Special Edition Survivor: 1978 Alfa Romeo

Back in 1978, it was a really big thing when former Formula 1 champion Niki Lauda joined the Alfa Romeo F1 effort. So much so that 350 of this special edition of the venerable Alfa Spider were produced. Thanks go to Patrick S. for alerting us to this find, which is located in Sarasota, Florida and is advertised here on craigslist for $6,995.

Josh wrote up one of these previously back in 2014, but it was a much more neglected car. As you can see from the picture above, the car mimicked the color scheme of the Brabbham/Alfa car in the lower right corner. In case you don’t recognize him, that’s Niki on the fender.

Although this car has had four owners, one of them kept the car for 37 years and recorded all maintenance during that time; the records go with the car. Upon close examination the decals are a little bit deteriorated as you might expect, but the paint looks great (apart from a damaged area on the hood covered by the roundel) and the seller states it is rust-free. The car spent most of its time in Northern California, which probably accounts for at least part of the body condition.

The convertible top is in excellent shape as well. I’m wondering if that’s at least some paint oxidation on the trunk lid–what do you think?

You can see how the decals are showing their age in this shot. Replacement sets were available as of 2013 for almost $900. I’d be torn as to replacing them or living with what’s there.

The interior looks just as nice as the exterior. The seller chose not to include an engine picture, but has put a clutch in during the last year. These 2000 cc Spiders are said to have excellent engines, but I have heard mixed results regarding the fuel injection system. Do any of you have experience with this generation of Spider? Please share with the rest of us if you think this is a good buy!

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Comments

  1. Flmikey

    I live in Sarasota so if someone wants a set of eyes to look at this Alfa, let me know…personally, I have spent way too much time under alfa’s to want to buy one….

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  2. Dave Wright

    I have a 78 spider as does my brother. I have owned many Alfas, this 78 is as good as they get. It will sit for months, you pull the manual choke (yes with the original fuel injection) and it starts immediately. Always runs perfectly unlike the Weber equipped cars that I have owned that can be finicky. Ours if finished waiting for a new chrome bumper kit in the spring. I bought it for my wife, she drove it back to Idaho and got a speeding ticket in Nevada for 88 in a 65…..I am sure she was going faster than that. I think these cars are undervalued in the market today and will catch up as time goes. I see nice cars selling for 12-13,000. Ours is rust free now….after replacing the spare tire tray….it must have held something ugly there at some time but the part was available and simple to replace. It is sort of a British racing Green with a small gold flake, a brown top and glove leather interior. Very nice car at a junk Honda price.

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  3. David C

    I’m not in the market but if I was I like this one. All I can say is that if you’ve never driven one you are missing out. They are a blast to drive.

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  4. FlyingDrumstick

    Alfa’s with SPICA fuel injection really got an undeservedly bad rap. Was it as simple a carbs? Yes in some ways it was, and it certainly if left untouched, maintained a tune far longer than even Webers. In an age where everything was carbs (even through the 70’s) it gave a far broader range of drivability. Sure big bore Weber’s make more top end power, but SPICA was great for everyday driving.

    They shared the engine oil, so the injection pumps would wear if the oil wasn’t changed. They also require precise setup, if they are disconnected/taken apart. I think this is where the average mechanics of the day derided SPICA FI. Some have had issues with the cold start circuit, which is a very simple fix, but the uneducated tend to think the pump is out of whack and unnecessarily mess with it.

    I grew up with SPICA Alfas, both daily drivers and race cars and was always a fan. You really need to view them in the context of the period. Was a Kugelfischer setup better? Of course, it’s German, but it’s also more complex and expensive to service.

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  5. wuzjeepnowsaab

    22 pictures…couldn’t you pop the hood for at least one of them?

    Beautiful car that I’d love to own. I bet the exhaust note even speaks Italian

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  6. Rickyrover

    I had a ’78 and drove it many years without a problem. Mine was Alfa green with tan leather.The venerable twin cam is a great engine, and I never had issues with the fuel injection or anything else. The direct gearbox on these cars are wonderful. This is a rare car, worth more than asking price. How many Niki Lauda specials have you seen? The interior has been re-done and may not be real leather like the original. This car does have the original Campagnolo rims. Driver’s cars for sure with the traditional Italian feel for sporting fun on the road!

