ROOFTOP IN A ROOF - FAINE 398

By: Jon Faine

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Faine strikes it lucky with a hardtop for his softop Alfa Spider

I bought an Alfa Spider a while ago. They are glorious rust buckets, but once cosmetically and mechanically sorted they reward the driver and owner handsomely. And they have a pretend rear seat.

My dear beloved specified that if I was indeed intent on the mid-life crisis convertible, could it at least accommodate the hound so we could all go together for picnics, beach swims, coffee and gelato. So that was the excuse I was waiting for – a Spider it was going to be.

After months of chasing, an original Australian delivered Kamm tail car was eventually found, bought and – as previous magazine articles have described – made to run close to the way it was designed. It even came with a brand-new top-quality soft top.

Anyone familiar with the 105 series Alfa is well aware that although closing the roof is a simple one hand operation, it is really only a shower roof, unsuited to a solid winter. The preferred alternative is the genuine – and rarer than rocking horse poo – Alfa Romeo genuine factory optional hardtop.

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Last time I saw one advertised it was years ago on a popular on-line auction site that rhymes with eBay. Advertised in the UK, the opening bid was two thousand pounds. I have also seen them for sale in the USA for $5k. Factor in the freight and they are very pricey items.

So imagine my surprise to be killing time one evening on a popular online sales website whose name rhymes with Gumtree and there is an ad for an Alfa Spider hardtop. In a nearby suburb. For only one thousand dollars. And complete and in unmolested condition.

With trembling hands, I dial the number, speak to the seller, agree to buy it and the very next day head but ten minutes from home with a pocket of cash. The cavernous 4WD barely manages to carry my prize, but eventually I get it home to the shed.

Then what do I do with it? What the hell do you do with a hard top that is not going to be on the car most of the time?

After tripping over it, scratching it, and almost putting a size 10 boot through the glass window, I decide it needs to find a home up off the floor. Meccano and Heath-Robinson based devices are sketched out, visits to marine suppliers and hardware superstores result, and eventually I concoct my unique patented elaborate roof storage system for hardtop roofs. Anyone with any engineering qualifications ought immediately look the other way.

First challenge – it has to lend itself to solo operation. Second requirement – it has to be out of my way. It most likely will sit there for decades without being used – but you don’t pass up the chance to grab a hard top for your Alfa Spider when the opportunity comes your way. Third rule – it has to be strong enough to secure the load but soft enough not to damage even the rubber seals. Fourth – it must not cost more than the bloody thing was to buy.

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I experiment with various lifting systems. Snatch straps from the big 4WD trip a few years back have been sitting idle ever since, regularly staring down at me from the top shelf, wondering what was their purpose in an increasingly confusing world.  Along with their companion D shackles – also undergoing an existential crisis – they are resurrected and enjoy a new lease of life. I figure if they are strong enough and resilient enough to lug a few tonnes of Toyota out of a bog they ought be able to cope with the plastic and glass hard top.

A productive visit to the neighbourhood marine supplies shop sees me wander out with some stainless steel pulleys and a hand winch. Throw in a detour to the camping shop for some carabiners and we were almost in business.

I want to protect my asset during what might well be – let’s face it – prolonged storage. Now I concede it is unconventional but kitchen cling wrap is brilliant for many things other than last night’s left over chicken, and in about ten minutes my investment was secure.   The carabiners keep the snatch straps where I want them, the pulleys and D shackles connect with stainless eye bolts to the roof beams and we are in business. The winch is bolted to a plate attached to the steel garage shelves and once my little prize is gently lifted and secured aloft, I have rested the winch by taking the weight onto two long square section steel tubes that bridge the roofing girders.

My roof is in the roof. Where all sensible roofs should be. After all, only an idiot would put a hardtop on a soft top anyway.

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