It’s an Alfa-Romeo and it’s a Spider, but possibly not the one you’re used to seeing.
The 1962-65 Alfa 2600 Spider was Alfa’s senior droptop in the 1960s, part of the flagship 106-series 2600 range.
Although they got a new name and engine in 1962, the 2600s were a direct outgrowth of the 1958 102-series Alfa 2000; itself a heavy update of the 1950 Alfa 1900. In their new form they had a silky-smooth 2.6 liter DOHC six under the hood and (really small) styling changes to differentiate them from their predecessors.
The 2600 was very different in feel from the sporty, volume-production 101-series Giuliettas, the more famous Alfas of the early sixties. Instead the 2600 was a big cruiser by comparison, though still not a big car by international standards.
From 1900 to 2600
Plans for what became the 2600 began as far back as 1955, when Alfa engineers Orazio Satta Puliga, Giuseppe Busso, and Rudolf Hruska were looking for ways to improve the 1900. They were hoping to integrate some of the lessons (and possibly components) of the Giulietta’s engine and pegged a 2.5L straight six setup as their target.
The engine they were working, however, proved fragile and did not like high rpms, and either the project couldn’t be finished in time or under budget – for whatever reason, it was seriously delayed.
In 1958 the 2000 series replaced the 1900 with major updates but a 1,975-cc version of the1900’s four. In hindsight, the 2000’s new and beefy 5-speed gearbox is a giveaway that engineers had planned more for the 2000 than they were able to do.
The 2000 was available at first as a Berlina and a Spider, the former was styled and built in house at Portello, the latter styled and built at nearby Carrozzeria Touring. In 1960, a Bertone Sprint coupe, styled by a 21-year-old Giorgetto Giugiaro, was added.
It was around that time that the reworked six finally entered road testing (now sharing little with the 2000 or Giulietta fours). It met with Satta’s approval and the upgraded 2600 debuted at Geneva in March of 1962.
The 2600 finally arrives
The main criticism of the 2000, of course, was that its engine was overmatched in the heavy car. The 2600 went a long way toward fixing that. It was appreciably faster, but still slow compared to its rivals; particularly the Jaguar XKE.
In 1963, the XKE roadster cost about the same amount as a 2600 Spider. Berlinas had twin Solexes and 130hp, Spiders and Sprints triple Solexes and 145hp.
During the 2600’s run, Alfa took several stabs at making it faster without messing too much with the engine. Most notably this included a series of wild-looking lightweight SZ coupes from Zagato designed by Ercole Spada, but even these 165-hp cars topped out just below 125 mph, a marker Alfa wanted very badly to hit.
Touring’s circa-’58 spider was only modestly facelifted (slight revisions to the front fascia, a new hood scoop, little changes to the rear and interior) for the new series and along with the Berlina looked rather traditional looking. The Berlina looked a bit like a larger, squarer Simca Vedette.
Giugiaro’s Bertone Coupe, the most modern, would also prove to be the most popular, with 6,999 made in 1967 and also set the style for Bertone’s later 105-series coupes.
Touring, meanwhile, built 2,255 Spiders until production was wound down in 1965.