Featured: Alfa’s GTV6 Makes Exotic Noises for Used Econobox Cash

Alfa’s GTV6 Makes Exotic Noises for Used Econobox Cash

By Alan Franklin
July 9, 2013
26 comments

As Petrolisti, we all wear an invisible, yet easily recognizable badge identifying ourselves as such. Self-bestowed, and earned through actions like choosing impractical, dangerous, cantankerous modes of personal transportation over more conventional, airbagged and crumplezoned ones, spending our dispensable income and time keeping up with a constant stream of maintenance needs, mitigating rust, expensively and painstakingly eeking out modest performance gains only to be passed by a bone stock 2010 Corolla driven by a disengaged phlebotomist, ruining clothes through impromptu roadside repairs, constantly smelling like a combination electrical fire/oil spill, suffering for our collective superb taste and elevated sense of fun and adventure—none of it matters, according to Jeremy Clarkson, if you’ve never made said sacrifices at the altar of Alfa.

Is this a reasonable sentiment? Does it carry any weight, or is it just typical Clarksonian hyperbole? Personally, I feel that anyone willing to endure for their chosen hobby retains full rights and honors, or dishonors as it may be, associated with such geekiness—if you’ve put forth the effort to memorize the detailed topography and microclimate of Tolkien’s Shire than you righteously deserve the mockery and social stigma that comes with it, I say. Under that thinking, I’ve paid my car nerd dues, and with it earned the right to be looked at funny by my hybrid-driving peers, but I still want an Alfa Romeo, and I want one pretty badly—a GTV6 seems like a reasonable place to start.

Based on the 1972 Alfetta platform, the GTV6 is, as its name implies, a V6-equipped coupe with reasonable concessions to comfort. Designed upon the existing Alfetta GT/GTV fastback version of the aforementioned chassis, the GTV6 featured sophisticated design elements like a rear-mounted transaxle for better weight distribution, and front wheels suspended via double wishbones—the back two utilizing a somewhat old school, but still highly effective De Dion setup.

What really set the GTV6 apart from its earlier four-cylinder brethren, however, was its magnificent Busso V6. A SOHC design displacing two and a half liters, it supplanted the six downdraft Dell’Orto carbs of its Alfa 6 donor with Bosch fuel injection, transforming an engine previously criticized for inadequate fueling into one widely regarded as an all-time great six cylinder. It was flexible, responsive, reasonably powerful, and despite having only half the cylinder count of more exotic Italian machinery sounded at least 80% as good—I can’t think of a less expensive car with a more expensive soundtrack.

As good as it sounded and looked, it was also quite successful in motorsport, winning the European Touring Car Championship an unprecedented four years running from ’82 through ’85, lending an already seriously desirable car a healthy dose of street cred—the most important, and hardest-earned form of the stuff in the world of performance cars.

Today, a good GTV6 is about as easy to find as your house keys after waking up with a hangover, which is to say not at all. Most have succumbed to oxidation, deferred maintenance, neglect, poor modification, or frequently all four. Provided you’re patient, resourceful, and willing to travel, though (I sure hope you’re all of these things before considering an Alfa), it’s not impossible—just drink plenty of water, take a few aspirin, and bring a stack of bills roughly equivalent to that needed for a phlebotomist-spec Corolla.

Photography by Josh Clason

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Mark Diamond
Mark Diamond
8 years ago

Great article. Looks familiar . . . (mine below).

michael pristave
michael pristave
9 years ago

I like these cars quite a bit but every time I consider buying one I realize there are so many other cars from this era that I would have more. If I had a collection it would certainty be in it.

Every time I test drove one while considering buying it the shifting always was terrible, don’t know if it was just those cars. If it wasn’t for that I would probably own one now because the last one I tested in the Riverside, CA area was fantastic otherwise. Not nearly as bad as this Hyundai Genesis I drove once though I guess, lol.

Conni Menschel
Conni Menschel
9 years ago

Great article, great pictures. Would love to see a video about that car…

Best regards

Conni

Ken Larsen
Ken Larsen
9 years ago

Agreed finally an article i can relate too, i owned two of these. First one i bought while l lived back in the UK. It was in beautiful condition and for the time back in mid nineties £2000 pounds seemed a bargain. I did very little to as it didnt need it. Sadly a year into owning it on one rainy night a babbling teenager on a mobile didnt stop at the crossroads and hit my rear end and the car went into a 180 degree spin hit the curbstone flew up in air and somsersaulted onto the roof into some poor blighters hedge. I luckily escaped unhurt but saldy the car was written off due that the roof had caved in.
I ventured into after moving back to Denmark into retoring one i found abonded in a field. After around £5,000 pounds spent on restoring everything especially body work which had rusted through i had a terrific car, i certainly picked up a few to many speeding fines. But saldy the car was sold when i had to leave to move abroad again.

