Alfa Romeo Spider

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The Italian beauty that graduated to true stardom

It didn’t need a starring role in a film to make it cool – the Alfa Romeo Spider arrived dripping with style, chic but cheeky, with thrusting nose and a curvaceous rump. Yes, it had family car underworks, but they were Alfa works – an alloy twin-cam four happy to wind 109 eager horsepower from its 1600cc, breathing through two snorting twin Weber carburettors and dispensing torque through a five-speed gearbox – something even an E-type didn’t have at the time.

And those elegant lines – it was your own taste of la dolce vita, and you didn’t need to see The Graduate to imagine yourself pulling up outside fashionable Riviera restaurants in this scarlet beauty.

It drove with style too. Light steering, disc brakes on all corners and grown-up coil springs when the home equivalent – the MGB – made do with dated leafs and drums at the rear. In Britain the Spider wasn’t cheap – it was in sight of E-type money, so in 1968, two years after the launch, Alfa offered a 1300cc Junior model with a few less bhp and a slightly cost-trimmed interior but virtually all the same character. Meanwhile the 1600 Duetto became the 1750 Veloce with 122bhp, turning it into a true gem.

Those 105-series Alfas proved very long-lived in production terms, and so did the Spider – some 26 years over various iterations, though it lost a little charm each time. In 1970 came a squared-off ‘Kamm tail’ which gave more room for your weekend cases though few thought it prettier despite a more relaxed screen rake. One year on, a 2-litre arrived offering 132bhp; rubber bumpers later upset its looks, but not as much as Series 3 cars which in 1983 grew heavier black bumpers, chin spoiler and a rubber tail flip. A 1991 tidy-up was cleaner but out of tune with the Sixties charmer it once had been.

For on-the-road delight a second-series 1750 in the original shape – variously labelled boat-tail or round-tail (Duetto really means the 1600) – has the edge, that free-revving motor giving all the urge you’d want. Which means it’s the priciest but also the best investment. Later Series 3 cars offer terrific fun-per-pound value, but a 1750 Veloce is perfezione.

Price new: £1894 (1.6 Duetto) Price now: 1750 Veloce £55,000; 2000 Veloce £10-20,000 Rivals: MGB, Triumph TR4A, Renault Caravelle, Jaguar E-type Heritage: Bears a badge adorned with laurels over the years, and shares motors which powered thousands of track and rally victories