1985 Alfa Romeo GTV6 – what and why

The Alfa and I are back at home so it’s time to give you the run down on the car and the thought process that led me to buy it.

The Car – a brief history.

I thought it was a 1984 model, but it turns out my GTV6 was actually built in April of 1985. I’ve managed to get in touch with the car’s long-term owner, who had it from around 1990 to some time in 2008/9.

Click any of the images to enlarge.

Apparently the car started life as a dealer demo model, then it was leased on behalf a lady owner as her company vehicle. My contact, the long-term owner named Ross H, subsequently purchased it around 1990 with 89,000kms on the clock. To quote Ross, “It was the first one I saw, but after I had looked at about 20 more and it was still the best I’d seen, I went back and bought it – even though I didn’t really want a red one.”

Ross drove it to work for a few years – he was a race engineer at Gibson Motorsport after spending several years with Nissan’s motorsport team here in Australia. Concerned about the mileage he was putting on it, he bought a 4-cylinder Alfetta to wear out and garaged the V6. Ross then prepped and raced the car at Targa Tasmania in the early 1990’s.

Around 2002, the engine in the GTV6 was getting a bit tired, so it was removed and put to one side while a replacement V6 from an Alfa 75 was installed. A few years later, and just prior to a working trip to Asia, the original engine was torn down and rebuilt, a no-compromises restoration that Ross did with a view to driving and keeping the car on his return to Australia. The car had a lot of other work performed under Ross’ ownership as well (see below), all designed to make it the best a ‘stock’ GTV6 could be for an automotive engineer with a motorsport background.

Ross’ trip to Asia turned out to be a more permanent move than expected. I got a lot of this history from him early last week and he’s still there.

Ross sold the car a few years ago to the guy I bought it from last week. Upon learning the history of the car, I was really surprised that the owner didn’t make more of it in his advertising. He complained that he hadn’t had much interest. I think talking more about the vehicle’s very impressive history would have helped a lot. Prior to contacting Ross, I first heard about it from one of his colleagues, Doug G, via a posting on the AROCA website. Learning the vehicle’s history convinced me to look further and finally, to have confidence in buying the car.

The Car – condition and specs

As mentioned at the top, my GTV6’s build date was April 1985. The car has a 2.5 litre V6 engine making around 160hp in stock configuration. This car’s engine was completely rebuilt around three years ago. The heads were done and a slightly later model cam profile was introduced.

The body is in superb condition with only a few minor stone chips and one or two very small finger dents that I’ll address in due course. The car’s only been in one accident to Ross’ knowledge, a side impact with a tyre wall that saw no chassis damage, but did necessitate a new door, rear quarter panel and front guard on the passenger side.

The interior is superb. As I’ve mentioned in previous brief writings about this car, absolutely everything works, from the heating system to the dash electrics, power windows and power rear mirror. Everything. The dash plastics are still in good order, too. The vent doors are all working and there are only one or two switches with worn-off white markings on them.

A lot of work has been done to improve the handling and driveability of the car:

Dampers – the car has stock dampers at the front and Koni yellows at the rear. Ross admits this makes the front a little floaty, but he thought it was the best overall compromise to maximise general driveablity along with fun at club sprints. He’s also recommended some Koni valve setups for me, should I want to tie down the front a little more.

Transaxle – Ross fitted the ‘Twin Spark’ gear set from an Alfa 75, a desirable upgrade from everything I’ve read, however I don’t yet have the requisite knowledge as to why. The gearbox is very solid with none of the traditional Alfa second-gear notchiness. The gearing seems to be quite short, getting the car up to speed very quickly. The downside of that is sitting at just over 3,000rpm when you’re doing 110km/h on the highway (though it’s a nice sound at 3K rpm, so swings and roundabouts, as they say). Ross also went to great lengths to balance the whole clutch/flywheel/tail-shaft assembly.

Differential – a limited slip differential was also fitted.

Dashboard – the dashboard was removed and supporting materials were installed to stop the usual dash rumble that can afflict the GTV.

Clutch – Ross was quite adamant that the original twin-plate clutch setup was the way to go for the complete GTV6 driving experience, so a twin-plate unit was built by specialists in Melbourne whilst the engine was being rebuilt.

Brakes – The brakes were also completely overhauled at that time, with RaceBrakes RB74 compound pads installed and I can tell you, it definitely stops. The pedal feel is fantastic.

Why I bought an Alfa GTV6

Coming from such a strong Saab background, and with a beautiful Lightning Blue 9-3 Viggen in the possible purchasing mix, I suppose this is a question that some people will still be asking.

I was actually still planning on buying the Viggen until around 5 days before I bought the Alfa. I’d even booked my flight to Sydney for this reason (fortunately or me, it had a stop in Melbourne along the way, so I didn’t have to re-book).

So why the Alfa?

Most of you will know that whilst I’ve been a Saab guy for as long as I can remember, I’m also an Alfa guy and the GTV6 has long been the one of the most desirable Alfas to me. Whilst the 105 series is probably more beautiful, I wanted the roar of that beautiful Alfa Romeo V6. It’s also close to being one of the last of the RWD Alfas, something that I wanted to experience for myself. A well-to-do friend of mine had one in the late 1980s, back when they were near-new, and it was an amazing driving experience.

If you get the chance to buy one of the dream cars from your youth, then why not? This will not be a daily driver. It’s going to be used for weekend driving only and the occasional club event and car show.

The GTV6 is wonderful to the eye, has beautiful balance on the road and of course, there’s the engine note. I’ve shot a little bit of engine noise video and will process and post it here soon. The exhaust, which puts out a glorious note already, is one thing I’d like to upgrade some time soon (along with the wheels). I think there’s space to extract a little extra oomph, as well as a slightly raspier note, which would be nice.

My first weekend with this car saw me do close to 1,000 kilometers, with a return trip from Melbourne to Waratah Bay prior to my drive home from the ferry in Devonport, to Hobart. The little Alfa proved itself over and over again.

Not that it’s the perfect car, mind you.

I’ve said many times through the years that a car only needs to do a few things exceptionally well and those things will overcome any inherent flaws it has. The Alfetta model has a number of inherent flaws…. the seats look great, but they feel quite hard after about an hour. The driving position has been designed for, shall we say more Mediterranean body shapes, with somewhat shorter legs than mine. Many people say that Alfa pedals are slightly offset, but I found them to be straight ahead of the seat. What IS offset, however, is the steering wheel and dashboard, being slightly left of your body’s center on a RHD model. Bottom line: I find it uncomfortable to drive more than an hour at a time in this car.

And yet it’s still completely addictive.

The GTV6 does more than its fair share of things exceptionally well. It looks beautiful, it shows its pedigree with wonderful balance and handling and it sings like a choir of hellbound stallions.

What more can you want in a weekender?

My thanks to Ross and Doug G for such a detailed and wonderful history on this car. I hope to emulate Ross’ dedication to keeping it in top shape over the coming years.