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1978 Spider
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Discussion Starter #1
Howdy y'all :)

Just joined the BB and after sorting thru all the stuff the car came with it appears it's a car that's been on here before. I believe this car was owned by a member called "Bill", a professor or teacher of some type who may not be active here anymore. 1978 Spider that I can trace from Kansas City in 2003 to College Station and finally CC, TX. It appears the car was last actively driven in 2012 (old registration sticker still on windshield) and then left to sit idle for some reason. There is a second reg sticker on the windshield from Sep 2019. Apparently some kid recently bought this car with hopes of fixing it up. I guess 5 months later he gave up.

Some very "conflicting", and "very illogical" as Spock would say, things I have observed about this car...
1. It was obviously very well loved and an attempt to care for it was made by "Bill". Since his purchase in 2003 he had kept a rather detailed journal of everything he did to maintain the car. There is an incredible amount of receipts (mostly early during his ownership) and a massive ring binder of Alfa technical manuals, manuals from Wes Ingram, parts catalogs, etc. Everything points to a car that should be well sorted out and in good order. I did not see these records until after "the deal".
2. Something happened as it was not registered past 2012. Either other interests or something unrepairable or a critical part unavailable at the time to continue driving the car? So it just sat idle I guess. There are a few receipts after this time suggesting attempts to resurrect the car.
3. Enter the kid...he registers the car in Sept 2019. But that also requires a current safety inspection. So obviously the car drove fine and all the lights and such worked, or worked just enough to pass. The car I bought 5 months later would never, ever pass in it's current state.
4. Surprisingly the car started and ran...barely...but enough that the engine sounded reasonable quite and smooth. Was able to carefully drive around the neighborhood and run all the gears. Amazingly no syncro crunching at all. Spica runs like crap. More on that in a bit. Brakes are shot.
5. Upside, mostly rust free and mostly a complete car. some bubbling in the rear of the outer rockers. floor pans solid except small rust thru near each forward jacking point. Tire well has the typical holes. Some bubble along the lower rear panel and lower rear fender. Overall, very minor I think for any car of this vintage.

So I do the unthinkable...I make an offer...had been on the market for a few weeks I think...I ended up paying about
1/3 of his original asking price...probably still a stupid decision...time will tell...

Her name is Sophia Loren (old, Italian, but looks good for her age)…interestingly enough, I later found an old BB post from "Bill"...he calls her "Sophia"...
 

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1978 Spider
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Discussion Starter #2 (Edited)
SPICA...runs but is a sad mess...I'll be posting on the appropriate forum when I start putting it back together. This and the potential head gasket issue will probably determine if the car lives or is chopped to parts...

all 4 intake boots are split and missing the manifold side clamps. the 2 straps holding the airbox on are just busted leather (although an interesting solution). There was a block of wood jammed between the fender and air box. There are two "drain holes" or something under the air box with caulk sealing them. Compensator Link Retaining Spring is broken or missing. There is the bent paperclip trick sticking out the hole of the missing screw, but no rubber band. John Shankle Sure-Start kit installed but unsure if it's correctly set up and functional. The baro compensator is missing the top lever for N,C,F settings. I have no clue what it's set at.

Head gasket. Radiator neck has the tell-tale glob of goo which supposedly is telling me the head gasket is leaking oil into the coolant. Not sure if I should attempt the cold head re-torque, clean and flush the system and see if it returns. Or just do the **** gasket...after SPICA is working.

If I can get past those two items...I'll feel good about spending further coin...
 

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1978 Spider
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Discussion Starter #4
It would be nice to do a search of all his old posts. Or more importantly all the posts he started. That would help complete the car's history. What issues he had. How they were resolved. Maybe some major repairs/maint items that are not recorded in the binder than came with the car.

I think there is possibly a modified/different distributor/ignition but nothing recorded. A box of assorted parts reveals a "spare" distributor smaller than what is installed. 2 different size caps and a bunch of brands new points and some used condensers. 6 spare wiper arms and 4 spare side mirrors??? and old SPICA pump partially there, some new body/frame/suspension bushings, hopefully a good used booster, new ignition switch with keys, etc...
 

