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Discussion Starter #1 (Edited)
Hi guys,

This is my first time posting here. This year I did something I started thinking of 24 years ago. I bought an S4 Spider. I didn't set out to acquire it with any more resolve than in the last 24 years. One simply popped up with the right equipment, mileage, condition, and on an actionable level, at the right price! I always knew if I got one that I would have to add more power to the engine, as I'd driven a couple back in '94 when the thought first entered my head. Since buying this car I've done some serious research along those lines and boiled it down to 3 possibilities. Please help me decide which is the right course to take. I am not after anything crazy. I don't want to degrade the car's drivability or reliability. I might be willing to sacrifice a little longevity, but not in any serious way. I need to mention that the car has a ZF-slushbox. That's a good thing for adding power because that 3spd ZF automatic went into a slew of far more powerful European cars, so is not a limiting factor or concern. Here are my 3 ideas.

1) ADD NITROUS
I've done this on other cars I've owned, so I have experience to draw on. It'll be a multi-port wet system; a 12-shot (that's the smallest nozzle they have) on each intake runner for a total of 48 added HP. I'll have a WOT-switch, an RPM window-switch (ON from 3000 RPM to 5500 RPM probably... it can be set in 500 RPM increments. With NOS the engine is on a mad RPM-dash and you don't want it bouncing off of redline, plus you don't want the engine under a lot of stress when it shifts) and an overall manual on/off switch. The drawback to NOS is that the bottle takes up space in the car and must be taken for a refill each time it runs dry. There are only a couple places in town to do that so you must go out of your way every few weeks.

2) Transplant a factory turbocharged Nord engine from an Alfa 75
This option seems to hold the most promise but is probably also the most expensive. If cost were no object I'd simply buy an entire car from overseas. Of course that thought is only possible at all since the car can now be legally imported through the "25-year rule." I really need your help/advice with this option. Getting a 75 that has been rear-ended and written-off would be nice, but how often does that happen? Price-wise they seem to hold their turbos quite dear. Obtaining the engine management ECU is a prime part of this option as cars like this usually have fueling up to 1 bar programmed (the specs say the car boosts up to .75 bar but there is always ample cushion programmed in). I had 3 different Lotus Elans. They only boosted to .6 bar but a genius deconstructed the source code and it had a fuel-map up to .94 bar. I also hope the pin-outs of the 75's Bosch LE2-Jetronic ECU are similar enough to the Spider's Bosch Motronic ML 4.1 that swapping around the wiring-connections will be possible. Having a complete car to obtain any part I might need would be ideal, and also validate the engine's condition and mileage. How, after all, do you have any idea of the mileage on a "loose" engine? What's to stop them from claiming any mileage they want? You truly don't have any idea, right? Anyway your thoughts or experience with this are greatly appreciated.

3) Upgrade the Spider's OEM engine for turbocharging/supercharging
What upgrades exactly did the Alfa 75 motor have done to it to handle boost? Does anyone know for sure? Am I looking at a fortune in parts and labor? An aftermarket ECU will have to be programmed by a knowledgeable shop on a rolling road. The compression ratio of the 75 is 7.5:1 instead of the S4 Spider's 10:1. The Spider has [email protected] & [email protected] The 75 Turbo QV has [email protected] & [email protected] Through typical turbo 'tricks' like using a larger-diameter exhaust and no cat-converter, upgrading the intercooler and using a small but faster-spooling more modern dual ball bearing turbo 190 or 200 HP can be obtained with complete reliability I'm sure. It should also be noted that an automatic trans mated to a turbocharged engine is a wedding officiated by God. You need never take your foot off the gas and thus loose the boost you've built up when it comes time to move between gears; just floor it and hold on.

What do you guys think?
 

