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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
OK folks! First and foremost I am new to Alfas (let alone Italian beasts), and decided to add a European model next to the American muscle in the garage. With that said, I am looking hard at a 1979 2.0 spider, and would really love any advice/experience that any of you can provide me in advance when I visit this car on Saturday and decide on taking it home.

Outside of being in CA and making sure it passes smog first, any advice/questions/things to look for that you can recommend when I actually set my eyes and hands on it would be appreciated!!!

Thanks in advance!
 

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Rust.... look for rust. The rest can be managed. While West coast cars are usually more sound than their N.E. counterparts.... always check the floors, mountings for jacking points on the rockers, in the spare tire well, at the steering box, along the top drain tubes and in/under the wheel arches. If the springs are original, check for signs of cracking especially on the rears. Look for strange waves in the hood or see if the aluminum fins on the oil pan are damaged for signs of engine impact damage. Does the car have Carbs or the OE SPICA mechanical fuel injection? If SPICA... AGAIN .... Look for rust... especially in the fuel tank.... low fuel pressure and these cars equals a nice unexpected road side with a view.

Otherwise, if chassis is solid.... figure out what the car is worth (to you) for purchase $$... buy the car.... if possible put away or have on hand a second sum of money equal to the purchase price and have it for parts/repairs. You will have need of parts or repairs assuming its a driver quality car.

Otherwise....have fun!
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
Thanks for the quick reply! Supposedly rust free, but the proof will be in the pudding when I see it live andin person. It is the the SPICA MFI. What is "average fuel pressure" for this year/model? I have seen after market fuel pressure gauges for these; is there a factory gauge for FP in these?

Thanks again!
 

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I second what AlfaRomeo1750 said. RUST RUST RUST.... Rust is the only thing that truly matters. It is a cancer that develops deep within the rocker panels, and then spread outwards, compromising the structural integrity of the car. If you catch it very, very, early on, it is still possible to repair it, but still very expensive. But if this is a malignant, Stage 4 rust situation, then you are screwed. But, even if you somehow find a pristine body (these cars are unibody -- there is no real "chassis"), you MUST install a "chassis stiffener" regardless, to add longevity to the body of your car! (Someday, when I finally get another (rust-free?) Spider, I will also undercoat it.) Anyway, I strongly suggest you get one of those inspection devices with the small camera on one end, and look inside the rocker panels as thoroughly as you possibly can, if it is possible to access them. Give any potential old Alfa purchase the most thorough rust inspection you possibly can, not only in rockers, but all over. An Alfa with no mechanicals, but just a good body, is infinitely better than an Alfa with good mechanicals and a rusty body.

As for all of the mechanical idiosyncrasies, you can learn those as time goes on, while you work on it. The old 70s Spiders, which are the most basic & pure (and the fastest) are both easy and fun to work on. They are simple, straightforward cars overall, but with lots and lots of little entertaining quirks.

Also, though the late-70s models may be cheaper than the older ones, they are not as good-looking and also (if I am not mistaken) come with a catalytic converter. I suggest buying an early-70s Spider, if this is within your means. My 1972 Spider was my only car, and year-round daily driver, for 4 1/2 years. It is by far, my favorite car in the world, and someday I will own another one.

The following picture shows what eventually happens to rust, as seen on my old '72 Spider. If the chassis stiffener were removed, it would probably only be several more years before the car starts tearing apart in the middle, breaking into two pieces...
 

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I'd worry about rust, but that's something that cannot hide, so a thorough inspection and poking when she's on a lift will reveal that.

Unlike my compatriots here, I don't think "Anything else is manageable" unless you have serious mechanical abilities and a bottomless wallet and most importantly, the patience of a Saint. So, after you check for the obvious rust, ask about maintenance and ask for records...an Alfa is a very particular animal that requires very particular maintenance performed by very particular people with a very particular set of skills..along with a very particular set of often hard to source parts. In the absence of those particulars, the head aches you could encounter are truly unimaginable.

Get the service history, and get a sense of the owner's "Particulars" and see if this car is pretty clean, don't be seduced by it's more obvious charms.
 

