Italian Classics I, Convertibles: Collectors

Italian Classics I, Convertibles: Collectors

In the first part of the series, we present Alfa Romeo Spider and Fiat 124 Sport Spider

Wherever they appeared, they became the center of attention - and so it has been for more than four decades. But the Alfa Romeo 1750 Veloce and Fiat 124 Sport Spider can be more than just beautiful. Much more.

Almost everyone holds their breath as soon as they notice two gigs. The first is an Alfa Romeo, a 1750 red 1969 Veloce. Once nicknamed Osso di sepia due to its rounded rear end, today it is the most popular in the Spider family. It is followed by the Fiat 124 Sport Spider, produced in 1971, the thoughtful long-life model that has achieved the greatest success in the American market. Judging by how many looks these Italian players caught on our trip, their charm has not faded to this day.

Let's say that the simultaneous piloting of two Italian cars during a trip and a photo session excited the author of these lines. This is probably due to the ease with which we were able to chase Alfa and Fiat on the road on this beautiful summer day, and to that impeccable purism that has long disappeared in most modern convertibles. Round, with an elongated and slender figure, Alpha cannot be confused with anything else - her face wears the famous shield (Scudetto) and is divided into two parts. The front and back, slightly tapered, merge towards the midline, reaching almost perfect proportions.

We can only blame the designer Sergio Pininfarin for the fact that before being presented in a new form in the summer of 1966, the Spider did not leave enough space for large plates with license plates in some countries where the car is exported - although most of the copies from Spider were intended specifically for abroad. Compared to the then Italian front mini-labels, the German numbers look huge and had to be attached very asymmetrically under one of the bumpers. Or even foil on the front cover.

Fiat 124 Sport Spider with front cover bulges

Unlike Alfa Romeo, the Fiat convertible politely carries a plate in the middle of its distinctive front end with a black honeycomb grille. Two small bumps on the gently sloping front lid mark the car as the 1970 hp version introduced in the 110. on a 1,6-liter engine, whose tall twin carburettors required more space, at least on the driver's side. The second bulge, respectively, is devoid of certain functions and is due to the desire for stylistic harmony of the designer - yes, that's right - Sergio Pininfarina. In the mid-XNUMXs, he designed both cars for rivals Fiat and Alfa Romeo almost simultaneously.

But while Pininfarina's unusual rounded rear end proved to be a tough test for many alphas' tastes, the Fiat feed, introduced just six months after the Alfa Spider (November 1966), has long been considered highly proportional. The immediately noticeable double bend resembles a dovetail in shape and should aerodynamically stabilize movement in a straight line.

Even in the new 1982 edition, dubbed the Pininfarina Spidereuropa, the classic design of the eternally young 2 + 2 sports car remains unchanged, while Alfa ditches the once unloved round rear end four years later with the Fastback.

And a piquant detail: “The Fiat Spider was the best combination of design and intelligence,” Sergio Pininfarina once said. Words that many Alpha fans cannot forgive him to this day.

Old school Alpha - aesthetic and functional

Spider owner Ulrich Burckhardt looks at this case rather calmly today, although the man from Böblingen (near Stuttgart) has always driven only an Alfa Romeo. Red Veloce has been part of this alfist park for ten years; the car is in such a state that any owner can wish, and immediately there is a desire to sit in it.

No problem, Burkhard seems to have read the author's mind during the first break and handed over the keys. The first glance falls on the steering wheel, supported by three metal spokes, and then on the sharply sharpened round controls behind it. The speedometer and tachometer are rotated so that the maximum power zone is exactly in the driver's field of vision. To the right of these are three additional indicators for tank content, oil pressure and coolant temperature. Alpha's old school is aesthetic and functional.

The brilliantly engineered twin camshaft engine used by the 1750 Berlina rings on the first bell and even rejoices in its hoarse voice on the jobsite. The sound changes slightly when the Spider hits the road again, and becomes sharper and more passionate. Even at low revs, the 115 hp four-cylinder unit. absorbs clean gas and perfectly develops speed up to 5500 rpm. Upstairs, he begins to choke a little, but this has not played a role for a long time.

The turns of the Veloce are not at all intimidating - even in the series, they are overcome almost like playing with two fingers on the steering wheel, and even the rigid rear axle does not miss the selected line. The five-speed gearbox is a poem too! It works directly - and all the gears are perfectly aligned with each other. Getting off this car is very difficult. Ulrich Burkhard knows this feeling.

Almost 30 years in the same hands

That said, the test tour with Dietmar Balinger's Fiat 124 Sport Spider from Schleitdorf is fine. "The shift isn't bad, isn't it?" Man is fully aware of the impact of his machine. At first he bought it for only one summer, and now he has owned it for 29 years. No more questions needed.

Fiat's dashboard with six round units looks just like an Alfa timeless. However, here all indicators are in the driver's field of vision. Only the three-perforated-spoke steering wheel is not original, Ballinger adds. "The factory steering wheel for this version of the Spider had two spokes."

Under the hood of the open Fiat, its 1,6-liter four-cylinder is already mumbling at idle. It comes from the Fiat 125 and also has two overhead camshafts. While in Alfa Romeo they are driven by a duplex scheme, Fiat has one of the first large production units with two overhead camshafts driven by a timing belt.

