Collectible Classic: 1983-1990 Alfa Romeo Spider

Renato Zacchia

Alfa Romeo's popular and accessible sports car, the Spider, was sold in the United States from 1966 until 1994, its long run divided into four series. The early cars, with their distinctive boattail styling, were immortalized as Dustin Hoffman's ride in The Graduate. Generally regarded as the most beautiful iteration of Pininfarina's design, these Spiders also are the most basic in spec, the rarest, and the most expensive. After skipping U.S. exports in 1970 (as it had in '68), Alfa brought back the Spider for 1971, beginning the second series, with a chopped tail and fussy Spica fuel injection for its enlarged 2.0-liter four-cylinder; heavy rubber bumpers arrived for 1975. The next iteration, the '83 to '90 Series 3 models, got a controversial black rubber ducktail rear spoiler, better-integrated bumpers, and (in '86) interior revisions. They enjoy more reliable Bosch fuel injection and available air-conditioning (both of which actually came on board in '82). For the final cars, the 1991-'94 models, the styling was smoothed out, power steering and a driver's air bag were added, and an automatic transmission (!) was optional; they're a bit more powerful but also slightly heavier.

Each era has its fans, but the Series 3 cars sit at a happy convergence of availability, affordability, and usability. Production peaked in 1986, and because Spiders were often used as fair-weather cars, there are plenty still around, even in the Snow Belt.

For most of the Series 3 years, Spiders were sold in three trim levels: the basic Graduate (steel wheels, vinyl seats, crank windows), the more deluxe Veloce (leather upholstery, power windows and mirrors, aluminum wheels, air-conditioning), and the flashy Quadrifoglio (two-tone interior with gray leather and red carpets, side skirts, removable hard top). Mechanically, the three versions are identical, with a 2.0-liter four-cylinder rated at 115 hp (120 hp in 1990), a five-speed manual transmission, and four disc brakes.

"This is my favorite Spider," says Enrique Zuniga, owner of the 1984 Spider Veloce you see in these pictures. "It has the right combination of classic cosmetics and modern mechanicals." Zuniga has a pretty sound basis of knowledge, being a director of the Alfa Romeo Owners Club (www.aroc-usa.org) and also having owned Spiders since 1975, when he bought his first one as a college student. Today, among the seven Alfas he owns are three Spiders.

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