SPICA Today – Part 1

by Jon Inge – NW Alfa Romeo Club Communications Director (published with permission)

One of the more intriguing aspects of our classic Alfas has, to me, always been their SPICA mechanical fuel injection system.

   Introduced in 1969 to comply with the USA’s latest emissions regulations, it was fitted only to Alfas, and almost exclusively only to Alfas sent to the USA.

   Fuel injection wasn’t a new concept; it was first patented in 1872,  Rudolf Diesel adapted it for his diesel engine in 1894 and most aero engines during WW2 were injected.  All these were mechanical systems and their potential for generating higher performance through better fuel atomization and more precise delivery also led to their use in racing cars (Mercedes-Benz, Corvettes, Alfas) and high-end road cars (MB again, Maserati, high-end BMW 2002s and Porsche 911s).

   Introducing them to a full range of road cars, however, meant also exposing them to the full range of auto technicians across the country.  It wasn’t that the SPICA system was complex – so are carburetors – but that it was different.  It developed a reputation for being finicky and unreliable, but that was almost entirely due to it being maladjusted by well-meaning but inexperienced technicians.

   Its principal drawback was that, as a precision device made of very high-quality materials and built to very exacting standards, it was expensive to manufacture, and when electrically-controlled systems became available at lower cost, Alfa quickly adopted them.

   So when I came across Harry White’s 1975 Spider at the AROC Winter Retreat in February, I was intrigued to see that it had a much more modern Alfa Twin Spark engine fitted, but with a SPICA system replacing its standard electronic injection!  Could it be that SPICA still had advantages today?

   This of course led me to talk to Wes Ingram, who’d done the conversion, and I began to learn more about these fascinating devices.  I’ll cover our discussions in future articles, but for now I’ll just quote Wes: “After restoring over 4,000 Spica pumps we have learned so much, and we now find that they are far better than anyone ever realized when they were presented to America in 1969.”  More next month.