Alfa Romeo Spider history
The Alfa Romeo Spider is rightly considered one of the classic sports car designs of the nineteen sixties. The original “Duetto” was designed and built by Pininfarina, it was also sadly the last car the great Battista Pininfarina worked upon, he died a month after the car was launched.
This Italian roadster was produced between 1966 and 1994. This long production-run led to many different models and facelifts that can prove confusing. Carphile.co.uk attempts to untangle the web of models looking back at the history of the original Alfa Romeo Spider.
Alfa Romeo Spider Series 1 “Duetto” (1966-67)
The Series 1 Spider, or Duetto, was launched at the 1966 Geneva Motor Show before stealing the show in the 1967 Dustin Hoffman movie The Graduate where it was driven by Hoffman’s character Ben. These early cars became known as “boat tail” Spiders, due to their distinctive rounded rear end.
The Spider was built around a shortened Alfa Romeo Giulia 105 chassis and powered by Alfa’s 1570cc Aluminium twin-cam four cylinder engine that drove the rear wheels through a five speed manual gearbox. All-round independent suspension, rack and pinion steering and four wheel disk brakes ensured the Duetto went just as well as it looked.
When compared with contemporary sports car rivals like the MGB the Spider was mechanically exotic at that time, where it didn’t fare so well in the UK was on price. The series 1 wasn’t as popular in the UK as it perhaps deserved, punitive import taxes meant a new Duetto cost almost as much as a bigger, faster and more luxurious Jaguar E-Type.
After just 18 months and 6325 examples made, the Duetto 1600 was replaced by the Spider Veloce 1750.
Spider Veloce 1750 (1967-71)
The 1967 Alfa Romeo Spider Veloce 1750 wasn’t a radical departure from it’s predecessor – the Duetto name was dropped and a more powerful 1779cc twin-cam engine made the car more relaxing to drive over longer distances.
A lower priced, entry-level Spider 1300 Junior was also introduced in June 1968, with a less powerful (90bhp) 1,290 cc twin cam engine. Visually the biggest change for the Junior was the lack of clear plastic headlamp covers.
Alfa Romeo Spider Series 2 (1970 to 1982)
With the introduction of the Spider S2, the Spider 1750 Veloce lost the boat tail to be replaced by the Kamm-tail rear end.
This modification may have added valuable extra luggage space but the loss of the iconic “boat tail” has been bemoaned by Alfa Romeo fans ever since and these early cars have always sold at a premium. Other less-obvious changes included a new grille, door handles, a steeper sloping windscreen and the removal of plastic headlamp covers. Inside there were a few trim upgrades and downward hinged pedals.
In 1971 the 1779cc twin cam engine grew to 1962cc (and 132bhp). The car is now called 2000 Spider Veloce.
Alfa Romeo Spider Series 3 (1982 to 1990)
The 1982 Series 3 was perhaps when the Spider received its biggest visual overhaul, with the addition of front and rear black-rubber impact bumpers, black grille and rear boot spoiler. Right hand drive production had ended in 1977 so all S3 cars were either left hand drive or converted in the UK.
The choice of popular sports cars dwindled during the eighties and as a result, the Spider had few direct competitors (MGB production had ended in 1980). Despite this, the Spider soldiered on, with Alfa introducing the more expensive Quadrifoglio Verde model in 1986, with side-skirts, an uprated interior and optional hard-top.
The final fling for the Series 3 came in 1988 with the introduction of Bosch L-Jetronic electronic fuel injection on the Spider 2000.
Alfa Romeo Spider Series 4
Spider production entered it’s fourth decade and it’s twilight years with the launch of the Series 4 Spider in 1990.
Visually the Series 4 allowed the Spider to grow old gracefully. With body-coloured side-skirts, bumpers and standard hard-top. At the rear, a new boot lid and slimmer 164-style tail lamps, completed the visual makeover. Under the bonnet, the Bosch fuel injection was updated to Bosch Motronic fuel injection (127bhp). All this was driven through the rear wheels via either the trusty 5 speed manual or for the first time, a 3 speed automatic transmission.
Alfa Romeo Spider S4 production ended in 1993, after some 110,000 cars had been produced to be replaced in 1995 by the All new (front wheel drive) 916-series Spider.
The Spider S4 was the last rear-wheel drive Alfa Romeo until the launch of the 8c Competizione of 2007.