HTTP (at the beginning). Just drop the HTTP// and leave just www. . OR add the semicolon so it reads HTTP://


Now to add to the stiffness debate: I put those gabriels on my Alfa a year and a half ago (when I made that thread). This past fall I competed in a timed gravel rally with my spider. It was actually MUCH smoother than I expected. It was quasi-off roading - hah.

Around town they do not feel very stiff. Take that for what its worth, everyone has different butt sensors.
 

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Discussion Starter #10
I was trying to use the insert link tool, but didn't really know what I was doing. I think I will just paste the link as suggested.

MNVXer,
So I take it that you are at least reasonably pleased for at least the last year and a half if you are still running them? I'd rather save a few hundred on shocks if I can and put it towards rod ends/ball joints/bushings/mounts. If these shocks work the trick then I can erase that from the need to do right now and nice to upgrade at the next convenience. Lots to sort out...

Thanks for the input!
 

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So I take it that you are at least reasonably pleased for at least the last year and a half if you are still running them? I'd rather save a few hundred on shocks if I can and put it towards rod ends/ball joints/bushings/mounts.
I'm definitely pleased with them. What I love the most is teasing my dad about how much he paid for his (through that Alfa site selling the exact same shocks, vs rockauto he paid almost $100 more!).

I removed the original SPICA shocks that were on the car. None of the 4 were any good. They were essentially nothing, the car had no shocks. So the difference was night and day. After living with them for this amount of time, I do not regret my purchase. In fact, if I had to changed the again I would go with the same shocks.
 

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Discussion Starter #13
OK, I went for it and got the Gabriels. Yesterday, I got the car up on rear jacks and began the process of removing the old Spicas. But then time caught up to me and I had to go to my granddaughters birthday party and all work ceased.

I did get the driver side rear shock out and replaced. The old one was very rusted near the trailing arm and was easy to grab with some vise grips and all came out smoothly based on the most useful sticky on rear shock removal and the manual.

I was surprised at how dead the old shocks felt. When I compressed them they just stayed at that position. Even overnight, they are still in the same position. I was expecting them to rebound some. Anyone know if this is the way these are supposed to work?

Another question that the manual doesn't address relates to the new rubber bushings supplied with the shocks. How compressed should these be? My old shocks had a lock nut and a nut. These only came with one nut and that somewhat concerns me. With only one nut how tight should the nut be? How compressed are the bushings supposed to be and can they be overtightened?

Thanks in advance for your input! More work to follow today...
 

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Never had a SPICA Shock fail on me yet. I have 4 cars with their original shocks. I've never changed them. On the other hand the bushings and suspension mounts have been replaced. I would concentrate on that. Don't waste your money.
 

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I was surprised at how dead the old shocks felt. When I compressed them they just stayed at that position.
That is normal for hydraulic shocks in working condition. To see how well they are working you should compress them then expand them by hand. It should require a lot more effort to expand them. They are shot if it takes equal effort in both directions.

Tighten the nuts until the rubber bumpers have visibly compressed. You should use either double nuts or nylock nuts on them.
 

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Discussion Starter #16
I've double nutted them for now. But I think a self locking nylon insert nut sounds pretty good. Will go get some for the lower connections.

Well, I could extend at about the same effort as compress as best I can tell. I guess I'm not too familiar with this type of hydraulic damper. What I am glad I did was replace them as the lower end of the shock at the threaded end up about 3 inches is severely rusted. Lots of pitting corrosion and substantial material loss. They need to go in my opinion just based on this. The rubber is also seriously degraded. Still there, just looking rough. Try to get some photos after the fronts are done.

2 down. 2 to go.
 

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Another question that the manual doesn't address relates to the new rubber bushings supplied with the shocks. How compressed should these be? My old shocks had a lock nut and a nut. These only came with one nut and that somewhat concerns me. With only one nut how tight should the nut be? How compressed are the bushings supposed to be and can they be overtightened?

Thanks in advance for your input! More work to follow today...
The Koni instruction diagrams show a properly installed donut to flatten out enough so that it's as wide as the width of the large flat washer that goes next to the bushing.

The Koni's came with two nuts, a regular nut and a thinner lock nut, but gave no guidance as to tightening torque. The thinness of the lock nut is needed for the front shocks due to a lack of clearance. (I posted a youtube link that demonstrates how to double nut with one hand in another thread on shocks. Can find post later.)
 

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You can buy polyurethane shock bushings from Performatek - Online Catalog
I have them on both my cars. Call to make sure that he has them in stock if you decide to go that route.
 

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2 down. 2 to go.
Alfa front shocks are easier to replace than the rears. Remove the front wheels, and the shocks are right there - not buried inside the springs like the rears. The top bolts are easier to get at and once the F shocks are unbolted they just fall out - you don't have to remove that access plate behind the rear seats and thread them out.

Heck, you probably have your fronts done already!
 

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Here we have a classic tale of "driver quality" vs aiming for a higher standard.

The Spica shocks were quite good for a mass-produced unit. I have encountered some that reached the end of their life, and have always replaced them with Konis.

The internal design of pretty much all dual-tube hydraulic shocks is much the same one to the next, including Konis. What is different is the execution.

The original Spica, Monroe, Gabriel, etc all use mass produced stamped-steel parts that do the job at the lowest possible cost. They work, but imprecise tolerances lead to limited life and some incosistecies in behavior. If you're driving a 4,000 lb Luxor-cruiser, you won't notice.

Note that a low cost shock for a (for discussion sake) Cadillac may feel just right on an Alfa. The Caddy is intended to be soft. The Alfa driver may appreciate the firmness of the over-spec shock on his car.

All of which brings me to Konis...

The internal parts are not chosen for low cost, the are designed for precision. Plates and close fitting parts that are stamped out by the thousands in mass produced shocks are precision ground in Konis.

This is noticeably felt during bump to return cycles. The mass produced shocks will have some degree of fluid aeration and valve positioning lag. The Konis will have neither. You can feel the roughness these issues cause, and you can feel the "always on the job" provided by the Konis.

Having rambled on about that...

I spruced up an 86 Quad a few years ago. It had 128,000 on it when I got it. I did all of the things you described, plus more, and eventually turned it into a very nice car. The new owner got a great deal.

However, I installed Konis immediately during the renewal phase. I don't doubt you'll be happy with the Gabriel's, but once having experienced the significant improvement of the Konis, I just can't choose otherwise.

Meanwhile, I always factor in my time in such cost decisions. To change all four shocks in your garage with typical hobbiest tools is what, a half day's work? At least 2 or 3 hours. If I think I might one day want the good stuff installed, then both the cost of the cheap Gabriel's AND my time is lost. I reckon, even as a retired guy, my time is worth at least $60/hr (that's what I charge for flight instruction). So, $100 for Gabriel's plus $200 - $300 for my time = enough to do the Konis the first time.
 
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