Close this search box.

The Alfa Romeo 916 Spider is Still a Drop Top Delight

Milan. Duetto. Dustin Hoffman. Mention these three and only one car will spring to mind, the Alfa Romeo Spider. For a long time, no other Italian sports car could catch Alfa Romeo’s 105-series Spider for elegantly simple drop-top driving fun. It was always going to be a hard act to follow, but not impossible.

Enrico Fumia at Pininfarina was given the task of designing a new Alfa Spider for the nineties. Fumia created a simplistic and elegant curved wedge-shaped design which was uncluttered, yet sported some handsome styling cues. Such was the reaction from Alfa fans and the world’s media when it was officially launched at the 1995 Geneva Motor Show, the 916 Spider, and its GTV coupe counterpart, became an overnight design sensation. Numerous design gongs were given to the 916 and today, its still easy to see why.

Every angle and curve comes together to provide a mouth-watering concoction of form and function. From the cut-off “kamm tail” to the dual circular headlight holes and small Alfa shield grill, the 916 is one seriously stunning looking package.

Two engines were initially available. These were Alfa’s 2.0L Twin-Spark four cylinder and the now legendary 3.0L Giuseppe Busso designed V6. Other engine choices were available in world markets including a 1.8L four pot, a 2.0L turbo four and a 3.2 version of the Busso V6. The latter of course finding its way here in the latter stages of its production run.

Rather than mimic its predecessor completely, Alfa decided to make the 916 front-wheel-drive. Underneath sits the same Fiat underpinnings as the four-door Alfa 155 saloon. A manual transmission was the only option which grew from five, to a six speed with later cars.

Built from 1994 until 2005, the 916 Spider underwent a number of significant changes, with later models getting tweaked styling cues and more powerful engines. During its run, production of the GTV and Spider even moved factories from Alfa’s Arese plant, to their Turin Giorgio Canavese factory in 2000. Today the 916 is still beloved by Alfisti and, for now at least, still represents a great buy within reach of most of us.

This stunning yellow 2001 24V V6 example has been in the care of owner Darryl for the last two years. Darryl, a long time Alfa fan, always had a soft spot for the 916 Spider. “I have always been fascinated with them,” he says. “For me, it’s those Pininfarina lines which look so good even today. The 916 looks so distinguished. The other major feature for me is that incredible Busso V6 engine,” Darryl says with a smile.

When Darryl began looking around for 916 of his own, his search led to what you see here. However, it wasn’t just a case of getting in touch with the owner and doing a deal. “The former owner had held onto it for years and only used it for trips the garage for a WOF and service. He and his wife were downsizing to a retirement village and he couldn’t get in and out of it easily anymore,” says Darryl. “He knew he had to part with it, but he didn’t want his beloved Spider to go to just anyone,” he says.

Darryl would see the seller multiple times in order to give the retired gentleman peace of mind that Darryl was the right person for the Alfa to go to. “I had to prove that I was a worthy person to have his car,” Darryl remembers. Once the owner was satisfied, they settled on a figure and Darryl bought the car.

During his two years with the Spider, Darryl has fallen more in love with driving it every time he wakes up that Busso V6. “It’s such a good car for a good drive,” he says. “My wife and I were out for a quick jaunt just the other day when suddenly we thought, hey, lets go to West Melton. Pretty soon our quick drive became a day trip. Alfas have that affect on you, they want you to drive them as much and for as long as possible,” he says.

Driving an Alfa 916 Spider is a pleasure I had previously not experienced. That was until Darryl handed me the keys. Before you could say “Busso” I found myself easing into a very comfortable hand stitched leather chair. The driving position has a whiff of the classic long arms and short legs Italian theme, but its not too bad. The pedals are slightly offset too but this is no real hardship.

Everything in the 916 is driver focused. The centre console sports a trio of gauges depicting a clock, water temperature and fuel, all of which are staring straight at you. The switchgear is simple and easy to use and the white on black dials are easy to read. There are a certain amount of creature comforts and additives like electric windows and air conditioning, but the best kind of air circulation comes from having the roof down, naturally.

Another bonus of going topless is you can hear that delicious Busso V6 in all its baritone glory. A quick turn of the ignition key and way-hey, we have noise, though not a deafening amount at first. At idle, the Busso hums away sweetly in the background. Flex your right toe a tad and despite a smidgen of pedal travel, that humming becomes a bark. The Busso experience has begun.

Moving off onto the back roads surrounding Tai Tapu, I found the manual box to be a joy to use. That said, there is a technique to get the best out of it. Going through the Spider’s six forward gears bodes well when you shift slowly, especially from first to second. Its certainly not a short throw but it feels immensely satisfying if you are gentle in shifting up and down. This is not about racing through the gears but enjoying every moment.

Find the right stretch of road, apply just the right amount of throttle and the scenery flies by a lot quicker than you would think. With Busso on full song at 5000rpm, the 916 will leave you fizzing. Squeeze as much as you can from those 260 Latin horses and the Spider is pretty brisk for what it is. It very much is a case of “Honey, I shrunk the Ferrari.”

While going like a cut cat is certainly possible, its happy place is at a sedate cruise. The power is there if a Busso blast is required to overtake but the Spider makes for a terrific open road mile muncher. Also, it feels as tight as a drum in here. Some of you might think it would rattle and shake when you start to venture north of the New Zealand national speed limit, not that I did, honest. However, this is not the case.

Despite the low ride height, its multi-link springs can still give a smooth ride. The steering is also fairly direct and feeding in left or right is a rewarding action. However, what happens when you reach the bends?

Some say if you want a 916 Spider which handles the best, get the Twin-Spark as the V6 makes it heavier at the nose and compromises the handling. While there is a slight feeling of weight when putting the V6 Spider into a B-road bend, you have to concentrate really hard to notice it. If you take each corner with care and give yourself time to set the car up properly, it can eat up the corners no problem with minimal torque steer.

The 916 Spider is all about the drive. Some might scoff at the front-wheel-drive 155 underpinnings and accuse it as “not being a proper sports car” as it doesn’t send drive to the rear. I wouldn’t listen to such talk. A true sports car will thrill you with every opportunity and relishes in being driven with enthusiasm and vigor, regardless of drivetrain. In other words, it should you smile. On that front the Spider is leaps and bounds ahead.

Darryl never plans to sell the Spider, even though he often gets plenty of offers to part with it. “Within the last eight months, I have been approached by countless people wanting to buy it. I will never sell it,” he says. This is probably just as well as prices for the 916 GTV and Spider are slowly starting to rise.

Many of its German equivalents will match it on performance and handling, and in some cases surpass it. However, if you champion soul, character and the sheer exhilaration of “the drive” above all else, the Alfa Romeo 916 Spider is more than capable of getting under your skin.

Share your love


Support our advertisers

Paying bills

Ads from the Googles

Support our advertisers

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *