Alfa GTV – Specs, Restoration, Stories

Gary’s Alfa Romeo Pages


By Hillarie Williams
Written as a 20-year-old college sophomore

I adore my car.  I can tell you honestly, without a doubt, that I love my car more than any other possession I own.  I don’t love my car merely for its looks (sleek and red), for how it drives (very fast, especially around those freeway clover leafs), or even for what it is (a 1971 Alfa Romeo Spider).  I love my car, because my Dad built it for me.

My dad has always owned Alfas.  He knows how to fix almost any problem with them.  He also knows how to put them together.  When I was about 12 he bought two Spiders to use as parts cars for still another Alfa, some kind of rare convertible, a GTC I think.  Then he began to talk about using the Spiders to make a convertible for me.

img276 Hill's Spider & dollhouse

I was a little young to think seriously about driving, but after a while I began to picture myself at 16, driving to high school in my hot red car, with the top down and the breeze blowing through my hair — attracting the eyes of every adolescent guy worthy of my attention.  I didn’t think ahead to the hours and hours of hard work putting together a car would entail, or to the six long years it would take to pay it off.  Yup, my car was headed to the junk yard until I magnanimously saved it from an untimely demise.

Dad started working on it and I started working to pay for it when I was in the seventh grade.  All dad asked for was $2500, although he spent thousands more.

As he tirelessly built my car, I tried to help him as best I could, though I’m afraid I wasn’t always as helpful as I should have been.  I can remember Saturday mornings sitting on the cement driveway, looking through buckets and buckets and buckets of bolts, searching for that precise one to fit the frame for the convertible top.  As my friends spent their adolescent weekend hours at the mall shopping for trendy ESPIRIT outfits, I attempted to play the grease monkey at home.

Those were the days of holding the slotted screwdriver for my Dad as he peered into the engine compartment, trying to maneuver around the transmission to screw in some rebellious screw.  Or my dad, asking me for the 13 mm socket for the socket wrench.  Where is it Dad?  And what exactly is a socket again?  He must have been so frustrated with me, but he never gave in despite the occasional argument about whether I should go to the beach on Sunday or hold the screwdrivers and wrenches as he installed the steering wheel and console.  Dad usually won.

Finally, in October of my junior year in high school, my car was finished; a racing red Alfa Romeo, tan interior, tan top, fat tires, aggressive sounding Ansa exhaust.  I must admit that I look pretty good in my car, and I’ve gotten more than my fair share of whistles and comments — though none from those adolescent high school boys I had dreamed about.

It’s amazing the number of people who think they can talk to you about anything if the convertible top is down and you’re stopped at a red light.  One old guy asked me for directions to the nearest Longs Drug Store.  Some other gentleman wanted to know the life history of my car.  Others just chat about the weather or traffic conditions.

I like the friendly waves from other Alfa drivers.  It seemed a little odd at first, waving at strangers, but now it makes me feel like I’m part of their big, happy Alfa family.  And I enjoy the attention.

It’s been five years since I first drove my car, five years of powering through corners, cruising top down around town, visiting the sunny California beaches from Santa Barbara to Santa Cruz.  It’s also been five years of oil changes, minor glitches, and major repairs — all performed by my faithful dad and a couple of his Alfa friends.  In fact, no one except them is allowed to fiddle with the engine or make other repairs.

As with all Italian cars, the road to vehicular perfection is a long one indeed.  There is always some sly hose or belt that breaks at the most inopportune moment.  Like the time I was trying to go to a movie with a friend and the fuel line split open.  I had just picked up Rebecca.  We were in the car, ready to go.  I turned the key and … nothing.  No powerful 1750 engine roaring to life, just silence and a brief moment of panic.  Becca got out to look under the car as I prayed that it would start, prayed so hard I thought blood would ooze from my skin instead of sweat.  Still nothing.  We called my dad.  When he arrived, the first thing he pointed out was a huge puddle of clear liquid flowing down the gutter — the gasoline from my precious car.  How did we miss this?  The fuel line had broken under the car, right next to the hot exhaust pipe and it nearly blew us to Tahiti.

