Alfa Romeo’s reputation could never be said to rest on reliable engineering. Alfas have always been about looks and speed — cars that are built to impress rather than to last. By the late 1970s, this notorious lack of dependability was beginning to seriously affect sales of the popular Alfetta four-cylinder rear-wheel drive saloon. Rather than deal with the reliability issue, Alfa’s solution was simply to introduce more fab-looking fast cars to its range.
It had already produced GT and GTV versions of the Alfetta. In 1981 a more powerful 2.5 litre fuel injected V6 coupe model was added to the range and, at the same time, the name Alfetta was dropped. Based on the Alfetta’s elegant Giugiaro design, the GTV6 had a distinctive bulge in the bonnet, necessary to accommodate its large engine but also a distinguishing feature that added a touch of macho flamboyance to the otherwise restrained simplicity of its sharp Italian lines.
This was a car to stir the soul — fast, responsive and elegant. The GTV6 performed beautifully whatever the conditions. The rear transaxle transmission ensured a perfectly balanced weight distribution —making for superb handling — and its low gear ratio gave instant acceleration. It glided smoothly even on poor surfaces, could fly along the twists and turns of mountain roads and swoop round wide open bends, always producing that extra bit of oomph when overtaking other drivers.
It was a fantastically successful rally car and won the European Touring Car Championship four years in succession (1982-5). Admittedly the GTV6 has some rather frustrating niggles — a slightly awkward driving position and unreliable electrics for a start. But let’s be honest, who cares how well the wipers work when you’re sitting behind the wheel of a car that offers such pure driving heaven?
COUNTRY OF ORIGIN: Italy
FIRST MANUFACTURED: 1981 (until 1986)
ENGINE: 2,492cc V6
PERFORMANCE: Top speed of 132 mph (212 kph):0-60 mph (97 km/h) in 8,4 secs
YOU SHOULD KNOW: Giorgetto Giugiaro, the man behind the GTV’s body design, was also responsible for that of the DeLorean DMC-12, the car made famous by its appearance as a time machine in the Back to the Future trilogy.