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Unlike my compatriots here, I don't think "Anything else is manageable" unless you have serious mechanical abilities and a bottomless wallet and most importantly, the patience of a Saint.
If you can wrench your own, I don't think Alfas are particularly difficult or expensive to work on. Parts aren't available locally, but they are pretty cheap compared to most late model European cars. Engines and transmissions are dirt cheap. Of course, if you pay a mechanic for every little thing, any classic car can empty your wallet pretty quick.

They are a lot easier than most late model cars to work on- plenty of room in the engine bay and very simple emissions systems. The SPICA cars require a unique skill set, though they can be converted to carbs or EFI if that's too much.

I agree that rust is the main concern. Anything mechanical can be resolved by a reasonably competent home mechanic. But rust repair requires welding and paintwork skills not easily obtained by someone who doesn't do restoration for a living.
 

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Andrew, you wouldnt happen to be a clinician would you.... using terms like malignant and stage 4 cancer :grin2: to describe rust :grin2:

In any event, I agree with Andrew on several points. However, I will add the following "personal observations".

First however, regarding your question about Fuel PSI.... there are "actual" numbers posted in shop books.... BUT..... in Alfa language... that is more of a "suggestion" than a rule.... i swear sometime the engineers didnt read their own specs on these cars. In reality.... the dash of the 70s spiders has a low fuel pressure warning light....(make sure the bulb works)... the same light shares duty with the hand brake (so youll know which one it is). if the bulb is working.... and the light is "off" while youre driving.... youre good..... i say this because (In addition to my 1987 Quadrifoglio Spider pictured in my avatar) I have a 1971 1750 Spider. I had that thing dialed in on Fuel pressure to factory... but at idle the low fuel pressure light would barely start to flicker if i sat at a stop light too long... tried minor tweaks to fix it... but car ran great.... Alfa mechanic friend said... drive yourself crazy trying to fix a bulb.... or drive the car like crazy and make a smile.... obviously i chose the latter. Bottom line, if the light is off under load.... and mostly off at idle with knowledge of no fuel tank rust, no fuel leaks, and new high filtration/flow filters.... have fun.

Regarding Early vs Late 70s spiders... for all intent and purposes they are the same car. In Europe.... they "WERE" the same car with only minor exceptions, the most glaring being the 1971 model had the 1.8 ltr 1750 4cyl engine... and the 1972 on cars had the 2.0 ltr 2000 motor. All USA cars were fitted with Mechanical FI (however some have been retrofitted to carbs because of the performance advantages). The later 70s cars are (As Andrew said) not as fast largely due to increased weight from US DOT crash regulations mainly in the bumpers. To save weight and increase performance, ditch the late 70s bumpers and retrofit to the early 70s type.... in these cars bumpers are more for aesthetics than useful purpose. Depending on CA smog and laws... you may be able to put Carbs on it and higher Cams if you want/need the extra power.... but... if not... the car is fun/fast enough on its own. Besides.... you already stated you have some "American Muscle" in the garage for going fast in a straight line >:). Although.... I would recommend ditching the late 70s bumpers... car handles better.

(Also, regarding bumpers... if you do buy an Alfa, beware the SUV/Truck or heck any car that can back into the nose of the Alfa above the bumper line).... Always park nose in (toward a wall, light post or other protective structure.... or park Nose Out.... away from other cars esp in parking lots to avoid unnecessary need for body work.

Regarding "Grazie" statements.... as he said, it boils downto your personality and "mechanical ability". If youre not a "sockets and wrench" kind of guy/girl Alfa ownership will be very painful, frustrating and costly. Thankfully for the earlier cars pre-1980 they are mechanically very simple and parts are readily available (international-auto.com) or (vickauto.com).

I think to have these cars, you need a "massive sense of humor"... in all things Alfa.

Ive been tinkering with these cars for 20 years ..... so to me.... most things are "manageable" ..... when folks ask me about Alfas, with few exception, I take the "Rocky Balboa approach" e.g. "Question: Is the food good?....Reply: Its all edible"

So bottom line, if youre mechanically inclined.... and go in with the expectation of a "rolling/drivable" long term and never ending project.... then you might not find eons of frustration and will find galaxies of smiles and like minded nut jobs to share a beer and scars/stories with.