My car manifests yet another problem when it rains — it leaks, badly.  For this reason, I have two car covers; a faded green one for assuredly clear weather and a blue plastic tarp for rainy weather.  Unfortunately, the forecaster occasionally misjudges the chances of rain, and I am forced to quickly blue-cover my car, or suffer the consequences, seats squishy with water.  I also have a cream-colored plastic bucket I must place under the floor pedals to catch the rainwater that leaks from who knows where under the dash   I also have stacks of towels ready at all times for those surprise spring showers.

Take last Thursday for example.  (It wasn’t the first time we were caught unaware, only the most recent.)  My college roommate, Karen,  leaned over from the top bunk and croaked those dreaded words, “Hill, it’s raining.”  I rolled out of my warm bed like a log down a grassy knoll, put on my tan Keds, grabbed my purple rain coat from the hall closet, and put it over my green nightshirt (hoping no one would be awake to see me at 4:30 am).  Then I ran to the kitchen for a flashlight, raced to the car, and tossed the bucket under the floor pedals, where it could catch the gallons of rain water I knew would find their way into my car to create havoc, rust and general messiness.   (Father’s note:  On a subsequent visit home from school, we found the leak, a broken hose on a cowl drain that runs under the dash. It was repaired in 10 minutes).

You may wonder why I keep such a mishap-prone car. The answer is easy on a sunny Northern California day or when I’m taking a fast corner.  Alfas are great fun.  Even so, the time has come for me to sell my beloved vehicle.  It makes me sad to think of parting with it, but what I really want in my next car is weather proofing and automatic door locks.  It takes me forever to get out of my Alfa — put on the CLUB, lock the CLUB, take off the removable face of my anti-theft car stereo, put it in its box, put the box in my purse, take off my seat belt, get out of the car, shut the door and check that no valuables are left in view.  It’s like Tammy Faye taking off her makeup  — chisel off the blush, scrape off the eye shadow, gingerly remove the ten-inch fake eyelashes …the process just keeps getting longer and longer.

It’s time now for me to move into a new phase of car ownership, one with fewer near explosions and leaks, and most definitely one with power door locks.  I’m ready to trade fun for convenience. Perhaps I will buy a gold BMW 325 or a metallic blue Geo Prism.  Something less demanding than an aging Alfa; something more fitting for a school-teacher-to-be than a bright red convertible.

(Hillarie sold the Spider after graduating from college and taking her first teaching job all the way across the country in Atlanta, Georgia.  Her next car, which Dad helped to choose, was a used Audi 4000S, which combined a bit of sportiness with the other features she was looking for.  She next moved to a new Saturn.  Now that she is a mom, with husband, house and two young children … she drives a minivan.  We’ve never seen the Alfa since the new owner drove it away, which is sad.  It came to us as a completely stripped rolling chassis, was a fun father-daughter project, and turned into a beauty of a 1750 Spider. )

Original art by Guy Allen for C&SC Magazine, Feb. 2007.  See Guy's art at www.guyallen-art.com .

Original art of me and my car by Guy Allen for C&SC Magazine, Feb. 2007.

 

This car’s story began in 1967. Brian Lamb and his wife, the first owners, purchased it from a California dealer, arranging for delivery in Milan. When it was ready, they flew from California to Italy, picked it up at the factory, then toured Europe before shipping it home. The Alfa came in appliance white (In Italian that’s “Bianco Spino”), with 15″ steel wheels, skinny 155×15 tires, and a 1600cc motor. The only modification by the Lambs was reupholstering the front seats in a grey tweed fabric found in Chevys.

When I responded to a newspaper ad in 1983, I could see that the GTV was a find. The body and interior were in good condition; it had no rust; and its original mechanicals were in good, though worn, condition. We struck a quick deal and as I drove it away I looked back to see the Lambs teary-eyed and waving goodbye from their front walk. alfa orig mirrors

The short drive home verified that normal wear and tear was beginning to show all over the car, most noticeably in the motor, which could lay a cloud of smoke like a Navy destroyer. That wasn’t surprising; with nearly 100,000 miles on it, the only engine work it had ever required was a valve job.

