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Hi, this is only my 3rd post. I am not YET a spider owner, and I know nothing about car repair. There's my intro :)

I am interested in getting a newer Spider, but I don't know if I should get an S3 or an S4 (I am leaning toward the S4). Here are the thoughts going through my head. I'd appreciate any inputs you all could provide:

Pro S4:
- I like the look of the S4 more than the S3.
- I like the fact that the S4 has an airbag. I don't want to die.
- Seems like power steering is a good thing, right?
- Generally, Newer=Better, as far as technology goes. I'm assuming the
newer models have improvements over the older ones.

Pro S3:
- I talked to the daughter of the main Alfa mechanic in Phoenix (Auto International), and she said that S4's are considerably more expensive to repair. She noted the extra components in an S4 (power steering, etc.) that make it harder to get to the engine, and she said that S4's have an extra piece on the dash board that has to be removed before doing various repair jobs. I don't remember exactly what she said about the dash board piece, but she made it seem like it was a big deal.
- She also said that because of the extra stuff in an S4, the car is heavier and would be outperformed by and S3 (I'm assuming she was talking about speed).
- Since the S3 is a simpler vehicle, it is easier to work on, and I might just be able to learn to do some repairs myself. This seems unlikely, though. I just don't have the time, tools, or know-how.


What do you think?
 

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S3, S4

I think ANY Alfa you decide to buy will require some work and it will be hard to find a mechanic. I am not familiar with the S3 or S4. My Spider is a 1979 with nothing power and no airbag. I like this model as I enjoy the challenge of working on the engine and I like the simplicity. The wood steering wheel is hardly ever seen these days and it is truly a classic design.:D

Are you looking for a daily driver or weekend toy?
 

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I prefer the S4. I have owned both a S3 and a S4, but I preferred the S4 mainly because I liked the newer body style.

It is true that the S4 is a little heavier and "slower" than an S3, but in my time driving both I never really noticed the difference.

I did notice the power steering and do prefer the easier, yet still tight steering of the S4.

I wouldnt count on the S4 airbag. Rumor is that most first generation airbags are not guaranteed much beyond 5-10 years. Hopefully it will work should I ever need it, but it was not a buying decision for me. Plus, to be honest, the airbag sensors on the S4 are a total pain and seem to be a chronic problem in S4s. I eventually removed the airbag warning light in my current S4 as I got tired of endlessly tracking down sensor (mainly ground) issues with it.

I have not found that S4s are any more expensive to repair than an S3. It is true that there are a few more things that can go wrong (power steering, airbag, etc)...but overall it isnt considerable. The only exception I have found came to replacing my heater fan...since the S4 has the knee bolsters, it does take considerably longer to replace the fan on a S4 than a S3...but that is the only thing I found.

When it comes to after market parts, I have found that there are more parts available for a S3 than a S4. Since there are more S3s on the road, and more people restoring them, there are more companies producing parts for it. For example, you can buy a dash cap for an S3, but I have yet to find anyone who makes one for a S4.

Overall I dont think the S3 is that much "simpler" or "cheaper to repair" than a S4. There are a few exceptions, but in the end you are more likely to find a S4 in better shape and low miles these days than a S3.

My advice - drive both types and pick the one you prefer. Dont worry too much about the differences.
 

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Your criteria should be ranked in the following order when deciding on an S3 versus an S4:

1.0 Rust
2.0 Rust
3.0 Rust,
4.0 Mechanical condition and maintenance history
5.0 Apearance, interior condition and paint.
6.0 Suspension, motor mounts,/exhaust and wheels tires
7.0 Convertible top (does the car come with a Factory hardtop also)
8.0 Transmission (shifting especially 2nd gear "crunch")
9.0 Price (factor in the cost of stuff that needs to be fixed)
10.0 You will fall in love with the one you chose if you chose wisely!

Realistically your choice will not be between equal cars. My advice, buy the better of the two model choices, whether S3 or S4.

Best regards, Elio
 

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My advice - drive both types and pick the one you prefer. Dont worry too much about the differences.
Sound advice, I'd say.

