Those of you who are moviegoers of a certain age are probably hearing the dulcet sounds of Paul Simon and Art Garfunkel in the background right now, harmonizing their way through “Mrs. Robinson” (And here’s to you, Mrs. Robinson…). The 1966 Alfa Romeo Spider, along with Dustin Hoffman, starred in the classic 1967 movie The Graduate, about the adventures of freshly minted college graduate Benjamin Braddock (Hoffman) and the seductive Mrs. Robinson (Anne Bancroft), while Benjamin is trying to court her daughter. The background music was provided by the legendary singing duo Simon and Garfunkel. (Where have you gone, Joe DiMaggio…).
The 1966 Alfa is probably best known as the Duetto (duet in Italian), a name that was selected as the winner of a write-in contest that attracted over 100,000 entries. Unfortunately, the winning entry from Guidobaldo Trionfi of Brescia, Italy was subsequently found to have some legal issues that prevented Alfa Romeo from trademarking the name. Thus, Duetto was never officially adopted as the car name, although just about everyone called it by that. (Hide it in a hiding place where no one ever goes…)
Making its debut at the Geneva Motor Show in March of 1966, the Spider had a cutting-edge design from the maestro himself, Batista ‘Pinin’ Farina of Carrozzeria Pininfarina — a long tapering hood and a matching rear that also tapered down to meet the rear fascia. It was a look that made the Duetto unique until Alfa Romeo changed it in 1970 to a chopped-off Kamm tail.
The Duetto was powered by a jewel of an engine, an Alfa Romeo all-aluminum, double overhead cam, four-cylinder unit displacing 1570 cc. With two Weber carburetors, the engine produced 108 horsepower and would emit a delicious sound as it wound through the gears in the five-speed manual transmission. (Put it in the pantry with your cupcakes…)
Inside, the Alfa had comfortable leather seats, full instrumentation, a shifter that changed gears like the proverbial knife through butter, and an easily operated manual convertible top.
The Spider remained in production until 1993, evolving through four series and selling a grand total of 124,104 cars. In almost thirty years of production, the Spider was remarkable in its consistency – it never got remarkably better, nor did it get any worse. The engine got bigger, the handling remained brilliant, but the car never made any dramatic performance or appearance changes. It’s a nice Italian car for pleasure driving with the top down listening to the delightful Italian engine sounds. And, of course, listening to Simon and Garfunkel (Koo-koo-ka-choo, Mrs. Robinson…).
Super Cars: http://www.supercars.net/cars/1956.html
Alfa Spider FAQ: http://www.alfaspiderfaq.org/dev_his.htm
Photos by Marvin Raaijmakers and nakhon100