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Alfa Romeo GTV

Alfa Romeo GTV Published: 16th Dec 2014 - 0 Comments - Be the first, contribute now!

Alfa Romeo GTV
Alfa Romeo GTV
Alfa Romeo GTV
Alfa Romeo GTV
Alfa Romeo GTV
Alfa Romeo GTV
Alfa Romeo GTV
Alfa Romeo GTV
Alfa Romeo GTV
Alfa Romeo GTV
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Peter Vaughan reflects on the Alfa Romeo he has known for almost half a century, purchased for the school run but chosen for pleasure over practicality

My memories of the 1974 Earls Court Motor Show are probably stronger than of any other year. Petrol was just beginning to course through my veins, fuelled by a rapidly growing collection of Matchbox cars (complete with collector’s suitcases) and my mother was choosing a new car. I was there to try out back seats, as I was now eight and outgrowing the rather ‘plus-two’ nature of the rear seats in mum’s red Alfa Romeo 1750 GTV (Bertone) Coupé. Our time was split between the main candidates, the Alfasud ti and the Alfetta GT, although we also paid fleeting visits to the BMW and Lancia stands to see the 2002 and Flavia 2000 Coupé. This, remember, was the mid-‘70s when most kids did the school run in a Ford Cortina. Dad, though, was in the motor trade and mum had rallied an Alvis in her youth. Somehow my sister escaped this influence (perhaps put off by travelling in a Morgan as a toddler), but for me, the die was set. Cars – and especially Italian-designed cars – were already in the blood…


Even when mum finally made a decision on the 1750’s replacement, though, I was a long way from realising the significance of her choice. Her brand new car, collected from the famous Thomson & Taylor showroom in Cobham (now replaced by flats), would stay with her until she died, over 36 years later. Her choice? Another Bertone Coupé (her third in succession) as newer Alfa offerings just didn’t quite match the driver appeal. I’d just have to squeeze in – and not grow too tall! Oh well, it didn’t turn out to be such a bad decision.

I might have been disappointed at the time that the newer, more fashionable and crucially – more spacious – Alfetta had been overlooked but none of the other candidates would have stood the test of time quite like a Bertone. Having said that, mother’s indecision meant a compromise on colour as right-hand drive production of the 105-Series coupé (except for the lower priced, lower powered 1600 GT Junior) had already stopped. There were just three examples left unsold in the UK – one each in white, blue and purple. Purple would have been Seventies-tastic (I doubt if such an example remains un-resprayed today) and my choice was blue but, hey, it wasn’t my car and I was still in short trousers. White it was then.

But, perhaps in recognition of the GTV’s dating lines or the fact that Bianco Spino was not as fetching as Italian racing red, the new Alfa was shipped off to have a vinyl roof and side rubbing strips fitted the day after delivery. Almost as ‘1975’ as that purple paint…

Colour aside, the Alfa was loved as much as its predecessor. I’m not sure it would have mattered but I’ve since discovered that it was already 17 months old when its famous ‘1 BOY’ number plates were first screwed on. Again, such was the way of the motor trade at that time, cars often sitting unloved in fields for months, or even years, before being bought as new. No wonder they rusted, which of course the Alfa did, like pretty much every other 1970’s car, whatever the nationality.

But perhaps it didn’t rot as badly as a Sud because it was 1984 (when the car was nearly 11 years old and registered for almost exactly nine) that it was booked into a West Croydon bodyshop for repairs, at a cost of £547. That must have been quite a lot to spend on a car that was increasingly heading towards banger territory, even more so as the GTV’s successor was about to park outside our three-bed semi. Alfas were finally out of favour chez Vaughan and a 205 GTI 1.6 had taken its place on the drive.

The Bertone was for sale but, with hindsight, only half-heartedly, I reckon. A couple of fairly derisory offers were flatly turned down and the GTV moved not to a new address but into the garage, behind our family’s everyday vehicles.

I don’t think there was really a plan to keep the old girl, just not to sell it, if you understand the difference. By now almost a decade of near-everyday motoring had racked up 35,850 miles (at the 1985 MoT), with runs to school and back, shopping trips and Friday visits to the hairdresser being key in the Alfa’s duties.

