The Alfa Romeo Spider Duetto Vs 4C Spider
We realize that comparing the two cars that Alfa Romeo has produced is a bit like comparing apples to tangerines, but we will do it anyway. The two cars share the same DNA in many ways, and without the legacy the Spider Duetto built, the 4C might never have had the courage to show its face. Here are some comparisons we made.
The Alfa Romeo Legacy
The original design of the Spider has its roots in the fifties, as the Italian carmaker presented countless concept models at various motor shows. The most significant was likely the 1959 Geneva Motor Show, featuring the open roof of a Spider Super Sport with a curved tail, and then the Giulietta SS Spider appeared a couple of years later at the Turin Motor Show. Despite Alfa knowing what they wanted the new sports car to be like, they continued to take the next five years to perfect it.
The Alfa Romeo Spider launched the Spider at the 1966 Geneva Motor Show and offered a naming contest to identify the new car. The winning entry was the ‘Duetto,” meaning “Duet.” Still, that name soon ran into issues with a candy maker who had introduced the same name. After the Court of Milan sided against the carmaker, the Duetto name was dropped, and the new sportscar was known as the Alfa Romeo Spider 1600.
The Spider would continue to be produced for another 28 years through four Series with different variants, making it the longest-running production car in the Italian automaker’s history. The car was about as perfect of a driving experience as one could get, with a twin-cam engine, balanced steering, and a great aesthetic. During those years, the Spider enjoyed a loyal following in the US as the little sportscar was deemed the perfect California cruiser.
The Spider would remain intact through 1993 after selling more than 124k units over almost three decades. The exquisite little sports car earned the “poor man’s Ferrari” nickname due to its attractive price tag of around $4,000.
In contrast, the 4C Spider was introduced at the 2014 New York International Auto Show, with extra bracing for the US models to help meet federal crash test regulations. Having witnessed the success of the Maserati 8C, Alfa Romeo had high expectations for the new Spider. Initially, the 4C thrilled the press and owners alike, winning several awards for the best sports car or design. However, Road and Track magazine might have summed it up best when they reviewed the car in 2015, determining that even though the car was flawed, no one seemed to care.
The new sportscar had a 1.75L inline four-cylinder engine, producing 240 hp, with exquisite handling and adequate power. Unfortunately, the car never really sold well, despite being able to run a 4.5 second 0 - 60 mph and clock a top speed of 160 mph. Part of the reason was a shoddy built interior. Another might have been its $65k asking price. (Porsche offered much better quality and more selection for only about $20k more).
Part of the issue with the 4C was that Alfa Romeo was encountering financial struggles at the time and scrimped on areas, especially the interior. The car’s hard seats, lack of storage, and limited features didn’t appeal to the American public, and this belief was reflected in poor sales. When US federal regulations determined that the Alfa 4C Spider didn’t meet ejection mitigation standards, Alfa killed the Spider in 2020 (having discontinued it in the US market a couple of years earlier). Less than 9k units of the Alfa Romeo 4C Spider were ever produced.
The 1966 Alfa Romeo Spider 1600 has a length of 167.22 inches. It stood 50.8 inches tall and had a stance of 64.2 inches. The car was extremely light at 2,196 lbs, with its carbon fiber tub, which helped bolster its maneuverability. By contrast, the 2015 Alfa 4C is shorter and not as tall, at 157 inches long and 47.1 inches tall. The new car does have a wider girth of almost 10 inches (74 inches). The weight is not much different in 2,468 lbs for the 2015 Spider.
Engine and Performance
The 1966 Alfa Spider Duetto was not an especially fast car, but then, it didn’t need to be. Powered by a 1600 twin-cam inline four-cylinder engine fed by dual Weber side-draft carburetors, the car produced 116 hp, translating to a pedestrian 11.5 second 0 - 60 mph time. The top speed for the Series 1 Spiders was 115 mph. Later versions were slightly more powerful, and by the time the final Series 4 came out in 1993, the displacement had increased to 2.0L four with an increased horsepower output of 124. The Spider was outfitted with a five-speed transmission and four-wheel disc brakes.
As you might expect, the 4C Spider had a much more powerful engine with a turbo-charged 1.7L four-cylinder producing 237 hp and 219 lb-ft of torque. The car had a top speed of 160 mph and could move down the track quickly, posting a 4.5 second 0 - 60 mph time. (The speed was better than the Porsche Boxster). The new Alfa was equipped with a six-speed dual-dry clutch transmission.
While there were many safety updates from the sixties to forty-five years later, the original Spider did have chrome-styled lap belts (which most car companies anticipated the upcoming federal mandate). Over the 28 years of production, the car received other updates, like a padded dash, integrated third brake light, and eventually retractable shoulder belts mounted behind the front seats.
The new Spider had dual airbags and side-impact bags, which the federal government mandated. In addition, the car was equipped with a sensitive traction control system. However, due to the car’s inability to meet federal ejection mitigation standards, Alfa killed the Spider for the US market a couple of years after introducing it. In addition, the new Spider was not equipped with power steering, which caused a great deal of consternation to American drivers.
Interior and Cargo
One of the perks of owning an early Spider Duetto was the cargo space that it offered. The sports car had a large trunk area with a spare tire tucked under the cargo floor. The interior cabin was sparse, with vinyl bucket seats, a simple dash, rubber floor mats, and limited instrumentation. A large oversized three-spoke steering wheel monopolized the interior space, and as the years developed, the interiors became more suited to daily driving needs.
The 2015 Alfa 4C Spider had a similar sparse interior, but after forty years, customers expected more. With no power steering, the top was difficult to put up and down (the top had to be rolled up and stored in the trunk, which left no room for anything else). In addition, the interior seemed cramped with no storage (not even a glove box), so as Road and Track reviewed, it was “not a car to run errands in.”
Cost And Value
The 1966 Alfa was considered the “poor man’s Ferrari” with a suggested retail price of $3,950 (roughly $36k in 2023). The 2015 Alfa started at $65k, about twenty thousand more than a Porsche 911. The current value of a 1966 Alfa Romeo Spider Duette is around $50k in today’s market, depending on its condition.