pres589
pres589 HalfDork
7/19/10 1:04 p.m.

Before I get too wound up I feel like I should ask the group here; would an Alfa Romeo Spider, most likely a Series 3, make a decent DD? No kids to haul around so two seats should be fine. I don't think I could live with a Miata because they're too small (I'm 6'5", thin but taller than the horse jockeys the MX-5 seems to be built for) and I'd like something that's decent on fuel.

Midwest winters okay with these things with proper snow tires? How hard is it to replace the top on these if I get something a little rough? Where do they rust? I would probably do a little under-hood work like replacing the mechanical fan with a good electric setup, and I've read about what sort of exhaust parts are available; I'm not looking to race the thing but a sub-9 second 0-60 time would be preferred, and sub-8 would be excellent but I don't want to rebuild the engine or anything extreme to get there.

Eventually I'd like a second car for mundane tasks like driving in bad weather and carrying stuff but I have a job change coming up and figured it might be nice to treat myself to top down motoring in something like a Spider. But if this isn't going to be a fairly reliable, every day usable car, then I may look towards something else. I'm not in a rush but I may try looking within a month or so to start.

alfadriver
alfadriver Dork
7/19/10 1:39 p.m.

First of all, have you ever driven a Spider? They have a rather pecular driving position- short legs long arms kind of. Girth wise- the Alfa may have more space, but length- not so sure- vs.a Miata. Find some to sit in before making that decision- the second gen Miata's do have more lenght available.

Pretty much anything is good with proper snow tires- I think by the 80's, all the Spiders had a clutch LSD, so you should be ok on that note. But rust is a problem- rockers, floors, fenders- those are the most obvious problems. The salt isn't going to be anyones friend.... I'm sure you can set it up to live through it, so...

What will be a pain is the older HVAC set up- Alfas have a lot of cooling capability, especially in the oil pan. So they take a LONG time to get to full operating temp in cold weather. So keeping warm may be an issue. Also, I'm not entirely sure the A/C will work in defrost area- so that may be a cold related issue, too (to demist faster with hot dry air).

Never done a top myself, but know a few who have done them multiple times. Sounds not too problematic, but time consuming. There probably will be a number of the studs that will break off and require replacement...

Parts- right now, the two best are International (in Virginia) and Centerline (in Colorado)- those are the two biggest. Depending on where you live, and find a mechanic- they may be able to get parts directly from Alfa in Italy.

Living with an Alfa does require some compromises, but only you'll know by driving one how those effect you.

Eric

racerdave600
racerdave600 HalfDork
7/19/10 2:03 p.m.

I drove them for years as a DD. Eric is spot on, you need to drive one first. The driving position is not to everyone's taste and before you pull the trigger, spend some time with one. I never had one where the AC worked for any length of time, and when it did, it was marginal at best. I would consider any of them, even if they say to have AC, to be non-AC cars. One of mine I bought new in the mid '80's and it still had AC issues and never worked correctly.

Now to rust. They were better by the end of their lifespan, but never underestimate the ability for an old Italian car to rust. I think it was designed in at the factory and more rust was added as an option by the dealers! It's not as severe as say an 850 Spider, but you need to check it carefully.

As to a sub 9 second car, that is not a natural number for the later models. maybe around 9 perhaps. There is a lot of potential for them to get a lot higher hp, but they have anemic cams in stock form and i would look at changing them. Sub 8 seconds is going to take some work.

I have no idea about the snow, but you can pitch the tail out very easily! It's a lot of fun and if there was a drift series back in the day, it would have been a natural!

pres589
pres589 HalfDork
7/19/10 2:19 p.m.

Odd, I assumed the interior was longer than the Miata's since I read somewhere (at least I think I read this) that Alfa installed small seats behind the normal seats for a few years for Europe. I'm sure that you'd need to be legless to enjoy a setup like that but I figured this would be roomy enough for a taller person to use.

But then I've heard about the short leg / long arm Italian driving situation and I would definitely drive one of these before putting down money on one. And I figured the A/C would be next to useless, but as long as the heater works okay and it can blow both down low and onto the windshield I don't think it'll be a huge issue.

How hard is a cam swap? I would consider one if the parts aren't too costly, but I don't really want to pull an engine anytime soon for things like higher compression pistons. Maybe in the future, not now.

alfadriver
alfadriver Dork
7/19/10 2:29 p.m.

