The Alfa Romeo Spider is a roadster produced by the Italian manufacturer Alfa Romeo from 1966 to 1993 (190 Spiders were badged as 1994 Commemorative Editions for the North American market). Widely regarded as a design classic, it remained in production for almost three decades with only minor aesthetic and mechanical changes.
Based on an Giulia 105 series chassis, the Alfa Romeo Spider was launched in 1966. Unnamed at launch, the name “Duetto” was chosen in a write-in competition in Italy. The Italian firm of Pininfarina was responsible for the design of the body, as well as being involved in the manufacture of the vehicle’s monocoque construction (designed with the relatively new principles of crumple zones incorporated into the front and rear). The engine was a 1570cc variant of the Alfa Romeo twin camshaft four cylinder engine, and produced 109 hp. Sparsely fitted inside but including five speed transmission, disc brakes and independent front suspension, the price on launch in Italy was 2,195,000 lire.
The original Alfa Romeo Spider was only in production for a year, replaced in 1967 by the 1750 Spider Veloce, powered by a 118 hp 1779cc engine. In Europe this was fitted with two twin carburettors, whereas models for the North American market had Spica mechanical fuel injection. Modifications were also made to the suspension, brakes, electrics and wheels and tyres though the car looked effectively the same. Visible differences were limited to the rear-view mirror repositioned to the door, and different badging on the tail. During the production run, the front repeater lights were moved ahead of the wheelarches. The car’s official title was 1750 Spider Veloce, the name Duetto being dropped from this point on.
A new Alfa Romeo Spider 1300 Junior, with a 1290cc engine producing 89 hp, was introduced in 1968. This lacked various features of the 1750, including the plastic headlight fairings, the brake servo, hubcaps and opening quarterlight.
In 1970 the first significant change to the exterior styling was introduced on the 1750 Spider Veloce, with the original’s distinctive elongated round tail changed to a more conventional cut-off tail, called the Kamm tail, which arguably made the car look more modern, as well as improving the luggage space. Numerous other small changes took place both inside and out, such as a slightly different grille, new doorhandles, a more raked windscreen, top-hinged pedals and improved interior trim.
1971 saw the Alfa Romeo Spider Veloce get a new, larger powerplant – a 1962cc, 132 hp unit – and consequently the name was changed from 1750 Spider Veloce to 2000 Spider Veloce. The 1600 Spider restarted production a year later as the Alfa Romeo Spider 1600 Junior, and was visually identical to the 1300.
The 1300 and 2000 cars were modified in 1974 and 1975 respectively to include two small seats behind the front seats, becoming a “two plus two” four seater. The 1300 model was discontinued in 1977.
The Alfa Romeo Spider underwent a major revamp in 1983 which saw the introduction of black rubber front and rear bumpers. The front bumper incorporated the grille and a small spoiler was added to the trunk lid. The change altered the exterior appearance of the car considerably and was not universally praised by enthusiasts. Various other minor mechanical and aesthetic modifications were also made, and the 1600 car dropped the “Junior” name.
The Quadrifoglio Verde (Green Cloverleaf) model was introduced in 1986, with many aesthetic tweaks, including sideskirts, mirrors, new front and rear spoilers, and optional removable hardtop. It was otherwise mechanically identical to the standard Spider Veloce model (which many Alfa enthusiasts felt was better looking than the QV with all its external styling geegaws), with a 1962 cc double overhead cam, four-cylinder engine (twin two-barrel carburetors in Europe, electronic fuel injection in North America) and five-speed manual transmission. The interiors were also similar, with a high level of luxury available, including multi-speaker sound systems, electric window lifts and mirrors, air conditioning, alloy wheels, and leather seats. For the North American market a model dubbed the Graduate was added in tribute to the car’s famous appearance in the 1967 film, The Graduate, starring Dustin Hoffman.
The Graduate was intended as a less expensive “entry-level” Alfa. Thus, while it had the same engine and transmission as the QV and SV, it lacked the handsome alloy wheels and luxury options of the other two models. The Graduate model had manual windows, basic vinyl seats, a vinyl top, and steel wheels as standard. It first appeared in 1985 in North America and continued until 1990.
The final major change to the Alfa Romeo Spider came in 1990. The primary mechnical change was that the European model was given the North American’s Bosch electronic fuel injection. Externally, the Spider lost its front under-bumper spoiler and the rear trunk-lid spoiler and picked up Alfa Romeo 164-style rear lights stetching across the width of the car as well as plastic bumpers the same color as the car. There is debate among the marque’s enthusiasts as to whether this last set of styling changes improved or detracted from the car’s classic looks.
In North America, these changes didn’t appear until the 1991 model year. Power steering and a driver-side airbag also appeared as standard for North American Spiders.
Production of the original Alfa Romeo Spider ended in 1993. An all-new Alfa Romeo Spider arrived one year later.
A limited edition Alfa Romeo Spider Commemorative Edition was produced for the North American market in 1993 and was badged as a 1994 model. Each of the 190 Spider CEs imported to the United States had a small plaque affixed to the dashboard that identified which of the 190 cars it was. The CEs differed from previous Spiders in that they had a special badge on the nose, a “CE” script badge below the “Spider Veloce” badge on the tail, unique gold center caps on the “phonedial” 15″ wheels, and burled wood interior trim. Each model came with a leather portfolio, numbered keychain, and documentation. The cars followed the VIN sequence 008276 to 008460, although there does not appear to be any systematic order numbering. It appears that all of the 1994 Spider Commemorative Editions were produced in May 1993.
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