On Alfas, Miatas and Memories
Mazda is set to build the next Alfa Romeo Spider for Fiat. Me, I'm just remembering.
The weirdness hits when you consider the players. First, the last real Alfa Romeo sold on American shores (the Maserati-based 8C Competizione doesn't count) came over 15 years ago. As Motor Trend's Frank Markus reminds us, the last Alfa Spider was on sale here at roughly the same time as the first Miata. The Japanese car succeeded and came to dominate the American roadster market because it did what the cars it emulated did not; it offered enjoyable, trouble-free driving and a relatively long service life. In 1989, the year the Mazda launched, a handful of true sports cars were on sale in this country. All of them are gone, but the Miata lives on. Alfa ceased selling cars in America in 1995, unable to cope with a changed market, its sales and reputation in the gutter. The Spider -- a car with mechanicals dating to the 1960s -- was last offered in 1993.
I was looking for a 2 seat sports car back in 1976. After test driving the British models including the MGB-GT, which I thought I wanted, a friend of mine told me I should go test drive a Alfa. After test driving the Alfa I HAD to buy one. I drove out of the dealership with a brand new 1974 Spider. Being from California the newest Alfa models were from 1974 because of pollution issues. So I owned the last of the non smoged Alfa's. So what if the seats started falling apart due to poor stitching or people backing over the front of my car because they couldn't see it. I enjoyed the car for 6 years before selling it. To this day I fondly remember taking a Z-28 off the line before his big V-8 caught me or the 2 liter double over head cam all aluminum block engine using 7 quarts of oil. Or replacing the engine guard because I bottomed out to many times...
206,000 miles and counting on a 94 Miata "M" model. Gone through tires, brake pads, hoses, and belts and the beast still roars.
My 60s MGBs, Triumphs, and Healeys were great, but Lucas electrics earned the title "Prince of Darkness."
Did I mention that the starter, alternator, and coil are the stock equipment from 1994, and the beast starts up instantly every morning from January to December?
I bought. in 1962, an Alfa Romeo Giulietta Sprint coupe, straight from the factory in Milan for, as I recall, something around $2,800.00. It was all white, a beautiful little car, and ran like a scared rabbit. Drove it all around Europe, it had a special infinity for Paris. I have passed many big Mercedes, with the cigar-smoking fat Germant guy, sitting there nonchalantly at about 80 miles per hour, on the autobahn. But here comes the Alfa, blowing by them at close to 100mph, lights flickering as a warning . . . .don't pull that damned thing to the left, I am coming through!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
What fun, gives me the shivers now just to think about it.
My wife, sitting there holding on with both hands, and saying: For God' Sake, slow this thing down!
No speed limit on the autobahn, you know
Brought it home to the USA in 1964, found out it cost $75.00 for an oil change, normal cost in those days around $10.00 and I traded it for a Corvair. Believe it, or not!
Now, ask me about my 1935 Mercedes 540K !
All emotion aside, you have two different things here: The Spider, a bad car that we all really wish was great, and the Miata, a good car we all love to hate. Nostalgia is a funny thing - So what if the Spider was an archaic design, poorly made, and with the reliability of a kit car made by high school sophmores. We love the idea of it, and reality doesn't really play a part.
I look forward to the Alfa Miata... let's put a real engine in this car and move it into the ranks of the very best cars.
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