After the deal between Chrysler and Italian automaker Fiat, it is likely that the American car market will begin to see more Italian cars. Since Alfa Romeo is part of the Fiat auto group (since 1986), one of the brand’s most venerable models, the Spider convertible, will probably be back to America within a few years. With that in mind, here’s a look back at the classic Alfa Romeo Spider.
The original Spider was produced between 1966 and 1993. The Spider name was later revived in 1995 as a convertible option for Alfa Romeo’s GTV sports car, but the original Spider was a simple, but elegant, two-seater roadster. And, while the model was in production for nearly three whole decades, there were very few changes made to the design over that time. The initial model was of such a timeless quality, that it didn’t need many updates to remain popular.
All of the classic Spiders were powered by a four-cylinder engine, with displacement ranging from 1.3-liters to 2.0-liters. Power output was a bit above 100 horsepower for all the engines (excluding a “Junior” model in the first generation that only had 88 hp), and peak output was 130 horsepower in the first-generation 1750 Veloce edition. But the Alfa Spider was not about speed. It was all about a great looking car and cruising with the top down.
Styling-wise, the Alfa Spider was considered the height of cool. In the 1967 film The Graduate, Dustin Hoffman drove a red Spider. To capitalize on this on-screen appearance, Alfa released a Graduate entry-level edition in 1985 that was responsible for many sales. The engine was a 1.6-liter I4 that produced 103 horsepower, and the car was essentially stripped of option; no power windows, and air conditioning and a radio were dealer-installed options. It may have been light on luxuries, but that didn’t stop Spider enthusiasts.
In the fourth and final generation of the classic Spider, released from 1990-1993, the option for an automatic transmission was first added. Aside from minor styling differences, however, the car looked incredibly similar to the original 1966 model. And therein lies the appeal of the Spider. More than any other model, it stuck to its design philosophy. While long-time models like the Ford Mustang fluttered about, changed power plants, went from sleek to boxy and back to sleek again, and basically ended up coming full circle, the Alfa just stayed as it was, and fans of the brand loved them for it. Yes, Alfa Romeo models on a whole have a nasty reputation for needing more than their fair share of maintenance, but when you get to drive a Spider everyday, that’s a small price to pay.