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?)
The Carchive: Alfa Romeo Spider Series 4
RoadworkUK is the online persona of Gianni Hirsch, a tall, awkward gentleman with a home office full of gently decomposing paper and a garage full of worthless scrap metal. He lives in the village of Moistly, which is a safe distance from London and is surrounded by enough water and scenery to be interesting. In another life, he has designed, sold, worked on and written about cars in exchange for small quantities of money.