When is a Series II Ferrari 250 GTO not a Series II 250 GTO? That's the question to which the awnser will be provided next month. Here's a clue - it involves the ingenuity of a clever Kiwi.
When I was a youngster, Alfa Romeo was an aspirational marque and I admired people who drove them and really wanted one. My Dad had an Ampol service station and one of our customers was a local solicitor who had several Alfas including a Giulia Sprint GTV 1600.
Whenever it was in for a service Dad used to take me to school in it Ė so Iíve always had a soft spot for them.
Alfa Romeo made cars for drivers not commuters and Iíve owned a number of them so I guess you could class me as an Alfisto. The first was a Giulia Super which was a basic four-door version of the 1600 105 Series, then I had a 1750 Berlina, another four-door I was fond off, followed by a couple of Alfettas and a Twin-Spark Alfa 75. But by the 80s, while they were still good cars Ė relatively speaking Ė Alfa Romeoís reputation had degenerated, mostly because of terrible rust problems due to poor quality steel. In 1970 you
could also buy a BMW 2002, which was typically German-rock-solid on the road but Iíd still rather drive a GTV any day. They were much more involving and handled better.
The 105 series Alfa Romeo was launched in 1963 with the twin-cam 1600cc Sprint GT.
Subsequent models were fitted with bigger capacity engines with twin carburettors (except in the US where the last models got fuel injection). The model line ended with the 2000 GTV which was last made in 1976.
The V in GTV stands for Veloce, Italian for fast and the racing variants were dubbed GTA (A for Alleggerita or lightened) and were special lightweight cars built by Autodelta, Alfa Romeoís racing division.
I remember seeing the great Kevin Bartlett race a GTA at the Longford road course in Tasmania in 1966 or í67. ĎKBí and Frank Gardner raced Alfas for team owner Alec Mildren, who had the first Alfa Romeo dealership in NSW. Tim Schenken also raced a 2000 GTV at Bathurst in the old days of production car racing and John French, the Brisbane Alfa dealer, who won Bathurst with Dick Johnson in the Tru-Blu XD Falcon in 1981, raced them extensively too.
This car is a Series II 1750 GT Veloce, better known as a 1750 GTV, even though its engine is actually 1778cc. It belongs to my mate Chris who accidentally found it in a barn in a country town in Victoria when he went
looking for another car. It had been under a tarp for years but was in as-new nick because prior to being stored it had been in a Launceston museum. When its owner died it was shipped to his brother on the mainland.
There was no petrol in the tank or fuel lines; it had all evaporated, and the battery had packed up. But after an hour of trying she started up and Chris had a new car. It was first sold by Henley Saab in Melbourne in 1971 and Chris is only its third owner.
Like me, heís an Alfa fan and has bought and sold many of them, but he reckons he will never sell this car. Well, not unless you offer him well over $50,000!
The all-alloy DOHC engine is a gem and was incredibly advanced when the original version came out in the í50s. It has an alloy block, cast iron liners and an alloy head.
The twin overhead camshafts operate on buckets, so there are no rockers, and the valve clearance is set by shims under the buckets. And they had twin side-draught Weber carburettors. Thatís serious race style engineering. Power is quoted at 99kW and torque 186Nm.While itís not a lot by todayís standards, the GTV is a tiny car, just over four metres long and weighs under 1000 kilograms.
Itís a very pretty little car inside and out and was designed by Giorgetto Giugiaro for Bertone who styled some of the most beautiful cars of all time. It was an exotic car for the masses although it would have been more expensive than a Holden or a Ford at the time.
The five-speed transmission has a beautiful gearshift that goes directly into the top of the íbox. They have a reputation for dodgy second-gear synchros but I reckon thatís more due to dodgy drivers.
The handbook advises you to warm up the engine and the gearbox oil before driving but people used to fire íem up, drive off, and rip them into second and that would stress the synchros. So every pre-owned Alfa you drove had crunchy synchros.
The suspension is terrific with a really nice ride and the handling is very neutral and forgiving; the chassis doesnít do anything bad.
It has a live rear axle with trailing arms running forward, coil springs and telescopic shocks, nothing fancy but really well located, like racing practice of the time. Front suspension is independent with double wishbones, coil springs and telescopic shocks.
This car has disc brakes all íround which
was also pretty advanced for the time but only has recirculating ball steering. Itís okay but itís not as good as rack and pinion. The steering ratio is quick, though, with a terrific tight turning circle. The only non-standard items on the car are the beautiful 15-inch Campagnolo alloys which were on GTAs and they fill out the guards nicely.
Driving the GTV in peak hour traffic after our photo shoot you can understand why cars have evolved to what they are today. You canít just float along in this car; you have to concentrate on changing gears. But when you let it have its head itís a really fun car that you donít have to drive fast to enjoy.
And when you sit behind that beautiful steering wheel you can almost imagine yourself wearing string-back gloves and cool sunnies and cutting laps on the CŰte díAzur or up the Stelvio Pass. All the while youíre actually just lapping the Albert Park Grand Prix circuit at the speed limit.
ENGINE 1778cc DOHC in-line four POWER 99kW @ 5500rpm TORQUE 186Nm @ 2900rpm GEARBOX 5-speed manual SUSPENSION Independent, wishbones, coil springs, telescopic dampers (f); live axle, coil springs, telescopic dampers (r) BRAKES Power-assisted discs (f & r) WEIGHT 984kg