There’s just something about Alfa Romeos. When I founded Great Escape an Alfa Romeo Spider was one of the original two cars on the fleet – it’s still on the fleet and despite covering over 50,000 kms in four years it has never broken down and needed very little maintenance work. That’s quite different from the usual Alfa reputation for rust and dodgy electrics. Maybe it’s because this particular Alfa was assembled by Pininfarina…
So it made sense to add a second Alfa Spider when we expanded into Suffolk – that one is a 1989 Series 3, a carburettor version with the arguably sweeter 1600cc twin cam engine. Many Alfisti poo-poo the Series 3 Alfa because of its ‘aerodynamic’ restyling but these are really great cars – inexpensive, reliable and, in the right colour like our Medio Blue example, I think they look great. Particularly riding on nice Cromodora alloys.
Our latest addition is another Series 4 Alfa Romeo Spider in metallic burgundy. It’s identical to our original Alfa Romeo Spider but is a slightly earlier Series 4 and features the allegedly superior Bell and Colvill right hand drive conversion. What makes the Series 4 so great is the creature comforts – power steering and electric windows.
The Series 4 Alfa Romeo Spider is the easiest of the 1966 to 1993 105 Series Alfa Romeo Spiders to live with because of these relatively modern features. It is also fully galvanised, which means the rust that ravages the early Duetto, Kamm Tail and Series 3 cars tends to be held at bay for longer. That doesn’t mean that these cars don’t rust – the spare wheel well, rear arches, headlamp surrounds, windscreen scuttle and front valance all rot out. The interiors are also notoriously weak wearing and replacement parts, although quite easily obtained, tend to be expensive and only available new or refurbished. Mechanically the Alfa Romeo Spider is very reliable, being fitted with fuel injection and engine management systems. The twin cam engine is legendary and long lasting so parts are easily available and generally it is a hard wearing engine. However, it does not particularly sustain high mileages, particularly if a very strict servicing regime has not been maintained using high quality oils (Alfa recommends Selenia). The usually sweet five speed gearbox has generally weak synchromesh, particularly on second – this is often caused by swift changes from cold before the fluid in the box has had time to warm up properly. Engine and gearbox rebuilds are not particularly expensive but can render a generally cheap classic car scrap.
Our original 1992 Series 4 Alfa Romeo has completed 50,000 kms in 5 years without major incident. The car has never broken down on hire and has only suffered minor and routine maintenance issues including clutch and starter motor. Mainly this is due to regular servicing and careful cleaning before and after every hire – we jet wash underneath and around every wheelarch before the car is parked up and we Carcoon it over winter. When we purchased the car we also invested in wax injection to prevent rust – this cost just £100 (by the company that wax injects all Morgans) and has definitely helped the car remain rust free.
Prices for Alfa Romeo Spiders are a mixed bag. The classic car market has finally recognised the original ‘boat tail’ Alfa Romeo Duetto as a bonafide classic and prices have risen considerably in the last three years – it is difficult to buy one for less than £10,000 today. Series 2 Kamm Tail Spiders are the next most desirable but prices still float around the £7-8,000 mark for a reasonable car – there are a lot about and condition is everything. And often very hard to judge on these cars because the shell contains so many hidden rust spots. The Series 3 car is the least loved, mainly due to its spoilers (derived from Alfa’s ‘aerodynamica’ styling project in the 1980s). Although they share the rust problems of the mechanically and bodily identical Series 2 Kamm Tail cars (in fact a retro-conversion is available in Germany for them), they are generally much better built and significantly cheaper. As a low cost way into Alfa Spider ownership (prices start at around £3,000 for a reasonable car), the Series 3 is recommended if the looks don’t matter to you (and they have mellowed with age – we quite like them at Great Escape) – it is as fun to drive and the 1600cc, often overlooked, is sweet and peppy.
If your budget won’t stretch to the Duetto we think the Series 4 is the best of the rest. It is useable as a daily driver in the way that neither the Series 2 or 3 are due to rust and lack of power steering and, we think, it looks great. The Pininfarina makeover may have introduced plastic bumpers but it is a remarkable piece of styling that managed to turn a 30 year old design into something classic but contemporary.
The Alfa Romeo Spider really is the perfect getaway car. So now we have three – one in the East Midlands, one in Suffolk and one in the Cotswolds. For advice on buying a Spider call Graham on 01527 893733 or if you want to discuss hiring the car, just let us know as well.