Spare time to chill
1972 Alfa Romeo Spider S2
The salt-spreaders didn’t allow much time after I finally got the Spider’s 2017 MOT before spreading their wares. Just enough for me to be convinced that welding the errant end of the front crossmember back onto the inner wing has sharpened the car’s steering responses. Though that could possibly also be attributed to my over-active imagination.
However with – for the first time in about a year – nothing that needed to be done to make the Alfa work, I could look at some more historic entries on the car’s to-do list. Inspired perhaps by the cold draught coming under the garage door, I chose to finally tackle the heater. I say heater, but it’s a device that has barely ever justified its name in all the years I’ve had the Spider. Time to find out why.
As with most cars the heater is probably the most inaccessible and hard-to-remove component of all, some folk on Alfa forums suggesting you need to take the dashboard out first. I chose to believe those who disagreed with that route and, after just taking off the sides of the centre console and spending a couple of evenings contorted into improbable shapes while nicking knuckles on sharp edges and draining coolant into an old ice cream tub, the heater emerged into the light for the first time in 45 years.
Along the way I discovered that the convoluted rubber hoses that once carried air to the screen vents had perished and collapsed, and that one of them concealed the trip-meter reset knob that was missing-presumed-lost from its bracket below the dashboard. Need a nut for that.
A completely wrong scuttle drain tube was another revelation that explained why rain has always transferred itself to passengers’ feet or handbags rather than the outside world. Oh, and the foam that once sealed the heater to the scuttle is now in powder form. There’s a rubber replacement for that but it’s currently out of stock, which will delay the job.
So a fast-growing shopping list, to which I added a new heater matrix at £90, heater motor – which failed to do anything when I connected its leads to a battery – for £108 and a lower heater hose, £5.40, because it’s much easier to replace when the heater’s out of the car. I also need to check that the outlet to it from the water pump isn’t blocked – a common problem, so I’m told.
Work for now will focus on freeing up the various surface-rusty hinge points of all the internal flaps, cleaning everything up – the unit’s full of foam rubber dust along with overspray and filler dust from the car’s 2007 body resto. I’m going to replace all the fixing screws too because they’re all rusted to some extent. It’s all a bit of a voyage of discovery because there’s nothing to do with the heater unit in either of the workshop manuals I’ve bought for the car. I’ve taken lots of photos to remind me where it all goes. By the time all that’s done I’m hoping Classic Alfa’s new batch of rubber scuttle seals will have arrived.
It only took a few evenings to persuade the heater to leave the confines of the Alfa’s cockpit
Not a dead maggot but one of the screen vent hoses