Total Production: 7,000
After World War II, Alfa Romeo shifted its philosophy of car building. All prewar Alfas had been body-on-frame cars with lavish bodies, low production numbers, and high prices. They had become legendary for their excellent styling and engineering. Fast and luxurious, Alfa Romeos were fine cars in the best Italian tradition.
Postwar Alfas took on a decidedly different feel. The first all-new Alfa to be introduced after the war was the 1900. First appearing in 1950, it was a great departure from prior Alfas. Its unit-body construction, a first for the Italian car maker, hinted at Alfa Romeo's desire to create a more modern vehicle to carry the company through the postwar years. Trim dimensions and a four-cylinder engine revealed another new feature on an Alfa—price consciousness! The 1900 was its maker's first attempt at a mass-production vehicle, and for perhaps the first time in the company's history Alfa recognized the need to check costs for the new cars to succeed.
The 1900 was still not a cheap car. It came well-styled by the factory, and could be tailored by many of the famous Italian coachbuilders despite its lack of a separate frame. The painfully gorgeous Disco Volante was based on the 1900, as were the radical Bertone BAT cars that experimented with advanced aerodynamics. The 1900 was built carefully and performed well. It sold in high numbers and was relatively affordable, but the 1900 was an Alfa through and through.
The successor of the 1900 came in 1958 and was called the 2000. Named for its displacement, the 2000 had a 1,975cc four compared to the 1900's 1,884cc unit. As Alfa would also produce a more modern, all-aluminum 2.0-liter engine, the motor used in the 1958-1962 2000 cars is now referred to as the 'cast-iron 2-liter' or 'old 2-liter.' The former nickname referenced the engine's cast-iron block, a design which it shared with the 1900. In addition to the upped displacement, the cast-iron 2-liter also featured a more modern valvetrain than the 1900. The valves were actuated through a bucket and tappet system, which shed some of the weight and inertia of the 1900's clumsier, shim-adjust design.
With separate covers for its twin camshafts, the 2000 engine was similar in outward appearance to the 1900. It breathed through twin Solex carburetors that didn't match the rest of the engine's reputation for durability and trouble-free motoring. Power output was 105hp at 5,300rpm for the sedan, and 115hp at 5,900rpm for the coupe and convertible versions. This was a good amount of power coming from such a small engine, but the large bodies of the 2000 series (with wheelbases up to 107 inches) were too much for the engines to handle with enthusiasm. Performance was adequate, but not sporty.
The three standard body styles—sedan, coupe, and convertible—were given the names Berlina, Sprint, and Spider, respectively. The Berlina's in-house styling, like its performance, was too bland for an Alfa. The Sprint and Spider, though, were styled by reputable design houses and offered much better looks combined with at least decent performance.
Bertone was contracted to style the 2000 Sprint. Giorgetto Giugiaro, then at Bertone, was responsible for the shape of the Sprint. A clean design that invoked thoughts of grand touring through the backcountry, the Sprint was a much prettier car than the Berlina. Its styling offered similar proportions to the later Alfa Sprint GT and GTV, though on a larger scale. Its taught lines helped define a generation of Alfas.
The Spider was styled by Touring, a design house with a rich history of creating beautiful Alfas. The Spider's appearance was conservative, but undeniably handsome. With a traditional upside-down triangle grille poking down beneath a split front bumper, the Spider's maker was immediately evident. Twin hood scoops and decorative vents along the bottoms of the front fenders were the only signs of extravagance. The rest of the design was clean and staid, with a lithe look and the perfect dimensions for a California cruiser. The interior, likewise, was clean and well-suited to comfortable cruising.
A synchronized 5-speed was attached to the 2000 engine, driving a solid rear axle suspended by coil springs. Front suspension used double A-arms and coil springs. Large Alfin drum brakes were fitted at all wheels. The conventional suspension design, along with the extra gear on the transmission for relaxed driving, emphasized that the 2000 was a grand touring car and not a sports car.
There were 7,089 2000 series cars produced. Convertibles made up an unusually high percentage of total production, with 3,443 Spiders accounting for nearly half of all cars built. In 1962 a replacement for the series came as the 2600. The 2600 cars were produced until 1968 and featured styling that resembled the 2000 series but used all-aluminum straight six engines. Often eclipsed by the revolutionary 1900 before it and the faster 2600 that replaced it, the 2000 was not seen as a particularly special Alfa until recently. The cars are now respected for their durability and smoothness, as well as for the clean lines of the Sprint and Spider. Sources:
Benson, Joe. Illustrated Alfa Romeo Buyer's Guide. Osceola, WI: MBI Publishing Company, 1992. Print.
Braden, Pat. '1959 2000 Spider.' Keith Martin on Collecting Alfa Romeo 2006: PrintBy Evan Acuña