Lastly, the car is 36 years old..... there will be things wrong with it... unless it was someone's garage queen and has had heaps of service beyond simple usage stuff and they want billions of dollars for it... there will be things wrong with the car .... however as above.... if the body is solid.... that is a great place to start.

Cheers,
Martin.
 

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Being a left coast owner, and unfortunately from California in the land of stupid smog rules for old cars. I looked at 13 cars before buying mine.

Body conditions made me walk away from most of the ones I looked at, as rust hides on these girls. The other reasons I walked away was blown head gaskets in conjunction with weak transmissions and those seller's grand "unrealistic" pricing of the others I looked at.

1979 is a nice vintage. Best of luck, happy hunting. As if you really want one, they are out there!
 

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Discussion Starter · #10 ·
OK; so I brought her home! Took to gusto and drive her home from Morro Bay to Monterey, CA, 144 miles in 90+ degree temperatures. Averaged between 75-80 MPH which kept me around 3800 RPMs.

I have already reached out to Marco at Alfa, and it appears that he is on his one month holiday vacation, so my factory details will follow after. My main attractions to this specific car related to the straight body, and the fact that the engine, transmission, and steering box have been rebuild within the last 10,000 miles. It has sat more than not with ~1000 miles in the last year, but passed smog here in CA cleanly at idle of 820, with CO2 at 14.6%, O2 at 0.5%, HC at 47 PPM, and CO% at 0.03%.

I was pretty pleased that it also came with the metal bumpers and headers from a 1974! At some point, at least I will have the bumper retrofit to look forward to...

The car runs well and handles reasonably, although there is about 1" of play in the steering, which I am questioning a bit with the rebuild steering box. It looks like there is some fresh oil on top of the valve covers, so I am guessing that perhaps the VVT o-ring fix outlined might be in my future. The right brake light, and the two reverse lights are out....I am really hoping they are just bulbs, but I am guessing it could be worse in reality. Door limit straps will also be on the project list at some point...

Anyone here have an opinion on the chassis stiffeners? A nice to have, a great difference, or just another bolt on toy you thought could be cool and you justify the $600 to yourself?

Lots more to read and learn (by the way, how do I know if I have ATE brakes?), advice and input always welcome!
 

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I love the interior. Mine is black with black covered in black. Yours is visually interesting. Piping on the seat is cool. Are those original seats?
 

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Looks in good condition. Dash not even cracked. Check you oil over the next few weeks for the smell of gasoline (leaking Spica pump). Unless specifically noted in the work order, an engine "rebuild" does not necessarily include rebuilding the injection pump. If it does turn out you have a "leaker," be prepared for about an $1100 overhaul, not including labor to remove/replace/retune.

Hopefully you read the sticky thread I told you about in the previous post.
 

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Re: Chassis stiffener. Yes, a worthwhile improvement, it subdues (but does not eliminate) cowl shake. But recall that upgrades are like dominoes, once you start fiddling with one, it changes the overall dynamics of the car, and other things that were tolerable (or even unnoticeable) become more apparent.

So, recalling that a stiff structure is one of the major components on a well handling car, when you install the stiffener, you'll also notice more lean in corners, so a set of upgraded sway bars and urethane bushings are in order. Then, you'll suddenly get the urge to add stiffer springs and maybe change the tires to a lower aspect to stiffen the side walls and take advantage of the handling improvements. Get my drift?

Look at the whole car as a project and decide what you're after and what your budget is before you add components that sound appealing, but when you get them installed, just lead to more mods that you might not have anticipated or wanted.

Personally, when the necessary fixes are in, I'd start with good summer high perf tires and upgrade the sway bars and bushings..and take out the resonator!...before I got too deep into other mods.
 

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Discussion Starter · #14 ·
Thanks to all for the comments so far!

The interior was a big draw in addition to the straight body. The interior has been in since the second owner got the car in '82, so I am thinking that it is original; we will see if by chance Marco at Alfa includes that info. Unfortunately there ARE two small cracks in the dash above the center vents...I am deciding somewhere between leaving it and a dash cover. The truth is that they are so small at this point (and unseen from the driver's seat), that I am wondering if worth it to cover. The question is how to keep them from getting worse or being able to repair them if possible. If the cover prevents further issues, that may be cheapest/best way to go....

