Featured: Chasing A Definition Of Perfection With An Alfa Romeo Duetto Spider

Chasing A Definition Of Perfection With An Alfa Romeo Duetto Spider

By Armando Musotto
February 13, 2019
22 comments

Photography by Armando Musotto

I strongly believe that there are true myths in the automotive panorama, stereotypes that have deep foundations and bring forth continual proof in their favor. Every car has its own peculiarities, some are beloved things we might call “quirks,” while others may be less charming, like a tendency to prematurely spin rod bearings.

You will remember some cars for exaggerated power and incredible success in motorsport, others for their spectacular liveries, others for memories simply because you grew up down the street from one, and fell in love when you were too young to know better.

I love racing cars to the moon, but there are more than enough street cars that I find myself following on an owl’s head pivot when they pass in the opposite lane. A racing car will thrill you in a unique way that gets at something primal in our being, but the car that I will talk about today excites in a different way, something a bit more grounded but still from another planet in comparison to most of the road’s populace.

In my previous visit to Alessio, in his cave of wonders, between the ruins of a Giulietta full of rust and an Alfasud covered by a geologic layer of dust, my eyes fell on a model that I had been looking at the shape of for a long time under its dusty blue canvas—an immediately familiar shape, recognizable from every side.

Perfectly designed and set in a flowing line, with sweet and seductive features, like a woman in the flower of her youth as someone like me might say. We are talking about the Alfa Romeo Duetto, or Spider, with the Kamm-style, truncated tail, a protagonist of summer for many Italian boys looking for company. And if I saw a beautiful woman driving this beautiful car? Too much!

Can we consider a car with more than 40 years to be modern? Can we consider current a car that does not respect the current motoring standards? Well, Duettos and the like are, right now, today, a very popular means toward rewinding time. The point is, it’s not really important when we start calling a car a classic or not, and even though this one surely is, that doesn’t mean its only fans are those that are also quite classic themselves. Young dudes like Alessio are the living proof of this, in my opinion. An old-fashioned but hip owner, able to appreciate these cars while giving them a contemporary purpose.

The original Alfa Romeo Duetto is probably one of the most popular projects of the duo of Pininfarina and Alfa Romeo, a balance between elegance and humility, effortlessly graceful but never something you’d call contrived. To add to the beauty of the form is the fact that the poet Leonardo Sinisgalli gave the car its name in a competition organized by Alfa Romeo’s then-president Giuseppe Luraghi, no stranger to beautiful words himself.

Only the first 190 copies can use the name Duetto though, due to a harsh legal dispute caused by the name of a snack (yes, a snack!), whose producer claimed the right to use the “Duetto” exclusively. So, the denomination was eliminated and the car became simply the Spider after the first series, but the Duetto name remained in the common language as a synonym for Spider to many, as it had already sent down some deep roots.

The Duetto was born in a flourishing period for Alfa Romeo that, conscious of the successes of the previous models, decided to invest in a convertible car, a spider, that would be affordable and friendly enough to unite the tastes and budgets of customers across a wider spectrum, and to give a follow-up to the Giulia GTC, which had remained at the concept stage. The creation of the Duetto, this marvel of all-Italian design, is due in large part to the design work of Franco Martinengo and Aldo Bovarone, who started from a Pininfarina project from the 1960s called the Superflow and drew what would become the Duetto based on that concept. It was Battista Pininfarina in the end, who sanctioned the masterpiece of the form and developed the final version.

The first Duettos leave the Grugliasco factories in 1966, marking the beginning of a multiple-decade-long era of popularity for the little Alfa drop-top. 28 years of production, in fact, separate the first from the fourth series, and I don’t want to hide the fact that I would like to see it again in a newer version, in an era in which Alfa Romeo re-proposes its significant production models. I think the Duetto is a perfect choice for modern day Alfa Romeo to re-imagine; a car for a young public, perhaps more in synch with the pleasures of summertimes when the roof stays down for months on end.

Let’s get back to Alessio’s garage, which feels enough like a daydream already. The cover hid the forms of the car well, but not fully, and in something you might call a blur, all of a sudden I find myself hanging out of the trunk of a moving vehicle as this gorgeous machine gives chase. Among the rows of freshly picked olive trees and the light that filters through a nearby pine forest, it’s hard to imagine a better place to be.

The Duetto is agile and moves well between the narrow country roads, and its 128bhp provide the right amount of fun thrust to get around, but its the beaches of San Teodoro that we’re going for photos today, a setting that can do justice to this beautiful sculpture my camera’s aimed at.

I strongly believe, and I will be happy to be criticized for this opinion, that this car is not special for its speed or agility or performance, but that the Duetto will be remembered so fondly for so many years to come for the pleasure of owning it. For owning something that isn’t perfect, but almost. For owning something that makes you realize that nothing really is perfect, and that we must work with what we have and make the best of it—that’s as close as we’ll get to the ideal life, and surely cars like this one have a part to play both as we make our way toward that life, and if we ever get so lucky to reach it. These are the kind of thoughts that go through my head when the wind is going through my hair in the passenger seat of my friend’s Duetto, and that right there is hard to beat. Perhaps we’ve already arrived.

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Armando MusottoLukasS110inndBill MeyerMarcocapelli Recent comment authors
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LukasS
LukasS

Thank you very much for these well chosen words and the beautiful photographs.

„pleasure of owning it“

You captured the essence of the Alfa Romeo Spider here I think. Nothing materialistic, simply the joy and smile you get out of driving it.

