Despite the brand-new synthetic skin, the 8C Spider is, in essence, a Maserati in disguise. The transaxle layout is a straightforward carryover from the GranSport, as is the Cambiocorsa gearbox installed in the coupe. The engine was definitely not conceived in Arese, either. The beautifully detailed V-8 is a 4.7-liter version of the Maserati 4.2-liter unit. Rated at 450 hp, it produces more horsepower than both the Quattroporte and the Gran-Sport Coupe. In terms of displacement, the 8C engine even edges the Ferrari F430, which uses a 4.3-liter derivative of the same matrix. With maximum torque of 347 lb-ft available at 4750 rpm, the Alfa engine whips up more twist action than the F430, and it also distances both Maseratis.
This positioning doesn't make a lot of sense on an intracorporate level. Why does the least prestigious premium brand get the brawniest drivetrain? Who knows? Although the F430 replacement should benefit from a boost in power and torque, the GranSport replacement will be fitted with a mildly tweaked 4.2-liter unit.
The 8C Spider is a handbuilt concept, but it works well enough to keep breaking the lap record inside the shuttered Alfa factory again and again. The back straight of the building is long enough for a full blast in third gear, so here we go once more, molto vivace. With the throttle butterflies wide open and the four tailpipes blowing like chrome trumpets, you can almost see the plaster crack, and you can hear the skylights rattle in their frames. Redlined at 7800 rpm, the 90-degree V-8 keeps pushing you deep into the Sparco racing seat, which was originally developed for the Ferrari Enzo. Unlike the 8C coupe, which is all carbon fiber inside, the Spider's cockpit is dominated by black leather. Black is also the color of choice for the steeply raked windshield frame and for the steel rollover-protection elements.
Of the 500 8C coupes that Alfa Romeo will build between late 2007 and early 2009, approximately 100 cars will be exported to North America. After an absence of more than a decade from the world's largest new-car market, the brand plans to return to the States with a high-visibility, low-volume product that will be distributed through select Maserati dealers. Quite a few of the allocated vehicles have been preordered by owners of the classic Alfa 8C 2300, of which 188 units were built between 1931 and 1934. If there is demand for more of the same, the company could bring in perhaps fifty more cars, plus, of course, the 8C Spider.
According to those in the know, the parts situation is quite relaxed, thanks to the Maserati connection, and finding a suitable assembly site shouldn't be a problem. At this point, the 8C Spider squad is exploring four different avenues: Maserati in Modena, Bertone or Pininfarina in Turin, and Alfa's own in-house prototype shop. "We're always open to discussion," says Egger. "And we are every bit as enthusiastic about the Spider as we are about the coupe." I was ready to celebrate this statement with a donut that would have wrapped up a great day, despite the weather. But at 4000 rpm in first gear, the throttle cable suddenly snapped, and our supermodel slowed to idle speed. For the last few pictures, 15 mph was all the Spider could muster. No, dynamically not very exciting. But the perfect pace to dream about the day when this ragtop might join its coupe sibling on an Italian assembly line.