Project Alfa Romeo Spider: Taking A Closer Look

Photos by Tom and Tim Suddard

We recently purchased, sight unseen, a 1971 Alfa Romeo Spider. This is last of the 1750cc-engined Spiders and also among the first of the square-tail cars.

This one was billed as a No. 3 car–more pristine than a daily driver, but not really a show winner. Think of No. 3 vehicles as good examples.

Once we fetched the car, however, we found its condition to be a notch worse than advertised. We’d charitably call it fair–on the grading scale, that’s No. 4, the lowest rung.

There are numerous issues to correct, most of them cosmetic. Rather than complain, we see an opportunity to more deeply explore this rating system as we fix the car’s flaws. First, though, we needed to make a list. Here’s what we’ll need to fix to elevate our Alfa’s condition by a grade.


We began our closer look at the front end. See that washer securing the bottom of the headlight surround? Yeah, something’s damaged. The chrome finish itself is also imperfect.


This rub strip is both ugly and not original. It will be removed.


The sideview mirror alone has multiple issues: pitted chrome, a split base gasket and a small ding. The rubber that surrounds the glass is sunburned and almost completely deteriorated, too.


At the rear, the chrome surrounding the taillights has seen better days.


While the top itself looks good, the rear window has badly faded. Hopefully we can buff it back to new.


It’s details that make the difference: The license plate lights are not correct.


The doorjambs are a mess. Overspray, worn-out doorstops and poorly applied plastic vapor barriers behind the door panels all need to be remedied.


Under the hood we found a dirty engine compartment complete with overspray, junk plug wires and damaged hoses.


Even with an empty trunk, our Alfa sits low in the rear. We can thank the worn-out springs for that.


The interior has a host of issues. From 10 feet away, for example, anyone can spot that poorly installed stereo head unit. It will have to go.


The head unit isn’t the only problem with the dashboard. The dash pad is cracked and the chrome has started to peel from the gauge bezels.


The kick panels have been butchered with a pair of modern chrome speaker grilles. We’ll replace them with subtle, period-correct covers.


The vent window latches have come loose, and the glass itself is damaged on the passenger side.


More interior issues: warped door panels and flaking chrome trim.


Nothing like a cracked steering wheel to remind you that you’re driving a No. 4 car.


The interior panels behind the seats are dirty and feature more unsightly speakers.


The parking brake boot is ripped.


More problems lurk underneath the car. A quick, cheap exhaust repair has left our Alfa with the wrong tip as well as a weak engine note. As for that questionable undercoating, what sins lurk beneath it? When we tear into things for the car’s redo, we’ll investigate.


Centerline International
Alfa Romeo parts, advice
(888) 750-2532

(866) 866-6605

RML Automotive
Alfa parts, service, advice
(386) 212-0450

Tire Rack
(888) 541-1777

Join Free Join our community to easily find more project updates.
Ian F
Ian F MegaDork
12/12/18 5:46 a.m.

It does look a bit scary.  Makes me wonder what evils are hiding in the rocker panels and lower fenders.  Good luck. This should be fun to watch. Do you plan to have it ready for the 2020 Tour de Marque at Watkins Glen?

Alfaromeoguy Reader
12/12/18 8:17 p.m.

In reading this,it's not all bad. 

LD71 New Reader
12/13/18 4:57 p.m.

My '79 Spider has a bunch of the same issues, I will be following along and try to complete the same upgrades/fixes you make!

You are lucky you don't have the hard plastic map pockets secured by elastic in the later cars--they flop down and make for uncomfortable elbows---complicated fix.

BTW, my vent windows still have the hardware attached...but vibrate open every 10 or so miles.  When yo fix yours, will be good to see how you keep them closed!


Alfaromeoguy Reader
12/13/18 7:16 p.m.

New springs from speedway motors, 9x5.5 inch 1150 inch pound's  front and 5x 16 ,and 175/180 inch pound's  on the rear,I belive ( long time from when I did my 84 Alfa Romeo spider  now running as coil overs  now)  . This well run you 180$ for all the springs, a lot better than i.a.p. or center line parts. At least you can pick your spring rate

Alfaromeoguy Reader
12/13/18 7:21 p.m.

 I did update my steering  thuo 

Much more precise,and rebuilt steering box and idler arm bow,no gear oil in mine  , red lithium grease 

Alfaromeoguy Reader
12/13/18 7:31 p.m.

Yes I know no safety washers,but also no engine or transmission,so I am safe for right now.i have ordered safety washers 

Alfaromeoguy Reader
12/13/18 7:39 p.m.

In reply to LD71 :

To save all those hard to get plastic turn signal and other lights, run Led's

 Regular bulbs just push out heat,led' s don't .

You'll need to log in to post.

Sponsored by

Classic Motorsports House Ad

Our Preferred Partners