The engine barks with each downshift, ricocheting off nearby surfaces. The brake pedal sinks into the footwell, pinching the front left momentarily into the corner. Weight galloping onto the front axle, the car gently begins to rotate. Modulating the throttle around the bend the steering becomes feather light and delicate. Slung low to the ground like a kitten pouncing on a piece of string, the car scours all over the surface for traction. It's the classic rear wheel drive experience coupled with an Italian aura of passion.
Alfa Romeo's last truly innovative car, the Alfetta GTV 6, oozed luxury and motor sport pedigree. It ticked all the boxes; A classic rear wheel drive experience, something I could occasionally use on the track but comfortable enough for daily use.
Owning an Alfetta is partly associated with the nostalgia of dad taking me to the track as a kid. The GTV 6's were my favourite, or as a toddler I simply recognised them as the cars with the black thing on the bonnet. Yes, the utterly useless plastic rectangle mounted as a jewel piece on the bulge of a GTV 6 bonnet was and still remains my favourite quirk. Styled by automotive design rockstar, Giorgetto Giugiaro. The same designer responsible for the previous Alfa 105 GTV albeit under the studio name Bertone.
Alfa Romeo was renowned for pioneering the highest performance cars embodied in the most beautiful bodies and the Alfetta was no different, injected with Formula 1 tech. Torsion bar front suspension, de Dion rear suspension, twin plate clutch, rear mounted gear box, inboard rear brakes, and the Busso designed 2.5L V6 engine. No other car in the segment rivalled this much innovation. It had Porsche 944's whimpering in the corner.
The Alfetta's portfolio is like the annoyingly talented co-worker you quietly envy. Achievement after achievement. Four consecutive European Touring Car Championships, numerous WRC victories, Australian Rally Champion, Australian Group-A success, the Beninca Brothers briefly dominating the Targa Tasmania, James Bond stole one…
The list is relentless.
With this type of portfolio you'd be forgiven for thinking the GTV 6 is a pretty easy car to drive, but all it has done is reiterate how talented those drivers were. Despite being a capable machine, it is anything but easy to drive. You have to really work for it. The control weights are heavy, the gear box is terrible, the engine is brutal and the car grips then snaps then grips. However, when you work it right, everything aligns and the GTV6 feels like a serenade of angels performing the greatest 80's hits whilst wearing leather jackets with their instruments on fire.
Day to day liveability there's only few niggly gritty issues. Parking in tight parallel slots with the heavy steering and boot space. Don't expect to fit a suitcase in the trunk. Especially once you've already arrived at the airport to take home a friend. Sigh. Despite the hatch back proportions, there's no boot space, thanks to the brakes, the clutch, the diff, and the gearbox all being located there.
The more the car is driven the better it behaves with zero reliability concerns, yep, an unbelievable zero percent. Statistically more reliable than family and friends german products. It's only when left un-driven for over a month when the relationship becomes a little, Italian.
Buying tips and things to expect. The weakest link to these cars is the gear box. Terrible thing it is. Be patient changing gears, slowness and vagueness is normal, but a crunchy 2nd gear means gearbox replacement time. The original wheels are made of a very soft alloy, and are almost guaranteed to be buckled, best to get these re-rolled if you're pedantic. Electric windows are fragile. The engine should be very response with no lag and immediate access to torque. The brake pedal is inherently a little spongey even after a brake bleed. The A/C never worked on these cars, not even from new, don't bother spending money getting these 'fixed'. Expect to pay $17k+ for a solidly mechanical car. Buy the best condition car you can find. Less head aches, more fun, and in the long term much cheaper than saving a quick few thousand on buying a cheaper car.
It's tricky avoid the age ol' Alfa Romeo cliche of passion, emotion and romance, but that's exactly it. The car isn't perfect by any stretch, but it's all the faults that make it a challenging sensuous experience with no shortage of dramatic Italian personality.