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  • Writer's pictureMatteo Licata

The Fabulous Alfa Romeo GTV "Phase 2" (1998-2003)

A couple of months ago, I published a video about the thirtieth anniversary of the Alfa Romeo Protéo concept car. Those who watched it until the end noticed the brief appearance of a blue GTV with rather flashy wheels and decals, and a few enquired about it. Well, here it is!

This lovely GTV is the pride and joy of a Roadster Life subscriber, a young enthusiast from the Netherlands: a 2.0 liters Twin Spark painted in Blu Vela metallic and belongs to the so-called "Phase II," my personal favorite among all the "916" models.

Introduced in May 1998, the "Phase II" GTVs incorporated a few technical and aesthetic refinements that, in my view, made an already sexy car even more desirable.

The Centro Stile Alfa Romeo wisely chose not to mess with perfection, leaving Enrico Fumia's masterpiece well alone and limiting its intervention on the exterior to a few well-judged tweaks. The Alfa "shield" got a more three-dimensional treatment with a chrome bezel, while the sill covers and the lower sections of the bumpers became color-coded rather than black.

The interior of these "Phase 2" models received a new center console with round vents, an aluminum-effect finish, and nicer climate control knobs lifted from the recently-launched 156 saloon. It may not seem like much, and it arguably isn't. Still, to my eyes, it makes a world of difference, lifting the interior's ambiance considerably over the rather drab original design, which didn't do the car justice.

Nowadays, the enthusiasts' attention seems to focus on the V6-engined GTVs, and who am I to argue with that? The V6 is unmatchable in both pedigree and sound, but the 2.0 liters Twin Spark 16-Valve inline-four powering this example shall not be underestimated.

Eager to rev and with a raspy exhaust note, the TS 16v was a worthy successor to Alfa's illustrious aluminum four cylinders of yore. "Phase 2" models received the uprated TS from the 156 saloon, equipped with variable-geometry intake manifold and easily recognizable by their plastic (rather than aluminum) engine covers.

The 2.0 liters Twin Spark was the entry-level powerplant for most of the GTV's commercial life, save for the period between 1998 and 2000 when the slightly less powerful 1.8 TS was also offered, albeit without much success.

The Alfa Romeo GTV and Spider sisters share the distinction of being the last Alfas to be manufactured in the Marque's historic Arese site. However, the larger Pininfarina script and crest badge on this GTV's quarter panel tells us it's not an "Arese" car but a later example assembled by Pininfarina on its San Giorgio Canavese premises.

The switch was made in mid-2000 due to Fiat Group's decision to abandon the underutilized Arese facility to reduce its Italian manufacturing footprint and the associated costs. The last cars to roll off the Arese line were made around July of 2000 and are recognizable by their smaller Pininfarina badge without the crest logo.

Production of the GTV and Spider "Phase 2" at Pininfarina continued without major changes, albeit in ever-decreasing quantities, until mid-2003, when someone at Alfa Romeo took the unfortunate decision of a restyling inspired by the Marque's latest models. Tastes are subjective, of course, but I'd much rather have the original over these later "Phase 3" models, which were produced for little more than a year and are, consequently, much rarer.


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