CLASSIC BUY: Alfa Romeo GTV6 (1982-1985)

A South African racing icon for the price of a city hatchback…

Yes, we’re talking about the sought-after V6 models here. The standard unit was a 2,5-litre V6, but Alfa Romeo SA wanted a little more grunt from its car, as the GTV6 would compete in the prestigious local Group 1 racing formula. And so the legendary SA-only 3,0-litre was born.

Packaging

Basically a two-plus-two styled by Italian designer Giorgetto Giugiaro, the four-cylinder models were released in the 1970s. It was an exciting time in the motor industry, when designers and stylists were constantly experimenting with new ideas that included a departure from the familiar curves to sharper angles and wedges.

Although the 2,5 V6 improved on most areas of the smaller-engined GTs, the 3,0-litre took it even further with lowered suspension and a locally manufactured fibreglass bonnet with air-inlet scoop and power bulge to accommodate the six-pack of Dellorto carburettors. There was also a larger front spoiler and wider tyres on Compomotive sectional alloy wheels. The front suspension used torsion bars with a De Dion setup and Watt’s linkage at the rear. It still, however, retained the Alfetta’s rear-mounted transmission.

Powertrain

With the 3,0-litre GTV6 made specifically to compete in Group 1 against the rival BMW 535i, Alfa Romeo had to adhere to the formula’s rules, which stated that at least 100 units had to be homologated and made available for sale to the public. The engine was a 60-degree all-alloy unit with a single camshaft per bank.

Replacing the 2,5’s fuel injection system were no less than six Dellorto RFP40 carburettors (as fitted to the Alfa 6 sedan), with jetting changed to suit the extra capacity. Both bore and stroke were increased to up the power from 118 kW at 5 600 r/min and 213 N.m at 4 000 r/min, to the 3,0-litre’s 128 kW at 5 800 r/min and 222 N.m at 4 300 r/min. It took the 2,5-litre 10,8 seconds to go from zero to 100 km/h and it had a top speed of 202 km/h. The 3,0-litre managed the 0-100 km/h in a significantly quicker 8,36 seconds and had a top speed of 224 km/h.

This still wasn’t as quick as the 535i’s 7,9-second sprint time, but the Alfa’s reduced mass gave the Italian the advantage in the corners. With its standard ratios, the 3,0 was under-geared and, for our 1984 test, Alfa SA shifted the rev limiter from 6 500 to 7 000 r/min in order to achieve the top speed of 224 km/h.

Which one to get

Naturally, the 3,0-litre is rarer, so it’s the one to go for, but a well-looked-after 2,5-litre is almost as collectable. It might be an idea to buy a non-runner 2000 GT as a supply of spares.

What to watch out for

Rust, rust and more rust. Only examples from inland are likely to have survived the tin worm. Voltage regulators can also pack up due to overheating, but these are easy to replace. The 2,5-litre’s Bosch L Jetronic fuel injection is very reliable, although keep an eye on electrical connections and make sure there are no air leaks due to perished pipes or broken gaskets. Because the gearbox is rear-mounted, the propshaft spins fast, so any vibrations will indicate centre bearing wear or even an unbalanced shaft.

Older Alfas traditionally used Golden Lodge 2HL spark plugs, but these days they are virtually unobtainable and you can use the NGK BP6ES or BP7ES (cooler plug for higher performance driving) as replacements. As an historical aside, Oliver Lodge, a contemporary of Heinrich Hertz and Guglielmo Marconi, was a British scientist and inventor who patented a sparking plug for internal-combustion engines before the turn of the 20th century. This led to the Lodge Plug company run by his sons.

Availability and prices

Just more than 450 2,5-litre models were sold between 1982 and 1985, plus the 200-odd 3,0-litres from 1983 to 1985. R150 000 seems to be the going value of a respectable 3,0, with 2,5s fetching between R30 000 and R100 000. There are usually a handful of models on offer on Gumtree.

Interesting facts

The 3,0-litre engine had already been tested in Italy, but was not put into production because of European tax laws affecting the sales price. For the engine, Alfa SA also imported cylinder-head castings, crankshafts, pistons and sleeves from Autodelta, Alfa Romeo’s competition department. South African motoring-media icon Roger McCleery was Alfa Romeo SA’s marketing manager at the time and he persuaded its MD, Dr Vito Bianco, to pull some strings in Milano to get the 3,0-litre approved. The GTV6 was very successful on the track, with a CV that included two- and three-hour race wins and a 1 000 km event at Kyalami. The winning drivers here were Paul Moni (presently a Scuderia Ferrari salesman) and Mick Formato, Gary’s dad.

*From the February 2017 issue of CAR magazine

  • tokoloshiman

    Used to work for Alfa Romeo SA! Dr. Bianco was a very nice man and he liked me!