My friend Enzo (he signs his emails as “EC”, so that shall be his nom de plume) is a former colleague of mine from Volvo corporate. We’ve known each other for over 25 years. After I retired from Volvo in 2009, I didn’t see him again until he retired this past December, when we reconnected. Since then, he’s joined us for several of our weekend breakfast runs, but always riding shotgun.
Since his retirement, he’s talked about acquiring a toy car, preferably an Alfa Romeo. He informed me that as a younger man, he owned a Fiat 124 spider and several water-cooled 4-cylinder Porsches, and had no desire to repeat those experiences. He TRIED to buy my Alfa from me, but alas, it’s not for sale. The only Alfa GTVs in his price range are project cars, which are not where his interest lies.
EC put considerable effort during 2015 into searching for the “right” car. He and I talked at length about an Alfa spider. Although a convertible was not his first choice, he did finally recognize that at the present time, almost all of the “Duetto” shaped spiders, built for over 25 years without significant change, represent a good value in the collector car marketplace. Only the original dove-tail spiders, sold in the U.S. from 1966-1969 (MIA in 1968 and again in 1970 for failing to meet emission standards), were out of his price range.
The so-called Series 2, 3, and 4 spiders, which differ mainly by fuel delivery systems and nose-and-tail styling enhancements, are available in the high 4-figure range in reasonably good condition. They also were built in sufficient quantity that dozens are on the market at any given time. As with any Italian car, rust is public enemy #1. A former Alfa corporate field rep once cautioned me: “these cars are pre-rusted from the factory”.
Earlier this month, EC found the right car. A classic used-car dealer in Queens, NY had a 1991 spider, with a purported 43,000 original miles. Attractive in silver with a black cloth top and tan interior, there was a stack of recent maintenance and repair records, including but not limited to new Pirelli tires, new brake calipers, rotors, pads and hoses at all 4 corners, and a front suspension rebuild. The car was put on a lift and verified to be solid. EC’s assessment after several test drives was that the mileage was believable, the condition was excellent, and the price was fair. A deal was struck, and EC picked up his new toy and first-ever Alfa Romeo several weeks ago.
On the day after Thanksgiving, by mutual arrangement, EC drove the car to my house so that we could give it a more thorough going-over. While much work had indeed just been completed, there were still items requiring attention, truthfully not unusual for a 21-year-old used (Italian) car. This GT 1300 Junior owner took the spider for a spin, and overall, completely agreed with the new owner’s assessment: the car was solid, drove well, and gave us no reason to think that it couldn’t be taken for a long weekend trip right now. The few minor mechanical and cosmetic issues were not deal-breakers, and most could be tackled while continuing to enjoy the car, at least until the first snow flies.
We rotated the tires, and while doing so, verified the date stamps on all the tires (good) as well as the brake and suspension work (also good). Several torn boots on steering tie-rods were noted, as well as one incorrect wheel lug nut, so a list was begun of needed parts. Just before he was about to head home, I asked EC to drive my ’93 Miata. He had never driven an MX-5, and found it enjoyable, if a bit rough-riding with 98k on the clock (the original shocks are shot and will be replaced this winter).
So, to my friend Enzo, I offer heartfelt congratulations on behalf of myself and the rest of our group! As you yourself would say, you finally pulled the gun. When we schedule our first breakfast run of 2016, you no longer need to hitch a ride – we look forward to seeing you there with YOUR OWN Alfa Romeo.
All photographs copyright © 2015 Richard A. Reina. Photos may not be copied or reproduced without express written permission.