Alfa Romeo seems to have something in its DNA that few other manufacturers have managed to capture. There’s an emotional connection, a sensation through the steering wheel and gearbox that lends even the most basic Alfa the feeling that it is somehow directly connected to the spirit of the great Vittorio Jano designed sports and grand prix cars of the 1930’s. Even after Alfa Romeo shifted to its focus to mass production in the years after WWII, they still managed to keep that passion and sporting heritage alive – a spirit that lives on even in today’s Alfas.
The Duetto first appeared in the mid-1960s as a basic and svelte two-seat roadster based on the highly successful 105-series chassis that formed the foundation of the Giulia/Giulietta coupes and sedans. The Duetto was initially offered with a 1600 c.c., all alloy twin-cam four-cylinder with a pair of Weber carburetors that produced 108 horsepower. The fairly conventional chassis returned excellent handling thanks to finely honed damping, a well-located rear axle and independent front suspension. Unlike the Giulia Coupe, which wore a body by Bertone, the lovely Duetto was penned by Pininfarina and bore no resemblance to its siblings. The Duetto was actually the last project that the company’s founder, Battista “Pinin” Farina had a personal hand in, and he was quite proud of the results. The beautiful design is characterized by minimal chrome, distinctly sculptured body sides and that signature tapering, rounded tail. This is the purest expression of the Alfa Spider, and considered by “Alfisti” to be the most desirable of all Spider models in its long 27 year production run.
This lovely example is an early model from 1966. It wears a beautiful restoration that was executed on a solid, high quality foundation. Finished in red with a tan leather interior piped in red, black carpets and a tan top, the paint and finishing are done to a very high standard – well above what is typical for a Duetto. Recent history at the Fairfield County Concours d’Elegance and a class award at the Greenwich Concours d’Elegance attest to its quality. Along with lovely paint, it wears new rubber seals and gaskets and excellent bright work. The original steel wheels with dog-dish hubcaps are the correct, and in our opinion, best choice for the round-tail Duetto. Their simple design only serves to highlight the elegant and sparse Pininfarina styling. To complement the fine exterior, the cabin has likewise been restored to a very high level. Leather and trim work have been done to a similarly high standard as the rest of the car. The color combination looks great and adds to this example’s unique charm.
The iconic twin-cam 1600 c.c. inline four has been properly detailed, and the restorer resisted the common urge to polish everything in sight – it is all refreshingly simple and clean under the hood. Much the same goes on in the boot, which has been trimmed in black carpet as per original, with an original jack and correct spare residing inside. Standard on all Duettos was a five-speed manual gearbox and disc brakes.
It is rare to find a truly great Duetto – one with good bones and such a quality restoration. This is a beautiful early example that is ready for show, but also happens to be exceptionally well sorted to deliver an outstanding drive.
The name “Duetto” simply means duet in Italian - perhaps for the simple fact that there’s just room for you and a passenger, but perhaps the name implies something about the magical interaction between driver and machine – the true essence of the Alfa Romeo Experience.