Designed by Enrico Fumia at Pininfarina, the Alfa Romeo GTV and Alfa Romeo Spider were both incredibly iconic sports cars created by legendary Italian manufacturer Alfa Romeo. Following a long seven years without a GTV model, Alfa Romeo felt that the automotive public was ready for such a car. Produced from 1995 through 2006, the 2+2 coupé GTV stood for Gran Turismo Veloce or Fast Grand Tourer and was the successor to the Alfetta GTV coupé, while the two-seater cabriolet Spider replaced the 30-year old Giulia Spider. Internally the two models were designated 916. From 1993 until 2004 around 39,000 Spiders and 41,700 GTVs were produced. Until Alfa Romeo launched the Brera in 2005 the GTV was available, though the Spider lasted one more year until its discontinuation in 2006.
The Italian manufacturer was looking for away to re-establish their slick sports car image for the 1990s, and the GTV was just the car to do that. Initial renderings and drawings began in September of 1987, and a clay model design the following year. Fiat CEO Vittorio Ghidella accepted the design and Centro Stile under Walter de Silva was tasked for the interior design and the detail work while Bruno Cena was named the Chief engineer. Cena later won 'Engineer of the Year' The Spider and GTV were based on the then-current Fiat Group platform dubbed the Tipo Due, or Type 2. The models were heavily modified and featured an all-new multilink rear suspension while the front suspension and drivetrain were based on the '92 Alfa Romeo 155 saloon. The GTV had a 0.33 drag coefficient while the Spider featured 0.38.
These wedge-shaped models were met with mixed reviews at first. Both models were nearly identical, sharing front wheel drive and sharing engine placement but eventually the lightning shape won over the public. These models were recipients of the 1995 Car Magazine's 'Best Designed Car' and '1995 Car of the Year for Autocar Magazine. They also received the 'World's most Beautiful Automobile' award in the same year and were featured in Car Magazine's 'Best Design Detail in production.
The GTV and Spider featured the standard Alfa Romeo grill with dual round headlights similar to the Pininfarina Quartz, also designed by Enrico Fumia. The body of the cars were low-slung and featured a wedge-shaped design with a low nose and a spunky lifted tail. To greatly improve the aerodynamics of the car the rear was 'cut-off' with a 'Kamm tail'. The Spider's hindquarters were similar to the GTV except they featured a more rounded rear. The Spider also sported a folding soft-top with five-hoop frame that would completely disappear when retracted under a flush fitting cover. Optional was an electric folding mechanism that could be fitted.
The interior of the sports car featured a one-piece rear lamp, fog-lamp or indicator strip that flowed across the rear of the body. Conveniently the minor instruments in the center console were within easy reach of the driver. Critics praised the design of the GTV and Spider saying that the quality was well on par with its German competitors.
In July of 1988 the exterior design was completed and production began late in 1993. Assembled at the Alfa Romeo Arese Plant in Milan, all of the four cars were 3.0 G6 Spiders and were initially offered with 2.0 TS or 3.0 V6 12V. The first GTV was produced in 1994 and came with 2.0 Twin Spark engine. The car was premiered at the Paris Motor Show in 1994. Both cars were launched officially at the Geneva Motor Show in March of 1995. Sales began the same year.
The GTV received a new engine in 1997; a 24-valve 3.0-liter V6, and red four-pot calipers from Brembo and larger 305 mm brakes. Updates for this year included rectangle console knobs instead of the round central ones. A three-spoke steering wheel was also new this year. To bring the noise down to 74 dBA, some versions were upgraded with different front bumper mesh.
In the spring the following year the models underwent a revamp that involved mostly the interior. The GTV and Spider received a new center console, changed controls and rearranged switches and different instrument cluster and painted letters on skirt seals. A new chrome frame around the grille was added at this time along with color-coded side skirts and bumpers. Besides standard black the dashboard was now available in Red Style and Blue Style. New color-coded upholstery and carpets were also offered.
1998 also brought with it a new engine; the 142 HP 1.8 Twin Spark. The 2.0 Twin Spark was updated with a modular intake manifold with a different plastic cover and different length intakes. The 2.0 TS power output rose to 153 HP. Featuring a nomenclature of CF2, the engines changed engine management units. A six-speed manual gearbox was made standard for the 3.0 24V. The Spider now offered the 2.0 V6 TB engine.
