Alfa Romeo Spi­der

With prices chas­ing the coupés now’s the time to buy a Spi­der, with our ad­vice

Classic Cars (UK) - - Welcome - Words Mal­colm Mckay Pho­tog­ra­phy John col­ley

With film-star-gor­geous looks, great han­dling and a gutsy twin-cam engine, the Alfa Spi­der is a su­perb sports car that’s bet­ter value now than when it was new – es­pe­cially in Bri­tain, where the cost of right­hand-drive con­ver­sion by the UK dis­trib­u­tor whacked the price up. There are now more here than ever, im­ported from many coun­tries over the years; the fact that most re­cent im­ports are left-hand drive helps to keep prices down.

Take time to con­sider which of the four se­ries is best for you, then look care­fully for a car that has been well cared for – es­pe­cially the body­work.

Shar­ing their wis­dom on Spi­ders with us on these pages are Stu­art Tay­lor, Alfa Romeo Own­ers Club Giulia 105/115 Regis­trar for more than 20 years; Chris Swee­t­ap­ple, whose com­pany High­wood Alfa sup­plies and man­u­fac­tures a wide range of Spi­der and other Alfa parts; and Pe­ter Smart, whose Clas­sic Al­fas com­pany ser­vices, re­stores and race-pre­pares Guil­ias, Spi­ders and other clas­sic Al­fas. Which one to choose? There were many vari­a­tions through the Spi­der’s ex­cep­tion­ally long life, with four en­gines rang­ing from 1.3 to 2.0 litres. Over time styling changes and emis­sions re­quire­ments di­luted looks and per­for­mance, but later cars still have plenty of ap­peal and pack mod­ern com­forts such as power steer­ing, elec­tric win­dows and elec­tronic fuel in­jec­tion.

1966-69, S1 ‘Duetto’, iden­ti­fied by round tail. Launched in 1966 in 1600 (1570cc) form with 109bhp, joined in 1967 by the 1750 Ve­loce us­ing the GTV’S 1779cc, 122bhp engine, then by the 89bhp 1300 Ju­nior.

1969-82, S2 ‘Coda Tronca’, iden­ti­fied by Kamm tail. A steeper wind­screen and re­vised grille and trim ac­com­pa­nied the cut-off tail and big­ger rear lights. In 1971 the 2000 Ve­loce re­placed the 1750 with 132bhp, up­dated in­te­rior and op­tions of lim­ited-slip dif­fer­en­tial and al­loy wheels. The 1600 and 1300 con­tin­ued but the lat­ter was dropped in 1978. A dash restyle came in 1980 and head­light cov­ers were deleted in 1982.

1982-89, S3 ‘Aero­d­i­nam­ica’, iden­ti­fied by spoiler tail. A black rub­ber tail spoiler and restyled grille and bumpers gave the Spi­der a new look (ar­guably its

least at­trac­tive), still ei­ther 1600 or 2000. In 1986 the Quadri­foglio Verde in­tro­duced an in­te­grated front spoiler and ugly side skirts, along with the op­tional three-way cat­alytic con­verter with Bosch L-jetronic fuel in­jec­tion. Power dropped to 127bhp.

1989-95, S4. Full colour-cod­ing and smoother bumpers gave the Spi­der a dis­tinc­tive style again, now all with Bosch Motronic fuel in­jec­tion, power steer­ing and op­tional three-speed auto trans­mis­sion. The 1600 was dis­con­tin­ued in 1992.

Cor­ro­sion is, un­sur­pris­ingly, the big­gest en­emy of all mod­els. S4s are par­tic­u­larly rust-prone be­cause the sills fill with wa­ter when their drains clog up; the sills are com­plex struc­tures and re­place­ment costs around £1500 per side. The boot floor and footwells also need care­ful in­spec­tion; when check­ing the lat­ter have a good prod at the base of the in­ner sills be­cause it’s not un­usual for cov­ers to be fit­ted over rot­ten outer sills, leav­ing the metal to fes­ter away in­side.

Rot can strike al­most any­where on ear­lier mod­els. The steel used on Al­fas up to the Nineties was very poor and seemed to rot from the in­side out even if at­tempts were made to pro­tect it. Check that rusty metal has been cut out, new metal has been let in cor­rectly (seam-welded if within 30cm of a sus­pen­sion mount­ing or load bear­ing point as per MOT rules) and pro­tec­tion ap­plied for the fu­ture.

Most body pan­els are avail­able, es­pe­cially for the S2 on­wards; Duetto pan­els can be costly with front wings more than £1000 each. A full pro­fes­sional body re­build will cost about £20,000, so project cars are re­ally only for the DIY en­thu­si­ast.

En­gines are a de­light – the com­pact all-al­loy four­cylin­der with twin-cam cross­flow cylin­der head is ef­fi­cient and pow­er­ful in all its guises. When it does wear out (look for ex­ces­sive oil breath­ing, leaks, blue smoke in the ex­haust and lis­ten for bear­ing knock), it can be fully re­built for £4k-5k.

Many own­ers dis­card the Spica fuel in­jec­tion fit­ted to meet emis­sions con­trol on Us-mar­ket cars from 1969 to the Eight­ies, although those who can make it work (try Porsche 911 spe­cial­ists) say it’s not at all bad. It’s of­ten re­placed with We­bers or Dell’or­tos but you’ll need to bud­get £1000-plus for the car­bu­ret­tors,

‘There are now more in the UK than ever, im­ported from many coun­tries over the years’

Over four it­er­a­tions the Spi­der’s ap­pear­ance, engine ca­pac­ity and per­for­mance evolved markedly – but the com­mon thread run­ning through the whole breed is that they all of­fer fine looks, per­for­mance and han­dling

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