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Porsche 944, Mazda MX-5, Alfa Spider: three sports for less than 20,000 euros

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Porsche 944, Mazda MX-5, Alfa Spider
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A m fabric roof is the generational change to recognize is a common wisdom among convertible drivers; one of those wise sayings that ostensibly speak an obvious truth. The more modern the convertible, the easier it is to open. With many current convertibles, a push of a button is enough to submerge the fabric roof. But this is only half the truth. The roadster is not really open. And the laborious removal of the roof bars and the stowing of the bulky parts in the front trunk does not create a completely open driving experience.

With the Alfa Spider, the sky is the quickest to see

This is it First surprise of the convertible exit: the Alfa, the oldest concept among the candidates, opens the fastest. If you do without the unwieldy tarpaulin and accept unsightly kinks in the plastic rear window, a traffic light stop of a few seconds is sufficient to open the lever on the windshield and fold the roof skin back while sitting.

Yes the roof levers are more manageable and easier to move than in the Alfa, but the recommended opening of the rear window with a zip requires an additional handle. You can also do without it, but the thin plastic disc thanks it with longer transparency. The roof of the Porsche opens Electric request - that cost an extra charge of 1,920 marks in 1989 - but the hooks on the windscreen have to be released manually with an insertable key. And as with Alfa and Mazda, a bulky cover can be pulled over the folded top. But you should actually do it with the Porsche: The 944 folding roof is unattractive, while the slender roofs of Mazda and Alfa disappear almost invisibly behind the seats.

Finding: Italian cars are better off

'I wanted the Spider in this yellow', reveals Susanne, who is the managing director of an Internet company in normal life. Before the Spider, she drove a Fiat Barchetta and Mercedes SLK, but found the new roadster too unemotional. 'I'm happy every time I see the Spider, it's just a dream'. Without a doubt, the designers of the Pininfarina drawing boards had a happier hand with the facelift of the Spider for the 1990 model year than with the design of the predecessor from 1983.The unsightly front and rear spoilers disappeared. Lacquered baffles at the front and rear fit more harmoniously into the 36-year-old line than the black soft plastic attachments of the rubber lip.

The changes under the gorse-yellow sheet metal are almost more important. Instead of the Bosch L-Jetronic, which brought the Kat version of the predecessor to just 115 hp, a modern Bosch Motronic provides the right mixture and 120 hp in the fourth series of the Spider. It's a bit like the operas: even profane messages in Italian sound theatrical and meaningful to Teutonic ears. Giallo Ginestra is the name of the color of Susanne Lohrmann's Alfa Spider 2000, and that sounds a little more dramatic than gorse yellow.

Alfa Spider - more comfort and more power ensure more driving pleasure

Almost more important are the changes under the gorse-yellow sheet metal. Instead of the Bosch L-Jetronic, which brought the Kat version of the predecessor to just 115 hp, a modern Bosch Motronic provides the right mixture and 120 hp in the fourth series of the Spider. In addition, the two-liter Spider received power steering as standard, which gives the aging chassis a significant increase in agility. There were electric windows and Alcantara seats, as well as an electric antenna, a leather steering wheel and five light alloy wheels in 15-inch format in a design that American Alfa fans call 'Cookie Cutter'.

The US Spider fans had even more wishes: From 1990 onwards they could choose an automatic transmission and air conditioning from the option list. These fully loaded Alfa are very popular in the USA today: For well-kept specimens, more than 15,000 dollars are sometimes required. The Alfa today surprises with the most open and direct driving experience of all three sports cars. You sit quite high behind the low pane with the graceful window pillars and can sensitively regulate the intensity of the fresh air supply with electric window regulators and the two triangular windows - without any wind deflector. The two-liter double ocher reinforced with Kat sounds better than feared. More subdued than a carburettor Alfa, and not quite as willing to turn, but unmistakable like the aluminum engine that debuted in the 1954 Giulietta Sprint and only disappeared with the last 164 Twin S park from 1998. The 120 hp are enough to easily swim along on the country road. After all, the Spider accelerates from standstill to 100 km /h in just under 12 seconds and runs 191 km /h.

What remains of the last Alfa Spider is that incomparable shift feeling that Bertone and Giulia have had for decades. Pilots enthusiastic. The long gear stick glides precisely from gear to gear, the Porsche patent locking synchronization still needs to be carefully outwitted, and the gradation of the five gears fits the engine perfectly.

