After writing about that gorgeous Alfa Romeo Duetto the other day, I got to thinking: there are a lot of ways to enjoy sleek European styling and a sonorous dual overhead cam motor combined with open air motoring. Most of those have been covered in TTS before – cars like the Alfa Spider, the Jensen-Healey, and even Fiat’s 850 Spider and X1/9. Shamefully, we have not covered Fiat’s 124/2000 Spiders in any depth. Until now. This car, advertised on Craigslist in Leesburg, Virginia for $3,950, represents the same basic experience as the Duetto but for about 10% of the entry fee.
The Fiat 124 was basically the Torino firm’s counterpoint to Alfa’s Spider, and their specs are comparable if not remarkably similar: they were both penned by Pininfarina and released to the world in 1966, both had varying displacement DOHC inline-4 motors, both had full synchromesh manual transmissions and four-wheel disc brakes from the get-go, and both started rusting about six hours prior to leaving their respective factories. In many ways, choosing between the Fiat and the Alfa was really down to preference. Of course, the Alfisti will argue that their Spider came with oodles more pedigree and had sleeker, sportier styling. The Fiat side of the camp will conversely argue that their car ticks all the right sports car boxes, but with more robust running gear that was used throughout the world in hundreds of thousands of their contemporary models. Frankly, I like both of them, albeit for different reasons.
As a car guy, one of my favorite things on social media is when a friend announces that they are looking for a particular car. I take those posts as a personal challenge. Earlier today a friend posted that he was finally ready to add an Alfa Duetto to his collection of very nice but driveable Alfa Romeos, and it got me thinking. I don’t have any space either in the garage or the fleet for another car right now, but if I did I would seriously consider a well-sorted Duetto. I’ve written here before about how my first car was an S2 Alfa Spider that was remarkably well-sorted but rusty as all get out, and about three decades later I bought that car’s twin, but with a perfect body but mechanically, well, challenged. I loved my first Alfa both as a first car but also as a dirver’s car, and I was so sorely disappointed when the second one was so unhappy. As my TTS partner always says, nostalgia is a funny thing and I was clearly wearing blinders when I bought that car a few years back, but I haven’t lost my appetite for a nice Alfa and now I’m thinking that there is most definitely an early round-tail Spider in my future – ideally before they go the way of the Mercedes Pagoda, which is to say expensive beyond reason. Perhaps one like this beauty for sale here on Mobile.de in Monza, Italy for about $34,000 would fit the bill.
Parts. Bin. Engineering.
Manufacturers use parts from other brands all the times. It can be significantly cheaper to source parts-counter bits than creating your own. Sometimes those brands are in the same family, though sometimes they’re not. Ferrari used Alfa Romeo Spider exterior door handles on several models throughout the years. Aston Martin used Volkswagen Audi Group head- and taillights on their 1989 Virage; later DB7 models used Mazda Miata interior door handles. Heck, the Jaguar X-Type is more notable for the parts that aren’t sourced from the Ford Mondeo. Continue reading
Having learned to drive in an old Alfa Romeo Spider, I have always been partial to two-seat roadsters. One of the best feelings in in my world is carving the back roads in a convertible with the top down, matching the revs on every downshift, and listening to the symphony emanating from the tailpipe. About two years ago I decided to recapture that feeling by buying another Spider just like the one I’d had before – but this time without the terminal rust. Nostalgia is a funny thing, however, and instead of a flood of memories from my youth with a Bryan Adams soundtrack behind them I spent the next several months trying to get an otherwise perfect Alfa to start, stop, and run properly. I remember thinking I should have just bought a Miata.
This past weekend on the heels of looking at two horrible German convertibles which were incidentally nothing like the pictures or the descriptions from the seller – shocking, I know – I went to look at a Miata that I spotted on Craigslist and just sounded like a good little car. With 82,000 miles, a relatively recent timing belt, water pump, and fluid change, and full books and records including the original window sticker. I bought it on the spot.