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Alfa Romeo Spider GTV

Published: 27th Apr 2011 - 0 Comments - Be the first, contribute now!

Alfa Romeo Spider GTV
Cabins area tight fit and not up to BMW quality. Lusso pack with leather a must Cabins area tight fit and not up to BMW quality. Lusso pack with leather a must
Robust but ensure cambelts are ok Robust but ensure cambelts are ok
Check hood state, fit and cabin for damp Check hood state, fit and cabin for damp
Early cars have nicer look, better value Early cars have nicer look, better value
Spider has great hood down looks but considerable scuttle shake spoils the drive Spider has great hood down looks but considerable scuttle shake spoils the drive
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What is an Alfa Romeo GTV and Spider?

Autocar magazine hailed the UK launch of the two Alfa Romeo sports cars, in 1996, (a year later than their international debut at the Geneva Motor Show) as a turning point in the history of the Italian car maker. That year, the same publication went as far as nominating the GTV and Spider as best new cars, whilst regretting the absence of anything more powerful that a 2.0 Twin Spark engine under their carefully sculpted bonnets.

More recently, Autocar was less than complimentary about the GTV and Spider’s restyling, lamenting lack of finesse and the obvious ageing process which seems to affect all motors over three years old. Aspiration-led models (especially glamour sports cars) which appeal to style-conscious customers, suffer from old age and attached loss of freshness even more. Most cars disintegrate in people’s memory, substituted by the latest version.

Very few cross the thin line between straight forward beauty and timeless chic, and get catapulted into classic car territory: Alfa Romeo GTV and Spider, now over ten years old, may just have the right mix to escape the scrapheap. And there is no disputing that they are indeed future classics and currently fine value.


A unique prototype, the Alfa Proteo, shown at the Geneva Motor Show four years before the GTV and Spider’s launch, lent the future road-going models their flowing lines and crisp front. Based on a shortened Alfa 164 chassis, the Proteo already featured the threepiece roof, ready to be dismantled and folded into the boot, which only now seems to be all the rage in modern convertibles. The prototype’s nose was graced with the Alfa Romeo ‘shield’, wedged deep into its front bumper, and the six small polyellipsoid headlights which are so unique to the GTV and Spider.

High technology was lavished on the Proteo: a powerful 3.0 V6 (256bhp), four-wheel permanent traction with Viscomatic viscous coupling, and steering rear-wheels (five per cent maximum) electronically controlled. A feast for the eyes and the hearts of the enthusiastic Alfisti all over the world. Sadly, the Proteo remained unique and lonely; it took another four years for the Alfa GTV6 and 30-year-old Duetto to be replaced by the new models, respectively the Alfa GTV (Gran Turismo Veloce) and Spider. The international press was quick to label the Alfa 156, launched in 1998, as the model which would make or break Alfa Romeo. Both the GTV/Spider and the Alfa 156 borrowed heavily from the Fiat Tipo chassis, though the mechanics of this much playeddown transplant work in different ways according to the models in question. In the GTV and Spider, the trailing arm suspension was ditched in favour of multi-link rear set-up. Not much boot left, but lots more fun driving. Jeremy Clarkson test drove (and “achingly” loved) one of the first GTVs to come to the UK. He made a big feature of it in Top Gear; and for Alfa Romeo it was the beginning of a sustained campaign of media exposure which played a huge role in improving the brand’s image. What did it matter if both cars, the 2 + 2 coupé and its roofless
version, were only available with a 2.0TS, 150bhp engine?

The unit had enough soul to sing all the way into the sunset, its counter-rotating balancer shafts ensuring that perfect equilibrium and stability would not spoil power deliverance. Italy enjoyed the full range of possibilities: a mediocre 140bhp 1.8 Twin Spark, rasping and growling but needing to be ferociously revved to wring any amount of life out of it; the happy and vivacious 2.0 Turbo, which only existed to fool an Italian car tax system based on cc rather than power output; and, of course, the wonderful, seminal 3.0 V6, all 220bhp of it, which the UK market did not get until 1997, never forgetting or forgiving Alfa Romeo for the delay.

The GTV and Spider soldiered on, largely untouched by the occasional criticism over their many annoying foibles, unreliability and lack of real engine choice until Audi launched the TT; suddenly, Alfa Romeo realised that the niche market which the GTV and Spider so well filled had a newcomer elbowing them out. The 3.0 V6 engine had to make a (late) entrance and, with it, bring a good six-speed gearbox and the sudden awareness of a chassis which could not and would not match the excellence of the powerplant. Poor JD Power Surveys, cynical press coverage and disgruntled customers did not help the sportscars’ cause. With the Alfa 156 now star of the range, other versions of the GTV could only lure thos Alfisti who would not drive a saloon, no matter how accomplished and good-looking. The GTV ‘Cup’, only available in red with special finishes and seats, did not hide the fact that other sports cars, like the Audi TT and the Porsche Boxster, took their drivers to the desired destinations as quickly and almost as stylishly, without breaking down.

