Today’s “My Classic Car” is a 1999 Alfa Spider 916 Millennium Edition. A special collector car from the turn of the century.
Carolyn dreamed of her classic car for many years before actually owning one. The first time she saw the Alfa Romeo 916 Spider, she adored the shape and the convertible roof. It took over five years to actually realise her dream car.
Carolyn tells her own story:
“I was first interested in Alfa Spiders from way back when Dustin Hoffman drove an early model Alfa Romeo Spider 1600 in the movie ‘The Graduate’. There have been many models since then and the 916 Spider is far removed in design than ‘The Graduate’ Alfa, but I lived the radical styling of this new version.”
“I was looking for a lift in spirits one day and thought it might be nice to have a convertible. I had no idea which kind I wanted, but it was fun looking online at all the different convertibles around. It only took be an hour to find the very car I wanted. The 916 Alfa Spider is ultra modern looking, almost space-age, and I loved the unique style. I always want something totally individual and this model has it all. The only problem was that when I wen to see the car, it had already been sold!”
The 916 Alfa Spider is front wheel drive with a free revving 2 liter twin overhead cam engine producing 150hp. The engine sounded like a Ferrari to me, crisp and crackling through the sports exhaust.
My particular 916 Alfa Spider had been retrofitted with 18″ rims and 40 percent low profile tires. Along with Alfa’s famous handling capabilities, this car turned corners like a roller coaster.
“A few years later, it was time to buy another car, and the first car I searched for was the little Alfa Spider. I soon found one in a private offer. It was owned by a technician who serviced the car to the best standards, and this car was perfect. I took it home with in days and it was finally mine!”
“I’ve heard it said that you’re never a true rev-head unless you’ve owned at least one Alfa Romeo. I didn’t necessarily become a ‘rev-head’ but this car challenge me in a way that I felt I wanted to become a better driver. The position of the steering wheel, the placement of the stick shift being so close the the wheel made shifting so convenient. The pedals, clutch, brake and gas pedals are so naturally positioned for ‘heel and toe’ down shifts, I was really starting to become a sports car fan!”
“What I especially loved about this car was the quality finishes. Every panel, the paint, (a metallic cream), the light fittings, glass windows, switches and instrument controls have a special quality feel. It was finished not only to a fine touch, but the movement of switches and dials is refined to a delicate but definitive touch. Every part of this car, even under the hood – speaks quality and style.”
“Driving through towns and villages on a Sunday afternoon always attracted a shout from a passer by … ‘Hey Italiano!’ I felt like I was in an exclusive club whenever I drove this little eye magnet.”
A selfie on the road – “Our pet Westie, ‘Sparky’, loved a ride in the rear shelf behind the seats. Restrained for safety of course!”
The Alfa Spider 916 had some very special performance enhancements. While it is a front wheel drive, the rear suspension had some design quirks to counter the extra weight in the front. Front drive cars have a natural tendency to understeer and the 916 Spider had special pivots in the rear which dynamically adjusted the angle of direction of the back wheels. This meant that as the load shifted to the front wheels, the rear wheels would automatically steer just a small margin the opposite way and created a neutral balance for the car to turn a corner without under steer or over steer.
The car gave such assured cornering that you almost forget to slow down for some corners and you need to give yourself a bit of discipline to drive with a little more caution.
Overall, the refinements of quality throughout, the modern appointments of climate control and other luxuries, but still a driver’s car – make this little classic in the realm of a future classic and sure to be a collector at some time in the future when the availability begins to reduce in quantity.
Alfa Romeos are not known for there reliability, but if you can source the parts and you find someone with the service knowledge, they are a great car to own.
Automatic roof in operation. Everything is quality. With the roof closed, the ride is smooth and quiet with minimal wind and road noise. With the roof down, you feel like you’ve taken a ride in a speed boat except you don’t have to drive to the lake and the launch pad. You just get in and drive!
Can you buy one in the USA?
Apparently these cars were never designed to USA standards and it is not possible to keep one here. You may be able to have one in Canada, but it would be necessary to check the local laws.
The Alfa Romeo Spider 916 series ran from 1995 to 2005. These are fairly common throughout England, Europe, and Australia. Parts are readily available online, but technicians with the right knowledge can be rare. There are many online chat groups who enable self repairs and thanks to these home technicians, there are many healthy little Alfa Spider 916’s on the road today.
Thanks Carolyn for contributing to ‘my classic car’ on HotRidesUSA.com.