Engines were updated in 2000 to fall in line with new emission regulations Euro3. The new engines received a new identification code: CF3 and were slightly detuned. The Spider lost the 3.0 V6 12V engine and received the 24V Euro3 version from the GTV in its place. Since they didn't comply with Euro3 emissions the 2.0 V6 Turbo and 1.8 T. Spark were discontinued. Until phase 3 engine range arrived on the scene there were only two engines left, the 2.0 T. Spark and 3.0 V7 24V. The Spider and GTV became the final Alfa Romeo's to be produced at the Arese plant before it closed during the fall of 2000. Production of the GTV & Spider was relocated to the Pininfarina Plant in San Giorgio Canavese in Turin.
Phase 3 arrived in 2003 and would be the final update for the GTV and Spider. Pininfarina was in charge of the styling, but he did so without the assistance of Enrico Fumia. On the exterior the sports cars received a new 147-style grille along with different front bumpers with an offset number-plate holder. On the inside was a new different center console with a fresh new upholstery pattern and new colors. The color of the instrument illumination went from green to red. This year there were new engines introduced that included 165 PS 2.0 JTS with direct petrol injection and 240 PS 3.2 V6 24V that could achieve a top speed of 158 mph.
Production ceased late in 2004 at Pininfarina's plant though some cars could still be purchased leading up until 2006. Still available were the following engines; the 1.8 16V and 2.0 16V Twin Spark and a turbocharged 2.0 V6 12V producing 199 HP or a 3.0 V6 in either 12 or 24 valves and a 3.2 V6 24 valve engine. Dubbed V6 TB the 2.0 V6 was produced because of an Italian law that added additional sales tax to cars with engines larger than 2 liters. The 2.0 V6 was a sleeved-down version of the three-liter V6. The turbo avoided this tax but produced extra power.
Based on Fiat SuperFIRE-family block with Alfa Romeo designed cylinder head was the 2.0 16V Twin Spark engine. This engine has variable inlet cam timing, which gave 25 degrees of variation to improve torque and produce a more linear power delivery. Rotating at twice the engine speed, the 2.0 TS engine had two belt driven balance shifts that enhanced the engine smoothness. No balance shafts were found on the 1.8. The best-selling version of the Spider and GTV was the TS.
Pumping out a top speed of 150 mph, the 3.0 V6 24V was the fastest production Alfa Romeo when brand new. The fastest Stradale Alfa Romeo was the 3.2 V6 24V GTV 240 PS had a top speed of 158 mph and could hit 0-60mph in just over six seconds. The 2.0 JTS 163 HP engine was introduced in 2003, uses direct injection in a similar fashion to that of a diesel engine. To improve engine breathing at high revs this engine uses only one spark plug per cylinder and features a variable-length inlet manifold.
Numerous features came standard with the GTV and Spider and included AC, front airbags, power steering, front seatbelt pretensioners and Bosch ABS. Other features included electric heated door mirrors, height adjustable headlamps, front and rear fog lights, third brake light, electric frameless windows with one-touch operation for driver's side, fire prevention system, stitched leather gear knob, reach and rake adjustable leather clad steering wheel, a stereo radio/cassette with six speakers, and an automatic electric aerial. Optional items included electric heated seats and sunroof on the GTV, alarm system, passenger-side airbag removal, metallic paint, and iridescent paint and leather MOMO seats on the Lusso trim.
'Lusso' was a separate trim instead of an option pack. The standard model was dubbed the 'Turismo' from 'Medio' in the UK. During phase 1 and 2 Medio and Lusso trims were offered with nearly any engine except for Medio-only 1.8 L TS. During Phase 3 the cars were separated into Media-only 2.0 L JTS and Lusso-only 3.2 L V6. 'Base' M.Y. 2003 2.0 L TS was also available.
Blue Style included a blue dashboard with white or blue leather MOMO seats while Red Style featured a red dashboard with either red or black leather MOMO seats. During Phase 2 the Blue and Red Style interiors were available with Lusso trim, and featured on all models in Phase 3. All of the other equipment and options stayed the same. Phase 1 cars offered leather MOMO seats in 3 colors; red, tan and white. The Spider added a light-grey color option. Phase 1 cars featured a black plastic grille in the nose of the hood, and lacked the chrome edging. Early CF1 and CF2 engine only featured one catalytic converter while all CF3 versions came with three catalytic converters installed with two of them at the exhaust manifold.
