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Alfa Romeo

ASTONISHING ALFAS Published: 31st Jul 2013 - 0 Comments - Be the first, contribute now!

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Think owning a prestigious classic car is out of your reach? Then think again says Angie Voluti! You can own an Alfa Romeo to be proud of if you look at 1990s classics that even make great daily drivers!

Aspirational, attainable yet affordable – that’s Alfas and if there’s a better value prestige brand that’s steeped in tradition and desirability then we’d like to hear of it! Mind you, it’s never been all milk and honey living with this serpent and probably never will be, which has always resulted in cheap prices, especially for Alfas which haven’t reached classic status yet. With this in mind we’ve assembled a collection of Alfas spanning some 20 years which make good daily drivers and potential future classics – and all from £500…

145

When the three-door hatchback Alfa was launched, in 1994, it came to the UK in 1.6 and 1.7 boxer engines, inherited from the Alfa 33, and directly related to the 1970s Alfasud range. Those four cylinders opposed (with overhead camshafts) gave out 105bhp and 130bhp respectively. It was an immediate flop: the boxer is notoriously rough, and the gearbox, mated to the longitudinally-mounted engine, had hell-to-engage gears. The UK market learnt a hard lesson and a year later, in 1995, the small Alfa was propelled by a new unit: the 2.0 Twin Spark engine (Quadrifoglio and Ti), four cylinders in-line with double overhead camshafts and counter-rotating balancer shafts (1970cc, 150bhp). The boxer engines disappeared altogether when the Twin Spark 1.6 and 1.8 units finally made it here in 1996: these were at the top of the performance scale, with 120bhp and 140bhp respectively.

The odd wedge shape at the back earned the Alfa 145 the ‘breadvan’ nickname, and it was not to everyone’s taste if you pardon the pun. Nevertheless, the Quadrifoglio was universally well-received, as the compact sporty car for the younger Alfista.

Unfortunately, the first 145s were bad enough to convince new customers to stay away, even when the smaller Twin Spark engines were added to the range.

The 145, at least, had character. It is possible to get a guaranteed headache (early boxer or early 1.8 TS) for £500, but at least it is not made boring by all the gizmos available in its successor, the much blander Alfa 147 replacement

146

Visually, the five-door version of the 145, which followed the hatchback a year later in 1995, was more than just the same car with a couple of extra doors. The 146 was a saloon, for a start, and had the more serious looks required of a family car. Targeted buyers (40 per cent of the overall 145 and 146 drivers) were given the same choice of boxer engines at the beginning, with the new 2.0 Twin Spark unit in 1996 powering the ‘Ti’ version. The Ti, named after the Turismo Internazionale, the Italian saloon ‘berlina’ race series, was good for 130mph, took most of the sales until the 1.6 and 1.8 versions arrived, and appealed to the existing Alfa customer base as a smaller, nimbler version of the gruff Alfa 155. Like the 145, the Alfa 146 has not quite made it to the classic status, and might never do so; top-of-the-range Tis have a slightly better chance of finding sympathetic buyers today. Yet the model is comfortable, rev-happy, practical and not as unreliable as one might think. Prices are broadly similar to the 145 and it’s the better buy.

GTV

The Alfa revival, which started with the C-segment (mid-size hatchback and family car) residents 145 and 146, got more than its fair share of ‘zing’ with the new coupé, the GTV. The name, of course, echoed the Gran Turismo Veloce badge already used by Alfa Romeo a couple of decades earlier, and the sports car did not disappoint.

The same 2.0 Twin Spark (1996cc), four cylinder, DOHC engine found in the Cloverleaf and Ti models powered a body so achingly beautiful that the UK press fell in love with it straightaway. The 3.0 V6, 220bhp engine was not destined to the UK market, at least at the beginning. The GTV did 0-62mph in 8+ secs, and the top speed was not far off the 146 Ti’s. But the coupé had a sophisticated suspension set-up, with MacPherson struts at the front and a brand-new multi-link system at the rear. It handled well from the start, and the light engine ensured a balanced and poised driving experience.

Owning one now means that you drive the last of the glorious Alfa sports cars: the current, now defunct Brera has neither the history nor the classic looks of an immortal model. For what they offer these GTVs are absurdly cheap and £2000 is plenty to buy a really nice example complete with its essential Red and master key (see box out) so why bother with a banger?

SPIDER

Of course, no sports car range is complete without a topless version, and the Spider was a supremely good effort from the Italian brand: like the GTV, it was penned by Pininfarina’s immortal genius (with some input by Alfa Romeo’s own Centro Stile) and powered by the same 2.0 Twin Spark engine. Those aggressive but sleek lines hark back to the classic Alfas of old, and must have been as impressive in 1995 as the Giulia Spider’s were more than thirty years earlier.

Alas, scuttle-shake, and the innate skittishness of front-wheel-drive models gave the Spider a relatively raw ride and patchy handling. Once the 3.0V6 versions trickled to the UK market, both sports cars showed a disappointing penchant for tramlining and torque steer.

The heavier engine at the front did not help. Dodgy build quality affected the early batches of both GTV and the Spider. The Spider, in particular, had an exasperating folding roof mechanism, and some owners reported that their topless beauty was spending more time in the garage than soaking up the sun. Still, it is possible to own a smidge of Alfa verve for as little as a couple of grand, and a soul to last forever – if not the car itself.



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