Fiat 124 Spider - Bestseller in USA

“Now the Alfa is going to be hot,” colleagues at the then auto, motor und sport predicted in 1966 at the presentation of a Fiat model with a modern engine, five-speed gearbox and a good price. In fact, the Milan-based company is not going through such hard times, but the Turin Spider is becoming a bestseller, especially in the United States - almost two-thirds of all 124 produced found their happiness in the New World.

It only takes a few minutes to get used to the car. The open Fiat follows the curves of the road without any tension when cornering, easily orientates itself with the noticeably inclined steering wheel and behaves slightly with the front wheels only in very fast turns. Indeed, the short-stroke engine seduces you with a more dynamic driving style because it feels best in the 4000 to 6000 rpm range while sounding attractive and bold. When things get tense, and here, as with the Alfa, four disc brakes provide the necessary peace of mind.

Our trip ends only late at night. Behind two convertibles, a perfectly traversed route remains, and their drivers are satisfied with themselves and the world - which cannot be attributed to anything other than these cars. There is nothing more to add ...


Editor Michael Schroeder: Both the Alfa Romeo 1750 Veloce and the Fiat 124 Sport Spider are in the dream car category. For them, everything revolves around the pleasure of driving. And finally, the admiration is even greater, because these cars once again prove how little is needed for this.

Of course, "little" is a relative term. 1750cc Alfa engine The sm is the maximum of the history of the Italian automotive industry - a delightful sports heart in every sense. With such a car under the hood, you don't start, but you get pleasure from the start, as if you are setting the beginning of a vacation. And the fact that the once ridiculed, rounded-back Spider became the ancestor of a legendary lineup ultimately makes it all the more desirable.

Fiat was once tasked with making life as difficult as possible for Alfa, with its agile and modern engine. The Beautiful Spider from Turin did this job long ago and today it can safely emerge from the shadow of the great Alfa Romeo icon.


Alfa Romeo 1750 VelosEngineWater-cooled four-cylinder in-line four-stroke engine, cylinder head and light alloy block, crankshaft with five main bearings, two outboard valves for each combustion chamber, two duplex chain driven overhead camshafts, two Weber 45 horizontal flow twin-barrel carburettors DCOE 14.

Working volume: 1779 cm³

Bore x Stroke: 80,0 x 88,5mm

Power: 115 hp at 5000 rpm

Maximum. torque: 169 Nm @ 3000 rpm

Compression ratio: 9,0: 1

Energy transfer Single plate dry clutch, fully synchronized five-speed gearbox, rear-wheel drive.

Body and chassis Self-supporting steel body

Front: independent suspension with cross members, coil springs, stabilizer, telescopic hydraulic shock absorbers.

Rear: rigid axle, longitudinal beams, T-beam, coil springs, telescopic shock absorbers.

Worm and roller steering system

Brakes: front and rear disc

Tires: 155 SR 14.

Dimensions and weight Length x width x height: 4250 x 1630 x 1290 mm

Wheelbase: 2250 mm

Weight: 1040 kg.

Dynamic performance and costMaximum speed: 187,5 km / h

Acceleration from 0 to 100 km / h: 10,4 sec.

Consumption: 14 l / 100 km.

Period for production and circulationFrom 1966 to 1970, only about 15 copies. (all versions with rounded back: 000 Junior, 1300 Duetto and 1600 Veloce).

Fiat 124 Sport SpiderEngineModel 125 BC, water-cooled four-cylinder in-line four-stroke engine, light alloy cylinder head, crankshaft with five main bearings, two valves per combustion chamber, driven by two overhead camshafts driven by a toothed belt, two carburettors with adjustable skid and vertical flow Solex C 40 P II or Weber 40 IDF.

Working volume: 1608 cm³

Bore x Stroke: 80 x 80mm

Power: 110 hp at 6400 rpm

Maximum. torque: 148 Nm @ 3500 rpm

Compression ratio: 9,8: 1

Energy transfer Single plate dry clutch, fully synchronized five-speed gearbox, rear-wheel drive.

Body and chassisSelf-supporting steel body

Front: independent suspension with cross members, coil springs, stabilizer, telescopic hydraulic shock absorbers.

Rear: rigid axle, longitudinal struts, coil springs, longitudinal reaction rods, diagonal cross member and stabilizer, telescopic hydraulic shock absorbers.

Worm and roller steering system

Brakes: front and rear disc

Tires: 165 x 13

Dimensions and weightLength x width x height: 3971 x 1613 x 1250 mm

Wheelbase: 2280 mm

Weight: 995 kg

Dynamic performance and costMaximum speed: 180 km / h

Acceleration from 0 to 100 km / h: 10,3 sec.

Consumption: about 12-15 l / 100 km

Period for production and circulationFiat 124 Sport Spider from 1966 to 1971, total of 21 examples. (European versions AS to CS545)

Text: Michael Schroeder

Photo: Arturo Rivas



Home » Test Drive » Italian Classics I, Convertibles: Collectors

Add a comment