I was beginning the restoration of a 1966 GTC at the time and the GTV was going to supply the missing pieces, something I neglected to mention to the Lambs. Shortly after arriving home, however, I decided that restoring the GTV would be a whole lot easier and less expensive than the GTC. Besides, after the emotional goodbye from the Lambs, there was no way I could turn their baby into a parts car. 

Giulia’s gray phase

Within months of buying the Alfa, it was at a paint and body shop to repair some parking lot dings and change the color to — cover your eyes if you’re a purist — BMW Baltic Blue. This 1984 metallic blue-gray Beemer color turns out to be a great choice for a GTV.  It even had a thin red pinstripe down the crease  line on each side.  Its original 1600cc motor was the next to go, replaced with a 1750 engine that served us well for another 20 years.    I kept the motor mostly stock, adding only Shankle 8L cams, used with the original 40DCOE 27 Webers; a Magneti Marelli Plex 201 electronic ignition, and low restriction air intake and filters.  The wheels were taken off a new ’84 Spider, whose owner wanted something different.  Blue GTV 7 b

Sixteen years after painting the car Baltic Blue,  it came time for another respray and new upholstery.  While the Alfa had no serious prior damage and only two small spots of rot on the front fenders, it left for the body shop in January of 2000, and I didn’t get to drive it again for two full years!

How it all turned out is chronicled on this site. You’ll also see that Scuderia Non Originale (SNO) is a prominent part of this website. The idea for SNO was born while several friends and I were sitting beside my GTV and its red twin at Concorso Italiano, in Monterey, California. So, while my car isn’t “originale,” and hasn’t been for years, if it weren’t for this GTV and the friends who helped me build it, Scuderia Originale wouldn’t exist. And that would be a loss to the Alfa world … though I have no idea why.

The car was sold in 2018, after 35 years of delightful ownership. Sniff! Sob! Pitiful flow of tears!

Click here & hear me roar!

Engine compartment

Black Interstate battery
Moroso vapor canister with braided line and AN fittings
Moroso catch can for radiator overflow
Fuse block moved into interior, under passenger side dash
Relay added between ignition switch & starter to cure the typical won’t restart
when hot malidy

Relays added between headlight switch and high beams; between headlight switch and low beams; and on the electric fan
Moved horns and alarm siren up under fenders, behind the mud guards
Recored radiator
Electric fan, thermostatically operated Mishimoto MMFAN-10 (Probably could have used larger fan, but car has never had overheating issues)
The thermostat is a Stant 45358  180-degree unit (costing about $7) that sits in a Meziere inline aluminum housing.  The car had a screw-in thermostat.  I cut the original top radiator hose into sections to insert the Meziere unit
One-wire alternator from a Milano, with built-in regulator (switched to an
alternator 20 years ago)
Heat shield for alternator from a Spider
Late model starter (www.international-auto.com)
Holley fuel pressure regulator (I have a good electric fuel pump, but wanted
an adjustable regulator)

Below are two  of the engine bay of my 1967 Giulia GT with 2-litre motor, taken in 2003.  Click on them to see them larger.  Note in the top photo that I’m using a Bosch blue coil that sits in an aluminum heat sink.  The coil and heat sink are from the Marelli Plex electronic ignition I used for years with the old 1750 motor. The electronic ignition is now from Centerline.  The air filter is from ITG.  I made my own backing plate to mount the filters. ITG makes one that is probably fine, but the one I had on the car first, from Pipercross, was so flimsy as to be useless. Because I wanted a really stiff backing plate to eliminate any independent movement of the two carbs,which affects idle and engine performance, I had one made from .090″ stainless steel. If the carbs move independent of one another you can’t keep them balanced and the car will never run as well as it should.
Alfa engine 052805 carb side b

