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Discussion Starter #1
Hi all,

I've been an admirer of Spiders and am now ready to begin looking and hopefully purchase. After reading advice given to others on this forum, I'm mainly considering S3 Spiders. I haven't driven a Spider or looked at one in person. I would like to get one that I can enjoy right away. I'm wondering what advice you all have for inspecting the cars. I've read about issues with the synchros and have read to be cautious of cars with rust. I'm not sure if oil leaking is something to be tolerated, or if it suggests replacement of seals and gaskets. Should there be any play in the steering? What else should I keep an eye out for?

I'm located in Michigan, so may have to look out of state. However, there is a classic car dealer near Detroit that has an 85 Graduate for sale. It seems to be good as judged by pictures and video. I am concerned about the trunk. There seems to be a different stamping of metal in front of the trunk under the jack. All pictures I've seen of other Spiders have the trunk liner covering this location. Anyone have any knowledge of how this should look? Also, compared to other pictures of 85s I've seen, the side mirrors seem to be different (they're all black and seem to be plastic). Not sure if that's actually the case, or if that really matters.

Any advice is appreciated. I'm looking forward to joining the community!
 

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Welcome to the asylum. You're going about this backwards compared to how most if us do it. Usually we fall in love with a wreck and can't see the faults. We then spend the rest of our lives (and our kid's inheritance) fixing it up!

You've hit on the main points. Rust is the biggest killer. Generally what you see is 1/3rd of what is there. The sills/pillars and floors make up the main structural strength of the Spider's unibody. The sills are a multi-part assembly - be very wary of rust or poor repairs there.

I suggest you get in touch with a local Alfa club. The AROC-USA website has listings: Chapters Search – AROC Club members will likely be glad to help check out any prospects. And they might even know of good ones for sale.
 

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I love Eric's reply - that is so true! Its scary what a fresh wash and wax will do to our better powers of discretion.

One of the most important things you can do to access the condition of the Spider is to get it on a lift for inspection. Don't take anyone's word that it is 'rust free' until you see for yourself. Look at everything under the car carefully, even if you don't know what exactly your looking at. I've heard somewhere that if an Alfa is not leaking oil, then it must not have any. They all leak somewhere, but components covered in oil or sludge, though not necessarily a deal breaker, need to be investigated as to why they are not clean. And insist that the car not be started the day you look at it until you arrive. Nothing brings out the symptoms of a tired engine like a true cold start. Check under the oil and radiator caps before starting to see if there are any signs of oil and coolant mixing. This is all basic stuff, from my limited experience, and I look forward to reading what others advise.
 

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87 Alfa Spider Quad
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I'm just finishing up a months long journey for an S3. The rust and the syncros are the two biggest. Most all of them do not have working A/C, one tell from the seller is they'll say they don't know if it works because they don't use it (it doesn't work).

My advice (1) Be patient. There aren't a lot of these for sale and even fewer worth buying (2) some sellers flat out lie and those that don't usually have an inflated view of what they have (3) I tried using two of those national inspection service and were disappointed in both. You're best bet is to have the seller bring it to a mechanic. One really saved me once. (4) Don't hesitate to leverage this group, there's a ton of independent expertise.

If you're looking for a quad I have specific knowledge about a few for sale on Hemming's and other sites. Feel free to PM me, I'll happily share what I know.

Finally, keep us posted.
 

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dfrg: Agree with all the advice above. I spent over a year searching for my 1993 S4 Spider, and eventually bought a car in California and shipped it back east. Rust is the primary concern--tired interiors and convertible tops are easy to replace, and rejuvenate the car. Always ask if maintenance records are available, especially for major scheduled upkeep. Not a deal breaker if records aren't available, but be sure to budget for a maintenance "reset", to start your own schedule of regular care, so you know where the car stands.

They're a joy to drive--good luck on your hunt!
 

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Are you able to maintain the car yourself or do you have a good mechanic lined up? A 30+ year old car is going to need TLC. It is easy to pay an incompetent mechanic to screw it up.
 

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Welcome to the Alfa world. Try to take your time, avoid rust and above all have fun. If you are a diy or even not the help you will find here is invaluable.
 

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Discussion Starter #8
Hi all,

Thanks for all of the advice! I am planning on doing my own maintenance. I feel confident with most work but have not had to troubleshoot a fuel injection system or perform bodywork. I'll keep everyone posted. Thanks again for the advice! This seems to be a great community, and I'm excited to become a member.
 

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I spent over a year searching for my 1993 S4 Spider, and eventually bought a car in California and shipped it back east. Rust is the primary concern--
Yes, rust is the primary concern. And don't believe the myth that cars here in California are "rust free". Spiders in particular tend to rust when leaky tops allow the carpets and insulation on the floors to become soaked. Cars parked near our coast rust just like salt-belt cars. And some cars located here have come from other states.

Unfortunately Alfa's rust-proofing technology in the 70's - 90's wasn't very good. There is a story about "Russian-made steel" that may amuse you - don't know if it's true, but these cars have an exceptional ability to corrode.
 

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Welcome to the World of Alfa Romeo Spiders. S3 are really fun low cost sport cars. There are a lot of $5,000 to $10,000 cars on the market. Everyone’s advice about insuring the body’s metal work is rust and dent free is the correct. Body work cost you the most money out of issues a used Spider can have.

Here is my advice for a S3, spend as much money up front for a well documented rust free Spider. In the end to get a Spider running and looking good you will be all in around $13,000. Still cheap for a really fun sports car. Good luck with the hunt.


Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk
 

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1984 GTV6, 1973 Berlina, 1987 Milano
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Welcome! An S3 spider is a great choice for a first spider. They use Bosch fuel injection which is common and easy to diagnose and maintain. They are a bit newer so less likely to be rusty, but still old enough to probably need some deferred maintenance like replacing fuel lines.

