Italian style, great engines, and prices starting at just £1000
If you’re looking at buying a classic car then you’re probably discouraged by the prices and wondering why you didn’t buy before they were viewed as classics. So let’s look at what might well be a future classic instead. This Alfa Romeo Spider was made from 1995 to 2006 and prices are still in the sensible territory. But for how much longer? Answer: just until loads of people have read this and rushed out to buy one!
So what would you be buying? So beauty is subjective, but to our eyes this Pininfarina-styled car is absolutely gorgeous to behold. It came also as a coupe, the GTV, although to our eyes the Spider has it.
Probably the first thought is, yeah, this Italian car looks great, but how much weight loss has been achieved by rust? The reality is that rust isn’t common on these cars, with the galvanised bodies and heavy use of plastics keeping the dread red at bay. If you do find a lot of it it’s probably due to a bodged repair after a shunt.
Back in 1995 you might have wondered how good this was when it was launched since the chassis is simply a modified version of the Fiat Tipo. However it proved a fun handler, and was powered by a 2.0-litre four-pot Twin Spark engine with 150bhp. Power went to the front wheels via a five-speed manual box – you can’t have it with an auto.
The Twin Spark moniker means it has two spark plugs per cylinder, so factor that into servicing. Speaking of which, there were problems with the engine’s tensioner so belt changes are recommended at 36,000 miles not the original 72,000 miles. Make sure these have been changed or expensive and unpleasant things may happen.
The Alfa Romeo Spider received a facelift in 1998 but actually these are the rarest ones since they cost more to maintain and weren’t that attractive to buyers. In 2001 the Twin Spark was joined by a 3.0-litre V6 option, with the 24-valver pumping out 220bhp through its six-speed manual box.
In 2003 this was replaced by a 3.2-litre V6. Not only did this up power to 240bhp but it also endowed the car with one of Alfa’s finest engines, with an exhaust note to match. By 2005 the production lines had ground to a halt.
There were several trim levels, ascending in order: Turismo, Lusso and Lusso Final Edition. Fortunately, most of the 1000 or so surviving examples in this country have leather interior – top combination, silver paintwork and red leather interior. There were also some right-hand drive versions made for Japan and some of those ended up over here. They’re often in better nick than the ones that have spent all their lives here.
Generally reliability is good, as mentioned, but there are some things to watch out for, apart from the belt changes on the four-cylinder engines. With the Spider, make sure the hood works because hood release motors are simply non-existent. Check the light next to the control switch for any issues with the computer-controlled hood.
If the air con isn’t working you might not worry but that can lead to a new radiator which is cause for concern. The engines, four-cylinder or V6, are reliable but they do like to sip the oil, and the oil pumps give up as well, while with the V6 the oil cooler pipes can decay so generally check anything to do with oil.
Rear suspension can be a bother, some of it caused on the 2.0 Twin Spark by a steel insert in the bushes rubbing on the subframe. Since the subframe is aluminium you can end up having to replace the subframe. But generally there don’t seem to be the sorts of huge issues you can get with some Italian cars – rust being one of them.
So, if you’re in at the front of the wave, can you really pick up one of these devilishly handsome Spiders for sensible money?
Prices start a bit north of £1000, which will get you an early 2.0 TS in need of attention and with big mileage. If you want mileages to be below 100,000 then you’re starting at £2000 to £3000. At the top of that range that’ll net you a good 02-plate TS with about 60k on the clocks.
In the £3000-£4000 bracket there is plenty of choice for decent Twin Spark models but if you want say a Japanese import with 50k on it then you’re looking nearer £5000. The V6s are much rarer and of course even more.
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