11 December 2012

Our Cars: Rob Sass’ 1979 Alfa Romeo Spider provides lots of bang for the buck

Rob Sass, Vice President of Content at Hagerty, has been infatuated with cars since he was a kid, religiously poring over issue after issue of Road & Track and dreaming of the day he would actually own an automobile of his own. That was years – and dozens of cars – ago. His stable of classics has included several Triumphs TR6s, a 1972 Porsche 911S, a 1963 Buick Riviera and a 1967 Maserati Mistral. After years as a lawyer who also wrote about cars, Sass eventually gave up his “day job” to become a full-time auto journalist. He has written for the Chicago Tribune, Business Week, AutoWeek, the New York Times and Sports Car Market, and he is the author of a book on affordable car collecting, “Ran When Parked.”

Employee: Rob Sass

Title: Vice President of Content

Years at Hagerty: 4

Car(s): 1979 Alfa Romeo Spider

Why an Alfa Romeo Spider? Summers in Traverse City (Mich.) are beautiful but short. I needed an inexpensive classic sports car, and in my opinion Alfa Spiders are among the best of the lot. For generally less than seven grand, you get Pininfarina styling, a twin-cam fuel injected four that makes decent power and great noise, a five-speed gearbox and one of the best convertible top designs of all time.

Repairs and Modifications: Just bought a new convertible top.

Hobby activities (clubs, events, etc.): I’m a member of the Jensen Owners Club and the Porsche Club of America.

Favorite Drive: San Jose, Calif., to Pebble Beach via Santa Cruz.

Any interesting stories? I got pulled over in the Alfa driving from St. Louis to Traverse City. When I was asked how fast I thought I was going, I could truthfully answer that I had no idea – the speedometer stopped working 100 miles into the drive. Fortunately, the officer took that at face value and gave me a warning. Immediately after, I downloaded a GPS speedometer app on my smart phone.

