The first date went well
and I have a new friend...
Thanks to Internet banking, the car is mine - though it was somewhat of a leap of faith for the previous owners to accept payment in this fashion, since it IS possible to cancel a payment scheduled for transfer later that night...
I checked over the Spider thoroughly and found only a few areas of concern...
- The left-rear flank has what looks like a touched-in deep scratch in the paint - but which I have now figured out is the missing Pininfarina script badge... d'uh!
I only realised this when I saw from a distance what appeared to be a black mark in the same place on the other side (on closer inspection, I realised it was the Pininfarina script).
- Two main silencers in the exhaust (the two transverse boxes) are both originals and have rusty splits in the outer casing - pipework has been patched up.
- Front-right corner of channel around rear boot has cracks in the paint/rust marks and on inspection underneath (from inside the boot - I was fearing I'd see rust!), looks 'toasted' as though brazing or welding has taken place. Rear side panel looks original and no evidence of damage
- Left front wheel has some gouges, not on the rim but on the spoked part
- Bonnet struts need re-gassing
- Shift pattern worn off gearknob
- Slight fading to the cover over the roof compartment
- Windows catch on the soft top when closing the doors
And now the good news - everything else is at least as good as I imagined
I think the body is miraculous for an 11-year-old car, with not even a stonechip, no scuffs on bumpers, very minor (and I mean very minor) ripples in driver's door and no dings, chips, or scratches, even on the edges of panels which line up perfectly. I can see through the rear window and the wipers work smoothly, no chips in the windscreen.
The interior is similarly impressive with seats and carpet like new, genuine Alfa Romeo mats unworn, steering wheel like new and only the wear on the gearknob being any evidence of use. No scratches in the silver paint, a firm driver's seat, and an unused cigarette lighter. The originally-fitted Kenwood stereo (carrying Alfa Romeo script and able to tune to Japanese frequencies only - 77-90MHz) is pretty average, buttons look and feel cheap, hard to read, CD skips easily. Speakers sound OK but a bit 'muffled' - two 8" subs in two carpeted boxes don't really seem to do anything. I will probably ditch them and upgrade the door speakers, may fit a modern headunit or an original silver-front Alfa unit from a late-model 156 or 147. Modern headunit has the advantage of Bluetooth and iPod control - just a matter of finding something that looks tasteful.
The battery cover is present and the lid for the compartment behind the seats works perfectly, as does everything electric - how strange? It has a Mongoose alarm which operates the central locking and immobiliser.
It comes with a full original toolkit velcro-strapped into the boot corner, and a handbook in English plus the original in Japanese. Reading the service history from Japan I was surprised to see it came to NZ in 2004 with 75,000km on the clock, meaning the one NZ owner has covered only 23,000km in seven years.
Driving the car I was struck by how smooth the engine was - like new really - it has had a belt replacement service in March plus a new MAF sensor and new water pump. Coolant is fresh and green and oil is clean.
I did complain a little about the exhaust needing replacement and the scratch I thought it had and got a few hundred off the asking price, making it still top dollar but I think it is a top example, I'm very happy. Buying in the wintertime was a good move, I reckon!
With 98,000km on the clock it drives very well and I was surprised by how touchy the brakes are. The clutch feels very slightly creaky to disengage (time for a new slave cylinder or even a new clutch perhaps) but is light and smooth.
As for the infamous body shaking - well, it is there but without the rattles and creaks/squeaks and it really isn't as bad as two other Spiders I drove - I think it is as good as the 2004 version. The ride is really quite compliant - maybe a little choppy on a really bad road (the sort of 'short wheelbase' choppy) and I had to negotiate some awful narrow winding dug-up roads to get it out of the suburb where it lived. The torque from the engine made light work of the steep hills (2nd/3rd gear) - and then I got to a tunnel...
How do the Italians get such a fantastic whooping sound from a four-cylinder engine - I know the V6 sounds lovely (had three of those) but the four-cylinder has a charm of its own for me...
No knocks or wobbling from the suspension (unlike the average 156!) made it a very pleasant drive and there is no substitute for that raked-back driving position - absolutely magical.
I was also surprised by how cosy it was, with no draughts around the windows and a heater (climate control) that worked very effectively (engine warmed up quickly). There was visible SNOW in the air (yes really... a dusting on the roof when I stopped, but not on the ground) so it was bitterly cold outside.
Seems like I might have bought a car that requires very little work for a change
Might refurbish two wheels and might respray that hard cover, but hardly essential... will get some wax into that bootlid channel and some leather conditioner into the seats to preserve their original looks.
I hope to really enjoy this car and expect to do many more kilometres than the last owner, while keeping on top of the maintenance.