Answers to questions people ask about the above photo:
1- What’s the little knob on the grill side of the battery? It’s for the adjustable fan thermostat. The fan is a pusher and works fine.
2- Where’s the horn on the right side? Both horns (Freeway Blasters from Pep Boys) are under the fenders, behind the mud shields, as is the alarm siren.
3- Do you have a dual brake system? No, we added a hydraulic clutch; that accounts for the second fluid bottle. Both contain ATE High Temp Blue.
4- Why is there a spring on the 0170 cap? (Sorry, that’s the Olio cap to you newbies.) Having it rattle loose and spew oil all over the engine once is enough, thank you. What a mess that made! Next, I need to safety wire the access caps on the two Webers. One has already been lost.
5- Why the ITG air filter and where did you get it? Don’t get me started on Pipercross. The ITG people and Coast Fabrication, who sold me the filter, have been helpful and friendly. That stands in stark contrast to the P-word people. And the ITG products are better made, in my opinion.
6- What’s the canister on the firewall, behind the air filter? It’s a Moroso oil vapor can. Much neater and more environmentally friendly than dropping a line to the ground, as I did for many years. The cannister on the right fender is for coolant overflow.
7- Why’s the coil in that aluminum thingy? It’s from the Marelli Plex and I used it because it was already there.
8- Where’s the heater plumbing? Heater? Heater? I don’t got to show you no stinkin’ … okay, the truth. The car and I lived in California most of my XXX years. Haven’t needed a heater in the past 30+ years. I did wish for a heater, though, on a blustery fall evening on Yosemite’s Tioga Pass. It’s a great sports car route, if you can plan your trip into Yosemite National Park when the motorhomes are off the road. Sunrise works really well.
9- That silver engine compartment isn’t stock. True. Did you notice that I’m a founder of Scuderia Non Originale?
10- How often do you drive the car? Every chance I get.

Below:   Here you get a good look at the headers, which may be wonderful on a car used strictly for racing, but which create a lot of heat for an all-purpose car. Better you get the two-piece Alfa cast iron headers and make them look pretty. These guys, even though they are coated, get so hot they are burning up everything around them. I had to replace the brake MC before realizing the need to insulate the brake lines. I also put a late model heat shield on the alternator and will eventually add more shielding, including around the steering box. Alfa engine 052805 header side big b

Update as of October 2014

This most current photo shows the the engine now has longer aluminum carb mounts from Alfaholics and a 1980’s vintage Sprint aluminum air intake.  This new combination adds torque, without a loss of horsepower.  I liked the ITG air filter, but it won’t fit with the longer carb mounts.  The Sprint system has the added advantage of upward curved air horns that help with torque.  Note the after-market relay on the left fender.  It is between the ignition switch and the starter. Like many Alfas, mine had a problem restarting after it was driven for a while on hot days.  The relay (Thank you Richard L.!!!) cured that problem and will help the ignition switch last longer.  

Alfa July 2014 002c

Alfa interior July 11 06 003c

In 2003-2004, the GTV got an entirely new interior, with new headliner, new upholstery of leather and MB Tex vinyl, rechromed original parts, etc.   Sharp eyes will note the Suntune mini-electronic tach on the steering column.  I added that in 1984, because it is accurate and I can turn it so that the self-imposed redline is straight up on the face.  There’s also a factory-installed steering wheel lock, and a shift light (the silver cylinder below the steering wheel) I used for a while, then removed.

