Ever since our second date my wife has talked about Alfa Romeo Spiders. Well, a lot of cars have come and gone, but no Alfa for my long suffering partner in car madness. In 2009 we had a lot of fun at Concorso Italiano in Monterey talking to various Alfa owners about their cars. There were some beautiful little Spiders out there and the Alfitsi were just the most friendly and welcoming folks. Although we had got going on the Jag restoration, we both thought an Alfa would be fun.
As it happens 2010 is the 100th anniversary of Alfa Romeo and there was going to be lots of attention to the marque at Concorso Italiano and Pebble Beach that year. So, I started to work on a plan to get a decent little Spider (which had to be red) and surprise my wife for her birthday and then take it up to Monterey for Concorso and the classic car week in August. I did not have much money – like basically no money – so I needed to find one that maybe required a little cosmetic restorative work and was cheap. The idea was to hide it at various friends houses and work on until the big day.
Well, it turns out there are a lot of cheap Alfa Spiders out there – and a lot of them are cheap for a reason…. major mechanical issues or just plain ratty. The cars are seriously undervalued, but good ones are not as cheap as I hoped…. Finally though, I found a really decent little red Spider that had only a couple of owners, had been dry stored for 10 years and then taken out and gone over by a very good Alfa specialist here in So. Cal and put back on the road. The car had very low mileage, every bit of paperwork from the day it was sold (by Santa Monica Alfa Romeo and Maserati ) and had been Alfa serviced throughout. It really needed to be tidied in a serious way though. It also had a few minor electrical issues. The owner was in the middle of another restoration, needed space and had recently had a buyer pull out at the last minute and was getting nothing but really low-ball parts-car type offers. We made a deal and I had an Alfa for a lot less than even I had thought possible.
The poor car was pretty dirty looking and faded. There were various small pieces missing and I wondered – despite the really cheap price – what I had got myself into…. Anyway, away we went.
Lots of people helped with the project, including my friend Dave who helped sneak me to the bank, my son who helped me pick the car up, Mark who gave encouragement and offered garage space and Tom – who is one of the best auto detailers around and not only allowed me to hide the Alfa in his garage, but spent days of time taking a tired and faded paint back to brilliance. It was amazing. The paint came back, we were able to re-dye the carpet and treat the leather and bring new life into the interior. The engine bay, including the paint just sparkled. My son put a brilliant radio in and we found that the electrical gremlins were dirty contacts and grounds. Lots of hours of work – but a really great looking little Alfa.
The big day came and we had a small party with a few of our local ‘car pals’ who had been in on the surprise and logistics. I am happy to say – that my wife absolutely loves the car and enjoys tearing around town and having a smooth running, crisp and slick shifting little 5 speed to play with. Well – she waited long enough I guess – the Jag could wait a little for this entirely deserving distraction.