Dear goodness. This is a poignant reminder of the days when Alfa Romeo was a full-service car company: the convertible Alfa Romeo GTV or Spider.
In 1998 Alfa Romeo had the 146, the 147, the 156 (as saloon and estate), the GTV and Spider duo and the 166 saloon. All of them were pretty decent cars and all of them offered something other brands didn’t have.
If we consider too that Lancia had a full range of cars in Europe and so too did Fiat, the current situation for Fiat in Europe is appalling. Fiat had the Seicento, Punto (a bestseller), the Barchetta, Bravo/a, the Marea (as saloon and estate), the Fiat Coupe and Fiat Ulyssse. Crikey. It takes a fair amount of continuous negligence to kill off so many product lines.
Back to Alfa Romeo and its heyday. The Spider had been on sale for a few years already and made quite a big splash in the showroom, with the car becoming fairly common on the streets around that time. For 1998 Alfa Romeo gave the Spider a bit of a spruce up. Inside there was a nicely embellished centre console, a glittery metal-effect thing replacing the drab black effort that had sufficed before then. The grille – a cleverly arranged hole in the bonnet – had some extra chrome. And the 2.0 engine got a bit more power and a more even torque spread. So, your 1970 cc twin-cam 16V four turned out 155 bhp and twisted 138 lb ft when in the mood. Not only that you could get to 131 mph and touched 60 seconds in a shade over 8 seconds.
No wonder they sold a lot of them. A base-model, entry-level Porsche cost a full ten grand more. Yeah, yeah, yeah: Porsche quality and all that. But ten grand is a massive amount of money and there is no way an Alfa Romeo Spider was one third less good than a base-model, poverty-spec Porsche. And it looked and still looks gorgeous.
This is what the RAC has to say: “For a long time, the Alfa Spider was one of the most evocative names on British roads. The 1996 model featured offered a healthy dose of Latin charisma and some of the best engines you’ll come across anywhere, the Spider is never anything less than a blast.
Naturally, you’ll have to make some sacrifices if you want to enjoy open top motoring and the Spider will require you to travel light. It’s a car that adheres to the grand old traditions of a small weekend bag, your nearest and dearest and the open road. It’s a romantic ideal in a country where the open road is usually on the other side of a diesel-belching juggernaut, but its one we’ve been keen to buy into. From launch, the Spider was a steady seller for Alfa Romeo and there is no shortage of good quality used cars on the market.”
Car’s Paul Horrell liked the car’s dry grip and considered the 1998 revision to be improved across the board compared to the earlier years’ iterations. So, what went wrong, what went wrong?