More recently, GTV and Spider have undergone the Villa D’Este treatment, and the ‘scudetto’ (badge) and triangular grille are more prominent than ever. The grille eats deep into the bumper, and - of course - there is a new 3.2 V6 engine under the bonnet, just to keep up with the Joneses (or BMWs, Audis etc), or a 2.0 direct injection 165bhp to keep up with the crowd (or Ford, Vauxhall and VW…)

The round small headlights are smaller, but here is a little trick for you: it may seem that both Alfa Romeos have four lights, but - should you fancy opening the bonnet to check that gorgeous engine - you would quickly realise that there are not four lights at all, just one big one underneath filtering through four holes in the bodywork. Yes, it’s a dirty trick, but yes, it works. Beautifully.


If you had a posh wedding in Scotland to go to, and were in a bit of a hurry, this is the best you could dream of: driving all the way up there in a GTV 3.0 V6, the original engine, with its velvety sixspeed gearbox, its prodigious road-gripping ability, the responsive and quick steering, the metal roof to keep you warm. You would also, as this is a dream, want to arrive in style: change your car two hundred metres from the church into a sexy Spider, purring from its small and light two-litre engine, and on accessory-range alloy wheels.

The nightmare would be the other way round. Braving the elements in a small bore Spider, with its horrid scuttle-shake and multiple leaks from the fabric roof, and swapping it, just before arriving, for the cramped cabin of a GTV 3.0, with its heavy nose and less visibility than that afforded, of sunny shores, to the Nautilus’ captain twenty thousand leagues beneath the sea. Not very handy for parking just outside the church. The cocktail offered by the Alfa Romeo duo was intoxicating: a touch of passive rear steering, a sporty set-up with MacPherson struts at the front and the tall but effective multi-link suspension at the rear, two of the best engines in the world, exhilarating power delivery, and bodies to die for.

They also threw into the bargain tricky understeer, especially in the more powerful, heavier versions, uncomfortable ride, cheap too-high seats, twitchy geometry and mediocre build quality. Oh and a boot space that is above a joke.


Around £4000 will buy a sad Spider or a perky but geriatric GTV. Twice as much will get a tidy example of Italian craftsmanship crammed in a two seater or a two plus two, and will buy many years of fun and pain, discomfort and pleasure. Given their great value for money, it pays to buy the best you can and certainly cars sporting a solid service history (get those cambelts changed if you are remotely unsure!) will be worth seeking out.

What To Look For

  • Italian paint and bodywork isn’t that much of a problem here. Alfa Romeo advertising around the time GTV and Spider were launched said: ‘the body is guaranteed for ten years, the soul for life’. And it is true: GTVs and Spiders are now ten years old, but bodywork is still good. Unless the car has suffered an accident and the repair work has not been up to scratch, there should be no sign of corrosion anywhere.
  • Germany is the country most likely to report a greater than average number of blown-up Alfa Romeo engines, and that’s because of the lack of speed limits. Elsewhere, the most exciting thing that can happen is either a worn cambelt before due time, the variator (variable valve timing problems) playing up, or the FI’s air flow meter (electronic engine management hassle). Always have the cambelts changed before their best before date because if one snaps, then the pistons and valves will have a passionate (expensive) Latin kiss.
  • Gear changing can become an interesting challenge if the clutch release bearing fails. Clutches can wear very quickly, especially on GTV 3.0s. May have something to do with the way the car is driven though…
  • GTV and Spider have a sophisticated suspension set-up, but the downside is that when it goes wrong, it goes thoroughly, horribly wrong. Rear suspension bushes control some degree of passive rear steering. When they wear out (and you will know from a knocking sound at the back), they must be replaced at a fairly large cost as the arms need replacing too. If the bushes don’t get replaced, then eventually the subframe to which they are attached will need to go too (odd tyre wear is an easy give-away). You have been warned.
  • Electrics are always an Italian sore point. Sharp cornering will sometimes bring on a full set of warning lights on the dashboard. Most are harmless, and down to faulty sensors or the fact that some functions share the same circuit - in true Italian style.
  • Does the car come with all the keys? Moody electrics are small fry compared to a missing ‘master key’, which would cost about £1000 to replace (as the ECU has to be changed to suit). Alfa Romeo was aware of the problem, affecting Alfa 156 owners as well as the GTV and Spider, and eventually managed to do away with the master key. There are many thousands of Alfas still out there which require the mandatory RED keys AND the master key to be a viable option. Immobilisers are hard for thieves but also for owners if they develop a problem - not usually solvable until and unless your GTV /Spider is safely parked at an Alfa Romeo dealership and Alfa Romeo personnel get in touch with the factory in Italy. Very messy.
  • Interiors, although not up to BMW smoothness or Mercedes stamina, are usually fairly long lasting. Look for worn leather seats, broken switchgear and listen for rattles on the move.


No matter how beautiful the new Alfa Romeo Brera is, there is definitely something about the GTV and Spider, especially the original Mk 1 models, which will allow them to live and roam free on these roads for many years to come. Maybe it’s the last of the glorious Alfa engines, untouched by General Motors. Maybe it’s the clean, classy lines which look so good on your drive. Maybe it’s just that wedding to go to, when you do need to look at your best and arrive in style. Whatever, these Alfas are modern classics going for dirt money that are worth buying and mollycoddling for future pleasure.

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