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.

Swade

Ex-Saab blogger, multiple Saab and Alfa Romeo owner and football tragic.

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28 Responses

  1. Jeff Baker says:

    Congrats on getting a well sorted GTV-6. The pictures were a great reminder of a wicked car. I can’t believe how much the GTV-6 still stirs my emotions, and I owned my first (and best) at 28. I’m now 45 and it still makes me smile. I still have some of the Alfa literature here somewhere.

    You will recall my earlier warning about propshaft “donuts” and vibration, but some other little GTV-6 foibles come to mind which may of some use in the future. First one that drove me insane for a bit was the inertia engine cut off switch located under the passenger seat (left front in uk models). Its a white brittle plastic pop-up connector thingy. Mine used to activate at inopportune moments..until it got some therapy! The other thing that almost scared the crap out of me in a tight bend on the hills in South Wales and there rural stone walls, was a throttle pedal that stuck fully open (lol and GTV brakes being what they are…). The culprit was a rubber grommet which the throttle cable passes through near/on the throttle body. My grommet had aged and had the consistency of semi hard cheese. Simple fix required but worth doing a stitch in time.

    I think the GTV-6 is better suited to the warmer climbes of Oz rather than the UK! Enjoy.

    Jeff

  2. Curvin O'Rielly says:

    Looks like you found a real winner… congratulations!

  3. Pete says:

    Nice one Swade. You probably know this but I’ll just add it cause its an irrestistable detail – Gibson Motorsport were the ones who first brought in the original GTRs, raced them and then redeveloped them before essentially passing all their tech and insights back to Nissan in Japan. They were a huge reason that the GTR was such a killer at the time and started the whole turbo V6/AWD program for Nissan. Your car has had one of the best mechanics in the business looking after it I’d guess.

  4. maanders says:

    Congratulations! With the history of that car, I can see why you felt confident buying it. To have car of that age in that good shape, and owned for an extended period by an automotive engineer….a rebuilt engine and tranny, body and paint in good shape, interior remarkably good for the age of the car….you got a winner there! As you say, no car is perfect, but you should have lots of fun with this Alfa.

  5. Signs says:

    Wow, it sure looks like an amazing find! Congratulations!

  6. MariusGTV says:

    Stunning car Swade! What a joy to have such a really well looked after classic like that! Hope it gives you many miles of motoring smiles and thrills and welcome back to the Alfa fold.

    You have a car with real ‘Cuore Sportivo’ as we Alfisti say.

    Congrats.

    Griffin Up! Cuore Sportivo!

  7. John Libbos says:

    A hearty congratulations, Swade! Enjoy the car as often as possible.

    On a side note, drop me line with your email contact if you wouldn’t mind.
    Thanks!

  8. Mats says:

    Congratulations my friend on a good choice. It looks absolutely stunning, ok the interior might need some tlc and detailing but you’ll get that sorted in notime. Life is too short to not live the dream! :-)

  9. MeanSabean says:

    Beautiful car Swade, being Italian I love Alfa’s. There are just 2 car company’s in the world that build cars with so much passion! I let you guess the other one.

    http://www.mad4wheels.com/webpics/hires/00004913%20-%201999%20Saab%209-3%20Viggen%20coup%C3%A9/1999_Saab_9-3_Viggen_coup%C3%A9_006_9040.jpg

  10. 100%Saab says:

    Very encouraging. I’m unlikely to buy an Alfa, but the idea of keeping one or more of my current Saabs for a very long time is certainly something I’ve been thinking about. Thank you.

  11. James in Seattle says:

    Great photos – thank you for sharing. I can almost detect the aroma of the interior; sun-broiled plastic, a touch of oil, on a thin layer of exhaust, and a hint AC mildew… ’85 was certainly a good vintage ;o) Enjoy! I’d sure like to see more photos of this Alfa’s new life with your family in the years to come.
    Now, for that daily driver you spoke of…

  12. eggsngrits says:

    Well done, sir. I share your disbelief of the previous owner’s lack of marketing savvy. That sort of history would be worth quite a bit to me as a buyer.

    Likewise, I’d not have guessed that the sitting position would have any different geometry than ‘normal’ cars. Even though GTVs were available in the US in the early going, I’ve never been inside one, and I’ve not seen one on the roads in many years, probably since the late 1980′s.

    The 1980′s red paint from Europe has an absolutely horrible time coping with the sun in our warmer climes, fading into a flat pinkish color in no time. I’ve never owned a red Saab for that reason. Keep it indoors!!