The fuel tank could hold up to 18 gallons of gas and was ahead of the rear axle line nestled behind the rear seats for safety. The battery and CD auto-changer were located in the trunk. Nitrogen filled struts supported the hood and hood lid. Standard was a space-saver spare wheel along with a no-cost option of an aerosol can of tire repair sealant, which was a typical factory standard from 1998 and took the usable space in the trunk to 5.5 cubic feet.
The hood was composed of KMC, a composite material of polyester, fiberglass and epoxy adhesives to save weight and the front wings were constructed in PUR plastic. The largest single composite molding found on a production car, the hood hid two rectangular Hella headlamps with separate bulbs for dip and main beam. They were hidden behind the four round holes in the hood. The body shell was completely rustproof as it was galvanized with full plastic wheel-arch liners.
The GTV featured a 64% stiffer chassis while the Spider featured reinforced A-pillars. Standard on the models was 15 inch perforated steel wheels, while 16-inch teardrop alloy wheels with 205/50 tires came on the Lusso option package. 16-inch teardrop alloy wheels became standard from Phase 2 and 3 with 17-inch alloy wheels and 225/45 tires becoming factory optional. Some complained that the Italian sports cars were difficult to park because of its low seating position and large turning circle. It made the end of the hood and corners disappear from the drivers view and therefore hard to navigate. The long doors didn't help.
Using a pretty conventional set-up, the front suspension used MacPherson struts, lower wishbones, offset coil springs and an anti-roll bar. Designed by Gianclaudio Travaglio the multilink rear suspension was independent and comprised of quadrilateral geometry with an upper triangle, double low arms, coil springs and anti-roll bar joined to a light alloy subframe that was secured to the car's frame. During the beginning stages of a turn the centrifugal forces create a small 'rear wheel steer' effect in opposite direction to the way the front wheels point and then the forces build up through the corner, the rear wheels would start steering in the same direction as the front wheels.
The 1.8 TS and 2.0 TS Spiders featured 10.1-inch Altecna-system brakes, while the other models had 11.2 inch Lucas or ATE system ventilated-discs at the front. The cars featured disc brakes all around and had 9.4-inch Lucas-system solid-discs at the rear. The 3.0 V6 24V GTV and Spider had 12.0-inch Brembo-system ventilated-discs with 4-pot calipers that were resplendent with white 'Alfa Romeo' lettering.
In 2004 production of the GTV and Spider ceased in 2004 with a total of 81,799 units sold. They were available until 2005.
A large number of limited edition Spider and GTV models were produced during the models life span. These editions can all be classified into three groups: Edizione Sportiva GTV 2001, Special Series 2001 and Limited Editions 2002. Nearly all of the models featured the titanium line finished center console without the Alfa Romeo script. Except for some German-market Edizione Classica models, all Special Series could easily be located by their silver numbered plaque to the side of the center console. Except for the first model, all of the cars had unique version codes. Spider models all featured electrically operated hood. All models sported Lusso-trim equipment.
With its inspiration taken from a one-model Alfa GTV Cup race series, the GTV Cup 2001 was a limited edition based on the 3.0 V7 version of the GTV. Only 419 cars were produced during 2001. A total of 180 were 3.0 V6 24V GTV Cups, with 155 of these being RHD version, while 239 models pumping 148 hp were offered in LHD only. The 2.0 TS cars were normally painted silver, with just a few examples in red, while 3.0 V6 cars were only sold in red. RHD and LDH version featured silver Limited edition plaques rid red and black text. What made the Cup version stand out was their factory standard rear spoiler, front spoiler, wheel arch side vents and titanium-like finish 17-inch 'telephone dial' alloys. Under the hood was the same 218 PS 215 HP V6 as found on a standard model. The interior sported leather-material upholstery.
The Edizione Sportiva was a German-market GTV produced in 2001. These models were only offered with 2.0 TS or 3.0 V6 24V CF3 engines. They sported sleek black leather upholstery with red stitching, red carpets and Zender front wings. The interior of the car featured electric seats, Blaupunkt radio/navigation with 10-CD changer located in the trunk. Available only in Nero Met was 17-inch 'teledial' alloys. This version was limited to 500 models, but only around 200 were ever produced and made it the only limited edition model to not have the unique version code and have the Alfa Romeo script on the center console.
