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Driving Your Alfa Spider

It has been said that every Alfa is a race car. This actually isn’t much of an exaggeration. Alfa has a long, deep, and successful history of racing in many different classes, and the cars they designed have always reflected this. They are built to be DRIVEN. One of the worst things you can do to an Alfa Spider (ANY Alfa, for that matter) is to let it sit or drive it conservatively. These cars are designed with the expressed intent of going fast and hard.

This is not to say you should go out and be an idiot in your Spider. Never drive any car hard before it has spent at least five minutes at full operating temperature. You run the risk of very serious damage if you don’t. Always obey your local traffic rules. Seriously, driving your Spider hard isn’t worth you slamming into a family of five in a minivan or bouncing off a lorry. Trust me, the minivan wins every single time.

The cars were designed in northern Italy, and tend to be at their best on twisty mountain roads rather than dragstrips or interstates (Spiders’ drivetrains are too fragile for the former, and the cars are too noisy for the latter). Try to find some low-traffic back roads that you can go ripping up and down on and still remain under the speed limit.

It is interesting how tolerant the locals tend to be of this. In Northwest Arkansas (where I owned my first Alfa), no one would move aside when I came up behind them on the twisty mountain roads the region is famous for in my Plymouth Duster (exercising their rightful Christian duty to protect me from myself, in this case). However, about 40% of the time they would happily move aside and wave me through when I came whistling up behind them in my Alfa.

Every once in awhile go tearing through the gears, right up to the red line, when you’re accelerating onto the highway. And while they are not built for it and you should be careful, it’s always fun to shut down an uppity Ford Probe or Chevy Cavalier at a stoplight.

Because of the weakness of the synchros in the gearbox, the reader is advised to learn, and practice, "double-clutch" shifting, especially on downshifts. To do a successful double-clutch shift, quickly… put the clutch IN, pull the shifter into neutral, let the clutch OUT, blip the throttle, put the clutch IN, select the next gear, let the clutch OUT. It makes shifting much easier, especially on a cold gearbox, and sounds really cool.

The bottom line is you should always take your Alfa out at least once a month and just drive the heck out of it. Not only will it keep the car’s seals and gaskets functioning, it will also put a smile on your face so wide the top of your head will be in danger of falling off.

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By Scott Johnson - Copyright 1996 - Third Edition, Released August 2001 - All Rights Reserved.