If that makes it sound like the twin cam’s engine was wasted then perhaps I should point out that my old mum was still prepared to take on boy racers in a bit of traffic light grand prix racing in her late 70s.

Quite a few Croydon teenagers must have had their egos destroyed by ‘the granny in a 306 GTI’. Some probably never recovered their manhood!

I digress, for ‘1 BOY’ was already well known in the Alfa Romeo Owners’ Club, mum being member number 247 – for comparison, I joined in around 2001 and have a membership number nearing 19,000. We regularly attended an Easter weekend rally at The Old England Hotel in Windermere and seeing 125mph on the speedo from the (unbelted, of course) back seat as we raced up the M1 is one of my strongest childhood memories. Mum hated that her previous Alfa had been sold to someone who saw it as a sign of success, rather than a serious driving tool. She might not have entered competitive events in the GTV but in those pre-speed-camera days she certainly enjoyed every one of its 130bhp.


That my mother continued to enjoy the Bertone right up until the age of 80 (in 2009) is perhaps more surprising when you learn that her first Alfa was only ordered because Volvo took so long to deliver a P1800! Eventually the Volvo was cancelled and £1522 (including purchase tax) was spent in September 1964 on an Alfa Romeo Giulia Sprint GT. I was aged minus two, but that first Alfa (BYT 273B) still exists, and has been restored by Black & White Garage. It was interesting to compare it with the later GTV at 2013’s Midlands Italian Car Day, though I have no memories of our family’s step-front model. I do remember the next Alfa – BGY 150H – purchased in June 1970. Such was inflation then that the price was now £2498, including seatbelts, undersealing and six gallons of fuel (at £1.19!). It seems, though, that Alfa ownership wasn’t just pricey in terms of purchase, as a letter on file in 1964 talks of insurance being “a bit frightening” and “but for your record it would have been £120”. That’s like paying three and a half grand to insure a 4C today.

Alfa build quality crops up in the extensive ownership file too, but only in respect of the B-reg car, which received a re-chromed grille and a new propshaft after a tussle with Alfa UK. There seem to have been few such concerns with the 2000, although it was recovered to Arese Motore (the business of much-missed Alfa guru John Clifton) for a new brake master cylinder (£43.50) in 1978. To the amazement of those who see the car today ‘1 BOY’ has never had a complete restoration, though MGS Coachworks did do quite a bit of remedial bodywork in the late 1990s, work that was obviously done very thoroughly because it still looks good today. Inside, the driver’s seat’s vinyl trim is getting a bit baggy but everything is totally original, right down to the push- button radio fitted in 1975 and wearing a Chrysler logo because dad’s Rowecars business sold the former Rootes Group cars.

In the early Noughties the GTV (then wearing the plate LGF 972N) was maintained by another Alfa expert, John Goodchild, but annual bills rarely went much over £200 and sometimes dropped below three figures. Perhaps that’s testament to the fact that the car had always been well looked after by the right people, as well as the fact that in her advancing years mum was finding the GTV rather heavy to drive. Annual mileage was often around the 500 mark between MoTs now, but even when a sale was considered, another drive (perhaps to the next National Alfa Day) was all that was needed to knock that idea on the head.


Today, the Alfa has been reunited with its ‘1 BOY’ numberplate and an extensive recommisioning was carried out by Italia Autosport in 2011 after a couple of years of inactivity had crucified the brakes, suspension and more. John Pogson may be respected for his work on valuable Ferraris but he treated the Bertone with the same care and attention as an F40 and it is remarkable how ‘together’ the GTV feels at 41 years old and 51k miles. Like any Italian of the era it refuses to accept second gear when cold but the rasp of the twin cam, the smell of the 1970’s interior and the feeling of being in something truly special take me back to my childhood every time I take the wooden wheel in my hands.

It still seems slightly ‘wrong’ to be in the driving seat (I was never allowed to drive her when mum was alive) but this car’s influence has been much more than I could have known back at Earls Court. I’ve had Fiats, Lancias and Ferraris myself now but every day I drive an Alfa. I can’t see that changing, but neither do I expect my daughter to take over my new Giulietta in another 40 years time. Maybe she’ll drive a 2000 GTV one day, though…

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