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Push hard and live
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9,336 Posts
Hello Odie,

I’m driving a 77 Spider I picked up off the BB. It was southeast of Tulsa, and long dormant. I paid $3k for it, got it hauled to northern Nevada, and have put about $6k into it so far, plus the transport. It has very nearly zero rust, good paint, and nice interior. So, for about $10k, I’ve got a very nice, seemingly reliable driver. I share that to give you a reference point on what an S2 might require to provide regular, and attractive fun.

My expenditures have resulted in new/rebuilt brakes, electric pump, hoses, filters, rebuilt suspension with improved springs and Koni shocks, battery, new convertible top, rear wheel bearings, 4 into 2 exhaust manifold, new exhaust, and a variety of detail stuff. So, even if you need a head gasket, that’s fairly cheap work. Whether $10k will buy an equally nice S2, I don’t know, but I think its reasonable for a ready to go Spider.

The scariest part of your story would be the young boy who gave up. What might he have wrought!?

I wouldn’t condemn the Spica pump yet. Maybe the Ingram documents relate to it having been overhauled, and just fat-fingered by the short term young owner.

Welcome to the party. Always happy to lend a hand.
 

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Deleted duplicate post.
 

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Head gasket isn't a particularly difficult job, I find the hardest part is dealing with unclamping then on install reclamping all the rigid fuel lines. You could do it in a day barring any extra needs of the head once it's off. I take the hood off, an extra set of hands when lifting the darn head off is nice too. Don't forget the two upside down bolts at the front of the head.

The spica compensator link spring and the paperclip sticking out are not terribly encouraging. The no lever is ok, I think most of the later pumps didn't have them anyway. You will need to know what the T number of the pump is at some point, so you can find out what nominal thermostatic actuator/sure start protrusion is. I have a sure start, I don't mind it.

Enjoy, it will be fun for you.

Cheers,
 

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1978 Spider
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Discussion Starter #8
I don't fear the HG...Did my diesel Merc years ago...124 series TD. The Alfa is a piece of cake in comparison...but if not needed why do it? From the detailed records that were kept I can't see how it was not already done at some point? Well there are no HG notes. Just lots of valve clearance checks.
 

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If you don't have oil/coolant cross-contamination or other tel-tale signs of HG probs, and compression test is OK...move on for now to sort more pressing issues,,,IMHO Paul
 

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Might want to do a leak down test - should help pinpoint issues.

I would replace the two fuel filters. Might even want to drain the gas and inspect for debris and condition. I've chased more than few "bad" Spica problems only to find out that it was clogged filters, rotten gas or both...
 

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1978 Spider
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Discussion Starter #11
It's got lots of sludge under the radiator cap neck. Stuck my finger and ran it up under the neck lip...gooey...don't know if that's recent or from a very old HG failure/replacement and they just didn't clean the radiator. Unlikely IMHO.

There are no receipts or notes about the HG ever being replaced or any re-torques done.

From the records that came with the car, when "Bill" owned it he appears meticulous about checking and adjusting valve clearances, fluid changes, compression checks and such. Hand written and lots of receipts from 2003-2009. Then only an occasional receipt every couple years or so?

Some of his notes:
2003 purchased with 83,367 miles.
in 2003 (90,875 miles) compression "cold" 145/155/165/175. exhaust .018/.018/.017/.019. intake .020/.023/.020/.018.
over the years calves were checked and adjusted as needed.
in 2007 misc entry with 134,054 miles documented.
in 2009 (no mileage noted) compression "cold" 163/175/170/167, exhaust .021/.021/.020/.021, intake .018/.021/.024/.020

Now it's 2020. I bought it last weekend with 139,xxx miles
 

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1978 Spider
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Discussion Starter #12
Only drove it home on a borrowed battery. SPICA leaking air everywhere I think. Boots all cracked bad and missing clamps, and a block of wood to hold the airbox in place (old homemade leather straps are broken).

