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“This little Alfa … nevertheless packs a vigorous punch behind handling which is truly vivacious. It is the last of the traditional, conventional Alfa line, and all the more enjoyable for it, a classical design in an age of increasing conformity.” Motor Sport Magazine, July 1977.
The 105 Series Alfa Romeos were the company’s mainstays throughout the 1960s and well into the late 1970s, building on the foundations laid with the 750/101 Series Giulietta and ultimately Giulia back in the 1950s. The everyday but far from mundane 105 Giulia saloon donated its floor-pan (shortened) and running gear to the range of sports coupes and the open topped Spider which was penned by Battista Pininfarina and Franco Martinengo when employed by the former’s eponymous styling house.
Launched in 1966 as the 1600 ‘boat tailed’ Duetto, the Spider was successfully developed over the next twenty-five years, initially having its tail chopped off to create what has become known as the Series 2 in 1969 and its engine capacity increased (and decreased for the Junior entry level version) via 1750 ultimately to two litres for the early 1970’s onwards 2000 Veloce. By 1982 Alfa’s bank balance was severely in the rosso, the company lacked the lira to comprehensively bring the Spider up to date and the Series 3 of that year had to make do with various undignified rubber bumpers and spoilers – an appropriate word if ever there was one - for its middle aged face-lift. In 1990, a remarkable twenty-four years after its launch, the Spider’s 4th Series arrived and it was arguably the most resolved of the Spider siblings. Powered by the largest version of Alfa’s evergreen all aluminium twin overhead cam engine sporting sophisticated Bosch Motronic fuel injection, it boasted an honest 124 brake horse power and 122 lb/ft of torque. Already blessed with a five speed gearbox, disc brakes front and rear and a properly located, coil sprung, limited slip differential equipped rear axle to compliment the independent coils, double wishbones and anti-roll bar up front, the rest of the car’s mechanical bits and bobs were able to be carried through virtually unchanged though it did sprout a rear anti-roll bar. With such minimal development required on the nuts and bolts side Alfa were at last able to give the beautiful Pininfarina body a mild update. The back street botox rubber additions of the Series 3 were rightly consigned to the bin and the bumpers were re-designed to work with rather than against the existing metal work, while the first alteration to the body-shell since it swapped its ‘longa’ tail for a ‘tronca’ version in the late 1960s saw this gain a very subtle integrated aerodynamic lip and full width rear lights, both of which managed to look as though they had been part of the original design. Other than that there was just a general ‘tightening up’ of the car’s lines in one or two places without dismissing its ancestry.
First registered on 30th April 1992, this Spider was originally sold new by leading Alfa Romeo dealers The Lombarda Carriage Company – who could forget their logo incorporating a three wheeling GTAm? – and the London based specialists serviced the car religiously, sometimes as much as three times a year, as it sprinted to 24,000 km (a typically Alfa quirk is the MPH speedometer’s odometer reads in kilometres) in the first two years of its life. The original Service Book continued to be stamped by Lombarda until late 1999 by which time 53,780 km had passed under the Spider’s wheels. Unsurprisingly usage has tailed off somewhat since then and the odometer is currently showing just over 144,400 km with just a few thousand having been added over the last eight years by only two owners.
Never fully restored, the Alfa scores well on the originality scale (nice to see it wears Lombarda branded number plates), it has had a considerable amount of money and care lavished on it and as can be seen in the photo gallery, it looks exceptionally smart today. Repainted in its original metallic ‘Grigrio Chiaro’ some years ago the Spider still looks bright as a button even on a typically dull English spring day. Overall, it appears to be very solid inside and out and the doors shut beautifully attesting to the shells integrity.
The original ‘676’ paint code sticker is still in place on the underside of the boot lid while the boot itself displays the body number stamped into its floor which is very sound with sharp panel lines and welds. There are no mats or carpets in the generous boot and a little spilled paint doesn’t help its cosmetics; a new carpet would work wonders here. The Alfa’s factory toolkit – wheel nut wrench, spark plug socket and double ended screwdriver – and a spare oil filter are present. The engine bay is clean and tidy though not detailed which makes the lack of major evidence of escaped oil all the more encouraging. Though this is undoubtedly a car for driving, the tinkerer could spend many a happy hour beautifying these areas should they so-desire.
With much of the bright-work being in stainless steel there is little chrome on the car to worry about and of what there is the sculpted door handles, shared with many 1970’s Ferraris, show only very minimal pitting. The ‘Pininfarina’ badges are present and correctly mounted just rearward of the doors.
The black cloth hood appears virtually new, fits beautifully and the one-hand-without-leaving-your-seat up or down operation the Spider is well known for works perfectly.
Mechanically, new springs and Bilstein B6 Sport shock absorbers have been fitted all round along with refurbished brake callipers. The optional extra 15” Veloce alloy wheels have been refurbished and wrapped in Continental tyres of the correct 195/60 profile which are virtually unused; the above work totalled over £1,500. The matching spare wheel is clad in an older Pirelli P6000 tyre.
Apparently exceptionally solid underneath the Alfa Romeo has had some attention to its notoriously susceptible front cross member but this can now be filed under ‘job done’. Now well protected, periodical monitoring of the floors and vital sills would be a sensible precaution but frankly no more than on any other steel bodied car of a certain age.
The simple, functional interior is stylish and ergonomically perhaps better than some more modern machines. A leather-rimmed steering wheel is present and though not currently fitted a Sony ‘face off’ tape player is included with the car for that period look. The seats have been re-trimmed with correct non-Veloce kits supplied by aptly named classic Alfa parts gurus, Classic Alfa. With very presentable black carpeting and no cracks or splits to the dashboard or surrounding trims, the interior is in nice order throughout.
The top hinged pedals denied to right hand drive 115 Series Alfas for so long transform the driving position and hence operator comfort relative to earlier cars, which along with power assisted steering, make the Series 4 a very practical, usable proposition. The engine fires fuel injected first time and it ticks over at a rock steady 800 rpm and the Spider pulls away smoothly with little obvious evidence of the notorious Alfa second gear recalcitrance.
The documents file contains the Owner’s Manual, Service Directory, the aforementioned Service Book, a spare set of keys, various old MOT certificates (the owner will ensure the Alfa carries a full 12 months MOT at the end of the auction) and a generous sheaf of bills covering recent expenditure with Classic Alfa and other specialists. The current V5C is present showing just six keepers in total.
Criticised in their day for fairly poor build quality as much as they were praised for their dynamic performance, character and style, the Alfa Spider has fast been appreciating as a technically advanced and very usable Classic and this fine example definitely proves the old Italian adage, ‘Se non è rotto, non aggiustarlo' (‘if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it’.)
Registration Number: J6 SPY
Chassis Number: ZAR11500006013851
Engine Number: 1656481006944