The Alfa Romeo Spider had a long run as the Italian manufacturer's premier roadster between 1966 and 1993. Throughout its nearly thirty year history, the Spider changed shape very little, with most of the changes being only mechanical and technological. Throughout these changes though, Alfa made sure they kept the iconic shape un-compromised.
The torpedo shaped body shell was one of the first cars to feature the new technological idea of crumple zones. It was originally called the Duetto, but within the year had taken on the name Spider Veloce. The first real image change came in 1970 when the pinched rear was truncated into a more conventional boot style, although it still retained the prominent inset headlights, the standard Alfa shield grille, and accented indicator lights. The Spider was originally a soft top vehicle, but in 1974 there were 2,000 rare Spiders made with rigid targa roofs.
The Series 3 Spider was fitted with rubber bumpers to meet a more rigorous set of safety regulations. This led to a not universally popular change in the car’s shape. While still ostensibly an Alfa Spider, it featured the front grille incorporated into the bumper, a soft rubber spoiler, and a sharp, chopped off boot design.
In 1990 the fourth generation saw the car returning to its roots with a curvier bonnet, a 60s rear light rig, and less pronounced, same colour bumpers.
The latest model to bear the Spider name is the 2006 Brera-inspired, 1750 TBi 2-seat convertible. Without the inset headlamps and torpedo shape, it takes the Spider design into new territory. The neatly shaped bonnet and three ring Xenon light rig look stylish with a big air dam below the bumper and Alfa shield grille. The rear is more rounded than the old models , and it has two twin exhausts and the slight hint of a spoiler.
The Alfa Spider is powered by the 1750 TBi and linked to either a 6-speed manual transmission or the Q-Tronic automatic. This combination puts down 136kW onto the tarmac and has a torque ratio of 320Nm. At full speed, you can get the car up to 235km/h, and it takes off from 0-100km/h in 7.3 seconds. This considerably lighter engine also has a much improved fuel quality than the thirstier 3.2L JTS, requiring only 8.2L/100km of fuel and having an emissions level of 192g/km.
While in its day the early vintage Spiders were considered safe machines for their time, with rubber bumpers, pre-tensioning seatbelts, and crumple zones, the modern Spider is brimming with safety systems. The current Spider has seven airbags, a fire prevention system, traction and vehicle stability, Hill Holder, EBD, and much more to ensure occupants are kept safe.
This Alfa Romeo Spider is one of the most-equipped cars they have made, and much of the technology is now installed as standard.
The current Spider comes with sumptuous sports Frau Pieno Fiore leather trim, heated seats, automatic duel zone climate control, 19” alloy wheels, electronic folding roof, fog lights, a wind break, cruise control, and chrome roll bars for added safety. The connectivity here is also good with Bluetooth hands free and a 6-speaker CD audio system.
The upgraded 3.2 JTS comes with bright Xenon headlights with washer/wipers and a top-of-the-range Bose audio system. This is a far cry from the early days of the Spider when the standard was the car, and air-con and a radio was the only kit you got.
Alfa’s cars are synonymous with luxury, design, and elegance. The current web of Spiders fulfil that remit well, and where they also excel, unusually, is in the engine performance. This makes it one of the most sublime cars on the road, and one that is more than a match for its competition.
The Spider has always faced stiff competition. In the old days, it was the Jensen-Healey or the Lotus Elan, but these days it is pitted against the might of the Audi TT, Mercedes SLK, BMW Z4, Mazda MX-5, and the Porsche Boxster.
The Spider is a car you buy with your heart. Looks and glamour do not normally have anything to do with performance, but with this Alfa, they make a great combination. With rumours abounding that Alfa and Mazda are teaming up to produce the next Spider cross MX-5, this is the one they should be choosing to follow. True Alfa tifosi will tell you that the Spider is all about the pros.