There can’t be many of us out there that have not seen, or are completely unaware of the classic coming of age movie, the Graduate, released in 1967, starring Dustin Hoffman and Anna Bancroft. Perhaps though, for the petrol heads amongst us, even more memorable than Anna Bancroft slowly and sensually removing her stockings was the bright red Italian car that our hero, Dustin found himself driving, a 1966, Alfa Romeo 1600 Spider Duetto.
And I don’t think that it’s too big a jump to extrapolate that the Alfa’s starring role created and cemented the Spider’s reputation as a svelte, sexy sportster that all young men (and women) should be seen out and about in. After all, this was a car that seemingly had it all, Gorgeous Pininfarina styling married to a 5 speed gearbox and a lusty twin cam 1570cc engine that just begged to be revved. Reports at the time praised the Alfa’s great handling, sharp steering and excellent all-round disc braking. Added to all of the above, the Spider was also quicker than it’s direct rival, the equally good looking MGB.
The original 1966 car was, sadly, not with us for long, superseded fairly rapidly by the incoming 1750 Spider Veloce after only 18 months. It wasn’t even as if the new model was a radical rethink of the Duetto as it was brought out solely to introduce Alfa fans to a more powerful 1779cc twin-cam engine, uprated suspension and better brakes. Then, in 1969, after just three years in production, the 1750 Spider Veloce was uprated and became the 2000 Spider with its 2000cc twin cam engine. Lovely.
Incredibly, the 2000 Spider carried Alfa through the 70s and 80s, before a final restyle in 1990 when Pininfarina was, once again, given the responsibility for making the Spider suitable for the 1990s leading to the ageing two seater being rounded off with smoother bumpers and slimmer rear light clusters whilst adding a new fuel-injected engine as well as power steering to extend the Alda’s life for three more years.
So there you go, a car that became famous through its association with Dustin and Anne, before going on to be recognised as a classic in its own right. After all, this is a two seater sports car that remained in production for nearly 30 years with a shape that remained instantly recognisable throughout.
Where then did this leave the Alfa Romeo Spider fan once the final edition had driven off into the distance? Taking with it, almost three decades of hopes and dreams into the Italian hills. Fast forward then to 1996 where, arriving upon our green and pleasant land, was the groundbreaking Pininfarina styled, all new 2.0-litre 16v Twinspark Spider. And my word, didn’t it just look fantastic.
This was most definitely a worthy successor to the original 60s model, encompassing the same heady mix of Italian styling mixed with a throaty and lustful engine. An engine that provided character as well as go in equal measures. The styling, much like the engine, is unmistakably Alfa Romeo, from it’s trademark triangular grille, through those distinctive twin circular headlamps to the classic curves of the pretty rear. Back in 1996 this was a revolutionary shape and one which, in my opinion, still looks just as good today, a mere 20 years later.
Once again, it could be argued that Alfa did not quite realise what they had created as with a constant cycle of revisions and improvements, the Spider could have remained current and competitive right up to the present, so good was the original. The public though, had to wait until April 2001 to get the 218bhp 24v V6 engine already available in the hard top GTV. The original 2.0-litre models were then made available in Turismo and Lusso trims. Rather swiftly, for Alfa Romeo, it was only a short wait until the summer of 2003 when new 2.0JTS and 3.2-litre V6 engines were announced and a mild facelift was unveiled, chiefly involving a larger front grille.
This version of the venerable Spider continued to be built right up until 2005, delighting fans of the marque as well as those who just wanted to experience that, oh so Italian, mix of style and substance that is associated with the Spider nomenclature.
There have of course been further roadsters from Alfa sporting that evocative Spider designation but for me, it is the original and it’s first descendant that truly deserve to be held in such high regard combining, as they do, all the classic Alfa Romeo traits that you want in a sportscar.
MotorMartin most definitely wants one.
Where will you go?