Named for an eighteenth century English racehorse, which in turn, was named for the celestial event, the Mitsubishi Eclipse was introduced in 1989. Its convertible version, the Mitsubishi Eclipse Spyder—the subject of this article—was introduced in 1996, as part of the second generation of the Eclipse, which was launched in 1995.
The term “Spider” as applied to automobiles, originated with the folding tops affixed to early horse drawn carriages. This occurred because the spindly spines of their folding mechanisms—in conjunction with the black cloth used for the top—resembled a spider.
The variation of the spelling (the usage of “Y” rather than “I”), originated with the Italians. The word, when spelled with a Y, is actually pronounced SPEED-aire, which is a derivation of the word “speedster”. While Spyder is commonly applied to cars with folding roofs, it doesn’t by necessity refer to one. Chevrolet, for example built a hardtop coupe model called the Monza Spyder back in the 1960’s.
In this case however, the word definitely means convertible. In fact, the Eclipse Spyder was designed specifically to be an open car. By doing so, Mitsubishi’s engineers avoided introducing the diminished structural rigidity generally imposed upon convertibles when they are adapted from a coupe body. It also avoided the totality of the usual weight gain necessitated by the additional bracing added to coupe conversions in an effort to reinforce the body structure after the top is removed. On average, the Eclipse Spyder was a mere 50 pounds heavier than its closed-roof sibling.
In total, there have been three generations of the Mitsubishi Eclipse Spyder offered as of this writing (April 2012).