I have been reading and consuming as much on this site as I can, and will continue to do so. I think I will hold off on the chassis stiffener until I get the basics out of the way like tires and brakes, but was looking at bushings and such in the process. It looks like most/all of the bushings have been replaced with urethane ones, but better analysis with time on a rack will help me figure out what needs replacing.

Roadtrip, thanks for the heads up on the potential SPICA rebuild, I will keep an eye on it.

Today I will limit myself to a nice 50 mile drive to stretch her legs and a trip to the auto parts store for light bulbs! :)
 

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Nice looking car! Especially the interior.

Regarding the chassis stiffener: YES, get one. You don't have to it right away, but get one fairly soon. It will prolong the life of your car's body. As far as I know, there has never been any "cool" factor with chassis stiffeners... they have always been installed as a matter of pure function and practicality. Besides, it isn't even really visible. It is worth every penny!!

Have fun with your Alfa! Try not to let those doors swing open... lol. (The limit straps were missing in mine, also.) If I remember correctly, in my '72, 4000 rpm in 5th was 70mph. Anyway.... you can pretty much drive across the country with it redlined in 5th gear. Haha... I miss my Spider! My 164 doesn't even compare!
 

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Oh, and be sure to give the wiring a good look-over. Replace corroded or broken connectors, make sure the grounds are good, tighten things, etc.... in general, make sure the wiring is good. Doing this now will likely prevent future repair jobs on the sides of dangerous highways. (Been there many, many times) If your wiring is similar to that of my '72 Spider (I'm imagining it probably is), then you will enjoy a very straightforward, rudimentary wiring system! Italian cars are not known for having good electronics (As I now fully understand, with my 164) so be thankful that you have what is most likely a very basic wiring system.... lol
 

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It looks like there is some fresh oil on top of the valve covers, so I am guessing that perhaps the VVT o-ring fix outlined might be in my future.

Lots more to read and learn (by the way, how do I know if I have ATE brakes?), advice and input always welcome!
Welcome to the ranks of Spider ownership. A '79 did not have vvt originally. Probably just a leaking cam cover gasket. BTW, do not over-tighten the cover bolts. 10-12 foot-pounds is plenty.

"ATE" should be cast into the side of the brake calipers.
 

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Discussion Starter · #19 ·
Working on it...

Played with the fluids:
Mobil 1 15w-50
Gear Box Redline 75w-90 NS
Differential Redline 75w-90

New Rubber:
General Altimax RT43 18/70R14

Checked springs and Koni shocks, A-OK

Break pads were good, but left front caliper locked; new front calipers and pads on their way.

Master cylinder was leaking, replaced with new 22mm

"new" rebuilt steering box from The Steering Store installed by previous owner 2/15 is clunky with 2 inches of play and definite issues; next project to deal with once people open again on Monday.

Exploring the world of non-working lights and interesting electrical...More to come.


Grazie, can I ask you to expand a bit on REMOVE THE RESONATOR? I have been looking around the board since you comment. It is for sound (better with straight pipe), performance (more pep without it)? Since it seems to be cat back, does it affect smog for us poor California guys?

Thanks to all again for your help.
 

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2 inches of play in the steering wheel sounds about right, others can comment, but what you're feeling might actually be WNL.

Resonator: Yes, ditch it. It sounds great, it sounds faster..it's can't really add any noticeable performance....but it's frankly a cheap thrill, the sound is fantastic, you'll think you have 350 hp there, it's a deep throaty growl and a loud, sexy bark at full throttle..not at all ricer like. Leave the rearmost silencer on, where the tail pipe emerges. Trust me...

I've modified and tinkered with just about every part of my '89..I'm the original owner, so I have had 26 years of time to putter..and I have to tell you that the two things I did that provided the most enjoyment and bang for a very limited buck was the resonator removal and adding stiffer sway bars and urethane bushings, and it's the 2 things I suggest newbies modify first.
 
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