US-Spec LHD Spica 78,500 miles (“Cat”)
Caterina (“Cat”)* is 54 years old and counting, 33 years in my custody… but it’s time for someone else to take on her guardianship.
But what’s she worth: as is? on the road? overseas?
- As Is / Where Is: Sell to a Kiwi who brings a trailer. This is easy, but does not get the best price. I sold my 1972 Bristol 411 this way to an Auckland collector with over 50 classic cars. He kept pestering me to sell, got a bargain, but it meant it would get back on the road
- As is / In America: I list it on Bring a Trailer including international delivery and sell it as it sits. Surprisingly, this has worked well for me over the years… 1966 Alfa Spider to Japan, 1971 Mini Ute to the US where they were worth 5X what they were in NZ
- VIN/NZ: I make it roadworthy with VIN, Rego, WOF: Take it to Tony Morgan to get the mechanicals sorted. Identify the right panel beater to address the damage done by the restoration shop. I did this in 1998 with my 1979 Alfa Spider and 1966 Bristol 409, later both sold. Still have the 82 G-wagon.
- Keeper as a 69 Point Restoration: I finish the car but do not bother with NZ VIN – ship it back to the US to be sold. That was the goal with this 69 Spider, but I never got around to it and I now have too many cars to justify keeping her
- 85-90 point Restoration NZ>US/EU: International Buyer buys it as-is, but restores in NZ before shipping overseas. I did this with my Bristol 405DH and 410, except instead of NZ, the buyer had both shipped back to the factory to be remanufactured as new.
With each of these options, what is a fair market price?
This web page is to seek advice, and if someone is interested in buying it now, I provide a detailed assessment of what is needed to bring her back to glory.
Cat’s story in words and pics
1969: Brand new car, colour white, sold by Gaston Andre West, the Alfa Dealer in Framingham Massachusetts, to Gail Bryan, an international photographer. In 1978, after returning from 4 months in Nepal, Gail was distracted and she allowed the car to run out of oil. The engine was rebuilt by the dealer. Then in 1980, having just come back from Italy, she was stopped at a light when a car rear-ended her, causing injury. She kept the damaged car for a year, but a bit spooked, finally sold it to Carl and Fay Bolivar (both now deceased). Carl was President of the New England Alfa Club, a very active group of enthusiasts.
As a footnote, when I spoke to Gail in 1992, she said if I ever decided to sell the car, she would like to buy it back, but no response when last I wrote her – she would be 83 now, but internet suggests she is still alive.
Rear-ended at 30 mph, shunted into car in front. Photos provided by the late Faye Bolivar. She also gave me some slides from her showing the red donor car.
1981 Carl Bolivar undertook a complete what Faye described as a careful and faithful restoration of the car. Rather than repair the rear, they replaced the boot (trunk) and guards (fenders) with undamaged parts from a red 69 Alfa Spider. She was painted in a lavender silver colour called “purple haze”. She was used in autocross and rallies.
1985, after Carl died, Faye carefully vetted prospective buyers and sold the car with 59,403 miles on it. The next buyer (D.H.) was a caretaker from 1985-1988.
1988 D.H. sold her with 70,171 miles to S.B. the 4th buyer in 1988 who kept it for a year.
1990: By the time I saw her advertised in Hemmings and drove up to Boxboro to take a look, she was a bit tired, but it showed that someone previously had taken care of her. I bought her on the spot, left my 1979 Spider on the road and drove the 69 home. Even though the engine was smaller than the 1979 2000 Spider, it was far more responsive, a much more fun car to drive… the last pure Alfa before regulators intervened.
Reportedly, the Italians were so worried about the new US pollution rules that they took the mechanical fuel injection developed for the Type 33 racing prototype (read the story here). By the 1990’s Alfa owners were removing the Spica and replacing it with Webers, but as I owned both a Euro Spec 1750 Spider with Webers and the 1750 Spica, and found in every way the US spec was far superior. So instead replacing the Spica, I eventually sent it to Wes Ingram for reconditioning.
She had 75,900 miles on the odometer with all prior registrations in Massachusetts, I registered her south of the border in Rhode Island and put the custom plate SPYDER on it. With a little attention she ran great and was used exclusively used as a summer and early autumn (leaf season) car. The top was never up and she was never driven in rain. Stored in a carcoon bag in the barn in Jamestown Rhode Island during the winter and spring. An island car for fun, she was occasionally driven to Lime Rock race track for club track days. Reliable enough to drive her home afterwards.
