So I figure that our recollection of our first cars falls into one of two categories: either it was a complete and utter embarrassment to be seen in and you hated everything about it (as was my wife’s experience with a 1974 Dodge Monaco Coupe in metallic diarrhea) or you remember it as the Best Thing Ever. I fall into the latter category, despite the fact that my own first car – a 1977 Alfa Spider – had terminal rot and Spica fuel injection. In my mind it is one of the best cars ever, and was also, not surprisingly (because Nostalgia is a Funny Thing as my TTS cohort Jonathan would say) a far better car than the 1978 Spider I bought a few years ago to try and recapture the joy. This 1982 Spider however, available on FerrariChat out of Reno, NV for $11,500 is a whole different story..
You see, my 1978 had a few issues. First, it had really low miles, which should have made it a fabulous collector’s dream. Unfortunately, it had barely been used and therefore everything rubber was perished or getting close. That went double for all of the intricate workings of the great-when-it’s-working Spica mechanical fuel injection system. I finally ended-up putting Weber carbs on the thing after a series of technicians and two different injection pumps still couldn’t make it run right. Even then it was still, well, off. It was a far cry from the ’77 I had back in high school and college that had seen better days but never left me stranded – excepting one time when the whole thing just shut down, so I opened the trunk, whacked the battery, and went about my business. That was good Spica. In any case, the whole experience with the 1978 was that you can never go home again, but you can pay and pay trying to get there.
Enter the 1982 Spider. Truth be told, Spica got worse before it got better. In an attempt to make it work with catalysts and ever-tightening emissions regulations, Alfa had to detune the Spider’s already middling motor for 1980 and 1981 to the point that it was producing pathetic power and 0-60 times had dropped to over 12 seconds from high-8s. Then in 1982 Alfa did the only logical thing: they went to the Germans. Yup, they abandoned the old Spica system for a proper, German, Bosch electronic injection, complete with familiar throttle bodies, oxygen sensors, and so on. And it worked. Well. Horsepower was back-up above pre-1980 levels, 0-60 was back down to sub-9 seconds, and top speed was in the neighborhood of 130mph – and all of that makes the 1982 Spider great, but that’s not the best part. In 1983 Alfa released the Series 3 Spider, which added to the new, improved fuel management system these huge monstrous, plastic spoilers front and rear. That makes 1982 the idiot-bastard child: the cleaner kamm-tail lines (and rubber baby buggy bumpers in U.S. trim) from the Series 2, but the vastly improved powertrain and driveability of the Series 3. Oh yes, and pods. We can’t forget the pods.
The Spider’s twin pod with three driver-facing gauges dates back to 1971 and lasted until 1986, when it was replaced by a binnacle approximately the size of a small star system. The pods are so incredibly Italian, looking every bit like they’d be as much at home in a Ferrari or Lamborghini as in this relatively ordinary Alfa. Unlike the later cluster, they don’t look like they’d be as much at home in a Camry. Given a choice, I admit that I prefer earlier cars with silver steering wheel spokes and chrome gauge surrounds instead of these painted flat black, but both are correctable problems, if one is so motivated.
Admittedly, this car is on the higher side of the price scale for a Series 2 Spider, although it is among the nicest examples out there of these unique one-year-only cars. What makes this one even more appealing is its small, chrome, European-market bumpers in place of the big black blocks of rubber that came with the car. It’s unfortunate that the correct grille has not been properly installed, but the seller indicates that a perfect correct grille does come with. The exterior has been painted, supposedly a good quality job, but the blue interior is all original and wears a nice patina. He doesn’t mention 2nd gear in the thread, but at 57K there’s a good chance it’s still okay, so long as it hasn’t been abused. All that said, these cars will go up in value. The best Series 1 Spiders have cracked $100k (not regularly, mind you, but still). S2s have long been somewhat dismissed but are coming into their own. It’s a fun car, and with Bosch injection it’s remarkably reliable. Maybe I can go home again, but find that it’s been remodeled – for the better…?