If you post photos of the graduate we can critique it for you.

If you aren't aware the graduate was the base model with vinyl seats, Manu windows and a vinyl top. The veloce got leather, a cloth top and power windows. Same drive train and power ratings so all just option packages.

Dean at Trail Auto is a great resource, I would strongly suggest taking the car to him for a PPI. And use him for maintenance as you learn the car. Also check in with the local club, they might know of good spiders coming up for sale. In fact I have a friend who might be selling his, he also has a 69 GTV and a Giulia Super and hasn't used the Spider much.

Happy shopping!

Ian - former Michigander

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Hi all,

I've been an admirer of Spiders and am now ready to begin looking and hopefully purchase. After reading advice given to others on this forum, I'm mainly considering S3 Spiders. I haven't driven a Spider or looked at one in person. I would like to get one that I can enjoy right away. I'm wondering what advice you all have for inspecting the cars. I've read about issues with the synchros and have read to be cautious of cars with rust. I'm not sure if oil leaking is something to be tolerated, or if it suggests replacement of seals and gaskets. Should there be any play in the steering? What else should I keep an eye out for?

I'm located in Michigan, so may have to look out of state. However, there is a classic car dealer near Detroit that has an 85 Graduate for sale. It seems to be good as judged by pictures and video. I am concerned about the trunk. There seems to be a different stamping of metal in front of the trunk under the jack. All pictures I've seen of other Spiders have the trunk liner covering this location. Anyone have any knowledge of how this should look? Also, compared to other pictures of 85s I've seen, the side mirrors seem to be different (they're all black and seem to be plastic). Not sure if that's actually the case, or if that really matters.

Any advice is appreciated. I'm looking forward to joining the community!
Dean at Trail Auto in Dearborn Heights has forgotten more about Alfa’s than most mechanics will ever learn. Moved here from CT 8 years ago and I used to get parts from him back then. The Day Reliable came to transport my Spider out here it wouldn’t start, mind you it had just been repaired back there. Dean found the problem right away and I haven’t had an issue with my 84 since then. (313)-561-3327
 

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Dean at Trail Auto in Dearborn Heights has forgotten more about Alfa’s than most mechanics will ever learn. Moved here from CT 8 years ago and I used to get parts from him back then. The Day Reliable came to transport my Spider out here it wouldn’t start, mind you it had just been repaired back there. Dean found the problem right away and I haven’t had an issue with my 84 since then. (313)-561-3327
Just some advice that’s worth what you're paying for it.

I highly recommens you consider a ‘84 or earlier Graduate. Why a Graduate, that’s the bottom rung? Because the vinyl is far far better wearing than the leather on the upscale cars, it won’t have power windows to go wrong and to add weight and you might just get a deal. Get ‘84 and earlier as the instruments can be rebuilt and you’ll not have to search for a chip or circuit board.

and yes rust never sleeps.
 

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Just some advice that’s worth what you're paying for it.

I highly recommens you consider a ‘84 or earlier Graduate. Why a Graduate, that’s the bottom rung? Because the vinyl is far far better wearing than the leather on the upscale cars, it won’t have power windows to go wrong and to add weight and you might just get a deal. Get ‘84 and earlier as the instruments can be rebuilt and you’ll not have to search for a chip or circuit board.

and yes rust never sleeps.
First year for graduate was 85. Never had a problem with my power windows, mirrors, or AC. Also my leather is like new, with 105,000 on the clock. I do recommend you stick with a year with the Bosch FI. More reliable than the Spica. Of course the newer the car the easier to get parts. 1995 was the last year until 2014
 

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I echo ferrasm1's sentiments. I have a Veloce, and although you wouldn't think it, the power windows, especially the passenger side, are used often. On cold days with the top down, raising the windows without effort to keep the wind and chill at bay is really nice. And my leather seats are still in really nice condition, and don't scorch my legs when left in the summer sun. The wheels are nicer too on the Veloce vs. Graduate.
 

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To weigh in on the trim level discussion...I was originally looking at graduates (less to go wrong), but then I thought about having to open the passenger door and wind the window everytime I put the top up and down. Decided power windows are for me.

Although it wasn't a big deal to me, if you consider the cars mileage in your search, know that the odometers are very unreliable. Be sure to check the overall wear matches the lower mileage.
 

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I have power windows and mirrors on my 84. Driver window is very slow and mirrors that only move in one direction. Wiring through the door is the issue from what I was told. I had a 85 Graduate And it was a very fun car the Roll up windows and manual mirrors didn’t seem to be a big deal. This graduate actually had air-conditioning. The 84 is a one year only model it has all the bells and whistle‘s except for the air conditioning. I really don’t miss the air expected on a really hot day.

Good luck with the hunt.


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DFRG, start reading thru the thousands of Spider BB posts - you'll pick up a ton of information.

Join the local chapter of AROC and ask who the members use for their mechanical and body work. Most members are friendly and willing to share experience and tips. Soon you'll know who the local shops - that specialize in Alfas - are.

When you find a car that might be the one, GET A PPI from one of those local, knowledgeable mechanics. Pass on any car that's not up to snuff.

It might take a while to find the right car. I looked for 9 months and wish I'd looked longer, with a more rigorous PPI, 'cos before long some overlooked shortcomings bit me for $$$. It would have been better to budget more up front.

Power windows help mitigate buffeting when hopping on or off the freeway - add a wind deflector behind the seats if your wife has long hair. S3s are huge fun to drive and a well-presented car is a magnetic conversation starter.

David O'D
Laguna CA
 
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