Classical 1986 Alfa Romeo Spider Veloce Review: good choice to buy one

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Alfa Romeo 2000 Veloce Spider

The Classical 1986 Alfa Romeo Spider Veloce is probably a wonderful car. The matter is that  if it runs well when you test drive it, you may still be driving it and loving it for the next thirty years because of its fun, reliable, sturdy and a sheer delight to drive.

The thing about Classical 1986 Alfa Romeo Spider Veloce is that they got a bad reputation when new for two reasons: first of all, a lot of idiots bought them and didn’ t know how to care for them, and there are a lot of special tools and procedures you need to know to keep an Alfa working. But any fool with a screwdriver can tweak these cars into an unreliable wreck — and thousands did. Those are the ones you hear about.

The other reason is that the cars coming off the assembly line in the Seventies and Eighties were of two distinct quality levels: they were either very, very good (as mine appear to be) or very, very bad.

It’s probably one of the very, very good ones. If it’s still here, and runs well when you test drive it, you may still be driving it and loving it for the next thirty years.

Classical 1986 Alfa Romeo Spider VeloceIn red version, Alfa Romeo 2000 Veloce Spider is extremely gorgeous

So… buy the car, but join the club to find out where to take it to have it cared for properly. Your ’86 has Bosch fuel injection, which most people like; it’s got a couple of minor quirks (there’s a fuse behind the passenger’s seat and if it blows, your fuel injection stops; this happened to a friend once on a tour, and we fixed it and got him home) but it’s reasonably reliable as long as you keep the rubber hoses (vacuum, especially) in good shape. (…Oh, all right, I confess: the Bosch fuel injection on your Alfa is the same unit used on Porsches, Mercedes and Volvos of the era. It’s just that in the Sixties and Seventies, Alfa used their own, proprietary mechanical fuel injection which is elegant, bizarre, and “semi-exotic,” as an Alfa legend once described it, and I’m all gooey inside for the older version. Yours is certainly better, especially for someone not used to old cars in general and Alfas in particular.)

The transmissions of 1986 Alfa Romeo Spider Veloce were especially susceptible to nitwits, and the synchronizers in second gear wore out if driven by the unsympathetic. Shift slowly till you know what you’re doing (and ALWAYS when the car is cold), learn to double-clutch, and you’ll get decades of use out of the gearbox. And DON’T use synthetic gear oil in the transmission — these cars need conventional gear oil; they rely on a certain amount of friction in the oil or the synchronizing rings wear out instead. (See what I mean about special knowledge?)

The engines are also rugged if maintained well; you need to use a mix of distilled water and coolant, though, or the minerals in your tap water will start to plug the coolant channels inside the aluminum engine, and you’ll overheat regularly. And these cars use seven quarts of oil per oil change — just deal with it. If yours doesn’t use much oil, go ahead and put synthetic in the engine, it’s very good for it. That’s all I use in my ’74 Spider, but then the Spider consumes about half a quart every 4000 miles. Not bad for a 33-year-old Italian sports car.

Classical 1986 Alfa Romeo Spider VeloceHow well is Alfa Romeo 2000 Veloce Spider’s interior

Another often misunderstood characteristic: Alfas use a timing chain, not a belt, and it requires occasional manual adjustment. There’s a simple technique that the serious Alfa enthusiast knows for tightening the chain; a friend once bought an Alfa sedan for $100 because a loose timing chain makes almost EXACTLY the same noise as a ruined crankshaft. He bought the car, tightened the chain (which needs only a big screwdriver and a wrench), and drove off with a sweet-sounding car… leaving the seller with a hundred-dollar bill in his hands and a sick look on his face. That engine is still running in another friend’s Alfa; sadly the sedan was totaled while parked about 20 years ago, but the engine is still strong and fast in its new home in my friend’s ’67 GT Junior.

Alfas are very well supported in the aftermarket, with great resources in the US and Europe. In the US, I buy a lot of maintenance and restoration parts from International Auto Parts, and recommend them highly for filters, spark plugs, brake pads, and all the bits that eventually wear out on any 30-year-old car (though yours is only 20 :-). I’ve included a link to ReOriginals in the Sources field as well; they have great parts, great service, and prices that appeal to the polo-pony-and-yacht crowd. But they do have things you can’t get elsewhere.

And there are active Alfa clubs in most places in the world; in the US the national organization is the Alfa Romeo Owner’s Club, or AROC. They have chapters throughout the US, and club members participate in all sorts of things from racetrack days to winery tours and charity rallies. Next month, for example, my local Alfa club is planning our annual Valentine’s Day tour, a bracing run through the hills outside Portland, Oregon with a late, romantic lunch at a French-style bistro in McMinnville, in Oregon’s Willamette Valley wine country. We’ve had great weather for the last three or four Valentine’s Day tours, so I need to get my car ready for the driving season after its long winter’s nap.

And that’s the one other thing about Alfas: they really do work best when you use them all the time. They don’t like sitting around; things stick, and get rusty, and gum up. But if you drive them every day and keep on top of the maintenance, they can be completely reliable — and there’s nothing quite like them. There are faster cars, there are cars with better handling, there are cars with more advanced technology (though few from their relative era), but very few with the balance and almost none with the FEEL of these cars.

Buy it, drive it, and decide whether it’s for you. Classical 1986 Alfa Romeo Spider Veloce aren’t for everybody, but that’s part of what those of us who love them love best about them. With an Alfa you’re not just getting a classic sports car, you’re getting entry into a secret society.

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