Tim Suddard
Tim Suddard Publisher
8/25/20 9:42 a.m.

Are you sitting down? The Alfa Romeo Spider, one of the most loved classic sports cars ever produced, was initially panned by the day’s automotive press.

“We found almost no disagreement among members of our staff about the appearance of the new model–no one liked it as well as the Giulietta or Giulia,” wrote Road & Track. “One condemned it as a contrived design with meaningless styling gimmicks.”

At least they liked the drivetrain, a twin-cam, inline-four topped with one of the prettiest valve covers ever produced. A five-speed transmission delivered relaxed highway cruising, while four-wheel discs offered class-leading brakes. The chassis was not that exotic, but it worked well, with a well-supported live axle at the rear and independent suspension up front. Compared to the rest of the pack, the Spider was plenty advanced. 

A year after its release, the car received perhaps its biggest boost: Dustin Hoffman, at the time an unknown stage actor, co-starred with a red Spider in “The Graduate,” one of the biggest motion pictures of the year. 

The rest, as they say, is history. Alfa Romeo would keep the much-loved Spider in production through 1993, with updates dividing the model run into four distinct generations. 

Which one is most deserving of a space in your garage? To find out, we sampled one from each generation of these wonderful roadsters at historic Thompson Speedway. While we didn’t run hot laps, this fun, 1.7-mile track offers tight turns that play perfectly to the Spider’s strengths.

Read the rest of the story

Jordan Rimpela (FS)
Jordan Rimpela (FS) Dork
8/25/20 9:49 a.m.

I can't put my finger quite on why, but I love the looks of the Series 4 the most. Of course I'd happily own any generation.

racerdave600
racerdave600 UltraDork
8/25/20 10:11 a.m.

I've owned a number of these, and my impressions line up with yours.  Of those, the '74 would be my choice, mainly on looks and ease of modification.  They can be made to perform much better than stock. 

Having said that, the favorites that I owned were the series 3 cars, two '83's and an '84.  Of course this was back in the '80's so they were almost new.  The injection made them a delight for a daily driver.  Plus I autocrossed one for several years and you could pitch the backend at will and it was always an easy catch.  We also had a local guy with a much modified '72 I think.  He also ran it in an IT class in road racing.  It was a beautiful car and an absolute rocket.  

They are certainly not the fastest car, especially by today's standards, but Alfas have a way of getting to you.

Edit, it looks fantastic in green!

klharper
klharper New Reader
8/25/20 8:10 p.m.

Pretty good article.

I usually split series 2 into two sub groups 70-74 and 75 to 81. The silly buggy bumpers makes the car drive different on the later series. Replacing these with chrome or even lightweight fiberglass changes the driving dynamics.

One of the reason's that the series 3 handles better is that Alfa stiffened up the chassis. It is not perfect but better than the series 1 and 2, and gives a better base to build a car. 

The series 4 looks great, but I hate the way they drive. They gained weight and the weight added to the chassis twist. Also the interiors look great but did not wear well, and the safety items ate up interior space.

I currently own 8 spiders from a 750 Giulietta and 101 Giulia to several series 3 spiders. I'm torn on my favorite, and not taking into account the early 750/101 cars, it is a tough choice.

I like the looks of my duetto, it has a lot of delicate features that were lost on later cars. It also has standing pedals and I just prefer the brakes of the later cars. I do like the early 70's spider, and today I drove a 72 that started as a euro Junior and has some detail differences like different headlight trim rings and a Duetto/round tail dash, but it had a 1750 instead of the orginal 1300 and it was charming to drive, the 1750 zinged and it put a smile on my face. But I also drove my 90 which has the one year only motronic in a series 3 and for whatever reason is just right. Good thing these cars are not like girlfirends, you can have more than one.

Larry Larson
Larry Larson New Reader
8/26/20 8:04 a.m.

Alfa didn't quite sit out the 1970 year in the US. I returned from Vietnam in March 1970, and immediately ordered a new 1750 to replace my 1967 Duetto. My dealer in central NJ routinely imported 1970 squaretails and sold them as 1969 vehicles. They told me this was being done all over the country. My 1970/1969 1750 was the first metallic silver car I ever saw on NJ roads. It made a nice pair with my wife's wine red Berlina TI!

MotorwerksMarketing
MotorwerksMarketing
8/26/20 10:08 p.m.

As I've always said (and I'll continue to say), despite the fact they are all great cars, the earlier Series II examples are the best of the bunch on nearly every level. Nice to see somebody else also confirm that

DartHollywood
DartHollywood New Reader
8/27/20 10:16 a.m.