17 Reader Comments

  • 1
    paul pearlman long island, new york December 18, 2012 at 16:23
    Hi Jeff,Rob made a great choice. Have an 86 Spider, perfect for the ocean pkwy drives at night. Never understood why the value of these cars dont increase.My speedometer works, got pulled over doing 75, kind of top end for this car. Officer just wanted to see the car. His dad had one. Enjoy you Alfa.
  • 2
    greg freeman goodyear, az December 18, 2012 at 18:01
    Love the Alpha. About the cop. Same thing happened to me but it was the tach on my TR-4IRS. Was pulled over and the tach had been removed from the dash board for repairs. There was a big hole with a cable coming out and a shoe tag on the end of it. I told the officer that the speedometer was in for repairs and I did not know how fast I was going. It was dark, he saw the hole and said.."slow down." Now back to the Alpha. Love the driving attitude of the seats, the position of the gear box, but the rear axles don't provide much give. Still one of the classics!
  • 3
    Mitch Feingersch Los Angeles CA December 18, 2012 at 18:37
    This Alpha is a bit of mystery to me. It appears to have a sloped early tail rather than the latter Camm back or squared tail and the covered headlights give it away as being more like a 69 than a 79. Also, the bumpers have been painted black (they are supposed to be chrome on the earlier models) and mirrors are latter versions rather than the elegant earlier, correct ones for an early 2000.
  • 4
    alan Yankolonis Havre de Grace, Md. December 18, 2012 at 20:58
    Rob Great car and great choice. You will have lots of fun and DON"T touch the SPICA fuel injection! I have a 79 also all orginal with 45,000 miles, happy motoring Al
  • 5
    Joe Ventura, CA December 18, 2012 at 21:55
    For Rob's (and other Alfa 2000 cc Spider owners') benefit. If your speedometer breaks, use your tachometer as follows: While in 5th gear, double the value of the tach, e.g., 2000rpm=40mph, 3000rpm=60mph, 3500rpm=70mph, etc.
  • 6
    Ole Annapolis, MD December 19, 2012 at 13:44
    I had the opportunity to buy a friends 1967 boattail and didn't. Regretted it ever since. I agree that it has to be one of the best small sport car packages around for reasonable money.
  • 7
    Lou Formerly Ventura, CA December 19, 2012 at 14:15
    Joe, I have been using that technique for the last 25-30 yrs on my '74 Spider. Does the job very well on the Fwy.
  • 8
    Lou Formerly Ventura, CA December 19, 2012 at 14:15
    Joe, I have been using that technique for the last 25-30 yrs on my '74 Spider. Does the job very well on the Fwy.
  • 9
    Scott Fisher Tualatin, OR December 19, 2012 at 16:17
    No mystery -- the larger photo clearly shows this as a Kamm-tail or "Coda tronca," not the "osso di sepia" symmetrical rear of the early Duetto cars. The bumpers are indeed black rubber, consistent with the late-Seventies Spiders' concession to U.S. safety regs. The Carello headlight covers are readily available from a number of providers -- my '74 Spider (coda tronca plus stainless bumpers) came with them when I bought it, and Rob's '79 has them installed correctly, as does mine: with the headlight buckets mounted behind the fender cutout instead of in front (and with a stainless trim ring) as in U.S.-market cars. And Rob - I love the drive from Silicon Valley to Monterey -- lived in Sunnyvale for 13 years and bought my Spider while living there -- but if you're ever in the Portland, Oregon area, I will show you some drives that will have you singing "Nessun Dorma" for days!
  • 10
    John Maartin Spring City TN 37381 December 19, 2012 at 16:59
    I have a 1979 Fiat Spider with 89,000 miles on it I've had it 31 years and have a hart top for it.
  • 11
    John Alexandria, VA December 19, 2012 at 18:49
    I love my Spider (1991 Veloce). I'm the original owner and wouldn't give it up for the world. The low value, in my opinion, is dive by the junk that is generally available for sale. The cherry cars are kept a long time!
  • 12
    Stuart Loudonville, NY December 19, 2012 at 10:20
    My 87 Spider (I picked it up in December 1986) actually reached 104 with the top down when it was new. I luckily did not have an encouter with law enforcement and I wouldn't try that today! Greg & Mitch, while we Alfitsi appreciate you putting us first its an Alfa not Alpha.
  • 13
    Fred F. New York December 19, 2012 at 10:21
    Alfa spiders are great. Unfortunately DOT regulations forced replacement of the much more attractive euro front grill and bumper with an ugly big rubber one. Alfas make great, dependable long distance drivers. Last summer I drove my 73 Super from NY to CA and back without any issues. Next summer will do again via Route 66.
  • 14
    Fred F. New York December 19, 2012 at 10:21
    Alfa spiders are great. Unfortunately DOT regulations forced replacement of the much more attractive euro front grill and bumper with an ugly big rubber one. Alfas make great, dependable long distance drivers. Last summer I drove my 73 Super from NY to CA and back without any issues. Next summer will do again via Route 66.
  • 15
    Joe United States December 20, 2012 at 01:37
    Why do I always hear these stories of somebody getting pulled over because "the cop wanted to see the car"? In today's world that's inexcusable along with the other stunts that law enforcement pulls. If this ever happens to me I'm getting a badge number and filing a compliant!
  • 16
    Haig Haleblian Crystal Lake Il December 20, 2012 at 07:10
    I bought a 67 Duetto this past spring and love it. Have several early Porsches and just wanted to mix it up with something italian. The Duetto isn't better or worse than a 356 or 911, it has it's own unique charm and the lines are drop dead gorgeous. Reminds me of the 275 GTB I sold in 03, but that's another story. Oh well! And I love driving M21 from Pentwater to Traverse. Michigans version of PCH only better.
  • 17
    Dave Kayza Pacifica CA August 7, 2013 at 23:47
    I enjoyed your article on the Alfa Spyder. It reminded me of my '74 Spyder! As for drives in No. Cal try CA 84 to CA 35 S to CA 9 to Bolder Creek and on to Santa Cruz. Please just let the motor bikes pass! Now I enjoy a 2000 Miata and a 2005 Honda VFR!

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