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Alfa Romeo Spider Veloce: An Affordable Classic Italian Sports Car for the Rest of Us

Updated on December 14, 2010
The author's personal car, a 1971 Alfa Romeo Spider Veloce.
The author's personal car, a 1971 Alfa Romeo Spider Veloce.

Are you looking for a sporty classic convertible that you don’t really need but would like to have? A car to cruise around in on those beautiful spring mornings with the wind in your hair and sweet heart by your side. Everyone’s looking for a car like that, whether they admit it or not, why not make it Italian?

Alfa Romeo Spider Veloce (Generation II 1970 – 1983)

Alfa Romeo has a storied and romantic history as many Italian auto manufacturers do, they’ve been building potent sports cars sine the early part of the 20th Century. During the sports car boom of the 50s and 60s Alfa Romeo gained the reputation of a company that allowed many of the technical advances developed in their racing cars to trickle down into their street cars. It’s for that reason that many Alfa Romeos pack much more sophisticated engine and mechanical technology than many of their German and English competitors of the period.

Most people associate the Alfa Romeo Spider with the Dustin Hoffman movie “The Graduate.” No doubt, his Alfa got a lot of screen time in that movie, but the Alfa Romeo Spider we’re going to focus on here is the second generation Spider, similar in many respects, but about ¼ - ½ the price of the Gen I variant seen in that movie.

For the 1970 model year Alfa Romeo released their second generation Spider with a slightly different convertible body than the Gen I. The most notable change was a cut-off tail treatment, known as a Kamm tail, after the German aerodynamicist Wunibald Kamm who, in the 1930s, figured out that a car with a raked front end that lead to an abruptly cut off ‘tail’ could cut through the air with less wind resistance. These cars are as nice to look at as they are to drive.

Alfa Spiders have an all alloy, inline 4 cylinder engines mated to five speed manual transmission, an extremely rare combination in all but the most expensive sports cars of the day. Displacement is just under 2000cc and horsepower is just 132, but thanks to this engine and transmission set up, and their light weight, these cars are fast and a joy to drive.

You’ll race up through all 5 gears before you reach 50 miles per hour, so there is plenty to do and lots of fun to be had even on quiet suburban back streets. The exhaust note sounds like a sports car should, deep and throaty, but not too loud. While everyone else is just tooling around the neighborhood listening to the radio, talking on their phone half asleep, you’ll feel like you’re driving in the Monaco Grand Prix.

The "Kamm" tail, first appeared for the 1970 model year.
The "Kamm" tail, first appeared for the 1970 model year.

What to Look For

When considering an Alfa Spider look out for rust, current rust or evidence of previous rust repair. These cars rust easily and there are plenty of cars out there to choose from, so bide your time until you can find a rust free, or near rust free example. In a driver, a few little bubbles might not be a big deal, but be sure that’s all there is.

There is one common mechanical issues that show up on these cars. The first and second gear synchronizers are notoriously weak in these cars, the things that basically keep the gears from grinding or crunching when downshifting from third to second or from second to first. Crunchy synchros aren’t the end of the world, but you’ll want to have them replaced eventually.

Interior bits and replacement convertible tops are easily sourced and not real expensive, so don’t run away from a car with a tired interior or yellowed back window that’s hard to see out of.

If you’re the kind of person who likes to drive and enjoy cars, but you don’t work on them, that’s fine… but take it to someone who does know and have them perform a pre purchase inspection. It shouldn’t cost you more than about $100, but it will save you a lot more than that in the long run.

When you begin looking for your Spider look up your local Alfa Romeo Owners Club (AROC). Contact one of the club officers and tell them what you’re looking for. Chances are someone in the club will know of an available car, at the very least they could talk to you more in depth about which Spider might be right for you. Local enthusiast clubs for cars like these are invaluable resources for people new to the brand. If you do find a car through the local club chances are it will have been well cared for and maintained. These often end up being some of the best deals out there!


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