The Buy/Drive/Burn series has been all about convertibles lately. We started with some $40,000 luxury entries from 2010, then upped the dollar figure with three more from 2009 that asked over $90,000 for the pleasure of their company.
Today we step back in time to the year 2001, and spend even more money. The cheapest drop-top here is over $120,000. Let’s go.
Many corners of the internet expected the roadster shown here to show up as an Alfa Romeo Spider, not a Fiat 124 Spider, when rumours surfaced all those years ago about the MX-5 donning a natty Italian suit. Perhaps Fiat Chrysler made its decision at the time based on Fiat’s larger dealer network or some sort of answer provided by Sergio’s Magic 8 Ball.
Whatever the reason, we now live in a world where a brace of affordable and fun two-place roadsters are on offer. While the fraternal twins share a great deal, their clothes are different, as are their hearts. We’ve already deemed the base Mazda MX-5 to be worthy of AoB mention; can its Italian brother turn the same trick?
The new Fiat 124 Spider may be thought of as a spiritual successor to the classic Fiat 2000 Spider. It’s no secret, however, that the new car is really a re-skinned Mazda MX-5 Miata powered by the same engine as the current Fiat 500 Abarth. The only parts truly new to the Fiat are some exterior panels. That’s not a bad thing as the new Miata seems to be quite amazing in all regards.
The question, despite Jack’s opinions, is whether the Abarth engine and some suspension tuning will give the 124 Spider that much coveted Italian flair, the sales numbers Fiat desperately needs, and the passion and drama that we all love so much. For better or worse, that’s been somewhat absent from the Miata over the years.
To answer that question, and to discover the ingredients in that secret Italian sauce, I recently spent some time in the classic Fiat roadster.
2016 Alfa Romeo 4C Spider
1.75-liter DOHC I-4, direct injection, turbocharged, CVVT (237 horsepower @ 6,000 rpm; 258 lbs-ft @ 2,200-4,250 rpm)
6-speed “Alfa TCT” dual-clutch automatic
24 city/34 highway/28 combined (EPA Rating, MPG)
28.1 (Observed, MPG)
Tested Options: Rosso Alfa Red paint, Fascia Stone Protector, HID Headlamps, Carbon Fibre Trim Kit, Convenience Package, Racing Exhaust, Red Calipers, 18/19 Inch Staggered Wheels, Leather Package,
* Prices include $1,595 destination charge.
Up ’til now, if you wanted an Italian, mid-engined, street-legal track roadster made out of exotic materials, you needed to be a one-percenter to afford one. But all that is changing with the relaunch of the “other Italian brand,” Alfa Romeo. For the price of a single black-market organ “donation” you can get your hands on the new 2016 Alfa Romeo 4C Spider. Unlike Alfa’s last car sold in America — the Alfa Romeo 8C Competizione — the 4C Spider is pronounceable, will be available in quantity, and is ostensibly attainable at $53,900 for the coupé and $63,900 for the rag top that we got our hands on.
Like the hardtop 4C, this exotic isn’t an enormous bruiser that’s as wide as Kansas, and it doesn’t have a V12. Instead Alfa opted for a small four-cylinder turbocharged engine and a serious dedication to lightweight construction. In some ways you might call this the Italian Lotus. Until we see the 2017 Alfa Romeo Guilia, FCA’s 3-Series fighter, the 4C and 4C Spider are spearheading the brand’s American reboot.
Is that good or bad?
Remember earlier this month when Mazda MX-5 Miata program chief, Nobuhiro Yamamoto, said if you wanted to complain about the roadster’s lack of power, you could shove it down the aftermarket hole of your choice? Those were good times, two weeks ago.
It seems Fiat COO Alfredo Altavilla is of a completely different mindset when it comes to their own MX-5-derived 124 Spider, specifically any version of the car wearing a scorpion badge.
Prices for (non- 164) Alfa Romeos have been getting somewhat crazy in recent years, but it’s still possible to get a restorable 1970s or 1980s Spider for non-insane bucks. The proof of this is that rougher examples still show up now and then at the self-service wrecking yards I frequent. In this series so far, we’ve seen this ’74, this ’78, and now today’s ’81.
While Fiat 124 Sport Spiders are commonplace in junkyards, the Alfa Romeo Spider has remained sufficiently valuable that few examples make it to the kind of self-service, high-inventory-turnover wrecking yards I frequent for this series. We’ve seen this ’74 and that’s it prior to today (though I have passed by a few junked Alfa Spiders that were picked clean before I got there). The Alfa Spider was more expensive than the Fiat Spider when new— in 1978, the Alfa listed at $9,195 (about the same as a new ’78 BMW 320i), while the Fiat cost a mere $6,495 (just a bit more than a Volkswagen Scirocco)— and American Alfa Romeo fanatics have always been more maniacally obsessed than Fiat fanatics. Here’s an unrusted, not-yet-completely-stripped ’78 that I found in a San Francisco Bay Area yard a couple months back.
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- Michael In your research you may have found that after 2024 this model will no longer be part of MINI lineup. I wish you would have driven JCW version. Over an additional 100hp. With launch control it will go 0 to 60 in about 4.6 seconds. Outstanding car.
- RHD A hybrid small pickup is a no-brainer. Let's go, already! Price it reasonably and every one will fly off of the lot.
- RHD This is a $3,500 car (assuming you can get a good junkyard transmission and install it yourself) that, once back in usable condition, will be worth about $1,000. Hopefully the guy that spray-painted the wheels black didn't attempt to rebuild the engine himself. That would make it a $5,500 car that's worth $1,000.
- CEastwood They should , but they won't being fearful of losing those sales of near 30 grand base Tacomas . People thought Hyundai could do this then they did it at laughably expensive prices . And try to get a base Maverick at advertised prices . Go ahead I dare you .
- Jpurcha Nice. I had bought one from my dad's friend for my first car. University/model airplane hauler.