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Hi all,
I've recently inherited my dad's '87 Spider, and I'm trying to figure out what I'm in for. I'd like to get it to where it's a reliable summer driver, and I'm wondering what are the big major things I need to look into first. I'm not a stranger to working on 80s classics, but I've never had an Alfa and don't know anything about how easy/difficult it is to get parts, service, or what the common problems are. Also, where are the best places to source parts? I'm in the U.S. (Michigan) and I've read a few posts about sites like classicalfa, alfaholics, but they all seem to be UK based. How bad is shipping going to be, or is there somewhere stateside that I should try first?

Current issues: exterior driver's door handle non-functional; driver's mirror doesn't move, while using the lever in the door you can hear a motor whirring; parking break doesn't stay fully engaged; interior fabrics deteriorating (mainly driver's leather seat, rear carpeting); random electrical issues; possibly a gearbox issue, grinds going into 2nd no matter what; no power steering - JK THAT'S A FEATURE!

Which of those things are going to be easy to fix, and which are going to be a huge pain? I think I'm going to have to open up the driver's door to fix the handle, at which point I'll probably want to fix the power mirror too, so that seems like an obvious starting point.

Otherwise it's pretty clean, very little rust, lowish mileage, top is an after-market replacement that keeps the water out, starts and runs well, clutch seems smooth, engine strong. It's a pretty car and I'd like to do it justice, but I also don't want to sink a ton of $$/time into it (famous last words). What are the first, best things I can focus on and what do I need to know to avoid the big headaches?

Thanks!

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That looks like a nice car, well worth spending some time and (hopefully not too much) cash on.

This forum is very helpful but you will get more US oriented support on this site Spider - 105 & 115 Series (1966-1994) . Its particularly useful if your car has the SPICA fuel injection, rather than carbs, and also with wiring diagrams which are a little different for US compared to European. I think yours will be L-Jetronic fuel injection and, again, there is a good guide to this on the BB.

There are good US suppliers like Centreline, although a lot of the American fold do buy from the UK and often find the delivery times quicker and no more expensive.

2nd gear grind is a classic feature, the syncro wears on the 2nd gear more than on others. People just live with it, otherwise its a gearbox rebuild.

Electrical issues are usually bad connections and corroded ground points. Its worth going through all the fuses, connectors and relays and cleaning them up, as well as the ground points.
 

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your '87 spider is an L-jetronic spider (S3)
this is the injection trouble shooting guide Anglospider was referring to:
L-Jetronic Technical Info - Alfa Romeo Spider

wheels are interesting.....what make? (I have seen them before but can't put a name to them)

Parts supplies in USA are basically, Centerline, Alfissimo, Alfa Parts (Berkeley), Vick's Auto, and a few others. A very good address for good used parts is APE (Alfa Parts Exchange) in good ol' California.
Many parts are available in EU/GB and sometimes the shipping from UK to USA can be quicker than from USA to USA, as Nick says.
Typical good UK suppliers are Classic Alfa, EB Spares, Highwood alfa, Alfaholics
Here in Germany, Bertelsbeck, OKP and a few others are very reliable spares sources.

"exterior driver's door handle non-functional": you mean it will not open from outside but opens from inside?....if so likely the latch inside the door has slipped:
(you need to remove the interior door card to get in there!)
scroll down to post #7 here for photos:
Door handles inop from outside?
If you mean it will not lock from the outside that is a different issue altogether.

"driver's mirror doesn't move, while using the lever in the door you can hear a motor whirring"
lever in the door?

(EDIT: OK, I think I get it now: "while using the lever" (as in the switch on the console, which has a little joystick)....."in the door you can hear a motor whirring")

If it whirrs, but doesn't move, you could try moving the glass with your fingers at the same time as operating the switch...it might get it to move. Otherwise remove the back casing on the door mirror and lubricate/inspect the little motor:
post #5 here ought to help some:
Power Mirror Glass Removal

"parking break doesn't stay fully engaged"
likely the little toothed ratchet under the park brake lever has worn.
you can get these new (if that is the problem)
Ratchet Brake Lever 105/115 | Centerline International

"random electrical issues"
they all have that;)
....can't help till we know which 'issues':)

"possibly a gearbox issue, grinds going into 2nd no matter what"
common problem. You can try draining whatever oil is in there and refilling with "Redline 75/90NS" gear oil...(has to be the NS type)...might help some, if not, a rebuild is due. But easier to try the oil first:)
Most alfa drivers have learned to double de-clutch.

"no power steering"
should've bought an S4 spider (USA 1991-94).....nah! just kiddin'

your spider looks very nice.
Dom
 

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The gearbox will progressively get worse, with more gears crunching. I would live with what you've got til it becomes annoying. Gearbox rebuild is expensive, but is well worth doing as a big part of the Alfa S3 experience is in the gearchange !! The only other advice I'd give is pay a proper good Alfa specialist (yes, $$$) to fix the jobs you can't or don't want to do. An Alfa is no good in the garage, it needs to be driven and enjoyed.
 

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SS4 mentions changing the gearbox oil, I would strongly encourage changing ALL fluids before you start driving it, engine, gearbox and rear axle.
 

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Discussion Starter #6
Hey all, thanks for all the helpful advice.
Car is currently sitting while I wait for new wheel posts because, surprise, front passenger wheel was missing two, plus a third nut, which I only discovered upon first driving it and noticing some troubling shake. I got lucky the wheel didn't come off on me!
Speaking of, spiderserie4 the wheels are Hiyashi Racing. No idea what specific model, or who originally put them on the car.
 

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Hayashi Racing Street-II (Command 800)
classic japanese wheel, will have the japanese manufacture standard "JWL" and "VIA" stamped on the front rim.
If you remove a wheel on the back should be "Hayashi Racing" on one of the spokes and "Street-II" on another

you don't often see them on alfa, more on toyotas, ford capris etc.
 
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