It's a very odd position- so you really must try it. I'm ok with it, but I've also modified my gas pedal set up, and am getting used to driving with the bottom part of the steering wheel.

Cams are super easy to swap, assuming that they are not super high lift cams that require the head to be cut a little. There are some out there to mess with.

Heater can be meek. Fan mostly. While Alfa is located near the Alps, I don't think it gets all that cold in northern Italy, so....

pres589
pres589 HalfDork
7/19/10 2:47 p.m.

Electric fan could help since it wouldn't turn on until the rad is actually hot, but I understand about the capacity of the system taking longer to heat up.

Wondering if there's another car that should be on the short list for fun little convertibles with a bit more space than the Miata. MG's have horrible tops, Triumphs seem to as well and are out of my price range for something that hasn't dissolved already, and I think the Fiat 124 Spider is about the same in all problem areas as the Alfa. Could be wrong.

RX-7 convertible would be nice if I wanted an engine swap project. Mustangs have the space but they're not very good on fuel... maybe a Fox with the 2.3 & a manual trans? Hrm...

96DXCivic
96DXCivic Dork
7/19/10 2:54 p.m.

Does it have to be RWD? If it does there is the 944 Convertible, BMW 3 series, Jaguar XJS and the third generation Celica.

pres589
pres589 HalfDork
7/19/10 3:11 p.m.

96: The 944 makes me a bit nervous of something I could find for ~$5,000, the XJS likes fuel and I don't believe they're a paragon of reliability (and I know I was asking about an Alfa but this seems worse) and the 3 series is just... it's awfully serious. Perhaps an E30 drop top but the times I see these for sale they're either high mileage dogs or else overpriced or both.

What's the 3rd gen Celica like? I know it's heavily based on truck hardware but I really like the looks of the thing and it should do okay on fuel I would think. Never driven one but you might have a winning suggestion there.

mad_machine
mad_machine SuperDork
7/19/10 3:21 p.m.

I DDed a Fiat 124 spider for years. Much of what is said about the alfa is the same for the fiat and vice versa.. except for Alfa used a timing chain instead of a belt.

Yes, they did apply small seats in the back of the cockpit in both cars.. but they are not something anybody over the age of 5 can sit in unless sideways. I know in my Fiat, with the seat almost the way the way back, you are hard pressed to get your hand between the back of the front seat and the front of the back seat.. legless does not begin to describe it.

as far as longevity and reliability go. you are better with the Miata and the MR2 spider.. even the mercury Capri roadster would be better.. if you can find one

racerdave600
racerdave600 HalfDork
7/20/10 4:00 p.m.

Or even a 2nd gen MR2 with T-roofs. I selling my 944 and a guy that came with the potential buyer to look at it was 6'5". he noticed my '91 MR2 and asked if he could drive it. I didn't sell the Porsche, but the guy left with the MR2 since it was one of the only sports cars he could fit in.

Back to the Spider. One of my least favorite aspects was the defrosting. it has two "dial" type vents that can be adjusted in the center of the dash. What you usually end up with is a clear center of the windshield, but fogged up glass where you need it most. Very annoying.

pres589
pres589 HalfDork
7/20/10 5:02 p.m.

I think if I were looking at MR2's I got for a first gen with either a sunroof or t-tops. I've driven one and I remember fitting okay. Seem like decent little cars.

I've considered ways that may improve the driving position of the Alfa Spider, what I need to do is drive one somehow, then figure out if it's worth considering or if I should move to a different option. Only way I know to find one for that is a CL post and test-drive one for possible purchase.

93celicaGT2
93celicaGT2 SuperDork
7/20/10 5:20 p.m.
pres589 wrote: What's the 3rd gen Celica like? I know it's heavily based on truck hardware but I really like the looks of the thing and it should do okay on fuel I would think. Never driven one but you might have a winning suggestion there.

Hold out for a GTS. It's only based on truck hardware in the fact that it's got a 22re and a W58.

The rest of the car is pretty much MKii Supra. (MKi and MKii were called "Celica Supra" for a reason.)

mad_machine
mad_machine SuperDork
7/20/10 5:33 p.m.

also.. think about this on the fiat/alfa. I am 5'11" and with the top up, my head was up inside the roof. If it had been a hardtop car, I would not have fit well. Granted, I like to sit upright when driving.

pres589
pres589 HalfDork
7/20/10 6:17 p.m.

