A modern classic by Pininfarina, the simple yet elegant Spider bodywork premiered in the US on the 1967 1.6-liter Duetto would prove enduringly popular, lasting into the 1990s. The Spider's mechanics were essentially those of the Giulia sedan, comprising independent front suspension, a coil-suspended live rear axle and four-wheel servo-assisted disc brakes, while the engine was the Giulia Sprint GTV's 1.6-liter, double-overhead camshaft four. The US-market Duetto was made for just one year before being superseded in 1969 by the 1.8-liter 1750 Spider Veloce, which carried the same symmetrical bodywork as the Duetto (due to EPA and DOT regulations, there was no 1968 or 1970 model year for Alfa in the US). In 1971, the 1750's "round tail" was modified with the "sawed-off" Kamm-type tail, which would characterize the successor 2000 model.

A most attractive and sought-after post-war Alfa, this early left-hand drive "roundtail" 1750 Spider Veloce was recently imported into the UK from South Africa. The car is reported to be in good condition mechanically, with very good bodywork and paintwork, and a good original interior and top. The car also has a new exhaust system and tires.

{analysis} This car sold for $10,865, including buyer's premium, at the Bonhams & Brooks Beaulieu sale on September 9, 2001. This price is within SCM's estimate of $9,000 to $12,500, and represents a solid investment.

The symmetric Duetto, with its tapered front and rear, available in the US in model years 1967 and 1969 (called a Spider Veloce), is something of a cult piece. The 1967 models are more
highly prized because they carry dual Weber carburetors instead of the SPICA mechanical fuel injection, which was introduced on the 1969 US-specification 1750 Spiders (series 105.62). Another roundtail attraction is its lack of the "comfort and convenience" accessories-air conditioning, power windows and side mirrors-that came to weigh down later versions of the Spider. A Weber-carbureted Duetto is the lightest, most sporting and most easily maintained of the Alfa Spiders imported into the US since 1967.

Although elegant, the Duetto's almost-bumperless nose and tail sections proved overly susceptible to damage, and the later squared-off "Kamm" tail gave Alfa's engineers a more substantial body structure from which to suspend functional bumpers.

As the auction catalog copy suggests, the Alfa Spiders derived from the original Duetto achieved one of the longest-production runs of any marque, spanning 28 years. European taste for the model soured long before the American attraction, and the model ended its run as a US-only "Commemorative Spider." The reason for the Spider's longevity has much less to do with enduring design than Alfa's marketing incompetence, however. From the mid-'60s to the middle of the '90s, Alfa blundered from model to model, using a trial-and-error approach that eventually sapped the company of its resources and kept it from updating its venerable Spider. Also, Alfa's various approaches to US-mandated smog and safety regulations always seemed to be of the Band-Aid, "what's the least we can do?" variety rather than an overall, thoughtful approach.

When the Alfetta models were introduced in 1975, only a Sprint and Berlina appeared, and enthusiasts wondered where the new Spider was. In 1972 Pininfarina had proposed a replacement for the Duetto and intended it to appear with the Alfetta Berlina and Sprint, but there were simply no funds for its development. The Pininfarina Alfetta Spider prototype is now housed in Alfa's museum at Arese.

So American enthusiasts, who since the middle 1950s had been accustomed to driving Alfa Spiders that featured state-of-the-art engines and suspensions, were saddled with the increasingly heavy, unattractive, outdated two-liter cars of the '80s and '90s.

Expensive surprises are few with a well-kept roundtail. Finding unbent front and rear decklids can be difficult, and used stainless steel bumpers and reflective rear "lollipops" in good condition are costly.

But the mechanicals are robust, with parts available from a variety of sources. Best of all, with long-legged gearing and a well-designed five-speed gearbox, these cars are comfortable cruising at 75 mph all day long, something that can not often be said for $10,000 1960s sports cars.

Roundtail Spiders can be upgraded to later two-liter engines relatively easily, and while the performance is definitely increased, something quite wonderful is lost in the change: the sound and feel of the 1600-cc and 1779-cc engine with its free-revving characteristics. Somehow the two-liter engines exchanged increased horsepower for a feeling of mechanical ponderousness.

There is something virginal about the early Duettos: the sense of a true sports car unspoiled by the rough hands of marketers or advertisers. The Duetto is about as close to a pure sports car as you can get, especially if cars like the Morgan or MGB are a bit too Spartan. The new owner can reasonably anticipate many miles of pleasant motoring, with little fear of mechanical complications. And because of its seminal design, which looks better with each passing year, a good Duetto or Spider Veloce is likely to be a fine long-term investment.-Pat Braden{/analysis}

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