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Hi guys,

This is my first time posting here. This year I did something I started thinking of 24 years ago. I bought an S4 Spider. I didn't set out to acquire it with any more resolve than in the last 24 years. One simply popped up with the right equipment, mileage, condition, and on an actionable level, at the right price! I always knew if I got one that I would have to add more power to the engine, as I'd driven a couple back in '94 when the thought first entered my head. Since buying this car I've done some serious research along those lines and boiled it down to 3 possibilities. Please help me decide which is the right course to take. I am not after anything crazy. I don't want to degrade the car's drivability or reliability. I might be willing to sacrifice a little longevity, but not in any serious way. I need to mention that the car has a ZF-slushbox. That's a good thing for adding power because that 3spd ZF automatic went into a slew of far more powerful European cars, so is not a limiting factor or concern. Here are my 3 ideas.

1) ADD NITROUS
I've done this on other cars I've owned, so I have experience to draw on. It'll be a multi-port wet system; a 12-shot (that's the smallest nozzle they have) on each intake runner for a total of 48 added HP. I'll have a WOT-switch, an RPM window-switch (ON from 3000 RPM to 5500 RPM probably... it can be set in 500 RPM increments. With NOS the engine is on a mad RPM-dash and you don't want it bouncing off of redline, plus you don't want the engine under a lot of stress when it shifts) and an overall manual on/off switch. The drawback to NOS is that the bottle takes up space in the car and must be taken for a refill each time it runs dry. There are only a couple places in town to do that so you must go out of your way every few weeks.

2) Transplant a factory turbocharged Nord engine from an Alfa 75
This option seems to hold the most promise but is probably also the most expensive. If cost were no object I'd simply buy an entire car from overseas. Of course that thought is only possible at all since the car can now be legally imported through the "25-year rule." I really need your help/advice with this option. Getting a 75 that has been rear-ended and written-off would be nice, but how often does that happen? Price-wise they seem to hold their turbos quite dear. Obtaining the engine management ECU is a prime part of this option as cars like this usually have fueling up to 1 bar programmed (the specs say the car boosts up to .75 bar but there is always ample cushion programmed in). I had 3 different Lotus Elans. They only boosted to .6 bar but a genius deconstructed the source code and it had a fuel-map up to .94 bar. I also hope the pin-outs of the 75's Bosch LE2-Jetronic ECU are similar enough to the Spider's Bosch Motronic ML 4.1 that swapping around the wiring-connections will be possible. Having a complete car to obtain any part I might need would be ideal, and also validate the engine's condition and mileage. How, after all, do you have any idea of the mileage on a "loose" engine? What's to stop them from claiming any mileage they want? You truly don't have any idea, right? Anyway your thoughts or experience with this are greatly appreciated.

3) Upgrade the Spider's OEM engine for turbocharging/supercharging
What upgrades exactly did the Alfa 75 motor have done to it to handle boost? Does anyone know for sure? Am I looking at a fortune in parts and labor? An aftermarket ECU will have to be programmed by a knowledgeable shop on a rolling road. The compression ratio of the 75 is 7.5:1 instead of the S4 Spider's 10:1. The Spider has [email protected] & [email protected] The 75 Turbo QV has [email protected] & [email protected] Through typical turbo 'tricks' like using a larger-diameter exhaust and no cat-converter, upgrading the intercooler and using a small but faster-spooling more modern dual ball bearing turbo 190 or 200 HP can be obtained with complete reliability I'm sure. It should also be noted that an automatic trans mated to a turbocharged engine is a wedding officiated by God. You need never take your foot off the gas and thus loose the boost you've built up when it comes time to move between gears; just floor it and hold on.

What do you guys think?
Well it is April Fool's Day.

Sent from my SM-T710 using Tapatalk
 

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In my opinion, I would not do anything. To me it sounds like you purchased the wrong car. Keep the Alfa an Alfa. If you wanted a hot rod/rice burner, there are plenty of Honda and Chevys on the market.
If money is no concern Alfaholics in England can transform your engine into a 200+hp motor which is more than enough for a lightweight spider. Spruell in Georgia is another option.
 

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Discussion Starter #5
Would the Alfaholics motor be more of a race unit? I'd like more power yes, but I want to keep the civility of a factory engine. That's why the engine from a 75 Turbo seemed ideal... a bolt-in factory part.
 

