1985 Alfa Romeo Spider Graduate: Last of the “Pod” cars..

The Series 3 Alfa Romeo Spiders are generally dismissed as the bottom of the barrel when it comes to classic Alfa convertibles. On the other hand, many of us who love our cars and grew up in the 80s fondly remember these cars as vintage roadsters available brand new at the dealership. There were very few convertible sports cars even available in 1985 – the Mercedes SL which cost about 3 times what the Alfas did, and the Pininfarina Azzura (formerly the Fiat 2000) which was privately imported by Malcolm Bricklin in very small numbers. Remember folks, these were the days before the Miata… This pretty little example is listed for $8500/OBO on the AlfaBB site.

Cream isn’t a color that jumps quickly to mind when you think classic Italian sports car, but I’ve always thought it worked on the S3 spiders – at least ever since I saw the car chase scene from Fletch (starting at 0:45) which included a car almost identical to this one, excepting the alloy wheels. The dark tan interior is a nice complement as well. I am personally a fan of the steel wheels just because I like the simpler look. There are numerous wheel upgrades available, though, including several Campagnolo options or just good old Minilites (and assorted knock-offs) if you want to go bigger than 14″. Anything bigger than 16″ just looks dumb. The Graduate was a dumbed-down version of the Spider which came out in 1985. It lacked the Veloce’s air conditioning, power windows, and alloy wheels. For my money, the first two simply mean there is less to break.

1985 was the last year for the classic Alfa Spider “pod” gauges – two big ones aimed directly at the driver, and three smaller ones over the center console stack also pointed at the driver. In 1986, they went to one big uni-pod that jammed all the gauges into a single unit in an attempt to “modernize”. Frankly, there are just some things that shouldn’t be modernized. That was one of them. The other thing which went away in ’86 was the gorgeous Personal-brand polished wood rim steering wheel, replaced with a smaller-diameter leather-wrapped unit out of the contemporary GTV6. Again – classic car, classic dash, classic steering wheel – it was part of the overall charm and personality of the car. A few nice modernizations over earlier Spiders included 3-point seatbelts, which I will readily admit I prefer over the earlier lap belts, as well as Bosch fuel injection. The Alfa DOHC inline-4 dates back at least to the early 1950s, and gained fuel injection (for the US market) in the late-60s/early 70s. The problem was the mechanical Spica system was temperamental: great when properly adjusted, and a “non-starter (pun intended) when it wasn’t. In 1982 Alfa Romeo finally rolled-out with Bosch injection, and added a dose of competence and reliability to the motor. Of course, carbs work just as well now since these cars are emmissions-exempt in most of the free world.

The S3s big rear spoiler is probably singularly responsible for its place on the Alfa food chain. It was a slight modernization of the bolt-on version that adorned the 1978 Niki Lauda edition Spiders, but did nothing to enhance Pininfarina’s gently sloping lines. With a hair over 110hp, these cars are peppy, but certainly not blisteringly fast. I don’t think the spoilers really offered a lot of benefit from an aerodynamic perspective. That said, with only 30,000 miles, seemingly no rust, and a motivated seller this car could make someone a great back road cruiser for two.

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4 responses to “1985 Alfa Romeo Spider Graduate: Last of the “Pod” cars..

  • Bill reinert

    I bought this car, it’s pretty nice, much nicer now that I’ve fixed all the deferred maintenance

  • Hugh byard

    Just purchased a half way decent 1985 veloce.can anyone tell what the (looks like the letter F.)that is on the rear quarter panel stands for.thanks

    • Reed Hitchcock

      Assume you’re talking about this:

      Pinin Farina badge

      This “f” badge is for Pinin Farina, the design house behind the Spider. Good luck with your ’85 – nice car!!

      -Reed

  • Bill Reinert

    Reed,
    I agree the Gtaduate is the one to have. No power windows or mirrors to fix, no A/C to weigh you down. Pre-85 with twin pods are the ones to have.

    Since I bought the exact car in your story, we’ve gone through it mechanically, new head gaskets, rebuilt brakes and new vacuum and fuel lines.

    Cosmetically it’s back dated, chrome mirrors replace the ugly black ones, painted the cowl air inlet body color and switched to chrome wipers. More importantly we fixed the short in the horn that the PO had re-engineered with a rubber band.

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