|In 1965 a minor cosmetic makeover resulted in the GT Veloce, still at a nominal 1.6 liters but with a small but useful increase in horsepower. In 1968 displacement grew to 1779cc, and the 1750 GTV got a much revised interior and a slightly less distinctive front end treatment. The final major version, the 2000 GTV, was introduced in 1971. Big changes were another increase in displacement to 1996cc, further interior refinements, a controversial grille treatment, and, eventually, a limited-slip differential as an option. |
Recognized as a classic from the outset by anyone with a pulse, nowadays these coupes are highly sought after even if they still aren't generally commanding the prices they deserve. The 2 liter cars are especially prized for their tractability in modern driving conditions -- the smaller displacement cars certainly can keep up, but require a fair amount of flogging to do so.
These Alfas were fairly expensive when new, but have always had lower-than-average resale values. With the price of entry low, but maintenance costs surprisingly high, many used Alfas lived out the remainder of their days being traded between folks without the means to maintain them properly. The SPICA injection fitted on US 1750 and 2000 series was like the Sirens of yore, tempting those that Should Know Better to tinker with it, and then promptly rewarding those efforts by becoming hopelessly out of tune. An aftermarket carburettor conversion often followed. And like most Italian iron from the period, these cars rust. Worst are the cars from about 1971 on as Alfa was using steel imported from behind the iron curtain that had an amazing propensity to corrode. (Something about those melted down T-34s and KV-1s. ) The result of all this is that very few pristine cars survive.
For most folks shopping for a GTV today, the choice realistically falls between buying a project car or one that is already restored. Finding an unrestored car that does not need something major is virtually unheard of. Thus, when we learned that Classic Auto in Milwaukee had just taken on a pristine, low-mileage, all-original 73 GTV, we just had to check it out. We arranged with Classic's Colin Comer to meet at Holy Hill to examine and drive the car.
For would-be GTV owners, this is the Holy Grail. AR3022610, built 8/73, is spectacularly original inside and out. Not surprisingly, it previously had but a single owner, one Gene Thober of Marblehead, MA, who covered just 19,000 miles in it in 27 years. From day one the GTV was maintained exclusively by Paul Glynn of Glynn Motorsports. According to Glynn, "When Gene bought the car he said that it would be the last Alfa he ever bought. When he purchased the GTV, he promptly took it home, disassembled as much as he could, and rustproofed it himself. The only time the car saw rain was once outside our shop one day! The car was kept in a heated garage with a cover on it and Gene would periodically take it outside, wash it, wax it, dry it and return it to its spot. Gene had a truck for a daily driver and only drove the Alfa when he would have an opportunity for a high speed drive. The only non-original parts on the car as far as we know would be some replacement fuel lines, clamps and fuel pump!"
The interior of the car is virtually as new. The seats are notably in excellent shape. Mr. Thober credits their longevity to the fact that he applied melted bees wax to each and every stitch using a hollow pin when the car was new. The dash and rear shelf are unblemished. "The car was never left out in serious weather or direct sunlight. If I did have to leave it sit in the sun I had a roll of paper towels or something and I'd always made sure to cover the dash and rear deck so the plastic wouldn't crack, " says Thober. The one and only modification he made was to install a Blaupunkt radio when the car was new. "I was in contact with Alfa and Blaupunkt and they assured me it would fit. I was sweating bullets when I had to cut the holes in that dash.," Gene told us. "In the end, there was less than 1/8 of an inch clearance for the radio behind the dash."
A minor mystery: it seems this GTV came equipped with 1750-style gold-plated Quadrifoglio badges on the C-pillars, instead of the serpent which is typical of the 2000-series cars. "Everyone that knows these cars comments on that, but I have to plead no knowledge as that's the way the car was delivered to me" says Gene. And, as anyone who has attempted to replace the badges knows, it is an extremely difficult job to do right, as you have to remove the headliner, padding and so on to get to the mounting studs. Moreover, the badges are one of the few parts of the exterior that you could charitably call "patinated," as the plating has flaked off completely on one side and is starting to go on the other. The rest of the brightwork is in excellent condition.
The silver paint job is in remarkable shape overall. One of the doors sports a tiny scrape which has been attended to with a touchup brush. Up by the nose there is some evidence of retouching manifested by a few dull spots which Classic Auto's Colin Comer believes was done before its initial delivery. "It all could be fixed easily enough," says Comer, "but it's not worth it, as if you start messing with paint then the car just isn't original anymore." Likewise, a trace of silver overspray on the coil is claimed by one and all as how it arrived from the factory. One has to believe that, as everything else about the car attests to the fact that it was meticulously maintained by someone who was detail-obsessed...
In 1980 Gene entered the silver Alfa in the AROC national concours which was held during the clubs convention in Danbridge MA in July of that year. In preparation, Gene polished the transmission and differential, washed and waxed the fender wells and under the car, and so on. The car scored 733 points, easily winning its class. When the judges tried to take points for "chrome" under the hood, Gene had to point out that he had merely applied elbow grease to the existing tin-plating on the radiator cap and other bright items. According to Gene, the judges tried their best to find ways to take points off the GTV so that the overall prize could go to one of the more exotic vehicles entered, but in the end they had to admit that no machine there was cleaner or more correct. "They hated like hell to give the trophy to a lowly GTV", Gene says, but "begrudgingly they awarded me Best-of-Show." Gene said there was absolute silence when this was announced -- zero congratulations. The AROC grille badge on the car was part of the prize.
We asked Gene about memorable drives in the little Alfa. He recounted when the car was nearly new, driving from MarbleHead, Massachusetts to Toledo, Ohio in 10.5 hours. He pointed out that this was during the gas crisis with 50 mph speed limits. He did 100 mph through Massachusetts, New York, and Pennsylvania to Erie - all the while playing leapfrog with a 200 series Mercedes sedan. On the way home, he got a ticket for going 58 in a 50 mph zone. If the cop had only known...
Today the car starts instantly, the mark of a well-tuned SPICA car with little wear on the inezione pump, settling down to that familiar distinctive Alfa twincam rasp. Out of deference to the rarity of the car we did not beat on it, but at the mildly brisk speeds we drove it was perfectly willing and exceptionally smooth. I've driven a few fire-breathing two liter Alfas and this is not one of them -- yes, you could mess with it and make it go faster but that would be missing the point. It's smooth and strong and very modern feeling, really. Clutch effort is fairly light, and the butter-smooth transmission shows no sign of the second-gear synchro blues that plague many Alfa five speed boxes. The GTV handles as new as well, with no rattles or clunks that one tends to expect when driving a nearly thirty-year old car. The steering is delightfully light thanks to the skinny stock Michelin rubber. The brakes are typical period Alfa -- a little dead feeling for my taste, as they seem over-boosted and not very progressive, but very capable of hauling the car down. All in all the car feels perfectly ready for a high speed jaunt across the country.
If this is not the best GTV in the world, then it must be one of them. It is hard to imagine a more original late Bertone Coupe existing, and even most restored cars are not in this superb of condition. One can only hope that the next owner continues Gene Thober's tradition of stewardship so that this remarkable little coupe will carry on for the next generation. Viva 1973!