What mad timing!! I bought 2 days ago a lovely 1979 Series 2 Spider. Always had my eye on the early A-R Spiders and while looking for a completely different classic, this appeared in a local CL.

So of course it being an Alfa, it's at the shop having an alignment & suspension check this morning.  Just a thing I like to do with new 'old' cars I get. Thus when I pick it up, I'm sure I'll hear the mechanic chuckle, "Don't be a stranger now."

But what a beauty, even with the goofy 'save us from ourselves' black bumpers. Tomato sauce red with beige door panels and black seats, it's such a looker. The repaint of unknown era is good & masks the downlow rust bubbles of the rear wheel panels, but hey, that's a correction I can do after things turn cold here in VA. Love the Italian 2nd gear synchro crunch if shift too fast, and the "I stoppa you sooner or later" brakes, which will all be improved as I throw a few more lires at it. (I know it's euros, so no comments).

Tan top replaced not so long ago by the previous owner(s), so as wx-proof as an sunny-clime Alfa worker can design it, gauges still remarkably  working, and the SPICA injection/airpump unit has the 2 liter engine spitting & back belching ignited raw gas on deceleration - as pretty a sound out of Nixon's 70s you ever heard. I could say, What a gas! But that will be addressed also.

But you know, fellow travelers, in the current time of this stubborn pandemic, a 1979 Alfa Romero Spider Veloce designed by the masters of Italian cars, and built at factories where they always produce Monday and Friday cars, lovingly maintained by the original owner, and then can-kicked down the road to the next owners, has now found a casa and Amante della auto who appreciates the slow amore of this exotic bella raggazza.

A great article, Tom.

Stay safe & have a joy-filled life!

Dart

TML
TML
8/30/20 7:54 p.m.

Proper research by the author would have found that the actual Series 1 Alfa Spiders ran from 1955-1965, with the 750/101 series cars. This was even referenced in the second paragraph quote in the article above, from Road & Track, but not follow through in the article writing.

We found almost no disagreement among members of our staff about the appearance of the new model–no one liked it as well as the Giulietta or Giulia,” wrote Road & Track. “One condemned it as a contrived design with meaningless styling gimmicks.”

The 105 Series 2 cars started in 1966.

Tom Lesko

President, Alfa Romeo Owners of New England

Nader
Nader New Reader
9/3/20 5:47 p.m.

Great topic!

As a kid riding in the back seat of my Dad's '72 Dodge Dart Swinger, I had a hard time differentiating the similarly sloped nose and big round headlights of Alfa Spiders from Porsche 911s in oncoming traffic.  They both grabbed my attention instantly; even my 7 year old brain knew these cars were special.  That was my first exposure to Alfa Spiders, and Porsches, for that matter. 

Then, in 1990,  back when I was proudly driving a 1980 Triumph Spitfire, I sat in an S4 Spider at the 1990 Chicago Auto Show.  It felt great, an order of magnitude better than my Spitfire, and decided then that I'd someday own one.  In 2000, I was lucky to get an air cooled Porsche 911 while they were still affordable, but I still had an Alfa itch to scratch.  So in 2002,  I made an impulse purchase on eBay for a '69 Alfa Spider that was restored and upgraded (hot 2L engine, suspension upgrades).  Took a chance buying a car sight unseen, but it turned out to be a great car that I still have.  Bulletproof, in fact, aside from very slowly progressing rust bubbles in the rockers.  It's been my daily driver in the few acceptable roadster driving months of the Pacific Northwest where I live.  For almost twenty years now.  Dang.

Flashing back to 2003, I had just started racing Spec Miata as a way to keep from further thrashing my Porsche at PCA track days.  Within a couple years, I was losing interest in it as I couldn't ever get past mid-pack, never had a passion for the car, and eventually learned that you couldn't be competitive unless you were creative with the rules interpretation.  Granted, I was running a junkyard engine, and was loathe to tinker on and "develop" the car beyond the spirit of the rules.  When I sold it in '06, I planned on racing vintage in a car I actually loved.  Old Porsches were (and still are, more so) prohibitively expensive, so I looked for an Alfa to race.  I stumbled into a trashed, rusty roller of a '69 Spider with a seized engine for about $2500, and many thousands of dollars later, built it into a race car.  Completed around 2010, and has a long thread of its build on AlfaBB.  Been racing it with a passion missing from the former Miata, and have enjoyed reasonable success including multiple podiums.  

So my pick of best Alfa Spider is the '66-'69 roundtail, "Duetto."  I feel like the roundtail Spiders (boattail is really only accurate for old Auburns and Rivieras) are the cheapest exotics you can own; like 3/4 scale Ferraris, and they really look out of this world, especially when parked amongst modern cars.  Here's a pic of my two Spiders, street and race:

 

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