But i will always remember the terrific engaging drives of the GTV6, the quickness, the purr of the engine and to this day i still look around for another one. Who knows maybe again.

Luc Bonachera
Luc Bonachera
9 years ago

One day when I was about 12, my mother and kid sister got ill and the family physician had to make a house call. My father was at work and I was the only one fit enough to go the pharmacy. The nice doctor offered to give me a lift there, since we lived in the countryside, there was no public transportation and the pharmacy was a couple of miles away. Instead of his Renault Supercinq, the car he usually used for his house calls, that day he had taken his other car. You guessed it, an Alfa GTV6… He was in quite a hurry nonetheless, having to make other house calls, and drove quite fast, and I fell in love with the engine sound! It’s definitely one of my best automotive memory, even almost 30 years later.

Martin Pazzani
Martin Pazzani
9 years ago

For aficionados, I offer up a peek at the lowest mileage GTV6 in the world:
https://www.facebook.com/AlfaRomeoGTVSix?ref=hl

Leucea Alexandru
Leucea Alexandru
9 years ago

A friend of mine did this. I had to crop the bumper because it was terrible and it ruined the overall look. I guess you either love it, or hate it:

Alex Beatty
Alex Beatty
9 years ago

would love to know what you did to the bumpers, looks really nice. I want to get rid of my giant diving boards, they ruin the cars lines.

Great Article!!

Leucea Alexandru
Leucea Alexandru
9 years ago
Reply to  Alex Beatty

The bumpers are a styling problem that most Alfetta GTV owners have. Not many aftermarket parts exist, and if they do, they just don’t fit the car’s lines. My friend had a good idea, he wanted to build an unique fiber glass bumper that had a diffuser, and above the diffuser he would mount the exhaust pipes. But it didn’t work the way he planned and the bumper looked cheap and didn’t belong to the car. But it was an interesting concept in the end. Go for the original Grand Prix body kit, if you can still find it. Or search for the Zender kit, which is similar.

Leucea Alexandru
Leucea Alexandru
9 years ago

This is what he did to the bumper. He took the original one and shape it on the car’s lines. Too bad this was done on a tight budget and didn’t work out as it should. The original sketch was much different, but this was the concept. The GTV6 isn’t really very recognizable for someone with an untrained eye and a lack of automotive background, but this styling made it even more unrecognizable. So people were always staring and asking questions at traffic lights, which was pretty fun for us. Personally, i agree with the tail lights, but i didn’t like the bumper. Though somebody else did, and bought the car as it was.

alfavirusnz
alfavirusnz
9 years ago

A good GTV6 (read well maitained, good body) GTV6 is a bargain. Having had a Ferrari, Porsche etc makes you realise what a bargain these cars are. A bit too plasticy perhaps in the outside trim but very well engineered and that gear change is still despite being far from perfect no worse than the Tessarossa, or the 911 I had. Fantastic engine soundtrack and as with every Alfa I`ve owned absolutely reliable and far more usable than any post Daytona Ferrari and far more forgiving than a 911. Can keep the sunroof open too without being buffeted at over 160kph so airflow over the top of the car obviously pretty good. From the perspective of an owner who does all his own repairs and maintenance pretty easy to work on too – especially compared to a 911. My perfect GTV6 would be the earlier stainless steel bumpered Alfetta GTV with the GTV6 mechanicals and the sunroof.

Leucea Alexandru
Leucea Alexandru
9 years ago

Yes, you guys finally did the article on this one! Thank you!

assaf rutenberg
assaf rutenberg
9 years ago

I am 8 months into owning my first gtv6. A black ’85 model with Recaros. I have wanted a gtv6 since i was 12 years old and the purchase of this car is everything i hoped it would be. The engine revs like nothing i’ve ever driven and the sounds it makes are spine tingling. It handles beautifully and I get stopped at every gas station, usually by teenagers, wanting to know what type of car it is. If you come across one in good shape, buy it. It is fun on a bun!

Paer Pettersson
Paer Pettersson
9 years ago

A friend of mine bought one of these as his first car about 10 years ago, and still has it. Sure, he’s been through several gearboxes, smashed the 2,5 litre Engine and done the usual 3 litre swap etc. But when that car works, it’s just a piece of art tempting with desirable looks, talkative mechanics and the aforementioned soundtrack. I can asure “Ae Neuman” that, set up right they will most definately oversteer..

