By on August 31, 2011

I’ve never owned an Alfa, and every time I see one in the junkyard I feel a twinge of guilt for never having rescued some poor abandoned Spider project prior to the inevitable ride to the junkyard that all such Alfas take after a decade or two spent sitting under a tarp in the driveway. Here’s yet another rust-free Spider that’s going to get eaten by The Crusher because nobody was willing to save it.
Alfa Romeo made the Twin Cam for 40 years, and the one in the ’74 made a claimed 129 horsepower from its 1,962 cubic centimeters. That’s very good for the Malaise Era, though it’s worth noting that the Datsun 260Z of the same year sold for more than a grand less than the Alfa ($5,289 versus $6,550), had 33 more horses under the hood, and weighed only 184 pounds more. Of course, the ’74 Fiat 124 Sport Spider sold for a mere $4,395, but buyers had be willing to overlook the car’s 92.5 horsepower (any time a car manufacturer claims a fraction of a horsepower, look out) and general terribleness.
This car, which I found last week in a Denver self-service yard, appears to have spent many years with its interior exposed to the Colorado elements. Too far gone to be worth restoring, although it would have made an excellent 24 Hours of LeMons race car.
What does it mean when the “THROTTLE” idiot light comes on? Broken throttle cable?

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38 Comments on “Junkyard Find: 1974 Alfa Romeo Spider Veloce...”


  • avatar
    TR4

    “What does it mean when the “THROTTLE” idiot light comes on? Broken throttle cable?”

    It’s a warning that you have engaged the hand throttle.

  • avatar
    Morea

    Jeremy Clarkson on Alfa Romeo:

    “You cannot be a true petrolhead until you’ve owned one… it’s like having really great sex that leaves you with an embarrassing itch.”

  • avatar
    rpol35

    “and every time I see one in the junkyard I feel a twinge of guilt for never having rescued some poor abandoned Spider project prior to the inevitable ride to the junkyard that all such Alfas take after a decade or two spent sitting under a tarp in the driveway.”

    More like rescuing it from itself; there’s a reason why they spend so much time under a tarp in the driveway…….

    • 0 avatar
      Morea

      after a decade or two spent sitting under a tarp in the driveway

      Sort of like having a supermodel give you her number and then never calling her: it’s just simply a waste.

    • 0 avatar
      manuel pintos

      mis queridos extranjeros yo vi uno asi y hasta la fecha lo tengo si señor modelo 74 igual que el ilustrado lo tengo en monterrey nuevo leon dediquenles tiempo el se los recompesara saludos desde mexico sigan en sus tauros o sables carros corrientes

  • avatar
    Mark MacInnis

    I am quite certain I am not the first man to note that Italian cars are like the Italian woman….they are capable of having the most beautiful and desirable of bodies, but are incredibly temperamental, prone to maddening breakdowns, and require inordinate amounts of maintenance. But when you are in one at full throttle……

  • avatar
    Zackman

    ALL these Euro sports cars were garbage according to owners I knew and a few I have driven, but never had the pleasure to own (whew!).

    I’m sure they were great for the first two or so years when new, but you certainly don’t see them except in the boneyards. Good riddance.

    This is the reason the MX5 was invented, but I’d still rather have a Corvette!

    • 0 avatar
      Syke

      How nice to know that your heart is firmly ensconced in your wallet.

    • 0 avatar
      Zarba

      Our 1990 Spider, owned since new, has been VERY reliable; certainly better than the ’88 Taurus that we bought so my wife wouldn’t have to drive the Alfa in Atlanta traffic.

      • 0 avatar
        krhodes1

        +1

        My ’86 Spider Veloce has been bulletproof. I drove it from Maine to DC and back last year. Like all European cars, their tempermental reputation comes from the facts that:

        1. Americans rarely maintain cars properly, this is not a Panther.
        2. Back in the day, nobody knew how to work on them – imagine Joe at the corner garage trying to work on a car in the 70s with FUEL INJECTION!

        These days, they are enthusiast owned which helps with #1, and the Internet makes #2 much easier too – information is much easier to come by!

        I will say though, that the chances of the pictured car being “rust free” are pretty much the same as my chances of being struck by lightning or winning the Powerball (and I don’t buy tickets). Alfas reputation for RUST is actually quite deserved.

  • avatar
    Joe McKinney

    As fan of fifth generation Ford Thunderbirds I immediately noticed what looks like a 1969 Thunderbird Landau Coupe to the right of the Alfa in your first photo. My 1967 Thunderbird sedan has the same hubcaps.

  • avatar
    cc-rider

    Someone would be wise to grab those bumpers as the ones that came after the 74’s are hideous by comparison. I would love a pre 74 spider so that I could give the Italian tune up to and drive con brio!

