The Story Of The Fantastic Alfetta GT/GTV
Produced between 1974 and 1987, the Alfetta GT and GTV not only had the unenviable task of replacing the much-loved "105" Bertone coupés, but they had to do so in a much more challenging world. Here's their story.
With two oil crises during the 70s and a general decline in demand for coupès in the 80s, it's no wonder the Alfetta-based coupès ultimately sold in significantly smaller quantities than their forebears.
Yet they can hardly be considered a failure, and these hugely charming automobiles now enjoy well-deserved recognition among Alfa Romeo fans. Here's their story.
Work on a larger, more spacious coupè than the existing Giulia GT started as early as 1968, with the first studies still based on the newly-launched 1750 GTV's running gear.
However, with Alfa's engineering department already hard at work on what would be the Alfetta, it was wisely decided to switch the new coupé studies to the newer, more modern platform, albeit with 11 cm shaved off its wheelbase.
The mechanical package was different, but the project's mission remained the same: to provide significantly more room for four people and their luggage than the existing Giulia GT while maintaining a sleek, sporty appearance.
Giugiaro's striking fastback wedge design directly resulted from those opposing targets, and it looks as good today as it did nearly fifty years ago.
The Alfetta GT's timing could hardly have been worse.
It was launched in the summer of 1974 in a world still reeling from the oil embargo, with a tanking economy and fuel prices that didn't precisely incentivize sports car sales.
Just like the Alfetta saloon a couple of years prior, the Alfetta GT was initially available with a single engine option: Alfa's 1.8 liters twin-cam inline-four fed by two side-draft 40mm carburetors rated at 122HP at 5500Rpm.
These early models can be recognized by looking at their front valance, devoid of the cooling slots that were added to the subsequent models, those introduced in 1976.
The original 1.8 liters model was superseded by the GTV 2.0 liters, while an entry-level 1.6 liters model was also introduced, mainly aimed at the Italian market.
The GTV 2.0 liters was characterized by rubber overriders on both bumpers, a grille with two shiny inserts on both sides of the Alfa shield, and a redesigned rear air outlet carrying the "GTV" moniker. Wood trim on the dash and a leather-rimmed steering wheel were standard equipment.
Despite the larger displacement, peak horsepower and torque rating remained similar to the earlier 1.8 liters model, but that was rectified in 1979 with the introduction of the GTV 2.0 L, with 130HP, recalibrated suspensions, and more luxurious upholstery inside.
Between 1976 and 1980, the GTV was also made available on the US market, albeit disfigured by the federal-spec bumpers and equipped with a detuned 110HP engine with Spica mechanical fuel injection.
The GT V8
Alfa Romeo's racing arm Autodelta campaigned the Alfetta GT in 1975 in the Group 2 category with encouraging results, while Carlo Chiti got busy designing a contender for the full-fat Group 4: a monster equipped with a 3 liters V8 engine derived from the Montreal.
The Alfetta GT V8 proved blisteringly fast in testing, but the project soon had to be abandoned on cost grounds. Alfa Romeo would have had to build 400 road cars for homologation, but with the production of the Montreal's V8 ceased and crucial tooling already unavailable, the GT V8 program was dead on arrival.
However, a few German enthusiasts did eventually get their own GT V8, built by the German dealer Delta Autotechnik using stock 2.6 fuel-injected Montreal units: It's unclear how many were made, with the best sources indicating a maximum of 3 cars.
The GTV 2.0 Turbodelta
By the late 1970s, turbocharging was increasingly seen as the way of the future, and Autodelta hatched a new rally program around a turbo derivative of the GTV 2.0 L, known as the Turbodelta.
The minimum production requirement of 400 road cars to obtain homologation in Group 4 was fulfilled without disrupting Arese's production schedule. The cars left the line as "regular" GTVs that were then transformed at Autodelta's facility 12 Km away in Settimo Milanese. The KKK turbocharger blew the intake air at a relatively mild 0.7 bars through the standard carburetors, whose gaskets and jets were replaced. New pistons lowered the compression ratio, while an uprated head gasket, new cams, and radiator completed the package.
The GTV Turbodelta's rally career started in 1980 at the Rally Costa Brava and, throughout the season, the Alfas proved fast yet unreliable, often retiring from leading positions. Unfortunately, Autodelta would not be given time to develop the car properly, as the rally program was canceled in early 1981.
The new decade
Arese's coupès were restyled for 1980. In keeping with the period's fashion, all brightwork became black, with the outdated stainless bumpers replaced by plastic items. However, expensive sheet metal changes were kept to a minimum, as Alfa Romeo couldn't spare the necessary funds.
The interior saw a new, more traditional-looking dashboard that only partially addressed the model's ergonomic shortcomings and would not be fitted to right-hand-drive models until much later.
The 1.6 liters model was dropped, and the 2.0 liters GTV became the entry-level model, leaving the range topper's role to the new GTV6.
It's fair to say that the all-aluminum 2.5 liters V6 engine, rated at 160HP at 5600Rpm, transformed the GTV and gave it a new lease of life not just on the market but on the racetrack as well, as it won Alfa Romeo four European Touring Car championships in a row, between 1982 and 1985.
Speaking of racing success, I now must mention the GTV6 3.0 liters produced in just 200 copies for South Africa. The engine's crank, heads, pistons, and liners were supplied by Autodelta, and the Bosch fuel injection was dropped in favor of six Dell'Orto 40mm carburetors.
Even rarer is the twin-turbo GTV6 produced by Callaway on behalf of Alfa's North American branch. Known as the Callaway "C3," it's believed thirty to thirty-five cars were converted between 1983 and 1986.
Although Alfa's Centro Stile made a few design proposals for a second restyling of the GTV around 1983, these plans were soon shelved, and the model soldiered on with the mildest of updates until 1987 when production was terminated without a straight replacement.