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bolt in maybe, how about the aspect of plug in? ciao, chris
 

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Discussion Starter #8 (Edited)
Chris, I saw your "illegally parked house" comment. When we were young my wife totaled both our cars in two-weeks. Our insurance politely informed us they were choosing not to renew our policy upon its expiration! Those incidents provide me with an excuse to this day to keep 3 or 4 cars in the fleet at all times! :)
 

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Discussion Starter #9 (Edited)
BMX, I do plan to upgrade the front brakes with the Alfaholics 4-Pot Brake Kit. I haven't researched what to do with the suspension yet but I will do something. I have four Yokohama S.Drive 205/55WR15 "summer" tires ready to go on... about the stickiest non-racing tires I could find in an OE-wheel-friendly size (I really like the OE wheels).

I've owned many "classic" British roadsters and have always found a way to increase their performance reasonably while also increasing reliability. Having owned many cars not known as paragons of perfection I'm no stranger to a wrench or a wiring diagram. There's a mechanical and an electrical engineer in my family so whatever I can't figure out I can usually get one of them excited to solve.
 

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In my opinion, I would not do anything. To me it sounds like you purchased the wrong car. Keep the Alfa an Alfa. If you wanted a hot rod/rice burner, there are plenty of Honda and Chevys on the market.
If money is no concern Alfaholics in England can transform your engine into a 200+hp motor which is more than enough for a lightweight spider. Spruell in Georgia is another option.
I agree 100%
 

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Let me be a dissenting voice. You did not purchase the wrong car if you want a spider with juice. You can make a pretty lively car with an extensive NA build, but no matter how crazy an NA build gets, it can't touch the power (and especially torque) levels boost can offer. Forced induction in an Alfa makes for a wonderful car, but be warned it is is neither the easy or well-trodden path. You will pay a lot more and spend a lot more time than you would for a turbocharged Miata and the result won't be as quick. Nothing will come off the shelf, and you will need fabrication skills, or be willing to pay big $$$ to someone who has them. You won't get much support from other Alfisti, as most seem to think turbos are some sort of witchcraft. But if you understand that, I will say the following:

1) Not a fan of nitrous. It's really only useful for drag racing applications. By the time you do all the upgrades to make a well-rounded car, you might as well have put in a turbo.

2) The 75 Turbo setup is ancient. Forced induction technology has come a long way, and there are far better solutions now than anything that was offered in the 80s. Not worth scouring the globe for an inferior solution unless you are just dead set on something factory. You can, however, source a motor for a European junkyard and they aren't crazy expensive. The biggest "upgrade" on the 75 Turbo engine was that they were only 1.8 liter displacement with thicker liners. They also have a compression ratio of 7.5:1, which is completely unnecessary with today's EFI systems, but it will allow quite a bit of boost. I considered going that route for my turbo build, but ultimately decided that I didn't want to deal with trying to source a motor from an overseas junkyard.

3) If you are content with a mild boost setup and can live with the potential for needing to rebuild your motor, the stock motor can handle boost. I ran my setup at 7 psi for 4 years and quite a few track days and autocrosses. Fuel/spark are doing with a Megasquirt 3 running ford "green" injectors with a custom intake manifold. Running a Garett GT28 turbocharger (very common and inexpensive, but there are better options out there). It did eventually blow a head gasket, but I was absolutely wailing on it (bouncing off the rev limiter in an autocross when it happened). It would probably have been fine for a very long time if driven somewhat sensibly. Never got around to getting it dynoed, but a spider is quite lively at those power levels to the extent second gear required careful throttle modulation to keep wheelspin manageable once boost hit. I am currently in the process of rebuilding the motor for boost with the following items:

Carillo H-beam rods (rods probably aren't necessary for power levels under 300hp, but I'm planning on going nuts)
JE Forged Pistons at 8.5:1 ratio
Darton ductile iron sleeves, o-ringed and wired for head gasket retention
Mildly reworked head for better off-boost response

Supporting mods include the following:
Spruell flex disc cage and upgraded BMW flex disc (VERY IMPORTANT for safety if you are running power levels significantly above stock)
Custom aluminum radiator with built-in oil cooler
Custom front-mount intercooler
Alfaholics 6-pot calipers with vented 2-piece rotors, alfaholics rear calipers, Ferodo DS2500 pads, Tilton dual MC setup with in-car bias adjustment
Alfaholics fastroad/rally clutch with 11lb flywheel
Basic "fast road" style suspension with Koni Yellows and mild lowering springs (I have a Watts link rear ready to go in)
In the process of installing an OS Gikken LSD to help put all that power down
Toyo R888R DOT Legal Competition Tires in 205/50/15.