  • avatar

    If I ever get an Alfa, it will most likely be a Berlina.

    • 0 avatar
      OliverTwist

      I concur.

      My father bought the secondhand 1971 Alfa-Romeo 1750A Berlina and drove it for a few years before handing it down to my mum. She didn’t like it so she handed it down to me and got herself a Mercedes.

      I thought it was one of the greatest Italian machines ever…until I saw the cost of rebuilding the motor, which was probably more than the car’s value. I worked many yards through few summers to pay the medical bill and drove it for a while. Its handling characteristics are something that made me much better driver than my stupid teenage friends.

      Then one cold, rainy September night, the idiot had this deer-in-the-headlamps look and stopped in the middle of the intersection for no fucking reason, doubling as the impromptus crash barrier. Ouchie!

      Ah, 1750A is not a typo. It was one of 249-251 units ever made with experimental automatic gearboxes sourced from ZF. Not many survived today.

      To this day, I still pine for this beloved machine. Sigh.

  • avatar
    and003

    This car may not be worth restoring, but I wonder … could its body be salvageable? I was thinking this car could be fitted with a custom chassis with new suspension pieces, custom interior and a modified engine, perhaps an inline-4 or V-6.

    I could do this myself if I had the money and means, but sadly I don’t.

  • avatar
    fincar1

    I remember once reading some writer who said you could approximate the Alfa Spider experience by having your girlfriend throw a bucket of cold water on you every five miles or so, and stopping at regular intervals and throwing several hundred dollars down a grate.

  • avatar
    Ethan Gaines

    If I had the time I would buy it and part it out if anything. But really, an Alfa is a fascinating creature. My dad thought he was cool during his years in Washington D.C. when he was married to his ex-wife. A country boy working a unionized blue collar job, let his wife convince him he needed cool cars too, like an E-Type, a Fiat and an Alfa Spider. His wife on the other hand had a Jetta, which he begged her to switch with his Fiat. It was always a mess, he always was a minute away from being late to work, and the cost of running them was as painful as shoving his wallet up his ass. But all in all every picture I saw of him even near any of those cars he was always beaming.

  • avatar
    PintoFan

    Looks like this one got hit from behind at some point, which probably led to it being parked. And once that happens, well…

  • avatar
    SP

    You have been blinded by Spyder venom, Murilee. This Alfa is definitely not rust-free. The bubbles on the trunk and hole in the fender prove the point.

    But then again, graded on a Bell curve against other Alfas, maybe it is “rust-free”.

  • avatar
    catbert430

    I haven’t seen one of these for a long time.
    The last one that I saw was in the parking lot at A&P a couple of years ago.
    It was in beautifiul condition and I was admiring it.
    A very, very large lady came out of the store and was headed toward the diminutive Spyder.
    She proceeded to wedge her massive body into and around the driver’s seat and drove off wearing it like an accessory.
    I have no idea how she was able to steer or shift and brake, but she managed it.
    I’ll never forget that image. I couldn’t move until she was gone from sight.
    I was riveted.

    • 0 avatar
      OliverTwist

      I used to make the bets with the sales consultants in the 1980s that I could actually fit in the Spider despite my 2.05m height. Easiest money ever…

    • 0 avatar

      At the press conference at the NAIAS when Ferrari introduced the 612, I remember three things.

      1. Sergio Pininfarina is a modest gentleman.

      2. The 612 was ugly and a spotlight was aimed just so that you could see how poor the panel quality was.

      3. A large female autojourno was persuaded by one of the charming Ferrari guys that she could fit in the front seat. I’d guess that she was in the neighborhood of 250-300 lbs. She could indeed fit in the car, but when she set herself down in the seat, I could see the bodywork distort as the front and back ends bent upwards.

  • avatar
    Dave

    The Alpha Spyder was the most fun car to drive! There are faster cars but few have the same feeling of Driver to Car connection. I had the 1966, 1600cc 125 hp, twin carbs.

  • avatar
    mazder3

    All Toyotas and Subarus (except WRXs) should come with “THROTTLE” lights. It would flash and sound a klaxon when sensors in the car sense that the vehicle is going 10 mph under the speed limit.

  • avatar
    asummers

    I have a ’71 Spider currently, and drove an ’89 daily for 10 years. They really are not bad cars at all, and are not expensive to maintain (say, compared to a Volkswagen), and are not unreliable. But you do need to know somebody who is comfortable working on them, and you do need to keep the head bolts tightened yearly (nobody tells you this).