In reply to 93celicaGT2:

I'd go with the cloth top so they're all GT-S spec that I'm concerned with. And I'm aware of the similarities between the Celica & Celica Supra.

pres589
pres589 HalfDork
7/20/10 6:17 p.m.

In reply to mad_machine:

Okay, this is news to me... if that's the case these things are out. Crud.

93celicaGT2
93celicaGT2 SuperDork
7/20/10 6:21 p.m.

Go one step older and way rarer and get a 2nd gen Sunchaser.

http://indianapolis.craigslist.org/cto/1813491459.html

pres589
pres589 HalfDork
7/20/10 6:23 p.m.

In reply to 93celicaGT2:

How about you describe the driving dynamics of the 84-85 Celica GT-S's instead and we forget you ever put that picture here.

93celicaGT2
93celicaGT2 SuperDork
7/21/10 8:51 a.m.
pres589 wrote: In reply to 93celicaGT2: How about you describe the driving dynamics of the 84-85 Celica GT-S's instead and we forget you ever put that picture here.

hahah! Sure.

It's the definite odd one out of the cars that have been listed here. It won't feel as nimble, quite as tossible, but it should be way up on power compared to the others. Or, at least feel like it. It has a ton of torque. (Relatively, at least.) More outright grip, will likely feel more planted than the others...

Put it this way... call the others Miatas. Call this one a BMW 3-series, and that should about tell you what you're looking at. I think as a CAR, it's superior to the other choices. As a toy driven by lust? Meh. Won't rank as high, but Alfa did bring up a good point about seating position. ANYONE can fit in a 3rd gen Celica.

It may feel a little floppy when you first buy it, stock, but there's still plenty of aftermarket out there to help you out, and they WILL swallow a LOT of tire if that's your bag.

Got any specifics you want to know? I'll answer as best as i can. I've driven two of them, though not for extended periods of time or anything. I've been idly looking for one for a couple years now. (That coupe in Lansing is tearing me apart.)

Andy Reid
Andy Reid Auction Editor
7/21/10 10:03 a.m.

I am 6'4" tall and fit in both the Alfa and the Fiat. The series 3 Bosch injected Alfa is the most reliable setup. The Alfa will rust. The Fiat has quite a bit more interior space, I currently have a 1968 Fiat Spider and it is a comfortable daily driver type car. Snow weather and salt will make the car disintegrate like an Alka Seltzer tablet in water though.

The 944 is a nice car year round, galvanized body, comfortable and well built.

pres589
pres589 HalfDork
7/21/10 11:36 a.m.

Andy: Eek, yeah, salt-induced tin worm isn't going to bode well.

You're the Auction Editor, and I don't know what that means, but you bring up the 944 again so I'll ask you; do you believe $5k could buy me a decent post-86 944 cloth top that I could use right away? Meaning, a thousand or so in maintenance and I could be on the road with the thing? The clutch in these scares me but otherwise they seem like pretty decent cars, but if my hypothetical budget of $5k only buys rotten dog 944's then it's not worth considering them.

pres589
pres589 HalfDork
7/21/10 11:37 a.m.

In reply to 93celicaGT2:

Sounds kind of like a Japanese Mustang then. Maybe if I find one locally to take on a test drive it would be worth it but it doesn't sound any more exciting to own than I figured. Still more fun than an Olds Intrigue with a number of electrical faults and tired suspension, which is what I am currently using as daily transport when I can't ride the bike.

93celicaGT2
93celicaGT2 SuperDork
7/21/10 11:41 a.m.
pres589 wrote: In reply to 93celicaGT2: Sounds kind of like a Japanese Mustang then. Maybe if I find one locally to take on a test drive it would be worth it but it doesn't sound any more exciting to own than I figured. Still more fun than an Olds Intrigue with a number of electrical faults and tired suspension, which is what I am currently using as daily transport when I can't ride the bike.

I would consider it exciting, just more in a ham-fisted hairy-chested way. I would imagine it would be faster in every conceivable way, probably more reliable, cheaper to fix, more outright grip, easier to live with, etc etc etc...

But it's not the sex kitten that an Alfa is. (open to debate) And it's not a go-kart on wheels.

I think calling it a Japanese Mustang would be a small disservice, but i think we're on the same page for the most part.

I definitely think you should test drive one. I thoroughly enjoy them. Actually... i prefer them over the ricer wet dream AE86 Corolla.

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