Below is a photo that shows the car in 1983, when I bought it.  It had an original interior, with the exception of the early 70’s Chevy seat fabric.  Jack Davis owner of Generations Upholstery, in San Jose, did the gorgeous new interior in a combination of leather and Mercedes vinyl.  Generations was a place whose name matched its schedule (if you catch my drift).  They had my car for about 18 months, despite my begging and pleading.  At least the quality of the work was good, even if the windshield guy they hired bent the perfect original front window trim (which I finally replaced with new in 2014), and the new paint acquired a couple of dents I had to pay a paintless dent repair guy to make magically disappear.  What an amazing art that is!  About half an hour of the guy waving odd tools over the fender, chanting incantations, and doing a witch doctor’s dance, and you couldn’t find where the dents had been with a map.
GTV white interior
The fake wood on my dash was shot and I could not find a good original dash anywhere.  The upholstery shop solved my dilemma of what to do by reinforcing the face and back of the original dash with fiberglass and upholstering it with leather.  Must say, the original never looked as good as the leather does now.  The reinforced dash easily carries the weight of a modern car stereo (Sorry purists).  Ironically, the engine makes such beautiful music, I never listen to the stereo or CD changer hidden in the trunk.  I do kind of miss the way the original dash gave off vapor clouds that coated the interior glass with hard to remove slime when the California sun heated up the interior.  Sure I do.

Below:  More interior shots (I apologize for the poor quality.  If the sun ever shines again in the Pacific Northwest, I’ll take more).

March 22 2012 011e

Anyone who’s ever restored a car knows its a project fraught with as much frustration as joy. In my case, it took seven months of gentle urging, pleading and, finally anger before the promised two- to three-month paint job was mostly done. I brought the car home on a flatbed tow truck — in the first rain of the year — wearing its new 501 red paint, windowless, without lights or trim, with a few shop-induced trim and wiring issues to correct. The paint was — and still is — terrific after 12 years (2002-2014). I’m delighted with the end result, but am glad the shop is no longer in business so I don’t have the dilemma of what to say when someone asks for a referral.

As you can see in the photos below, my always garaged, never rusted or bashed California car was stripped to metal, then meticulously worked to make sure that the surfaces were perfectly smooth and ripple free.

Alfa tour best sideview

  

 

Back in 2003, when the Alfa’s engine was newly installed, I drove my car without the hood for about a month.  It took that long to fine tune the engine.  Alfa engine 052805 header side

The new Weber 45’s, combined with new rubber bushings on the firewall-mounted throttle linkage, gave us fits.  And one Weber had a sticking throttle shaft because some fool (me) painted the throttle rod, which made the bar fatter, which meant the rod wouldn’t turn freely against the stiff new rubber bushings, which meant the throttle stuck open when the pedal was pumped to get gas to the big Webers.

It was during this hoodless time that I met a nice California Highway Patrol Motorcycle officer.  Didn’t notice him waiting at a stop light as I powered through a right turn with Webers howling at full throttle, drifted onto a wide four-lane expressway, and left rubber roaring up an overpass.  The conversation, when an angry young officer caught up, went like this: “DO YOU KNOW HOW FAST YOU WERE GOING!  DO YOU KNOW HOW FAST!”  “Umm, not really officer, I got carried away when I saw I had a green light. My car has a new engine and I haven’t been able to drive it for months.”  “Should you be pushing a new engine that hard?”  “Probably not.”  “You just shouldn’t go around corners that fast.”  “Gee, officer, I’m sorry.”  By this point, the officer was cooling off a little and looking at the motor while talking to me.   “Well,” he said, “I’ll give you a warning, but I’d better not see you do that again.”  “Thank you!”  And to myself, “Bummer, now I’ve got to find a new favorite corner.”  After all, he didn’t say I couldn’t drift through corners; he just said that he’d better not see me do it.

Second motorcycle officer story, this time a Santa Clara, California, cop. I was heading home after work in the GTV, driving at least 15 mph over the limit and anticipating hitting the above favorite corner on the green light (Okay, so I’m a slow learner).  Then, much to my horror, I saw a cop aiming his instant-on radar at me from a driveway.  I slowed and waited for the expected pursuit, but it didn’t come. Curious, I did a U-turn, went back, and pulled in next to the officer. Me: “Can I ask for another favor?” Cop, grinning: “What’s that?” “Can you tell me how fast I was going; my speedo’s not too accurate?” Still grinning: “Faster than the speed limit.” “And you didn’t come after me?” “Nah, my buddy’s got one of those; I like Alfas.”