Affordable Classic: 1991-94 Alfa Romeo Spider 2000

by Pat Braden

The Alfa Romeo Duetto Spider, introduced in 1966, continued in production until Alfa withdrew from the US market after 1994. A 28-year run for one model is a notable accomplishment, similar to the Model T and VW Beetle.

The original Duetto (a name which Alfa only officially used for the 1967 models) drew mixed reviews. For the US 1971 model year, the delicate tail was cut off. However, the basic "Kamm-tail" bodywork remained (with front and rear spoilers added in 1983) until 1991 when the last-generation treatment was introduced.

In 1969 the Spider lost its dual Weber carburetors for a SPICA fuel injection system, which was a reasonably effective, if slightly cobbled-together way for Alfa to meet US federal emission regulations. In 1982, Alfa swapped the SPICA for the Bosch L-Jetronic system. Bosch Motronic was introduced in 1990.

Over the years, the Spider evolved from a basic sports car to a subdued luxo-tourer. The evolution was prompted by progressive safety standards and emissions laws that drained the engine of its power and burdened the body with a variety of safety equipment. In place of power, later Alfa Spiders offered power assists (and leather trim). When these attractions wore thin, Alfa marketed "special edition" models that offered decals but no mechanical advantages.

When Fiat announced it would not export a new Spider to the US, the 1991 body change was recognized as the last generation. For 1994, Alfa offered 190 stock US Spiders with an identifying "Commemorative Edition" dash plaque and decorated wheels.

The last-generation Spider was, in fact, worthy of its Duetto heritage. The awful stick-on rear spoiler was replaced by an elegantly rounded tail that echoed the rounded design of the nose. Emissions and power problems were solved by the Bosch Motronic system and the head-gasket sealing problem was similarly solved. The final version of the Spider was reliable and the most attractive of them all.

A comparison between the first- and last-generation Spider is more favorable to the newer car than one might imagine. The seating positions are similar, even though the newer seats are more padded and finished in leather. The delicately rimmed steering wheel of the early car has been replaced with a pregnancy, spawned by a mandatory air bag.

A 1966 Duetto owner, transported through time to 1994, would recognize the car, but might be put off by the excessive amount of plastic that surrounds the passengers. If one could vaporize all the plastic, the remainder—a responsive twin-cam engine, superb 5-speed gearbox (ignoring the three-speed automatic), elegantly located solid rear axle and supple suspension—still represents the best of Alfa's serial-production engineering.

These last-generation Spiders are still new enough that cars with 50,000 or less original miles are not uncommon. Don't buy a car that has had a repaint, or any significant collision damage. Some claim the "Commemorative Edition" cars are worth more; I agree, but only by the value of the badge kit—$10.

These are not investment cars and never will be. They are the last iteration of Alfa's best-selling postwar convertible, though, and when driven con brio still reveal the vestiges of Alfa's history that are absent from a front-drive car. In my opinion, with the 1991-94 Spider, Alfa

really did save the best for last.

Years Produced 1991-94
Original List Price $25,000
SCM Valuation $9,500-$12,000 (at time of print)
Tune-up Cost $100
Distributor Caps $50
Chassis # Location On bulkhead
Engine # Location On intake side of engine block
Club Info AROC, 10 Raskin Road, Morristown, NJ 07960
Web Site http://www.aroc-usa.org
Alternatives Mazda Miata, Porsche 914 or 944 Cabriolet
 
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