Imagine yourself as a fly on the wall at the headquarters of Alfa Romeo circa 1956. The conversation concerns the fate of the 1900 driveline, now that the Touring-bodied three-window (Fifth series) coupes and serial-production sedans were reaching the end of their sales viability.
Buoyed by the success of the Giulietta Sprint, and with the public clambering for more Giulietta Spiders, the conclusion the planning powers reached was predictable.
"We'll simply replicate the Giulietta Spider, Sprint and Berlina in a larger size. Let's take the cast-iron 102 series engine we've been using in the 1900 series, get Touring to create some new sheet metal, and we'll surely have another huge success on our hands."
Today, no decision of this magnitude would be made without endless focus groups and consumer surveys. And for good reason. If Alfa had checked with its consumers before proceeding, they might have detected the sales resistance that was waiting.
The appeal of the Giulietta series was a combination of petite size, superb performance and visual simplicity.
The 102 series Spiders were larger, slower and more garish looking than the Giuliettas, and were doomed to sales failure from the start.
By the end of the 1900 series production run, the mechanical components were both robust and sophisticated. The Super Sprints featured standard dual down-throat Solex carburetors and a five-shift with either floor- or column-mounted gear-change.
With few changes, these mechanical components went into the new 2000 line. While retaining the five-speeds, the gearbox was updated to the tunnel-case style introduced in the Giulietta Spider/Sprint series in 1959.
Carburetion was changed from down-draft to side-draft, still Solex, and still with problematic vacuum-operated secondaries.
Styling of the Spider, by Touring, fell into the "pointed sunglasses and high spike heels" genre, with complex chrome bits on the front, side and hood.
While this design was not popular at the time, it has aged well, especially when contrasted with the less visually interesting 2600 Spider that followed.
What led to the downfall of the 2000 Spider were their driving characteristics. Simply put, they were slow.
One SCM subscriber described accelerating in his Spider as like "driving a 750 Normale down the road with a telephone pole tied behind it."
The gearbox was good, the engine revved well, and there was ample interior space for creature comfort. Small jump seats in the back provided storage room, and the trunk was positively huge by contemporary standards.
But it's a slow car.
Today, when 2000 Spiders are used only for vintage events, their acceleration relative to other traffic is irrelevant. What counts is their visual appeal, comfort and reliability. (It's not much fun to be stranded outside Eureka, counting sea gulls, waiting for a distributor cap for your otherwise blindingly fast OSCA while the rest of the California Mille Miglia field flies by.)
But in 1959, potential Alfa Romeo buyers expected that this expensive car would at least match the acceleration of the now discontinued 1900 CSS coupe series. It didn't, and they didn't purchase it.
In fact, the total sales for the 102 2000 series from 1959-62 were only 7,089. Most unusual, the Spider was the most popular model with 3,443 constructed - since in every other mass-produced Alfa platform, the sedans had the highest production numbers.
There were never many 2000 Spiders imported to the US, and most of the ones that came here met their demise through rust and mechanical neglect. It was only during the 1986-90 value rise that we began to see restored 2000 Spiders.
Like the 2600 Spiders that followed them, they were touted as "baby Ferrari 250 PF Cabriolets." I remember talking with a speculator at an auction who reasoned that "the 2000 Spider is bigger than the Giulietta, therefore it must be worth more." The adequately restored car he purchased that day at a Swiss auction for $44,000+ recently changed hands for around $12,000.
Street value for very nice examples is in the $12,000 to $14,000 range. However, 2000 Spiders are an acquired taste and a difficult sale.
With interior and exterior trim being nearly impossible to find, restoring a 2000 Spider makes no sense at all.
These large, slow Alfas will always create an impression whenever they show up at an event, but will never make a big impression on the market. Look for them to stay at the current levels for the next three years. They will rise and fall with the second tier of collector cars.