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Hello All!

I lost my BMW e28 535is almost a year ago during a house fire. In that time I've been looking for a new ride. I've got a company-provided work truck that I use day-to-day, so I don't need a daily driver.
I've been looking mostly at another BMW e28, but every time I pass Sports Car Workshops in Richmond I see a couple of Spiders and I always get the wants! I loved the look of these cars when I was looking for my first car at 16, but couldn't get one at the time. Now, I'm thinking it might be nice to get rid of 2 doors and a top for my fun car!
I'm thinking I'd like something not extremely pretty (budget is still a concern) but not a beater either. Think daily driver, but it actually only gets driven on weekends. I can do my own work for most stuff, but will still take it to a mechanic if I get stumped.
So, my question to you: What do I need to know before I get into one of these cars?
Does anyone know anything about Sport Car Workshops in Richmond, VA? Do they have any reputation here?
What should I be on the lookout for if I decide to begin a search for a Spider?
 

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Things I learned to avoid AFTER I bought my Spider...

Rust: you don't want any, and its expensive to fix. Same for major body work, although a respray is cheap and easy way to get it looking nice. Mechanicals are suprisingly easy or inexpensive to fix.

Oil in the water (sometimes a goo resembling vaseline can be found under the radiator cap): This could be something "simple" like a leaky head gasket or worse, warped or cracked head, etc. Good idea to check compression on all 4 cyl if possible.

Gas smell when driving: Clogged or cracked vapor recovery canister or lines, or cracked tube around the filler hose... Can be a pain to pin-point and correct. In my case it was a busted fuel pressure regulator that was causing it to run rich - REAL RICH, like liquid gas dripping out the tail pipe - hence the smell.

Second gear grinding: synchros are notorious for failing. If you find yourself saying "find it, don't grind it" you can either learn to "double-clutch" into 2nd or have the trans rebuilt.

Most cars have at least one of these cables fail: speedo cable, trunk release cable or hood release cable. Replace them before they break. VERY often mileage is not true.

You also want to know what "features" are original to different model years or "series".
http://www.international-auto.com/index.cfm?fa=ad&aid=192
http://spiderfaq.home.att.net/trivia.htm

I suspect most cars you will look at will have the Bosch L-jet or Motronic system (1982+) (same as your e28.) The 69?-81 cars came with SPICA injection which many people have trashed in favor of carbs (webers or dellortos) This is done because there isn't a big SPICA knowledge base in the US and finding someone to tune/troubleshoot it can be difficult. So if a 1980 car has carbs, take a good long look at the conversion job.

Do yourself a favor and get the best one you can afford. "Inexpensive" (neglecteds) Alfa always cost the most.
 

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Last Thursday I picked up an 89 graduate from Sportscar Workshops. I purchased the car from the owner who lived in Richmond and who had the car serviced regulary at Sportscars Workshops. The car did not have a cat on it because emmissions tests are not done in that part of VA, and I was bringing the car to Northern VA where emmisions are done. The owner offered to bring the car back to Tom and Ken at Sportscars to have a cat added back into the car before I came to pick it up. I had several conversations with Tom and Ken on the phone to discuss the exhaust work and could tell they were true Alfa enthusiasts. When I finally made my way down to Richmond I spent several hours with Tom and Ken talking Alfa. You'll find Ken to be more talkative than Tom, and in fact hard to slow down when he gets going on a "hot" topic. I was very impressed with both of them and their knowledge, passion, and broad experience. The car I purchased had been with them for the past five years and during that time had suspension work, engine mods and other routine maintenances done by them. I could tell they had a true attachment to the car and were sad to see it leave their shop for the last time. They gave me a print out of all the work done by them during that five years and it literally was longer than the car. Without question they know these cars and are passionate about them. If I lived in the richmond area (I'm 2.5 hours away) I would bring my cars to them for service.
 
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