  13. maanders says:

    Looking again at these photos, I can’t help but think of the adventures you have ahead of you with this “weekender”….and be reminded of the Dr. Seuss book “Oh the Places You’ll Go”.

    “There is fun to be done!”

    and

    “You have brains in your head, you have feet in your shoes. You can steer yourself any direction you choose.”

  14. CraigSu says:

    How you are going to keep from making this a DD is beyond me. I would not have your patience.

  15. Curvin O'Rielly says:

    A word of warning, Swade. I’ve owned only one red car. A 2000 Audi TT. It was a hell of a car. The only problem with it was that, for the simple reason that it was a red sports car, it attracted swarms of highway patrolman. That never happened with the two Porsches I owned. They were deep brown and jet black. My two Porsches were deep brown and jet black. A sleek red Italian car would probably be a marked car to the nth degree with police, particularly zipping down the road with a raspy exhaust note. There’s only one answer… practice your gift of gab so you can talk your way out of any/all troubles you may encounter with the constabulary.

  16. john says:

    Congratulations again on a great purchase ; you won’t be sorry.
    Looks like you got a good one – maintain it and it should give you many hours of trouble free, smile saturated motoring if my personal experience is any indication.
    Been trying to figure out how to include a photo, with no luck. Was gonna send a pic of mine to hopefully encourage the painting of the cladding in body colour. :) Add some wheels and slightly more tyre – you don’t have a LOT of room – and you’re good to go. Wheels can be an issue due to the unique bolt circle, but there are several nice, clean styles of 5 spokes available that look great.
    Enjoy!

  17. Anthony says:

    If you update the wheels, they’ve got to be Momo Vegas!

    • Swade says:

      I think the Vega looks cool on the previous generation (105) GTV but I’m not so sure it’d suit this model.

      I’ve made some enquiries about wheels and have something very, very special in mind. Am just pondering which kidney I don’t need any more, as it’ll take one of those to fund them!

  18. turbin says:

    Well done Swade, irresistable as well as sensible decision, heart and head! You’re making progress ; )

  19. Ian Brade says:

    After I read this post you had me reaching for my photo collection from Tassie days. I have a lot of photo’s from the ’93 Targa but so far haven’t found your car amongst them. That year, Greg Crick won in a Honda NSX.
    The closest I found was from a later edition – a dark blue GTV6 driven by the well respected Beninca family.

  20. Sheldon says:

    Beautiful car, nice sounding history, and with most of the desirable mods done too (shame you don’t get to drive an original-spec one to see how badly they understeer….).

    There’s nothing special about the Twin Spark gears per se, I believe they’re identical to the GTV6 ratios, it’s just that the TS gearbox comes with the desirable LSD included.

  21. Tompa says:

    It Is a lovely car and I Know you love the design and engines of Alfas. (as do I)
    When looking for an enthusiast car you also looked at a GT car and that in the form of the Porsche 928. Didn’t it hit you then that there Is a car that combine a huge powerful engine and style (928 and GTV) and questionable quality (GTV)… So what car is it?

    The Jaguar XJS V12.
    Beauty, power, class.

    Oh I feel the need to buy one! And a CS Aero, and a C900 turbo S and a…. :-)

    Cheers/Tom

    • Swade says:

      It’s a nice thought, Tom, and one that I would love to own. Two problems, though – too many other cars in front of it on my bucket list and perhaps more importantly, it wouldn’t fit in my garage!

  22. Tompa says:

    Yeah there is the size problem :-)

    Cheers/Tom

  23. tt says:

    If all goes well i’ll be getting a gtv6 soon. Fingers crossed.
    Yours looks great. Btw. Congrats.

  24. tt says:

    Thanks. It’ll be my seventh Alfa and I’m really looking forward to picking up the car. If the deal don’t fall through that is…

  25. tt says:

    Finally got round to viewing the gtv6 but unfortunately it turned out to be quite a disappointment. Brakes rumbled, steering heavier when turning right, guessing suspension geometry problem. Nasty nasty worn out seats. Worst of all dash cracked and riveted up in places. It’s ironic that I actually handled the second gear better than the owner. It just hasn’t got enough plus points for me to take the plunge. Not sorry at all passing on this one. Guess the wait for the right gtv6 will take just a bit longer. Well I still have my faithful 75 to enjoy. It’s no v6 growl but it’s twin spark bark is (just) as satisfying. Cheers.