Storie Alfa Romeo, sixth episode: the iconic 1600 Spider “Duetto”

 

The Italian spider that conquered Hollywood

 

A Hollywood destiny

“It is a very forgiving car. Very pretty, too.” That’s what Steve McQueen said about Duetto in the summer of 1966. In a few words, McQueen’s judgment sums up the essence of Duetto and the uniqueness of Alfa Romeo: driving pleasure and pure beauty. A year later, a young Dustin Hoffman was driving a Duetto at full speed to the music of Simon & Garfunkel in “The Graduate”. Iconic images that became sculpted in film history, launching a whole series of quotations where the Duetto was seen being driven in hundreds of films and TV stories, becoming a cult in its own right.

The Beautiful Young Lady

 

A style competition was set up between the two designers of the moment: Bertone and Pinin Farina. Pininfarina's proposal was designed by Franco Martinengo, and was chosen on account of the elegance and classic balance of its shapes. “The beautiful young lady", as Pinin Farina described it, was a pure sports concept, confirmed by its extremely brilliant performance. Flexible, young and quick. The car quickly became a status symbol: loved by famous people and desired by everyone.

 

Made in Italy

For the USA launch, Alfa Romeo organized a transatlantic luxury liner cruise from Genova to New York, inviting the most exclusive celebrities from show business, sport and fashion. There were 1,300 VIPs on board, including Vittorio Gassman, Rossella Falk and the soprano Anna Moffo. During the entire cruise, three examples of the new Spider were displayed extravagantly on the ship's bridge: one green, one white and one red.

 

"Duetto" or "Cuttlefish Bone"?

Finding a name for the model was a story in itself. A prize competition was organized in collaboration with all its European dealers. "Duetto" won, but a problem with rights emerged and this required the car to be launched as Alfa Romeo 1600 Spider. The name Duetto remained in the background, but was consolidated in the memory of fans and became the nickname of all the car’s generations. The 1966 Spider was also called "Cuttlefish Bone" due to its ellipsoidal shape, with rounded front and tail, convex sides and very low belt line. Duetto counts more than 124,000 exemplars produced in 28 years: the longest life ever for an Alfa Romeo model.