1995: As my business prospered, I started putting money into her, new paint (from lavender to red), Wes Ingram rebuild of the Spica fuel injection matched to 1/4 race cams he supplied, and the usual things, like brakes and tyres. I made a practice of going to the top Alfa mechanic in the region, asking what typically goes wrong on the 105/115 series and then replace those bits all at once. I’ve done this with every Alfa I owned, and they all ran reliably for the next decade.
Hydro Blast Auto Body, the paint shop I used in Tiverton Rhode Island was renowned for excellent quality work at fair prices. But as this was for my own entertainment, and in 1995, a 105 Alfa was just another older sports car – not a collectible with value to justify a 95 point restoration, I did not do a bare metal job. Instead I removed all the the easy chrome bits, the body was sanded back, long-blocked and painted in a classic Alfa red. Since the rear clip was red originally, it was a coin toss between red or white, but aren’t all Italian cars supposed to be red?
Unfortunately, while Classique did an excellent job with the rust, they subsequently seemed more interested in monthly billings than putting the car back together. After there was virtually no progress for a year – and the car suffered from spilled shop paint, dings from tools dropped on it and a broken side light lens. By that time, I had built a garage and workshop, so I gave up and towed her home.
I slowly put her back together, but frustrated to find they lost the transmission mount, which as it happens was solely made for the 1969 year. That delayed a year until I travelled to the states to collect the right one in an Alfa a wrecking yard in the remote mountains of Western Connecticut who charged me 5X the price for the more common one – no complaint, he knew its value and I was happy to have it.
The shop also lost one of the inner panel behind the front tyre, but that should not be difficult to fabricate.
The parts of the body in primer as seen in the photo below, were necessary to pass VIN and restore originality, but it was sad to have a new paint job cut apart only two years later.
But as I had a running 1979 Alfa Spider that had been VIN’d while the 69 was in the shop, there was no pressing need to get the 69 on the road.
Years turned into decades.
At one point my wife declared herself a Mercedes gal, wanting an SLK (R170). I was pleased to find the old 79 Alfa was now a collectible and sold for double what the SLK cost. More recently, I fell off a roof and fractured my back, so we sold the 2001 SLK and replaced it with a much softer riding R172 model. My petrolhead days are fading, and in three years LTSA will declare me an older driver, requiring I pass a medical to show I am competent to drive. It was a good run while it lasted.
This photo shows is how Cat sat for years, on stands as I found the parts in boxes and slowly reassembled the car.
Still to do:
- Get the brakes working – put in new calipers, rebuilt the master as well as the clutch slave, replaced the brake lines, but can’t seem to bleed them despite using an air bleeder
- Have a professional reinstall the front windscreen
- All the stuff to start the engine for the first time in 25 years. Likely the clutch will be stuck. Need a new battery and anything else that suffered from not being driven for more than half its life
- Install the new seat upholstery and the new convertible roof – may use a professional to ensure it is done right
- Off to the panel beater. The paint was lovely, uncertain if it needs a full paint or partial. Of course a bare-metal is the premium way to go, but if I am selling the car, is it worth it?
- Whatever VIN requires – NZ seat belts, probably an exemption on shoulder belts unless the roll bar is made permanent, high stop light. While the tyres are new and no cracks, having been purchased in 1997, I would be surprised if they were deemed safe
- Full tonneau cover (as well as standard convertible roof cover)
- 1990’s era roll bar
- 1990’s racing harness seat belts
- Extra rims and other extra parts
- Magnetic body protector when working on car with Alfa logos
- Manuals, magazines
- Wooden steering wheel from newer Alfa (probably 1979), never installed
Cat moves six metres from the back of the workshop to the front. Car cover taken off for photographs and to assess what to do.
Annoying, the shop spilled primer on the front and left it there. The stainless steel bits could use a professional off-body polish. The windscreen is not affixed. The plastic headlight covers need a good cut and polish or possibly just buy new ones.
Bit of a wrinkle by the driver side boot hinge. Someone must have closed the boot with a tool in the way.
New upholstery ready for the seats – matches the original. I do have a later model wooden steering wheel, which I prefer, but the car is so original (except for the carpets), it’s a tough call
The carpets are not original. At the time, no one was remanufacturing the rubber floor covers. Now they are remanufactured with the Alfa logo in the rubber and can be purchased from https://classicalfa.com/in101-lhd-complete-mat-set-roundtail-spider/
The engine compartment is showing 23 years of sitting. The red paint job was not an engine-out so the lavender paint remains in the engine bay.
Actual miles is correct. This car has had a gentle life to be sure.
Even has the original owners manual, albeit a bit worse for wear.
New seat upholstery matching the original, ready to be installed, includes headrests
And one day she will be restored to all her glory