Since there are already a few others here, I am glad to share mine as well. „Just“ an S3, but still a real classic. It was my very first car aged 20 years, and I sincerely doubt I will ever sell her again.

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Armando Musotto
Armando Musotto

Hello LukasS!
Thank you for your kind comment.

It wasn’t a technical article, because I, literally, can’t write about. I’m not a technical guy. Just wanted to share my emotions.

However. I’m jealous. At 26 years I don’t own nothing 🙁
Nice S3!

110innd
110innd

Be a spider in a world of pickups. Great writing- nice work- love these cars.

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Armando Musotto
Armando Musotto

Thank you.
Nice color.

Bill Meyer
Bill Meyer

Well Armando, you’ve done it again. This article on the gorgeous red spider comes as I just made airline reservations to fly to California to view, drive, and hopefully, buy a Series 4 Spider in red with tan. Although I’ve owned my share of enthusiast cars this will be my first Alfa Romeo and it will fulfill a goal of over 50 years standing. Thanks.

Armando Musotto
Armando Musotto

Bill.
Always wait for your kind comment.
Hope you will fulfill your dream 🙂

Thank you.

Marcocapelli
Marcocapelli

Thank you Armando, I too have owned my Spider for 40 years. I have had lots of other more powerful and expensive cars (particularly 911’s) but my Spider is a special car, beautiful to look at and rewarding to drive but I find it very difficult to define exactly why I love it so much!

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Armando Musotto
Armando Musotto

Marco!
Nice spider.

The purpose of my article is, indeed, trying to define what the spider means to everyone who can drive it.
Is a sort of strange emotion.

In a comment below I wrote “you don’t want to know how fast you’ll go, but where you’ll go and with whom.
A car that awakens the emotions and the joy of being together ”
And I think this sentence explain, perfectly, what the spider duetto is.

Thank you for your comment.

Rolf Sigrist
Rolf Sigrist

Armando, I love Sicily…going many times there from Switzerland. Cruising in my Oldtimer around Noto, Syracuse, Cefalu, Marsala, …..a fantastic island with unbelievable rich history.

Armando Musotto
Armando Musotto

Cefalù is my hometown Rolf.
Let me know if you will come again.
Will offer you a nice lemon granita 😉

Alan Hui-Bon-Hoa
Alan Hui-Bon-Hoa

Beautiful pics! And a good point about these cars being perfectly imperfect. I bought an S3 last year that I completely love. And while I am planning the next acquisition, likely 80s 911, I very honestly wonder if something even as capable and iconic as a 911 will provide as much joy.

Another thing that’s special about these cars is, well, there are tons of people who just aren’t into cars. But when they see a Spider, it puts a smile on their face. Few cars have that charisma – this is certainly one of them.

Armando Musotto
Armando Musotto

Alan, Thanks for the kind words.

Totally agree. There is something special in this cars that turn the head also at who is not into cars.
And I think the Duetto takes, probably, the first place in this chart!

Rolf Sigrist
Rolf Sigrist

Great report again. All your Alfa stories! Fantastic pictures, great spots! In Sicily again?Trapani?
2 weekends ago I was in Marsala to visit Friends and with your previous report in mind visited the very same windmill stretch there.
Keep the great reports coming and many thanks for it!!

Armando Musotto
Armando Musotto

Thank you Rolf.

And yes! always Marsala and always Sicily.

Wow!!! are you serious??
Did you like it?!

Dante Diaferia
Dante Diaferia

I’ve owned my car for nearly 40 years, and I don’t regret a day of ownership!
A car that attracts positive comments from complete strangers, a joy to look at and a joy to drive.

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Armando Musotto
Armando Musotto

Nice blue Dante.
Which is the name of the color?

Iori Suzuki

Gorgeous photos and article. Your passion for the Alfa Spider comes through vividly.

My ‘67 Duetto is currently undergoing restoration, but here’s a photo from several years ago on my favorite canyon road here in Southern California.

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Armando Musotto
Armando Musotto

Nice photo Iori. Beautiful road there.

The car is not mine, unfortunately.
Alessio, the owner, is a great friend and it was he who made me fall in love with the Duetto.
My passion for Alfa has remained unchanged.

I was born in Sicily, here the Alfa have made the history of competitions.

ZAMA Classica
ZAMA Classica

We Love this way .
To love classic car for the pureness that can offers cars like Duetto .
The stage married perfectly with Duetto with your description .
Unbelievable work Congratulations Armando !

Armando Musotto
Armando Musotto

Thank you.

I underestimated the Duetto.
But he taught me more in an afternoon than a car with over 700hp in a life.

JB21
JB21

I have a question of pedantic nature – I thought Duetto name was dropped after it went with coda tronca. Anyway, 115 Spider of any era is my eternal second favorite car (I don’t have the most favorite, just have bunch of the second favorites), and I still consider it to be the most romantic car ever made. It’s the definition of “can’t put my finger on,” in that it’s not the fastest, or prettiest, or any number of anything, but it’s just sort of perfect. This is a car that just makes you glad you are born human. After… Read more »

Armando Musotto
Armando Musotto

The Duetto name has a beautiful history, strange but beautiful.
Has I said in the article, the name was dropped off after some legal troubles.

However, I’m totally agree with you. I falled in love with this tiny piece of art. Is a romantic car. One of those where you do not sit thinking about how fast you’ll go, but where you’ll go and with whom.
A car that awakens the emotions and the joy of being together.

Thanks for you kind comment.