The Alfa Romeo 916 Series GTV and Spider encapsulated Alfa Romeo’s 1990s renaissance. To many people, the design of these twins took classic cues and core values from Alfa Romeo coupes past and brought them squarely and emphatically back into avant-garde relevance. From the quad projector headlamps which recalled the classic 105 and 116 series GTVs to the aggressive short tail accentuating the car’s sporty pretensions, at the time the 916 series was seen as a coming together of all that was great about Alfa Romeo. This success saw them enjoy a production run of 12 years, almost unheard of in the modern motoring world, however the gestation period of these twins was longer than their production run and, bizarrely, that story begins with an Audi.
Audi Quartz Concept
The Audi Quartz concept was designed by Enrico Fumia at Pininfarina in 1980. Based on an Audi Ur Quattro platform and intended as a 75th birthday present to Automobil Revue (a Swiss car magazine), its modern, low drag styling featured a number of design cues that can be directly traced forward to the GTV. The most obvious of these are the small quad headlamps and the groove which forms the beltline of the car. Other features which became familiar GTV traits included the clamshell bonnet, full width tail lamp strip, grille incorporated into the body line and some aspects of the overall proportions such as the very short rear overhang and longer front which provided a strong impression of forward motion.
Audi Quartz Rear
It was Fumia who first rendered the GTV and Spider in 1987, some seven years before production commenced. Around this time, the Alfa 164 large car, another Fumia design, made its production debut. As a preview to the design of the 164, Alfa displayed the Pininfarina designed Vivace concept in both coupe and spider variants at the 1986 Turin auto show. The Vivace twins took obvious cues from both the Quartz and 164 and was a clear preview of Alfa’s upcoming design direction, as well as the range structure Alfa would choose with the GTV and Spider variants, although the eventual debut of those cars wouldn’t occur until 1994. The GTV and Spider designs were signed off in 1988.
Alfa Romeo Vivace
Alfa Romeo unveiled the 164 Proteo concept car at the 1991 Geneva Motor Show. One of Walter De Silva’s first designs for Alfa Romeo Centro Stile, it featured some DNA from the 164, but also previewed a number of the GTV and Spider’s styling elements such as the small round headlamps, clamshell bonnet, and the short tail with full width lighting. It also began to preview the more aggressive wedge shape found on the production car twins. There has been some acceptance that the Proteo inspired the 916 Series cars however with the design already signed off on them at the Proteo’s launch, it was in fact the other way around.
Alfa Romeo Proteo
Taking into account all the hints and previews that occurred over the years, you could be forgiven for assuming the way the GTV and Spider looked when they finally made their premiere at the 1994 Paris Motor Show was somewhat expected. In reality, they wowed crowds and made the motoring press swoon with their incredibly modern and unique styling and interiors that were a huge leap forward from Alfa’s other offerings of the era. A strong chassis that, although front wheel drive, was strong for the time and a selection of excellent motors helped too.
Alfa Romeo Spider
A few updates including a major interior revamp and minor facelift in 1998 and a facelift in 2003 saw the GTV and Spider continue until the Brera replaced the GTV and the Spider was replaced by the Brera based model in 2005 and 2006 respectively. The long period of production and the fact that the last cars built are still relatively young conspire to mean the 916 twins still suffer from relatively low second hand values. Indeed, for the newest examples there is still some depreciation yet to occur although with their combination of pedigree, style and formidable engines, it seems inevitable that eventually the Alfa Romeo 916 GTV and Spider will become sought-after classics, and deservedly so.
Alfa Romeo GTV & Spider Facelift
by Andrew Marshall