Wednesday, July 15, 2009

1998 Alfa Romeo Spider - In US and on eBay

Caveat emptor, caveat emptor, caveat emptor, caveat emptor, caveat emptor, caveat emptor, caveat emptor, caveat emptor, caveat emptor, caveat emptor, caveat emptor.

I'm not commenting on the legality of this car. The seller says it's legal and for the sake of this post, I'm going to believe him. However, if you're looking into buying this car, do your homework. Do lots of homework. One of the most notorious cases of bringing illegal cars into the US involved a company called Autodelta and the Alfa Spider. If this car is not 100% EPA & DOT compliant, you run the risk of having it seized. 'Nuff said.

In my opinion, had Fiat decided to sell this car in the US, Alfa Romeo would still have a presence here. Yes, they would have been competing with BMW, Audi, Honda, Mazda, etc., etc., for a piece of the sports car market pie, but this car had what none of the others had... Italian style and flair. It's a beautiful car that drives and performs like an Italian car. That wouldn't have appealed to everyone, but I believe it would have appealed to enough people in this country to make the car profitable.

The body, loved by some, hated by others, was designed by Pinninfarina. In my eyes it's perfect. It's a 1990's update of the classic "wedge".

The Spider was available with a variety of engines; a 1.8 & 2.0 4, along with a turbocharged 2.0 V6, a 3.0 V6 in either 12 or 24 valve form and a 3.2 24 valve V6. All, from what I understand, were impressive engines. (The V6 was based on the same V6 I had in my Alfa Romeo Milano and I can tell you from firsthand experience, it is a very impressive engine.)

The car listed on eBay has the smallest of the engines, the 1.8 liter twin spark 4. Although tiny compared to the sixes, it still moves the car to 60 MPH in less than 10 seconds. (the 3.5 liter 6 got the car there in less than 7 seconds). Top speed is around 130MPH.

The only drawback, in my mind, to the Spider is it being FWD. Call me old school, but sports cars should be RWD (or AWD). Early tests of the 6 cylinder cars spoke about massive amounts of torque steer. Still, being designed in the 1990s, as opposed to the 1950s, probably makes this a better handling car than the RWD Spider it replaced. (Which wasn't a bad handling car, I owned 2, it was just not to modern standards.)

OK, back to the car on eBay. Alfa designed this car with the US market in mind, so many of the required US safety bits are already built into the car. The engine was never brought to the US, so it would have to be brought up to US EPA requirements. Again, I'm not passing judgment on this car's legal status. With enough money and ambition almost any car can be brought up to US DOT and EPA standards. Maybe that's the case with this car.

I'd sell my soul for this car. But, with only one soul to sell, I'd want to make sure I'd be able to keep the car and not have it seized by the feds. Caveat emptor.

Click here to see the eBay listing for this car.

Click here to see a brief article on the Alfa Spider from wheelsofitaly.com.

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