“Never meet your idols” is a popular phrase that is oft heard and little understood though few better mediums illustrate why than when applied to cars you revere above others.
For myself, one of those few was the Alfetta GT/GTV. A popular and successful coupe manufactured by Alfa Romeo from the early 70’s right through to the mid-1980’s that was praised at the time for its charismatic four and six-cylinder engines as well as its handling capabilities. I grew up with a father who owned a number of Alfetta sedans and this meant Alfa’s were a common sight in my early years. With good examples of these slightly out of my reach, I found myself in a 3L Alfa 75 which was as close as I was getting to my own GTV for the time being. Indeed, both cars share a lot of components and the engine choices were almost identical but while the 75 is a fantastic car to be behind the wheel of it still wasn’t a GTV.
Luckily flicking through the pages of the AROCA bimonthly newsletter (Alfa Romeo Owners Club of Australia) had my glazzies set upon a lovely red ’81 GTV up for sale. Even more to my delight was that I might be able to afford it! A quick 30-minute drive to have a look at the car revealed it was as good as it looked in the pictures; a genuine, 90,000km, meticulously maintained the vehicle that had been the subject of a real horrorshow restoration a few years prior complete with full maintenance history from Autodelta and Manning Motors to boot!
It is easy to look past a car’s flaws and only see what you want to see in it when shopping for a car you idolise, and I found myself doing exactly that when we took the car for a test drive. Moving from Alfa’s wonderful 3L Busso V6 to the smaller but equally popular 4 cylinder “Nord” motor I expected to be a little disappointed by the power available but was pleasantly surprised by the pep that it had to offer. I suspected it wasn’t getting full throttle, however with a quick balance and adjustment to the finger and yoke balance bar that linked the Dellorto carburettors to each other we had it running like clockwork. It hardly mattered to me that it was 100hp down on my 75, or that the gear shift was even worse than the 75’s (anyone with transaxle Alfa experience knows what I’m talking about!). It was red, it was a GTV and it was going to be mine!
Cash quickly changed hands and I was soon holding the keys to a totally untouched GTV. The long drive home was possibly the best drive of my life. Sitting in peak hour traffic, it’s funny how for us car enthusiasts the world only seems real when you see it through a windscreen. The little red coupe didn’t miss a beat on the trek home, truly a testament to the previous owners diligence in the care of this car.
We always recommend changing all the fluids of a just purchased vehicle and that’s what we did almost immediately with Liqui Moly oils and a MANN filter finding its way onto the GTV. Small touches were in line for the car in the form of an appropriate set of wheels and a few millimetres of lowering to ensure it sat how a classic Italian coupe should. It’s a very fine line between complimenting and defacing a classic and we didn’t want to ruin what was already a great car. King Springs in the rear, re-set front torsion bars and Koni shock absorbers at all four corners ensured it sat nicely but didn’t feel sloppy or unnecessarily harsh on a long drive. The rubber shock bushes were in good condition however we changed them for SuperPro polyurethane bushes while we had the shocks out, it really is worth the few dollars.
A few weekends were spent giving the engine bay a new coat of paint. Not one to want to repeat my work we properly prepped the surface and used the appropriate paints and methods. It’s amazing what standard of finish you can achieve in your own garage with the right care and preparation.
This isn’t all that’s in store for the GTV, with the interior requiring a few small touches and the engine feeling quite strangled by the less than adequate standard exhaust! But for now we’re content with enjoying it just how it is, proving sometimes a car can be everything you hope it can be.