I actually did spend a weekend in a very nice, newly restored 1987 Spider. I bought mine because, in general, I enjoyed the car and couldn't stop smiling while driving.I was going to leave this thread alone, yes really, but I can see my points was missed, so I'll try explaining better.
I guess not.
Surely one should compare to a mechanically 'correct' example FIRST. Most engine conversions or gearbox swaps, etc. are done because the owner MISTAKENLY thinks their car's engine/gearbox is a weak link and thus should be replaced with a moderner one. What they are forgetting is THEIR engine/gearbox is probably a worn out stuffed one, thus a nicely rebuilt one will be completely different and they probably would like it.
Thus I am saying 'go ride' in somebodies GOOD Alfa Romeo before slagging off Alfa Romeo's gearboxes, etc.
Thus this incorrect attitude that an original component in any car HAS to be changed to another is the only solution to problems is weird. We all, no matter how many engineering degrees, know far less about the design requirements than the person that originally designed the car, whether the car is Japanense, Italian, etc. Yes they make mistakes, but by in large their designs are good and a properly maintained original car will drive fine. The only time they usually get it wrong (to us) is because they thought of all driving types and conditions, we accept our poor design and the fact that the resulting car is no longer a good tourer (for example) because we had fun playing with the car.
Very few 30 year old cars have been properly maintained ... that is what they need, not a gas axe and 'gee Alfa Romeo cannot design anything' attitude. Thus I'm saying make sure you are really understanding the designers intentions, etc. before playing I can do it better.
Saying that I can understand somebody replacing the engine, but not the gearbox ... makes no sense, already 5 speed, great change and light weight and strong.
BTW: I modified the [email protected] out of an Alfa Sud for racing and for a while made a great track car, but it was loud, uncomfortable, required lots more maintenance, etc. ... and thus lap times were massively improved but the package was not as good as the original if you were honest about it.
Even then I mentioned to the owner, who is a close friend, that the shifting was slow FOR A CAR OF THIS ERA. By the mid 1980's, most world automakers had refined things like transmissions. To name a few...Porsche, BMW, Ferrari, Aston Martin, Honda, Chevrolet, Ford. I have shifted non-synchro gearboxes (think Peterbuilt) that shift quicker, even when double clutching. But I didn't consider the transmission to be weak until I read that nearly every owner who STREET DRIVES the car has transmission woes. Yes, I understand that keeping the car revved near redline keeps all the parts spinning at their optimum engagement speeds, but I'm sure my neighbors and the Texas State Troopers wouldn't approve of the "exhibition of speed", a ticket they love writing since they don't have to prove speeding. I have a honda 125 RR replica, street legal, that will do 75mph with a tailwind, and I have received EOS tickets doing 10mph UNDER the speed limit on a freeway frontage road...just because it was revving at 22,000 RPM.
I have also built (many from the piles of parts & rust) several CLASSIC cars. Some were made as original as possible, some were modified...And when possible I would have 2 shells and build 1 original & 1 the way I like it. In all cases but one, the car done the way I wanted sold for MUCH more money when I let them go. The only original that sold for more than the modified was the 1958 Cadillac...It was a 100 point car that was bought by a famous car collector. The other '58 one was mildly hot-rodded with a FI Chev 400 SB and backed up by a turbo 400 trans. It had a midnight blue paint job body color bumper accents. I kept the pneumatic suspension because I got it working well with MODERN air bags and controls.
I don't engineer (ie. change) things just because I like to tinker (although I do like tinkering). I much prefer DRIVING (or riding). It's my passion. I only make changes if I think they are warranted. And when I make a change, it is USUALLY so reliable that I am still driving while my friends have their "original" vehicles in the shop for repairs (not preventive maintenance).
In the case of my spider, I am getting the original transmission rebuilt by a reputable and recommended Austin area Alfa mechanic.
BUT...I am studying the alternatives. If I decide to "hack" up the Alfa, you can be sure that the job I do will be show quality. Then I will drive and drive and drive. Then I will either return to original or bring it back to "my" specs before selling it (unless one of my kids talks me into "keeping it in the family").
By the way, when I "hacked up" my 911 to modernize and make more fun to drive, the purists attacked me every way possible. In the end, one became a convert of my work and bought the car. It is his daily driver and has been for 10 years now. The only thing it has ever needed, besides PM, is an A/C conversion since R12 is so difficult to get. It is still a beautiful car and gets awards whenever he shows it. He also gives rides to Ronald's kids (cancer kids for those who don't know) when they put on a track day at one of the Southern California road race courses. IMHO, this is a great use for a car that was destined to be scrapped, and ultimately I don't think it can be considered a bastardized car since it is so well enjoyed by so many. After all, isn't enjoyment of our vehicles the reason why we do what we do?
In conclusion, I have read and understand your post. I even know where you're coming from. It is not my intent to badmouth Alfa or any other brand, or to take a superior attitude regarding the engineering. In fact, I love the soul of Italian vehicles and would own another Ferrari if I wasn't paying child support (6 figures a year). I do own a Bimota (ie. Ducati) that I have had for over 15 years and have just over 110,000 miles on WITH NO MECHANICAL ISSUES except that I had to tear it down for a rebuild at 200 miles when the cams galled (bad heat treat, not bad adjustment on the desmo system). I, of course, built the engine MY way.