If you'd like more reading about forced induction in these engines, there is a great thread by the user "buzzed" who goes through his twin-charged Nord build in an Alfetta. There are also old threads about "bonnie" the 200mph spider than ran at bonneville. As a final note, I'm not sure if the Automatic is really all that great if you are looking for a serious build. An old "dumb" 3-speed automatic is fine for drag racing, but the alfa rear end won't handle hard launches. The auto will be incredibly frustrating on a road course. I can also see it causing problems with wheelspin management when it downshifts. I suppose it's ok, if you are just looking for a bit more pep on the street. On the other hand, your taller rear-end ratio is basically the holly grail for those looking to do big-power spiders.
 

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OP,

From your initial post, it seems you are more educated in these things than I.

Here are a couple of threads where people have transformed their Spiders.

The first is if you have no budget and the second, gets you to 200HP. Both are interesting reads and you might be able to use something in there.

http://www.alfabb.com/bb/forums/engine-conversions/31782-one-demon-possessed-91-s4.html

http://www.alfabb.com/bb/forums/engine-conversions/172068-building-200hp-twin-spark.html

For me, I have come to love my '91 for what it is. She loves the curvy country roads and is a head turner.

If I really wanted that kind of power without going through all the effort and I think frustration you are about to enter into, I would buy a Honda S2000.

Good luck with whatever you choose.

Vin
 

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A couple of years ago there was a local Craigslist spider that was set up for Nitro. Some guy paid a mint to have it done (along with a built engine) and the car kept breaking. A few owners and lots of down time later, it's on Craigslist. The guy who built it worked on my car, and vouched for it being a monster, but the owner kept doing burnouts, cookies etc and the rest of the car like wheel bearings, suspension parts etc wore out fast.

IMO you have an automatic, so you really can't do any of the things you are wanting to do. You can chip your car since it's an S4, with a Squadra chip; that will get you some but-dyno felt quickness, but still...that 3sp sucks. Had it in a BMW at one time years ago. Bullet proof but what a dog.
 

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Discussion Starter #19
Vintre & Nealric,

Thank you so much. The type of feedback you've given me is exactly what I'd hoped to receive. I'll read the threads you pointed me to as soon as I can in the next day or two. Regarding a Honda S2000 it is a great car in its own right but doesn't excite my imagination the way the Alfa does. I had a work friend who turbocharged his S2000 to the point he had to run it on race gas. I'm a little too old and wiser for it, to do things to such an extreme. Nealric, I'll look into some of the items you mentioned in your build. Is there an after-market head gasket for the Spider designed to hold more boost?

John533i, I had that ZF 3spd in a 1986 Maserati Spyder. That's how I know the tranny is bullet-proof. It is a bit of a dog right off the line. However once going I adjusted the kick-down cable to immediately give me a lower gear and the tranny was very responsive at anything over 30 mph. I am catering to the wife here too. She loves the cut of the Spider's jib but says her days driving a manual are over. I thought about upgrading to the ZF 4spd which superseded the 3spd in the Maserati as well as most BMW models. They made the casing larger to accommodate the extra gear, thus it no longer fits within the Spider's tunnel. I've had nitrous on several cars, but never to do hooligan stuff. For me it's there for passing and speed coming out of corners, mainly. There is a relatively new product not available to me in my past endeavors, which shuts the nitrous off if the AFR goes lean. If I nitrous again I'll make it part of the equation. I've always done multi-port wet nitrous which delivers nitrous & fuel directly to each cylinder. The people who dump it all in through one nozzle by the throttle-body run the risk of "one cylinder rich, one lean." For me the extra expense of a multi-port installation is cheap compared to a rebuilt engine.

Again guys, your feedback is invaluable and appreciated. Cheers.
 
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