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  7. Bruce Best

    The SPICA fuel injection if maintained properly is a wonderful thing. The cold weather problems are far less important than the high altitude adjustment that was manual. I lived in Denver for a few years and would constantly go into the mountains in all seasons.

    The best time was skiing season. My Alfa would always start on the first or second rotation and I would pay for my lift fees, housing and food by jump starting a number of BMW’s, Mercedes, Audis and various American makes. After about the second month I had a number of those people asking me how i was able to start so easily. It was that engine, and fuel injection combination.

    It may share oil with the engine and it may have very limited electronics but it works and works very well in terms of daily operation. As for webber making more power than t is generally very problematic for I have a friend who has raced these spider for many years with the fuel injection slightly adjusted for the racing cams, pistons and other modifications and he is generally either winning or in the top five at the SCCA nationals in Atlanta. Given that he is about double the age of most of the other drivers says something about both the car and the reliability of the engine. He never has had to fiddle with the engine at any race like the street car it just works if you know what you are doing and you take care to do it right.

    As for the cars, perfect for a drive with your girlfriend, wife, or what ever other you consider important and that includes children. These cars can be magic their only flaw is the rust worm and for some the seating position for the drive.

    I wish they sill made them

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  8. Larry Tate

    Drove a green ’78 for nearly fifteen years in Phoenix. SPICA injection was the best thing ever. Never a fault, stumble, miss…never touched it, since there was no reason. It still had the factory tags over the adjusting screws…no one else had touched it either.

    The one thing these motors are somewhat prone to is head gasket blowouts. The aluminium head can move around, become unsettled and eventually POW! But, if you stay on it, avoid overheating, of course, and torque it down regularly, no problems.

    Here are a few great things about classic Alfas.
    1. They are Italian and as such, come complete with fully formed, unique personalities. Fun and somewhat impish, I would say…they love to play; they love to be loved. You’re a car person, so you know what I mean.
    2. The five Alfas I owned (I know, it was an addiction at one time) all had the most inexplicable ability to hold the road. Not just when driving exuberantly, but just rolling down the highway; they seemed to know where we were going and would somehow steer themselves right along. This makes Alfas an absolute joy to drive.
    3. They enjoy going fast and won’t even bother to let you know how far over the speed limit you’re going. Faster you go, the smoother they ride.
    4. The plastic bits crack and break and fall off, but the mechanicals are bulletproof.
    5. The top beats any English bonnet. Or boot. Or top or whatever they call it. No leaking.
    6. Geez. Do I need another?

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  9. Joe

    My ’74 GTV2000 runs cleanly – all the way up through the complete revs range. I don’t see the negative – concerning the SPICA injection.

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  10. Klharper

    I worked on one of these in the mid eighties and even as a young guy I thought the stripes were rather garish. The badge on the side was ok but the trunk spoiler seemed like a jc Whitney item stuck on. I think the spoiler on the rear did allow people like Paul Spruell run them on their race cars as having them on this car made them a “production” item.
    In regards to the headgaskets, the heads didn’t move around but more like the head gaskets themselves were lousy. You would start them cold rev them slightly and they would blow one of the six little o-rings and you would soon have oil in the water. I did so many head gaskets back then that I could do one in under 3 hours. This is no longer a problem as the head gaskets have changed. I haven’t replaced one for being just blown in years.
    It has become fashionable as of late to say how great Spica is. I have 2 Spica cars in the garage right now and I work with Wes quite a bit, and for the most part they work fine. But I still prefer webers and even the later Bosch.Weber do not go out of tune, Weber have too many screws that people want to turn when generally the problem is usually either ignition or an air leak in the rubber runners that have split because of not running a carb support. I don’t have a problem with running when cold or with tractibility. The biggest problem is that it takes time to set them up and not messing with them when they are.
    Spica is not a huge problem but parts are getting to be an issue and I have at least one car which Wes has rebuilt the pump and everything has been followed in wes’s book and it’s cold start still sucks.
    On a final note I would like to take one of these and convert it to the new Jenvey throttle bodies. That way you get the looks of a pair of Weber and the traceability of EFI. It should also perform much better than the Bosch cars as the Bosch cars are very restrictive.

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  11. Caruso

    Any update? Was it purchased? Pulled off market?

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