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 the Duetto in the summer of 1966. In a few words, McQueen’s appraisal 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 acclaimed Hollywood blockbuster ‘The Graduate’. Iconic images from the motion picture became embedded in film history; the Duetto went on to star in hundreds of big and small screen films and TV shows, becoming a cult in its own right.


The Beautiful Young Lady


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


Made in Italy


For the US launch, Alfa Romeo organized a transatlantic luxury liner cruise from Genova to New York, inviting the most exclusive celebrities in showbusiness, sport and fashion. There were 1,300 VIPs on board, including Vittorio Gassman, Rossella Falk and the soprano Anna Moffo. Throughout the 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 which required the car to be launched as Alfa Romeo 1600 Spider. The name Duetto remained unofficial, 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 cars produced over 28 years: the longest ever life for an Alfa Romeo model.