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Alfetta GTV Vs Lancia Beta Coupe

THE ITALIAN JOBS Published: 29th Jun 2011 - 0 Comments - Be the first, contribute now!

What The Experts Say...

Finding specialists who deal in these cars wasn’t easy as most Alfa experts steer towards the earlier models plus later Alfetta attracts a different kind of buyer. John Whalley (01279 654181) once held an Alfa franchise but largely specialised in Lancias and has been an Integrale expert for 20 years. As expected he favours the Beta which he says is ‘totally underrated’. “There’s two types of buyer, the Coupe and the HPE estate. I was a HPE man and the best is the supercharged Volumex model – it’s so usable”, John Whalley enthuses.

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The petrol crisis hit Italy hard in the Seventies, prompting manufacturers to conjure up vehicles which would still encapsulate driving excitement associated with Italian motors, yet offer reasonable fuel economy.

Fiat had a new toy to play with, since it had purchased the Lancia brand back in 1969. Accordingly, the Lancia Beta, a medium-sized sporty saloon (then coupé and cabrio) was the fi rst car to be manufactured under the new ownership, hitting the showrooms in 1972. By 1975, the prettier two-door version had a 2-litre engine under its bonnet.

Alfa Romeo responded with equal sagacity: in 1971 the all-important 2-litre sports car market was dominated by the 2000 GT Veloce, and its successor in 1976 was the Alfetta GTV, affectionately called GTV tout court.

Although not as freely available as something like a Capri, these rare and often overlooked Italians are the choice of drivers and coupe connoisseurs alike. But, what’s best for you?

Which one to buy?

All about race or rally heritage

This would have been a question on the mind of the average young Italian male of thirty-fi ve years ago too. Fast-forward to 2011, and it may still be a matter of looks, or of overall brand image: Lancias have always been linked to rally competitions, Alfas embody everyday sporty driving and performance flair. 

There is also the crucial issue of rear-wheel-drive (Alfa) against frontwheel- drive (Lancia). However, Lancia did produce the Pininfarina-designed, rear-wheel-drive Beta Montecarlo in 1975. Both the Beta and the GTV offer a similar range of engine options, being available with 1.6 and 1.8 engines fi rst, but from 1975 Betas came with a competent DHOC 2.0 with similar output as the Alfa GTV’s unit.

There is even a versatile High Performance Estate (HPE) for sporty family type that copied the Scimitar GTE plus a delightful Spider. Fiat’s determination to make the Beta very profi table was detrimental to the car’s image. However, quality of fi nish and a Fiat-originated engine apart, the Beta had a bespoke transmission and a quality suspension and chassis.

With the earlier 105 series (1.3 and 1.6 Junior GT and 2000 GT) discontinued in 1975, Alfa Romeo’s Alfetta GT range (1.6, 1.8 and 2.0) became the main rival to the Betas, and the beautiful 2.0l Giugiaro-designed coupé Alfetta GTV was Alfa’s answer to demand for a comfortable four-seater. More power, and Gran Turismo Championship victories, were to come six years later, with the 2.5 V6 GTV6.

What the Alfa lacks in sophistication, as it does not have fully independent all-round suspension like the Beta, it makes up with precise steering, and the responsiveness of its De Dion rear set-up. The Lancia Beta offers more choice, although it’s questionable how many are left let alone runing. The Alfa lasted well into the 1980s and so these cars should be much more attainable.

 

What’s the best to drive?

Very much a personal choice

Both the Alfetta GT, GTV and the Beta were everyday cars with extra ‘zing’ and brio you just won’t find anywhere else.

The Beta was seen as a ‘poor man’s GTV’ but many like it better than the quirky GTV. The car’s poised balance is due to its polar centre of gravity being lowered due to the 20 degree backwards tilt in the engine. Perfect weight distribution is achieved differently in the Alfetta, where the longitudinal engine at the front is balanced by the transaxle at the rear, like the Alfetta it was based upon. Some like the Lancia’s handling best as the GTV wasn’t as pleasing or precise as the older 105 chassis used to be – certainly the gearchange wasn’t Alfa-precise, due to the transmission’s location.

In terms of power, the top models can keep up with a modern car, although you’ll need the 2-litre versions for best effect.

Alfa has a trump card over the Lancia, thanks to a delightfully delicious 2.5 V6 which was added to the range, addressing any performance issues; Lancia plonked a Volumex supercharger onto its 2-litre for a similar effect. 

We favour the Beta’s cabin the best; the early GT especially had a bizarre dashboard set up that defi ed logic. All of them are second best to the user-friendliness of a Capri but that Latin quirkiness has more character. All are cramped 2+2s.

 

Owning and running

Alfa – by a short head

They are sturdy, lithe cars, the Beta and the GTV, as long as they do get an airing as often as possible. It is common to fi nd both Alfas and Lancias in a ‘Fred Flintstone’ state – i.e. with no floor, due to the ‘R’ word. Typically, electrical gremlins are happy to visit both models; however, the engines are strong and have withstood the challenge of time.

When new, the price tag would have been quite close for the two cars, which have always been rivals in the Italians’ affections, at about 6m lire (around £2k).

Nowadays, it is possible to find either an average Beta or a GTV for as little as £1000, but £3500 will buy the best. Unless one is well-versed in welding and tinkering with Italian mechanicals, these are cars which are best left to the specialist; as always, the more sophisticated the vehicle, the less one can play happy garages. Alfa parts are relatively easy to fi nd, far less so with the Beta, which rusted even more than the GTV: trim and components, door cards and body panels are increasingly tricky to source. Enthusiastic model clubs are always happy to support both brands.

Both were successful abroad, and many GTVs found their way to the UK; the Beta, so instrumental to Fiat’s presence in the popular two-door sportscar segment, was the most popular Lancia in the States and Canada. Around 140,000 Alfetta GTs and 111,000 Beta coupés were built. Rust has claimed far too many sadly…

 

And The Winner Is...

Both are highly desirable in their own way and, such is their rarity, it may be a case of buying what you can find, rather than waiting to fi nd for your dream drive. All things being equal, we steer towards the Beta because it’s such a rounded package. In contrast, the Alfa is an oddity and not, in our minds, a patch on its predecessor, although still a fine car. 



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