Alfa Romeo GTV 6

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Standard House is quite an Alfa Romeo-orientated place and we reported favourably last year on the Alfa Romeo 6 saloon and have only recently enthused over the Alfa GTV 6 2.5 coupe with the clever all-aluminium/ magnesium 60 deg V6 2½-litre engine using a combination of oh-camshaft and short-push-rod valve-gear in the former GTV two-door body shell. A further full report is not called for, but having now driven the latter model I can fill in with some comments on using it for an enjoyable thirteen days in this country.

On the run out of London through the usual congestion up to the M40 the transmission proved the unfortunate factor. The clutch needs a long foot-movement, unsuited to one who has short legs and likes to sit at anything but an arms-stretch position, yet it bites only at the end of this travel. Some hasty seat re-adjustment was necessary before jerky novice starts were eliminated, and this did not overcome a gear-change encompassing strong spring-loading to the centre of the 5-speed gate, a very baulky 1st gear, and sticky movements into and out of the lower ratios, of which bottom and second are too low. On the other hand, once clear of the traffic the flexibility of the new V6 engine in fifth speed, and the pleasant and quick shift back from fifth into normal top gear made up, to some extent, for the very hard work the Alfa gearbox imposes on the driver in traffic.

Another early impression was the eager exhaust-note as the engine was opened up, even more sporting than that of an Alfetta. Once past Oxford and all the old charm and appeal of Alfa Romeo motoring became quickly apparent. I found, as the miles accumulated, that not only was I covering the ground very quickly but that I was undoubtedly enjoying myself and that I was passing in places where even the rapidly-accelerating Rover 3500 would have made me hold back. Such is the security built into precision Alfa 6 road-holding! The suspension, firm at low speeds, soaks up bad roads in the Alfa tradition.

Apart from the pleasure of driving this 130 mph, 0-60 mph in 81/2 sec, GTV 6, there is the allure of that splendid Bosch-fuel-injection 160 bhp engine, De Dion transaxle rear suspension, torsion-bar front suspension, Pirelli P6 tyres on magnesium wheels and disc brakes all round, the rear pair inboard mounted. Steering is manual, which accounts for much effort when parking, in spite of 3.6 turns lock-to-lock low gearing, and the stylish steering wheel has a thick polished-wood rim which calls for driving-gloves which in maturity I tend to consider affectation, away from the circuits. The gearbox is the weak aspect, and although it is not too bad for unhurried gear-shifts, once on the move (reverse was sometimes very difficult to get), one can see why Alfa Romeo offer only an automatic version of the Alfa 6 saloon. Such a gearbox is out-of-keeping with a low, compact, sporting coupe like this GTV 6, yet one wonders ….

I would also like a sun-roof, to augment the rather lackadaisical air-flow from the ventilation system, which has only a 2-speed fan (air-conditioning is an extra) and electric windows, because the body is wide and the window-handles far forward and low-geared. However, it is on the open road that the GTV 6 comes into its own and then there are few complaints – it is a quiet car, it is a comfortable car, the brakes are excellent, the suspension functions well, apart from some slight tendency to weave over certain surfaces, and being too lively over secondary surfaces, and it is a very nicely-finished car. The main thing is, though, that it is a very fast “here-to-there” car, acceleration, even in fifth gear, from say 60 to 80 mph, being most impressive for its response and effortlessness, as the accelerator floors against its metal stop.

The seats are richly upholstered in high-grade velour (leather being an option) and the two rear ones nicely shaped. One has to remember that this is a sports-coupe, however, when contemplating the restricted luggage capacity. Refined touches are the ease with which the front seats slide forward as the backs are folded for access to the rear compartment, the wind-down rear windows, front quarter-lights, the electric driver’s door mirror adjustment, the knobs for raising or retracting the front-seat headrests, and a fascia hand-throttle. The door handles, too, are better contrived than on the Alfetta. The fascia layout has been described as untidy, and it does seem odd to fit only the Veglia speedometer into the binnacle directly before the driver, while placing the tachometer, fuel, oil-pressure (55 lb/sq in) and heat gauges (175 deg), balanced by four warning-lights, in another hooded binnacle in the centre, and these are not immune from reflections. On the whole, though, it is not too difficult to get the information needed, and the yellow rear-window demisting and rear fog-lamp buttons with hazard-warning button above them, are admirably placed for the driver’s right hand. The transaxle makes for roomy front footwells, but lack of a clock, except for a big digital one that is only illuminated when the KE-5300 Pioneer Arc PLL Synthesizer cassette-radio is on, may annoy those who use pocket-watches. Here it can be said that early cars apparently had a better instrument layout, because the catalogue mentions the perfect rational design of the dashboard, with three large, well-lit dials placed directly in front of the driver, ie, speedometer, electronic engine speed indicator and quartz clock. Be that as it may, there is only a minimum of wood-veneer inside the GTV 6.

The engine peaks smoothly at 5,800 rpm, there is a two-plate clutch, the gearbox is at the far end of the propeller-shaft, and the lighting system uses twin Carello headlamps. The three control-stalks are neat, and that for turn-indicators is on the left. The cubby hole is small, adequate for a Canon camera, but unlockable. The outward appearance I thought compactly attractive, sporting without being flamboyant, but the clearance panel on the bonnet is unfortunate. Unless the lockable fuel-filler cap is screwed home, fumes enter the car through the body outlet vents.

Driving the first 200 miles at speed, including motorway work, then using the GTV 6 disgracefully as a shopping hack, fuel consumption worked out at 23.2 mpg. The tank fills easily and as it holds 161/2 gallons the range is admirable – one of the few cars in which in times of petrol scarcity I would be just about able to go from mid-Wales to London and back without running out. The engine, which by the way has wet cylinder liners, breaker-less ignition, twin coolant-fans, and is very over-square at 88 x 68.3 mm bore and stroke, has a 9 to 1 compression-ratio and four main bearings. The oh-camshafts are each driven by toothed belts but, as with Jaguar, with the vee engine-configuration, gone is the traditional twin-cam valve-gear. The valves are inclined at 46 deg, enabling good breathing to be obtained. It is said to be somewhat anxious for oil but after 350 miles the level was midway between the marks on the accessible dip-stick. The gearing is 22 mph per 1,000 rpm in 5th, 16.7 mph per 1,000 rpm in normal top, and in the gears the satisfactory maxima of 30, 55 and 80 mph can be seen, with “the ton” possible in 4th or top.

To conclude, I found this latest Alfa Romeo a very enjoyable car, and it is not too expensively priced at £9,495, except that some luxury items are omitted, but it is a tiring car to drive in heavy traffic. Its rival must be the Ford Capri 2.8 Injection, which is £1,500 less expensive, but not having driven it I cannot compare these two exciting cars. But I can now understand why Bob Berry, Managing Director of Alfa Romeo GB, enjoys his 2000 GTV, a car enhanced by the new engine. – WB.  

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