The Alfa Romeo Spider first arrived in 1996. Styled by Pininfarina, it is one of those cars from the mid-nineties era that still looks good today. It definitely sparks conversations with other motorists….or approving nods at traffic lights. At the heart of every Alfa Romeo is the engine. Power comes from a 2.0 litre twin-cam Twin Spark petrol unit that produces 150 BHP and features variable valve timing. Twin Spark (or TS as its sometimes known) refers to the fact it has 2 spark plugs per cylinder. Performance is far from quick (by today’s standards) with 0 to 62 mph taking just over 8 seconds and a top speed of around 130 mph …but its the free revving engine, the exhaust note and the way it involves you when driving on a flowing A or B road. It has an element of rear-wheel steering (if you take full advantage of its multi-link rear suspension) and its quick 2.2 lock to lock steering rack …you soon realise you don’t need to have loads of engine power to have fun driving one.
Prices for the early Spiders are at what I will call “rock bottom” so now could be a good time to own one either as a project, a weekend driver or a daily user. I only see the used prices going up.
So, if you would like to own one? Here’s what to look out for –
- The side body panels are prone for car park dents.
- Bad accident repairs.
- Check panel gaps.
- When new the bodywork was galvanised but check side sills and jacking points for rust.
- The composite front bonnet attracts a lot of stone chips.
- Take a good look at the fabric roof for tears.
- Check service history, regular servicing is good (cam belt, water pump and spark plugs).
- On start up, listen out for a rattle from the engine, could be the variator or something worse.
- Check that there is no blue smoke from the exhaust while ticking over or revving.
- A knocking sound from the engine (while its ticking over) could be a sign of oil starvation or big end bearing. That’s not good. Price accordingly.
- Has it got the dull looking dark red master key?
- Check all electric switches and dashboard lights.
- Lusso version has air con and leather seats.
- Look for damp patches inside especially under the dashboard.
When driving :
- Find a bumpy road to test drive it on. The interior tends to creek and squeak but you shouldn’t hear knocking or clonking. If you hear either sound from the rear (especially over bumps in the road) that could be worn rear suspension or subframe issue.
- Clutch should feel light with a nice bite.
- Steering should feel ultra light and sensitive.
- Changing gear should feel precise.
- Brake hard to make sure the ABS is working as it should.
Some replacement new parts are becoming harder to find but I think the more people really start to appreciate the GTV and Spider (917) then more parts will become available through specialist outlets to keep these cars on the road.
This is actually my own car which I have owned since 2005. 😃
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