• Matteo Licata

The Other GTV

Over the last few years, many writers and entertainers have been waxing lyrical about the 1980s Alfa Romeo GTV, and rightfully so.

But not about this one.



Good car, bad timing

Introduced in 1974, the Alfetta GT came to replace the much-loved Giulia-based GTs. A difficult task made even more challenging by the period's circumstances, as widespread social unrest and high fuel prices weren't exactly conducive to sports car sales.

Nevertheless, the market responded positively to the new Alfa's attractive combination of four-seater practicality, performance, and style.

The Alfetta GT's attractive body sat on the Alfetta saloon's platform with an eleven centimeters shorter wheelbase. Giorgetto Giugiaro penned its sharp lines, conveying a feeling of dynamism and speed through the strong inclination of the windscreen and rear window pillars.

Modern and individual at launch, the Alfetta GT aged very gracefully indeed and was in many ways still fresh by the end of the Seventies decade.

This certainly proved to be a blessing for the Alfa Romeo designers, tasked to refresh the GT's appearance for the 1980s.


Blacked Out

The Milanese company had been hemorrhaging ever-increasing amounts of money since 1972, and product development resources were scarce. As major tooling expenditures were out of the question, Alfa's designers had to concentrate their efforts on ancillaries and trim, leaving the steel body's pressings unchanged.

Following period trends, all the previously shiny exterior trim was blacked out.

The outdated stainless steel bumpers were replaced by chunkier grey plastic items. Under the front bumper, a large grey plastic spoiler reduced drag and increased stability at speed. The taillights were reunited in two large clusters, while the front indicators migrated from the body to the bumpers.

The Alfa Romeo shield became a smaller, more stylized affair on the black front grille. While the end result certainly looked more contemporary, I can see why many 1980s GTVs were bought in dark grey or black. Brighter shades like the classic Alfa red we see on this beautifully preserved example show off all the added plastic trim in a perhaps less than flattering way.

The GTV 2.0 liters was exported in most European countries but certainly owed much to the Italian market for its continued existence.

When the new model range debuted in 1980, the big news was the introduction of the fuel-injected 2.5 liters V6 engine as the new range-topper. The GTV6 2.5, easily recognizable by the bonnet bulge needed to accommodate the larger powerplant, sounded like angels in heaven and delivered performance comparable to period air-cooled Porsche 911s. On top of that, the GTV6 went on having quite a successful motorsport career, which never hurts. Therefore, it's no surprise that the six-cylinder GTV kind of overshadows the four-cylinder models, to the point some may have forgotten they ever existed.

The GTV 2.0 liters was exported in most European countries but certainly owed much to the Italian market for its continued existence. Alfa Romeo sold most of its cars on the home market, where punitive taxation for engines over two liters led most buyers to settle for the four-cylinder GTV.

Under the restyled GTV two liters' bonnet, there were no surprises. The engine was the classic all-aluminum twin-cam four, fed by the traditional pair of double-choke 40mm sidedraft carburetors and rated at 130 HP and 132 pounds-feet of torque.

Italian GTV 2 liters buyers were reminded of their inferior status by the rather ungainly 14 inches steel wheels fitted as standard.

15 inches alloys similar to those fitted as standard to the V6 model were available as an option, but "Similar" is the keyword here. The four and six cylinders GTVs had different hubs, with four lugs for the lesser version and five for the V6. Forty years on, those optional alloy wheels specific for the four-cylinders GTV are now quite hard to find on the second-hand market.


A characterful way to travel

Despite the coupé's short wheelbase, the interior offers quite generous accommodation to four passengers, although headroom is limited by the roof pillars' inclination.

The Alfa Romeo GTV was a sophisticated machine aimed at discerning buyers. But, you'd never tell once you stepped inside, where sadly, most of what you see and touch feels rather more Togliattigrad than Stuttgart.

this is a classic Alfa, and everything is forgiven once you step on the gas

Coherently with Alfa Romeo tradition, albeit a less-than-endearing part of it, the interior of the 1980s GTV feels like an afterthought. Fit and finish are sub-par even by 1980s standards, and seemingly no consideration whatsoever was given to ergonomy and ease of operation, with controls scattered on the dash and console at random.

But this is a classic Alfa, and everything is forgiven once you step on the gas. The twin-cam four pulls eagerly while singing its lovely tune, making the driver's testosterone levels soar in tandem with the engine's revolutions.

Better not get too enthusiastic with the gearchanges, though, as this still is an Alfetta, after all. These sophisticated transaxle configuration models have a long gear lever linkage that demands patience and mechanical sympathy from the user.

Rush a downshift, or the critical first-to-second change during acceleration, and your clumsiness will be punished with a sonorous grind first and premature synchromesh wear further down the line.

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