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The Carchive: Alfa Romeo Spider Series 4

Chris Haining June 17, 2014 Cars You Should Know, The Carchive 7 Comments


Welcome back to the decaying, rusty vault that is The Carchive, where we take a look back at brochures from the past and determine whether the promises of the copywriter were kept by the reality of the car.

This week, with no real forward planning, we’ve hit upon a theme that should appeal to Italian arachnophiles the world over.

“The Alfa Romeo Spider is a unique car, with a unique reputation and a loveable charm”

Everybody has heard of the Alfa Romeo Spider, from the Dustin Hoffman-type Duetto of the ’60s, right up to the final evolution of the classic rear-wheel-drive roadster series, and it’s the latter that this 1990 brochure details.

“New bumpers, new body-colour mirrors, new side-skirts and the smoothly-tapered rear all add to the sleek modernity of style”

It was a real case of evolution as opposed to revolution when Pininfarina set about refurbishing the Spider for its final three years of production. The basic, long-established shape was absolutely fine, but it had picked up some pretty ghastly blemishes over the years. This final facelift went a long way toward ironing out the wrinkles.

Possibly the best change was the deletion of the hideous black rubber moulding which adorned the bootlid and surrounded the rear lights. In its place there came a nicely sculpted light panel, far less fussily handled than what had gone before. However, it didn’t exactly scream roadster at you; those lights would have looked just as at home on a sedan.

Generally, though, the Spider could be said to have regained a lot of the elegance that had been torn from it since the ’60s.

“With the 2.0 litre engine, there’s the power and flexibility to enjoy it to the full”.

The Spider was all about the pleasure of driving, though not necessarily driving especially quickly. Power was from the well proven in-line four, two-litres in capacity and earning 120bhp. A 119mph top speed could be extracted, thanks no doubt to the ease in which the Spider cleft its way through the air. Acceleration was no more than sufficient; taking the Spider 9.4 seconds to reach 62.

You sat low down, though, which heightened the sensation of speed, and the exhaust was nicely tuned to make roof-down motoring (the default Spider configuration) a pleasure in both tactility and sonics. In Mainland Europe you could order your Spider with a 1.6 litre engine, but that never made it officially onto these shores.

“Settle into the driving seat of the new Spider and you’ll immediately feel at home.”

They boasted of more cockpit space than ever before and a greater range of seat adjustments but ultimately the interior of the Spider was always going to be defined by its age. It was a bit of a mess, really, with the ventilation controls and the gearstick sharing real estate on the dashboard and switchgear positioned in the last place you’d expect to find it.

Looked nice, though, and certainly interesting. And the instrument cluster was undeniably crammed full of information. But the Spider could be regarded as a driver’s car despite its cockpit, not because of it. It made the state-of-the-art, chiselled edifice found in the Alfa 164 look like it came from the future by comparison.

Maybe because these were never officially sold here in right-hand-drive format (though Bell and Colvill carried out some very professional conversions) these things are pretty scarce within the UK. Alfa changed their game plan significantly with the next car to wear the name, more about which on Thursday.

(Disclaimer: All images are of original manufacturer publicity material, photographed by me. Copyright remains property of Alfa Romeo, who haven’t built a Spider in four years. Come on, Alfa, what are you playing at?)

  • nanoop

    " Come on, Alfa, what are you playing at?"
    <img src="; width="400">

    • Well, yeeaaaah. But it ain't no Spider. It's probably infinitely better in every way, but poor old Mrs Robinson would be sore all over if you took her for a ride in a 4C.

      • nanoop

        True for poor Mrs Robinson, but I thought they call it a spider themselves…
        But what can I know, as I am not a famous auto journalist!

  • Van_Sarockin

    Alfa should never have discontinued the Duetto. I think we can all agree on that. Pininfarina did a credible job with the refresh, but it only hinted at prior glory. Alt least it was the rubber bumper set. US interiors all came with the highest trim level, nicer than ever, so there's that. But the hardtop makes me quite jealous.

  • Talk about shifting up and down, jeez. "Let's see, we'll put the ashtray down here between the seats… now where can we put the gear selector? Hmmm, well there's this blank space on the dashboard…"

  • Alf Romeo

    Long ago and faraway when I went to Alfa school in El Segundo as a young nugget, I asked the instructor about the lack of quality concerning the fit and finish of their products. I was roundly chastised by his rebuke : "We sell the car with a $15,000 power train for $7,000 (mid '70s prices) and throw in the paint and interior for free." I told that to a customer when he bitched about water leaks around the door seals and said that he wasn't going fast enough to induce the proper airflow to discourage the leakage. He stood there for a moment and then started cracking up. Case closed.

  • Vavon

    The Spider Duetto "boat-tail" was always the best looking Spider in my opinion.

    <img src=";