Can't see how the S4 is so much more complex/expensive to repair than the S3. Heck, most of the important bits are the same. Power steering (unlike the Milano, let's say) is not known to be especially failure-prone. S4 has the better engine management system with self diagnosis, so it runs a little better and is easier to troubleshoot. S4 electric fans are nice. The early S3 dual-pod dash looks cooler than the post-'86. The S4 body is nicer styled and has better bumper integration.

Airbag is more of a pain-in-the-butt than not, but if you put in some effort you can get the electronics to be reliable. The bag itself should be fine for quite a while (the original "ten-year" recommended lifetime was proposed back when the bags were new, but subsequent testing over the years has shown that they don't have any clear life limit yet. Most automakers have removed the recommendation). In any case, you're going to die eventually anyway.

Just spend the money up front to buy a well-kept example of whatever you like.
 

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The rundown:

Buy an S1 - you win!
Buy an S2 - you win!
Buy an S3 - you win!
Buy an S4 - you win!
 

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Since you say that your mechanical skills are, ahem, 'limited'...an S3 might be slightly easier for you to deal with, or even an S2??? But as the others have pointed out, you're bound to fall in love with any of the lot, so buy the best one that you can afford, and become a regular reader of this board. After a while, you'll find yourself being a regular CONTRIBUTOR to this board!

I personally feel that if I was to ever sell my '86 Graduate, I'd seriously consider a first-half-of-the-'70s Series 2 Spider. Cheers, and happy shopping!

David
 

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I'll give sort of a combined response to both your threads. I say pick whatever year or series you find most appealing, because that's what you'll enjoy owning and driving the most. As was already said, you win with any choice.

You can pick whichever you want, because with limited mechanical skills, you want a rust-free, mechanically sound, frequently-driven car anyway. You can find Spiders that fit that description -- or not -- in every series.

My car is a '79, but other than the way it looks (I'm a Kamm tail guy), the year or series weren't the important factors in the purchase. The important things were that it had a known history from new (I bought it from the original owner), hadn't been monkeyed with, was regularly serviced by Alfa specialists, and was driven regularly its entire life. IMO, the last factor is the most important: cars stay healthier when they're driven than when they sit.

Of course, something can go wrong with any car, but if you buy a car that's been/is being regularly driven, the chances are decent that you won't get hit with anything surprising.

As for the mechanical ability, do you mean that you have trouble remembering which way to turn to loosen or tighten bolts, or you have trouble with the buckles on ski boots? Some people really are just not mechanically inclined, and there's nothing wrong with that; it is what it is. On the other hand, maybe what you mean is that you haven't worked on cars much, and don't have experience.

That's a different thing, and I fit that bill myself. I can figure out pulling stuff apart and putting it back together, but I've never done much work on cars. The projects AlfaBB-ers post about sometimes emphasizes my inexperience, but everyone here is so willing to share that I know I'll never be stuck trying to figure something out on my own.

Bottom line: be a selective buyer, but figure out which Spider you like the most, and go for it.
 

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Your criteria should be ranked in the following order when deciding on an S3 versus an S4:

1.0 Rust
2.0 Rust
3.0 Rust,
4.0 Mechanical condition and maintenance history
5.0 Apearance, interior condition and paint.
6.0 Suspension, motor mounts,/exhaust and wheels tires
7.0 Convertible top (does the car come with a Factory hardtop also)
8.0 Transmission (shifting especially 2nd gear "crunch")
9.0 Price (factor in the cost of stuff that needs to be fixed)
10.0 You will fall in love with the one you chose if you chose wisely!

Realistically your choice will not be between equal cars. My advice, buy the better of the two model choices, whether S3 or S4.

Best regards, Elio
That's a good ranking, although I'd put the convertible top towards the bottom if the car will be stored inside. Other than when I left the car in parking lots, I almost never used the top... almost always drove with the top down, even in cooler weather.

And as he's in Phoenix, he has the lucky situation of a likely rust-free Alfa. Unless, of course, that Alfa came from somewhere else.
 

