In the long run, I have found the Alfa Spider to be a surprisingly practical car, for all its sports car heritage. Its comparatively large size and superb layout give it far more cargo space than is available in any modern counterpart (indeed, my 74 Spider had roughly the same cargo capacity as my brothers 77 Pontiac Trans Am, a car over twice its size). It also has amenities such as real roll up glass windows, a convertible top light years ahead of its original competitors, a real heater that can keep you warm on the coldest of days, and seats that, while narrow, are still quite comfortable.
Mechanically the car was years ahead of its time. Aluminum dual-overhead-cam engines would not become commonplace in the general automotive market for another twenty years after the Duettos introduction (and Alfa had them already for years). Five speed transmissions, four wheel disk brakes, fuel injection all were standard equipment on Alfas literally decades before they became well known anywhere else in any numbers. It is a testimony to the soundness of the design that, until the introduction of the Honda CRX Si in 1984 and the Mazda Miata in 1990, the Spider (and even more so its 105 stablemate, the much rarer GTV coupe) was a force to be reckoned with in racing circles. Only today, more than thirty years after its introduction, is the car really ready to be "retired" to the vintage auto classes. And yet they still race, and they still win.
It has been said many times but deserves repeating when you buy an Alfa Spider (really any Alfa at all), youre buying The Real Thing. This is no chopped-up econobox sedan, nor an amalgamated copy of memories of what had been. The Alfa Romeo Spider is that memory, made real in steel and aluminum, fire and noise.
After the intense competition of the 1960s, and the sudden, crushing weight of regulations, oil crises, and general malaise of the 1970s, only the Alfa Spider was left standing, alone in what was once a field rich in depth and promise. Names synonymous with sports cars Triumph, Austin Healy, even MG, the marque that arguably invented the sports car, had all utterly ceased to exist. It was only in the 1990s and the introduction of the Miata, a car that is in essence nostalgia on wheels, that the Spider quietly faded from view.
But even the very last Spider that rolled off the assembly line, 28 years after the first, was still a DAMNED fun car to drive.
And, after all, thats the whole point, isnt it?
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By Scott Johnson - Copyright © 1996 - Third Edition, Released August 2001 - All Rights Reserved.