1976 Alfa Romeo Spider Update - Faine 409

By: Jon Faine

Presented by

alfa romeo rust alfa romeo rust

Jon Faine proves that it's not easy having a good time particularly when you go and buy an old Alfa

The 1976 Alfa Romeo Kamm tail Spider is finished. I bought the car sight unseen in March 2016, knowing it had rust and the price reflected the condition. It is now rebuilt mechanically, has had serious metal surgery and now boasts fresh club plates. It has been a rollercoaster ride, full of surprises, some of which have featured in earlier articles.

A bit of the back story is important here. I had been looking for an Alfa Duetto for years but they hardly ever come to the market. If I was to get into a classic Alfa convertible at all it would require a rethink.

There are quite a few Kamm tail Spiders around, but the much prettier and rarer round tail cars are now fetching serious money. They deserve to, seductresses that they are. The later Kamm tail cars – with the square chopped boot and a different front profile, bigger motor and a few more creature comforts – are often US imports with bulbous rubber bumpers, often poor left-to-right conversions, single-booster brakes instead of dual systems and extra dash adornments such as the warning light for seatbelts that were never standard equipment elsewhere. They are significantly cheaper than an original rhd car to buy, and thus also harder to sell.

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My car is an original rhd Australian delivered 2000cc machine in go-fast red. Once the wonky head, carbies and brakes were sorted it was off to Bill the genius panel beater for fettling. Rust had eaten both outer sills, the rear valance, the rear lower quarter panels and there were some ugly cracks around the headlight buckets too. I know, you are surprised. Whoever heard of an old Alfa with rust? Even being optimistic it was going to require a heart and lung transplant at least.

Bill promised the car for mid-2016, then for my birthday in September 2016. Then for Christmas. Then he said it was looking like early 2017. Then Easter. Then he fessed up that he was getting his knee replaced and would not be able to do my car at all. Finding skilled people to work on old cars is getting harder and harder, but after a year of sitting idle my car was introduced to Adam and went off to his workshop for a quote. He wisely anticipated that there were all sorts of nasty ambushes awaiting him, and gave me an elastic quote allowing for everything between trouble free through to trouble plagued. Now some Alfa convertibles are not just plagued they are actually bubonic, but mine turned out only to be mildly poxed.

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First, a vicious attack with the grinder disposed of the remnants of the outer sills. Underneath looked like cholera mixed with chronic acne. Then the inner and outer rear valance, the inner wheel arches, some of the support brackets all needed fabricating. The cosmetic outer skins and quarter panels are all available and were ordered from Classic Alfa in the UK. They arrived within five days. Astonishing.

The excavation also revealed some previously unknown fibreglass repairs and significant puddles of bog. As many as eight layers of paint were found and removed. The new panels from England were mostly a good fit but tack welding them into place showed up more problems. Gaps and previous restoration revealed more shortcuts then a frantic taxi driver. Each time I visited or spoke to Adam his quote crept up in direct proportion to his anxiety, and climbed a notch towards the upper limit, but always with a full and frank explanation together with regular photographic progress reports.

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Finally the cutting and welding was over, the skinning and priming started and we got used to the idea that a usable Alfa would rise from the ashes. By the time some colour went on, it made all the stress fade into distant memory, all the hassles and mismatching panels now just part of the car’s history. Several coats of red, a cut and polish, some trim sorted and lo and behold – a finished car.

Driving home on a sunny day, with the roof down and the twin cam singing, the effort was all worthwhile. The radio doesn’t work – we forgot to provide a hole for an aerial in the repaint! The twin Dellortos burp at a flat spot at 2000rpm and the speedo needle has spasms. The first twenty kays saw the water temperature creeping up – then it cleared its throat and settled down nicely. Given the car has been dormant for several years, all is forgiven.

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Sods law applied as I cruised down the freeway to home. A newly painted car is an irresistible magnet to stones and by the time I got home there was a thumb nail sized paint chip right on the nose cone from a jerk going past with an unsecured ute load of gravel. The first blemish but no doubt not the last.

 

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