The original Alfa Spider was produced over a 27 year lifetime and was given several names that mark out its many stages of development. The pretty curvaceous design of this Italian roadster has many fans and while some may prefer the purity of the original boat-tailed car with its faired in headlamps the later cars have an equal number of fans. All are beautiful cars evocative of roof-down cruising around the fashionable resorts of the European Riviera.
The 1966 Series 1 Alfa Romeo Spider was based on the Giulia 105 series chassis and named ‘Duetto’. The lightweight rear-wheel-drive roadster was styled by Pininfarina who also built the monocoque for assembly at Alfa. Power came from a 1570cc twin-cam straight four cylinder engine. The 109hp output was fair for its day and along with a five-speed gearbox, four wheel disc brakes and independent front suspension it was seen as an advanced modern sports car.
In 1967 the engine and suspension were uprated and the Duetto became the Alfa Romeo 1750 Spider Veloce. Following this in 1968 an entry level Spider 1300 Junior was added to the range, with a 1290cc engine producing 89hp. The Series 1 Spider sold well in part with thanks to the 1967 film ‘The Graduate‘ where an Alfa Romeo Duetto Spider was driven by the star Dustin Hoffman.
In 1970 the Series 2 Spider was introduced with a slew of changes. The rear of the ‘boat-taled’ Series 1 was cut off and is known as a Kamm Tail. There was also a new grille, more steeply raked windscreen and interior improvements. By 1971 the 1750 Spider Veloce had become the 2000 Spider Veloce with a new 132hp engine.
In 1982 further modernisation created the Series 3 with its Bosch electronic fuel injection system and rubber bumpers to meet America’s tighter safety restrictions.
The final Series 4 Spider looked noticeably different again with body-colour painted bumpers and modern wrap-around rear lights. Many details were changed including further development of the interior with leather seats and air-conditioning as standard. Modernaties such as a driver air-bag, power steering and even an optional automatic transmission were offered for the first time. By now though the Spider was something of a relic and sales were wrapped up by 1993. It was replaced with a drastically more modern yet dynamically flawed new Spider one year later.
Compared to the MGB Roadster the Alfa Spider was arguably the prettier car with a far better folding soft-top. The ride of early Spiders however was higher, softer and with more body-roll than the British car. Later cars were more refined but the live rear axle limits handling ability.