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Find yourself a very good mechanic and make sure the car has no or very little rust.
I'm a big fan of the S4,I think that series has the best lines but then again you have the cam back fans and you have the aerodynamica fans.
Don't forget to brush up on Alfa history it's a prerequsit to owning any Alfa.
Ciao
Mike:)
 

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If you are of limited skills!

Don't be concerned about the vintage or year. Look instead to the mechancial condition (owner history, repair records, etc). A high priced high mileage car owned by a single concerned owner having documented service records trumps a low mileage car at a low price that will become a "money pit" if you cannot repair it yourself. As problems occur (as they will with even a well maintained car), you can access this BB to learn what may be wrong and whether you feel you can fix it or need to send it to a mechanic. Under no circumstances, however, should rust be considered an "outsider" repair unless you have just won the lottery and money is no object. A rust-free car is essential for a good first time experience. I will consider rusty cars if the price is right because I can assess it and deal with it on my own time and budget. Once you become familiar with Alfas and what is required to properly maintain them, you can venture farther afield as you become more familiar with the required maintainance. These are all 15+ year old cars, and even under the best of circumstances, they are not going to be as reliable as a Toyota Camry or similar. You have to invest in the proposition that purchasing an Alfa will require work and or Dollars to properly maintain. If you are not willing to make that committment, you will be turned off about Alfa's forever. If you do make the committment, you will appreciate a feeling that few people do. A car that is alive and grows on you like no other.

So my advise is purchase the best spider you can afford. Also consider other Alfa models that are available at lower prices and are just as much fun to drive and own without the original "sticker shock" of a spider.

Good luck in your search. I'm sure the rest of the BB will help you in your search.
 

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I've owned both and frankly, the S4 is no S3. It is heaver, sits higher, handles less well, has little to no steering feedback due to the power steering and it has a lot more electronic gizmos that can an do go bad. That said, if you like the looks of the S4 and you like the way it drives and handles, then go for it. Like most evolutions in the car business, the Spider became more of a boulevard cruiser in the end than a true sports car. In the end buy the best (rust free) car you can afford.
 

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The car in the best condition and that appeals to you more is certainly the right choice.

An S3 Quad and a S4 are essentially the same car (of course one could say that of all spiders)
Curb Weight - S3: 2,546 lbs S4: 2,548 (OH MY GOD What a porker. Its 2 Lbs heavier)
Motronic is simpler and more reliable than LJET. If you are so inclined, you can install a squadra chip for a little more grunt, that's not an option for the LJet
Power steering is a pleasure in tight spaces and is every bit as tight and responsive as manual steering.

The S3's looks are an (ahem) acquired taste, there is not a human being on the planet who would not look at an S4 and acknowledge what a beautiful design it is.
 

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The S3's looks are an (ahem) acquired taste, there is not a human being on the planet who would not look at an S4 and acknowledge what a beautiful design it is.[/QUOTE]

Actually, I prefer the looks to the S3 and have never been a fan of the S4. But then, according to my wife, I'm not exactly human;)
 

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Hmmmm, i have a hard time believing that the difference in weight is only 2lbs...

If you like the S3 body styling and the S4 performance, get a 1990 S3 spider that has the motronic injection.
 

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S3 all the way, get an 82-85 with the dual pod tach/speedo and the magnificent, classic Wood steering wheel. The aerodynamica design is just now starting to be appreciated with its rakish lower front spoiler that is perfectly juxtapposed by the original down turned exhaust and rear spoiler. The interior is much less "busy" without the airbag on the steering wheel and the knee bolsters on the dash. Check out an 85 next to an 86 or a 91 and you will agree, the classic styling of an italian sports car is closer to its "pure" form in the 85. Just keep looking until you find a good one, they are out there.
 

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The S3's looks are an (ahem) acquired taste, there is not a human being on the planet who would not look at an S4 and acknowledge what a beautiful design it is.
Actually, I prefer the looks to the S3 and have never been a fan of the S4. But then, according to my wife, I'm not exactly human;)[/QUOTE]

I agree, I much prefer the looks of the S3 to the "miataized" S4 ( before you flame me, thats just my opinion:))
 

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Sometime during the production of the S3 (I think around 1989) Alfa started applying rust protection in the cavities. In other words, later cars are more likely to have less rust
 
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