- S​pider on the Col de l'Iseran

A​lfa Spider Road Trip

2w ago


My Alfa Romeo Spider was 18 this year so it seemed appropriate to take it back to the factory that built it for a photo op. Given all of the issues I've had with it since buying it two years ago (dropped valve, broken window, refusing to start) a 2000 mile road trip seemed like a crazy idea at first but, having spent time putting things right, she was running well so I booked ferries and hotels and set off at the end of August

T​he first stop on the trip was at Zandvoort to attend the Spettacolo Sportivo event hosted by SCARAB, the Dutch Alfa Romeo Owners Club. This was organised as a celebration of 100 years of Zagato with more Alfa Romeo SZ and RZ cars than I've seen in one place before.

O​ne of the appeals of the event was that you could book a session on the track. This was made all the more interesting by the knowledge that this would be an F1 track in 2020. C​oming around to the start finish line after the first full lap there was a loud crunch. At this point I wondered about the wisdom of driving at full chat around a race track at the start of the holiday. Fortunately the noise came from a car to our side and not us.

All in all we got seven laps around Zandvoort in amongst the 4Cs, Giulia Quadrifoglio, and other 916s. I had to take it a little easy on the braking after a couple of laps, but it was a great experience even though the track was packed.

A​fter Zandvoort we spent a couple of days driving down the French Autoroutes before crossing Switzerland to enter Italy via the Great St Bernard Pass. This would be our second traverse of the pass, this time in sun rather than driving rain, and we were looking forward to spotting the shots used in opening sequence of The Italian Job. Especially with it being the 50th Anniversary of the film's release.

W​e were glad for the climb up to altitude as the temperature was in the high 30s centigrade and the air-conditioning in the Spider doesn't work. We did have the roof down but all that did was blow hot air past us. It probably had a little cooling effect but less than I'd expected and I really wished I'd fixed the air-con.

T​he one thing I wasn't so keen on was the rough idle as we climbed. It appears that our Spider doesn't like altitude. The higher we climbed the worse it got. Gear shifts needed power left on to stop it stalling and braking at the top was perilous as there was little pressure in the system.

P​arked at the summit of the Great St Bernard Pass

A​fter an overnight stop in Aosta the next stop was at one of the Hotels in the Lingotto in Turin. Looking on the map the Autostrada would take an hour and a half to get to Turin. That would be a boring drive and looking at the map there was a much more interesting one via Val d'Isere. The only problem being the altitude and whether the Spider was up to it.

I​nstead of committing to the whole route I decided to try the first climb, up the Piccolo San Bernardo, and see how things looked then. We could always retrace our tracks and take the main roads if things were looking too bad.

O​ther than the traffic the climb passed without incident. There was the same rough idle at the top, but things recovered as we dropped back down, and so the decision was made to press on.

Resting on the Piccolo San Bernardo

S​topping in Val d'Isere for lunch there was a decision to make. We were about halfway around, do we go back over the Piccolo or press on up and over the Col de l'Iseran? As the latter is highest paved pass in Europe and we would have a few days in Turin for the car to rest we decided to carry on.

The climb was uneventful and a fun drive. A​t the top I did think about stopping but the engine was really rough at that point, you can hear it on the video, so decided instead just to roll down and hope it recovered. Getting passed by a cyclist on the way down was a little embarrassing but I blame the car in front for holding me up!

T​he run down to Turin was uneventful and we arrived in the early evening at the hotel in the former Lingotto FIAT factory.

A​fter a couple of days in Turin looking at the sights it was time to head off and find the factory that produced our Spider. Initial production of the 916 cars was in Arese in Milan but this was switched to the Pininfarina factory at San Giorgio Canavese⁩. Sadly the factory closed a number of years ago but it is still standing.

I​ts a little sad that the factory that produced so many lovely cars is going to ruin, but times change. The next stop was the Museo Storico Alfa Romeo in the old factory at Arese. We'd been a couple of years ago in a Maserati, it would have been a shame not to take our Spider there too.

T​he next week was spent travelling around Liguria before making the long trip back to Zeebrugge to catch a Ferry back home. We had the time so did the reverse trip over the Great St Bernard pass. This time the weather was a little less hospitable and by the time we got to the top it was cold.

A​ll in all we did 2100 miles at an average of 32 mpg. Not too shabby for an 18 year old considering all of the climbs we had along the way. Other than the rough running at altitude and a stop for brake fluid on the way home, it would have been ok but I hate driving with warnings on, the Spider behaved well. It took the heat, the long runs, and the uneven mountain road in its stride. This was the first long trip in her but it won't be the last.

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