That the Alfa Spider 1990 but something in theYears ago and technically it had lost something of the lead that the Duetto undoubtedly had on its debut in 1966, you can tell when you switch to the Mazda MX-5.

Mazda MX-5: Return of the affordable dream car

In the little Japanese, everything is a bit more playful, the handling is sharper. The Mazda turns in happier and threatens with too much speed with suddenly breaking out rear. When it was first introduced, the Mazda MX-5 was a real sensation. Nobody would have thought the Japanese manufacturer, which was otherwise known for solid and well-behaved citizens' cars, such a fun car. Not even auto motor und sport author Clauspeter Becker, who celebrated the Mazda MX-5 Miata as the “return of the affordable dream car” in issue 19/1989 under the title “California Dreaming”. Becker praised the very well-tuned chassis, the pleasant suspension and the excellent gearbox, but did not forget to note that 1.6 liter displacement might be a bit small. 'The brisk driving in the mountains,' said Becker, 'calls for a lively use of the gearshift lever and tolerating a lot of tours.' But that didn't prevent him from buying a Mazda MX-5 after the Miata drive in California, so to speak order that he has today.

Roland Wolf was also one of the first German Mazda MX-5 owners. He has owned his roadster since the spring of 1990 and does not even think about giving it up. 'When the Mazda MX-5 appeared at the time, it was like a bang. Several of my friends buy one, including me,' remembers Wolf today. 'The only thing I had problems with was the brand. I couldn't imagine driving a Mazda, so I removed all the lettering from the car.' Roland Wolf no longer has problems with the brand today. He now even has a second, newer Mazda MX-5 - with lettering and emblems.

The amazing thing about the petite Mazda is that, despite its minimal size, it offers a very good seating position even for tall drivers. It's narrower than the Alfa, but you sit a lot better in it. On the road with the Mazda MX-5, the realization comes that they were all right - all those testers who praised the agile engine, the good handling and the rigidity of the body. But other standards apply to a classic.

Mazda as a model student

After a long time driving and thinking, the Mazda MX-5 lacks a little flair. He is a bit like those model students who were very pretty and smart and always neatly dressed, but with whom you had never fallen in love. Please don't misunderstand, the Mazda MX-5 is a great car that is extremely fun to drive - a milestone in Japanese car history that can do a lot better than the Alfa and a lot better than the Porsche. It lacks the sports car tradition of Alfa Romeo and Porsche to perfection,those worlds of experience and memories that only take place in the minds of the driver and that therefore cannot be built into a car by any flair or marketing department.

Typically Swabian: the Porsche 944 S2

Living in the Porsche 944 S2 these worlds in abundance. The seriousness of the Swabian sports car manufacturer is evident in every switch, every lever and every detail of the open Porsche 944 felt. Nothing can be seen today that the convertible should have suffered from quality defects at the beginning of its production period. In any case, Peter Weil's black Porsche 944 convertible is immaculate. As immaculate as a twelve year old used car can be. No wonder, because Weil is Regional Manager South for the 924/944/968-IG, and he knows what matters with the Porsche 944: 'A well-cared for, well-maintained car is suitable for everyday use and as reliable as a new Golf. And it is more expensive to maintain neither.' It also looks as solid as a new Golf on a test drive. The three-liter four-cylinder with its powerful pistons stamps its maximum torque of 280 Newton meters on the shaft after 4,000 tours. Correspondingly vehemently and emphatically, the Porsche starts moving from idling speed.

Only the sound of the large-piston engine is a little disappointing. A gasoline engine in a large off-road vehicle could sound similarly. The driving performance is above such petty comments: the Porsche 944 S2 shoots from 0 to 100 in 7.3 seconds and runs at a top speed of 240 km /h if necessary. Any questions? The open body looks so unshakable that a Mazda and especially the Alfa seem like soft rattles. 'You can', wrote Eckhard Eybl in a test in auto motor und sport 13/1989 about the Porsche convertible, 'suddenly openly admit your inclination for the Porsche 944, so to speak the late rehabilitation for an unsuitable affair in the Porsche- Family.'

Complicated production routes for the Porsche 944

We remember: the four-cylinder convertible was built in cooperation with the American company ASC, which built an assembly plant for it in Weinsberg near Heilbronn. The bodyshells came from Neckarsulm, were stripped of the roof and provided with stiffeners before they were transported back to Neckarsulm. At Audi, the now open Porsche 944s received the powertrain and interior fittings before they returned to ASC for final assembly. The complicated process supposedly ensured that the first open Porsche 944 did not quite meet the Porsche quality criteria.


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