1978 Alfa Romeo Spider 2.0 from North America
An exotic car for value meal money
Front tie rods needed replacing.
Rear fuel line clogged.
Middle muffler was bad and needed replacing.
Convertible top was very dead.
Interior is super beat up.
Body rust, spare tire well rusted through.
SPICA fuel pump needed calibration for altitude.
Front shocks were bad.
No thermostat; needed replacing.
Radiator needed a rebuild.
Both fuel filters clogged and needed replacing.
Trunk and hood opening cables needed repair and adjusting.
This is probably the least desirable Alfa, at least the least desirable Spider. It has catalytic converters, awkward Federal-mandate bumpers, a smog pump, raised front springs to meet bumper height requirements, etc. So it's much slower than the 71-74 models, and much rougher than the late 80's models. This particular car was very neglected as well, as many of these "second cars" are, and the seller I bought it from lied about the condition. (My trouble-free, rust-free car is not rust-free, and needed about $1,500 of work to run. Thanks, eBay, lesson learned.)
That being said, it's a tremendously fun car. You won't see another one on the road most times you take it out, parts are surprisingly easy to get for the most part, the online community is fiercely supportive and helpful (alfabb.com), and it's not that hard to work on if you're interested. The fact that the Series 2A Spiders aren't the most desirable Alfa makes for bargain prices for years 76-79, maybe others, too, and if you're not the type who needs absolute HP numbers to be happy, it's a great car to scoot around in, top up or top down. If pep is important, the later cars are a bit peppier, and the 71-74 models can kick the rear end out with any hassle; they just cost a little more in decent condition. Even with this car, all stock, people turn their heads to see what's making "that noise." (In a good way, usually.)
The handling is great, the brakes are great, the engine sounds amazing, and even this de-tuned form is pretty fun. As a 6'0" driver, I've got leg room to spare. I might try to put a baby seat on the back shelf. An aluminum hemi, twin-cam engine that's built like a race car (2 fuel filters, 2 air filters, 2 mufflers, 7 quarts of oil, etc), it's meant to be beat up a little and not break down from some minor issue; almost everything's redundant!
It's no Corvette killer, never was meant to be, but I've dusted the odd Neon or Hyundai between lights (whatever). I get a lot of attention in this car, mostly good. I get almost 30 MPG on the highway, and now that some of the neglect has been undone by my excellent local Alfa mechanic, it's surprisingly reliable. I can drive the heck out of it without reaching illegal speeds; I've driven a Dodge Viper, and it was amazing, but you didn't really notice you were going fast until you were well into jail time speeds. With this, 45 is an adventure just like my old Chevy lowrider. To each their own.
AAA membership is no longer optional, nor is good cell phone reception - I'm still building my trust in this poor, neglected beast - but if you want more out of your (second) car than basic transportation, you'll get surprising fun for your weird Italian-car buying buck in an Alfa Spider, and even with inflated parts prices, it's not awful to maintain. And unlike your friend's MG or Triumph, things you fix on an Alfa tend to stay fixed. (Your mileage may vary, I may have had unlucky friends with British cars.) Just watch out for rust, not a huge issue here in New Mexico, thankfully.
In this world of bigger-is-better SUVs and sports cars, it's clearly not for everyone, but if you think it's for you, take a little chance and have some fun! A bigger meal isn't automatically a better meal, and a bigger or more powerful car isn't automatically better, either.
Prices are going up on all Alfas, so unless your seller flat out lies to you (thanks, eBay!), you can probably recoup your cost if you decide to get out and try something else. Live a little.
Would you buy another car from this manufacturer? Yes
Review Date: 18th July, 2006
13th Jan 2012, 17:48
Thanks, that's very helpful. I have the opportunity of getting a '78 for $500. It's a runner, in pretty good condition, but needing a timing chain. Jeremy Clarkson of Top Gear fame says that all gear heads should own an Alfa at least once in their lives, and this will probably be mine.
It's nice to read a realistic critique.
2nd Jul 2015, 10:56
Great review - matches my experiences with the '78 Alfa Spider well (including the eBay comments! But sometime you just find the "right" car...)
Even if the 78 is not quite as peppy, it still has none of that electronic stuff... no electronic engine control, no power windows, etc. And with some colors (I love the ivory), the so-called "ugly" bumpers actually look good in my opinion... given what they had to work with, I think they are simple and fit the lines of the Alfa well myself. (I know I am in the minority here, but I think some of negative views on this are more purist-based than actually aesthetic.)