Created in 1966, the Alfa Romeo Spider was the last design personally attributed to Battista Pininfarina. It defined 30 years of motoring history, becoming an ambassador of Italian design all over the world and an enduringly dynamic and brilliant icon of Italian car manufacturing.
Famous around the world, and not just among car enthusiasts, the Alfa Romeo Spider was the last car designed by Battista Pininfarina back in 1966. It was a low, streamlined spider with a sloping “boat-tail” rear end (known as “osso di seppia” or “cuttlebone” in Italian), a rounded front end, high side scallops and a split front bumper that emphasised the low, shield-shaped grille and Alfa Romeo badge.
The first version was fitted with a twin-cam 1570 cc engine with two dual 40 carburettors that was taken from the Giulia Sprint GT Veloce and developed 110 hp. The Alfa Romeo Spider derived its mechanical layout and 2250 mm wheelbase from the Giulietta/Giulia Spider, which it was supposed to replace: a longitudinal front-mounted engine, five-speed transmission, rear-wheel drive, independent front suspension, rigid rear axle and disc brakes on all four wheels.
The long history of this Italian motoring icon is littered with curious events. They include Alfa’s attempt to name the car “Duetto”, which was the winning suggestion in a write-in competition but had to be abandoned only a year after the car’s launch because it was already registered to a confectionery firm. Nevertheless, Duetto is still the nickname by which the car is best known. Equally memorable was the decision to ship three Spiders (in white, red and green) from Genoa to New York on the luxury Raffaello superliner for the car’s official U.S. launch, accompanied by European jetsetters who boarded during a stopover in Cannes. The car became famous all over the world when it was driven by Dustin Hoffman in the 1967 film “The Graduate”. This association made the car so popular that Alfa Romeo eventually created a “Graduate” trim level.
Alongside the 1600 Spider, the “boat-tail” first series was later expanded with the 1750 Veloce and finally the 1300 Junior. The first series ceased production in 1969 and was replaced by the cut-off “Kamm tail” second series, which included the 1750 Veloce, the 1300 Junior and subsequently the 2000 Veloce, following the evolution of the Giulia GT. The series 3 Aerodinamica was produced between 1983 and 1989. It introduced protruding bumpers, a deep, body-colour front spoiler extending into side skirts and a full-width tail spoiler in black rubber. It was available in the 1.6-litre, 2.0-litre and Quadrifoglio Verde versions, as well as a catalysed model for the US market.
Pininfarina also penned the fourth and final generation of the Alfa Romeo Spider in 1990. This last major restyling marked a return to the car’s origins, losing the aerodynamic modifications of the 1980s to achieve a cleaner and sleeker body.
The car’s front and rear ends were smoothed out to restore its traditionally well-proportioned and harmonious shape. The unsightly tail spoiler was ditched in favour of a subtle kick-up on the boot lid and rear wings, while the badge and shield grille were integrated into the bumper itself. The new rear-view mirrors were electrically adjustable and the rear light clusters were styled on the flagship 164 model. The 1.6-litre version with Weber 40 double-barrel carburettors was still available between 1990 and 1992, during which time 2951 units were produced, but the majority of Series 4 models adopted the 2.0-litre engine with electronic fuel injection developing 122 hp (117 hp in catalysed form). By the end of 1993, 18,456 units of the 2.0 Alfa Romeo Spider had been built, with 75% exported to the United States.