Waiting on some silicone hose to make new intake boots. Is the length/spacing critical for something or does it only need to be 4 equal lengths and not be too close or far as to not hit/interfere with anything else?

and fabricate air box straps or something to hold it in place. What is the factory strap length hole-to-hole? I might make some metal brackets or turn buckles. Or is there a reason the air box straps are flexible?

"Bill" was pretty good at keeping up with all the fuel filters (tank, pump, SPICA oil filter, etc) so I'm only worrying about old stale gas in that respect.

I just hope the kid didn't try tuning the SPICA...I think Bill had it pretty well sorted out. I hope that getting new boots and properly mounting the airbox will solve many SPICA issues.

There is the compensator spring to fix...a paper clip was found in the retaining screw hole (no screw or rubber band for the paper clip. I'll just hook it back for now to get it running. A permanent and proper spring repair will have to come later.
 

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1978 Spider
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Discussion Starter #13
fuel filter seems to be missing some hoses. maybe something to do with the fuel pump recall thing? No documentation was found that is was done. but looking at the fuel tank lines and wires I suspect there is an in-tank pump now. What appear to be the hard metal supply & return lines seem to have been disturbed/removed/remounted...indicative of some work or fuel tank R&R back there.
 

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1978 Spider
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Discussion Starter #14
PO notes indicate oil consumption at 600-750 miles / qt...back in 2003. No comments since that time. Perhaps indicative of the HG leaking oil? Either way, once I get the SPICA running reasonably well and some of the electrical octopus tamed...I'm pretty sure I'll be doing the HG in the near future. Might attempt the re-torque I've read about in the mean time.
 

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Push hard and live
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If you haven’t already discovered Classic Alfa in the UK, stop what you’re doing and take a tour.

Their quality, prices, and service is superior. I generally get stuff in two days via DHL, which is quicker than Centerline in Colorado, and generally less expensive on both parts price and freight.


You can get new intake boots and clamps, and other bits quicker and cheaper than making them yourself.

Sometimes Centerline will have Spica-specific stuff that CA won’t have, but it’s rare.
 

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1978 Spider
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Discussion Starter #16
Put some new boots on, got it started, in tank pump not grounded right, fuel supply hose leaking, press light on...amazed it actually made it home.

Anyway, the process of getting the SPICA going turned into gut the trunk and start a mini rustoration instead…stripped the entire trunk's fuel system, lights, and whatever was in there...degreased and washed out...fender/rear apron drain holes cleared out...lots of navel jelly, repeatedly....trunk washed out again...Ospho poured into the lower fender and apron cavities and out the drain holes repeatedly...entire trunk sprayed/brushed with Ospho…

Going to paint everything with Rustoleum once the Ospho dries/cures.

some before and during pics...

Not sure what to do about the wheel well. Cut out the rot and weld or rivet some sheet metal in or keep what is left in place as a "mold" for a fiberglass patch?
 

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Push hard and live
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Never skip an opportunity to buy, and learn, a new tool.

if you don’t already have, get a mig welder and side grinder.

The spare tire well is a perfect place to practice panel patches. Imperfect work can be ground smooth, but you don’t really need to achieve exterior perfection.

As with handmade boots, plenum hangars, and non-OE worm clamps, fiberglass and pop rivets just scream “thar be dragons here!”
 

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1978 Spider
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Discussion Starter #18
have welder, plenty of cutters and grinders...just need to decide between repair the holes or just cutting the whole complete tire well out and welding in a new one. Once you cut you can't really go back...
 

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There is a US vendor for Alfa body panels named "Wolf". Just don't.

The UK vendors have much better stuff. The wheel tub is fairly large, so although it probably isn't that expensive, the freight will be more than their typical $24.
 

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...and you can buy just the bottom section of the wheel well, reducing the cutting carnage somewhat.
 
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