One just have to admire/hate the italian way of thinking during development – all the things they’ve overlooked just to get some spectacular (but necessary???) things right. Anyone else that thought about the way the windshield mirror’s tapered design follows the lines of the tailgate window when looking rearwards? Yes, they will break down. Yes, you will be infuriated. But YES, you won’t fail to love it!

Jon Tabor
Jon Tabor
9 years ago

I (stupidly) passed up a very clean and well sorted rust-free example for $5000 USD about 8 years ago. Been kicking myself ever since.

Ray Beltran
Ray Beltran
9 years ago

I’ve always loved this car. I had to suffer through the movie “Bobby Deerfield” just because I wanted to see and hear it move about. Remember the Mario Andretti signature model?

jinglebuddy
jinglebuddy
9 years ago
Reply to  Ray Beltran

Lovely and lovable car. Shift feel was quite horrible, and someone mentioned above, the 1st was quite difficult, but you can cure that with harder mount and bushing, I suppose. Enemy of any Italian cars of that era is rust though, what a shame. And yes, the engine, my god, that Alfa V6 is one of the best engines ever made – big statement it is, and I stand by it. Maybe not the best engineered, but definitely one of the most sensuous. Is there any such engines out there these days…?

Xander Cesari
Xander Cesari
9 years ago

Ah, finally the GTV6 gets its day in the sun from Petrolicious. I drive one of these daily, it’s terrific. I second this article and look forward to the accompanying video. (Right guys?)

Tom Bruynel
Tom Bruynel
9 years ago

Clarkson is a big fan of Alfas (although he admits that there are other ways of breaking down). This stems from the time when he actually owned an Alfetta GTV6 – I think he has mentioned this on Top Gear but he also told me this personally when I met him in New Zealand in the mid 90s. Despite experiencing all the usual horror stories (just like those mentioned in the article) he loved it.

As with all cars but especially Alfas, deferred maintenance and neglect are a recipe for trouble. Drive them hard and often, look after them a bit, and you’ll avoid most of the pain. I’ve had over a dozen Alfas ranging from 1961 to 2011 models (although not a GTV6) and there hasn’t been a dud amongst them.

Ae Neuman
Ae Neuman
9 years ago

beautiful photos of a beautiful car.
unfortunately beauty was only skin deep.
the dashboard of early cars was a mess with one dial in front of the driver, the rest in the center of teh dash.
the v6 was fantastic but mated to a recalcitrant gearbox, porsche had the smarts to make a rear transaxle work, alfa did not.
lots of grip though from the rear di dion, perhaps too much as the car knows only understeer.
the getaway scene in the james bond film octopussy was pure fantasy.
in reality our hero would still be at that phone box trying to find a gear and forget about those big tail slides.
hugely flawed but still desirable.
that’s alfa magic at work.
😉

GLK
GLK
5 years ago
Reply to  Ae Neuman

The instrument cluster is just like a 911 with the tach dead center and the rest, well, do you need anything else?

Mine understeered until I dropped the front suspension from our stupid DOT mandated nose up ride height. Then it handled so neutral if you did break it loose it’d 4-wheel drift through the turns with no drama. Fantastic handling, actually.

My ’86 shifts no worse than a 911 of the same era.

Matthew Lange
Matthew Lange
9 years ago

Is my memory playing tricks with me but were there a small number of these made with the 3.0 litre V6 from the later 75/ Milano made for the South African Market. That must have been quite a car?

Gianni Burrows
Gianni Burrows
9 years ago
Reply to  Matthew Lange

Your memory is correct! 🙂

Here’s a reprint of an article from the South African CAR Magazine from 1984:

http://www.alfagtv6.com/gtv6threeliter.htm

There have also been a few people in the States that have stuffed 164 3 litre’s into GTV-6’s.

Ian Lomax
Ian Lomax
9 years ago

I agree teh Alfa V6 is one of the best sounding engines out there. I couldn’t drive my Milano Verde with its 3.0 V6 through a tunnel without cracking the window a touch and downshifting to hear it’s note.

The GTV6 is even better as it’s got that sexy bodywork. But drive one before you buy, the ergonomics and windshield placement take some getting used to.

Also check for rust in the front shock towers and on the rear hatch, and assume the interior will be trashed.

Kevin Fitzpatrick
Kevin Fitzpatrick
9 years ago

Great article! I have always liked the look of these cars and I was unaware of their (literal) track record. Since I’ll never be willing to put down the cash for a GTV it looks like the GTV6 is the Alfa for me- if I ever take the plunge.

Adam Hurlburt
Adam Hurlburt
9 years ago

Very well written, Alan. Love the first graph. And I share your yearning for a GTV6. There’s just something so satisfying about owning a car most people don’t even know exists. It’s the car guy equivalent of the hipster M.O., “…you’ve probably never heard of it.”