    There are a few useful bits on this car, it would be a shame to see it crushed as is. But as for restoring it, you can buy a really nice well-sorted one of this vintage for USD $12,000, so restoring one is a fool’s errand. I am sure it would be at least $25,000 to bring it up to $12,000 level.

    And I cannot speak highly enough of the 1750 engine used in ’69 and ’71, Most Spiders have the 2.0 liter which doesn’t seem as willing to rev to the redline.

  • avatar
    4-off-the-floor

    Still have fond memories of my 1967 Alfa Spyder.

    I paid $1500 for her and she never let me down.

    That is until some old geezer t-boned her after running a stop sign. I sold the bent Alfa for $500 plus I got a genorous pay-out from his ins. co.

    Edited to add: this was 1977.

  • avatar
    ciddyguy

    Oh dear, this one definitely looks to have been out in the weather too long after a rear ender.

    Sad as the steering wheel has delamainated, the dash cracked, the top totally weathered beyond salvage as are the seats etc.

    Looked like someone got hit, then parked it and forgot about it, letting it rot in the weather.

    BTW, I’ve seen several Alfa Spiders this summer, mostly from the 80’s but about a year or so ago, someone was driving, and may still but not anywhere where I live since a red, non restored older Alfa Spider (guessing pre ’74). Mostly they were the late 80’s soft black spoilers, though I’ve seen at least a couple from the early 80’s driving about town here in Seattle.

  • avatar

    Nearly three days later and this poor, neglected Alfa continues to tug at the heartstrings. My dad has occasionally mentioned his fondness for them over the years, though he never owned one. I came *this* close to saving a tan ’72 back in late ’96.

    Posts like this one are reminders of the depressing side of opportunity cost. Skimming over dozens of comments ranging from the usual, blind dismissal of anything not understood, to recycled innuendo, to the supportive observations of current Alfa owners suggests there’s a story just beneath the surface capable of uniting gearheads of every stripe.

    We might not agree, but we understand. I would buy such an Alfa as pictured above. I wouldn’t pay more than a couple hundred bucks for it, but I would rather wrap it in the finest of tarps, and endure weeks of spousal discontent, than know it was wasted by a society grown cold and commercial.

    • 0 avatar
      samer.badaro

      Well, found your string a couple of years too late.

      This baby is obviously beyond salvage and much seems to have already been parted with (carburators, mirrors, center console side panels…etc.), but it’s an OK donor for those of us still trying to nurse one back to life.

      If you can manage to rescue & dismantle and be ready to pack & manage shipping across the world, the following items are scarce and hard to find :
      – Bumper (rear is shot, but front seems sound on this car, I need full set front/back myself) w. Alfa’s “inverted triangle” grill & crest in the middle (this one is gone)
      – Inner door & window handles
      – Original side mirrors w. Alfa stamp (I need a set / rectangular type)
      – Complete center console (already gone on this one)
      – For my 2.0 ltr engine, pistons & cylinder rings
      – For Alfa purists, original rims (I still have the originals but she looks better with star-shaped)
      – Steering wheel w. center piece (gone here)….

      I’d love to get my hands on a complete set of all the above to nurse my baby back to good health and form.

      In short, as a donor car this may still still be worthwhile to keep away from the crusher…

      BTY, these came w. 2 sets of 2 choke carbs (really 2 x 2 = 1 carb for each of its four cylinder, webers, solexes and dellortos) and had two cables fixed on the center console (see it in the picture. The first is for choke (anyone who has flooded his carburators will know what it is) and the second was to manually hold the throttle up (for warm-up after cold start), hence “THROTTLE” warning light to allow returning car to “normal” idle (still an “elusive” concept for most of us Alfistis)

      • 0 avatar
        74spider

        I’ve got a 1974 spider. I drove it into the garage twenty years ago, and it hasn’t gone anywhere since. It’s complete, with quite a few used spare parts that I have accumulated over time. It is available. If you are interested and want more information, please reply. I’ll be happy to respond.

  • avatar
    forestghost07

    this photo saddens me and some of the comments really raise fur … my 1st car (age 16) was a brand new ’78 Alfa Spider. We swapped the horrible “crash” bumpers to those lovely stainless steel earlier ones, and I kept that car 8 yrs/ 130,000 miles with not a SINGLE breakdown! How many teens respect and lovingly care for their 1st car even 8 months???

    Unreliable? NONSENSE!! I learned how to service it MYSELF, “mysterious” mechanical injection and all. That was the trick – keep ‘em in your own hands and AWAY from shops. The only bugger was rust, but all 70’s cars were rust buckets, don’t some of you remember?

    I’ve gone retro now – driving a 1972 MGB GT, rock solid, show condition, a joy to own and tinker with


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