With just a hiccup from the front-running XR GTs at Bathurst in 1967, Australian motor-sport history could read very differently. Snapping at the Falconís heels and less than a lap behind at the finish were two 1.6-litre Alfa Romeos Ė forerunners to the models that would brand to stardom in the Australian sporty car market.
In 1968 the 1600 GTV was superseded by a more powerful, (by 5kW) and slightly restyled 1750 model.
The 1750 looked more substantial than the 1600 due to reshaped wheel arches, a new nose panel and revised grille incorporating driving lights. Wider 14-inch wheels replaced the 15 inch rims used by earlier 105 Series cars.
New in 1969 the 1750 GTV cost $5295, or $1300 more than a GTS 350 Monaro, however the local V8 and Euro twin-cam sold into very different market segments.
With 100kW from its double overhead-cam engine, the 1750GTV delivered enough performance to keep six-cylinder Monaros at bay and even give the new Ford Capri V6 a tough time. Top speed with the standard five-speed gearbox was 185km/h and 0-100km/h came up in 10.6 seconds. But straight roads and drag-strips were not the GTVís favoured terrain.
Standard features included all-independent suspension, radial-ply tyres and four-wheel disc brakes making these cars devilishly quick in twisty terrain. Inside were well-shaped seats with adjustable backrests, wood-grain dash trim, a full selection of instruments and a classically-Italian woodrim steering wheel.
The ultimate 2000GTV variation arrived in 1971, with 112kW and 22 per cent more torque than the original 1600 GT.
Accompanying the performance boost were bigger brakes, a limited-slip differential and interior changes which eliminated some of the attractive timber veneer.
More torque made the five-speed more effective in highway mode, with a consequent improvement in fuel consumption. Away from the city, figures around 9L/100km are achievable and even around town the 2000GTV gets close to 13L/100km. Acceleration was improved too, with the 2.0-litre car reaching 0-100km/h in around nine seconds. With only 1060kg to control, GTV brakes were beyond reproach. Testers at US Road & Track magazine managed to stop a 2000 from 96km/h in 48 metres and recorded no fade at all after five 0.5g stops in quick succession.
Cars bought maybe decades ago for very little money offer vendors the opportunity for a quick cash grab while leaving the purchaser in a deep financial hole depending on the magnitude of work required. If such a thing as a good, cheap Alfa exists we are yet to see it. Cars that have undergone a complete and properly documented rebuild are more viable but may also be untenably expensive. Owners who have seriously over-capitalised their cars will understandably try to recoup all of their resto-cost outlay. Best strategy is to delve between these extremes. There it is possible to find cars in mechanically excellent and rust-free condition. A professional inspection to confirm condition is essential. Spending in the $60-80,000 range should see the buyer coming away with an attractive, usable car and some value growth still to come.
BODY & CHASSIS Cursory inspection is not enough to ensure you arenít about to buy a rust-ridden Alfa. Even cars that look superb and come with confirmation that huge money has been spent on repairs can be deteriorating all over again unless diligent rust-proofing was undertaken. Check the base of the front door pillars, sills and window surrounds then move on to less crucial areas. Offshore stockists can supply various items of sheetmetal but the $3000 we saw asked for new doors and front mudguards leaves plenty of scope to have your own panel professionally renovated. Lights and window glass are available, with complete tail-lamp units costing $200350 each.
ENGINE & TRANSMISSION Alloy cylinder heads gave trouble even when new, so inspecting the dip-stick for sludgy oil emulsion is vital. Oil leaks arenít by themselves serious but can be symptoms of head-gasket failure. Engine internals are relatively expensive; new parts including pistons, valves and camshafts adding up to more than $3000. Noisy timing chains at start up need replacement and installing the bottom chain is time consuming. Clutch shudder can be due to wear or oil on the facings. Driveline vibration can be caused by wear to the driveshaft centre bearing or rubber-mounted front coupling.
NUMBER BUILT: 81,728 (1750/2000) BODY: all steel integrated body/ chassis two-door coupe ENGINE:1779cc or 1962cc in-line four-cylinder with overhead camshafts and twin sidedraft carburettors
POWER & TORQUE: 112kW @ 5500rpm, 207Nm @ 3500rpm (2000 GTV)
PERFORMANCE: 0-96km/h: 9.6 sec 0-400 metres: 16.7 sec (2000 GTV)
TRANSMISSION: five-speed manual
SUSPENSION: Independent with upper and lower wishbones, coil springs, telescopic shock absorbers and anti-roll bar (f) Live axle with trailing arms, coil springs and telescopic shock absorbers (r)
BRAKES: disc (f) disc (r) with vacuum assistance
TYRES: 165HR14 radial (2000 GTV)
SUSPENSION & BRAKES Alfas of this type donít normally need major suspension work but worn shock absorbers, worn or seized suspension bushings, noise from the rear suspension locating arms and vague steering all typify a car where maintenance has been neglected. Everything needed for a complete chassis overhaul is available from local Alfa specialists and overseas suppliers. Reconditioning the brake booster will cost up to $500, so check for leakage by maintaining pressure on the pedal for at least 20 seconds with the engine at idle speed. Brake calipers can be reconditioned and new rotors cost less than $100 each.
INTERIOR & ELECTRICS Reproduction seat vinyl in correct 105 Series patterns is available and local knowledge via your state Alfa Club branch will help find a trimmer experienced in these cars. Be wary if the dash top is warped as these are costly to source and fit. Replacement veneer kits are available overseas and perhaps locally via club sources. New seat covering and also the moulded rubber cushions which frequently collapse remain available from suppliers in Europe. Carpet sets cost around $500. Aged wiring and corroded connections produce various problems so ensure all electrical components including the heater/fan, rear lights and wipers are working.