The GTV Serie Speciale 'Elegant' was introduced in 2001 and featured brown leather upholstery, darker than normal tanned leather and black carpeting. The 'Elegant' was available in Blu Vela Met. or Nero Met. Like most limited editions there were additional leather strips beneath the door armrest and a 'Serie Limitata' numbered plaque was found on the titanium-like finished center console. The 'Elegant' was available with 2.0 TS and 3.0 V6 24V CF3 engines.
Debuting in 2001, the Edizione Classica Spider was available with either a 2.0 TS or 3.0 V6 24V engine. The model was manufactured only in Nero Met. with an electric hood and special 17-inch high-gloss 'teledial' alloys. Like the other special editions, the center console sported a limited edition numbered plaque without the 'Alfa Romeo' script. On the inside of the model was light grey upholstery and black carpets.
2001 was the year for special editions and another beautiful example was the Spider Serie Speciale 'Elegant'. The Spider arrived with Blue Style dashboard and corresponding blue leather Momo seats and carpets. It was available in Giallo Zoe Met. or Grigio Chiaro Met. The hood was electric blue and it featured high-gloss finished 'teledial' alloys and had limited edition numbered plaque on the center console. Around 300 models were produced and offered with 2.0 TS or 3.0 V6 24V.
2002 brought with it the Motus GTV with Nero Met. exterior with a two-part Zender kit that featured perforated black upholstery on the inside and red leather Momo seats. The center console was finished titanium-like and didn't feature the limited edition plaque. The Motus was available with 2.0 TS and Nero Met. also with 3.0 V6 24 V and sported 17-inch alloys.
Also debuting in 2002 were two different Lux GTV editions. The Grigio Chiaro Met. was on the outside and 'tango' leather on this inside with black carpets. With a black leather interior, the Lux featured Azzurro Nugola Pearl on the outside. Both editions came with 2.0 TS only.
Available only in Grigio Chiaro Met. the Spider Edizione Sportiva featured perforated black leather upholstery with red stitching and came with side skirts and front wings from Zender. All of these Spiders came without the 'Alfa Romeo' sign on the titanium-like finished center consoles and did not have the limited edition plaque. This Sportiva edition came with an electrically folded hood and 17-inch alloy wheels.
Arriving on scene available only in Nero Met., the Edizione Elegante Spider came with snappy two-tone leather seats and the choice of black light grey, or black-red with matching side panel upholstery. The Elegante was powered by either the 2.0 TS or 3.0 V6 24V.
The Lux Spider arrived in 2002 and came in three different editions. The Blue Lightning Met. exterior featured 'tango' leather on the inside, and a blue electric hood. The Grigio Chiaro Met. exterior came with Black-Lys Grey Leather on the inside and a black hood. The Rosso Miro Pearl exterior version sported Red-Black Leather on the inside and a black hood. The Blue Lightning Met. came with the option of 3.0 V6 24V while the 2.0 TS was available for the other editions.
The Spider Sport Limited Edition was introduced in 2002 and came only in Nero Met. and Motus-like on the inside with black upholstery, carpet and perforated red leather seats. The Sport was powered with 2.0 TS or 3.0 V6 24V. The Spider Elegant Limited Edition also came out this year and was available only in Grigio Chiaro Met. with a two-tone interior and sporting black-tango leather. Powering the Elegant was the 2.0 TS or 3.0 V6 24V. The Spider was available only in Blu Lightning Met. and Lys Grey Leather interior was powered only with the 3.0 V6 24V.
A phase 3 Spider only, the Edizione Nero Spider was introduced in 2004 and was available after March. This edition was limited to just thirty cars in Austria, with a total number of 150 cars. These models were black metallic and featured a black and silver cloth interior and power came from the 2.0 JTS engine. The Spider Edizione was also a phase 3 Spider only as well. This edition was available in Rosso Miro Pearl. or Blue Reims Met. only with 2.0 JTS engine. The inside of the car featured Red or Blue Cloth or Black Leather. This edition was limited to Medio trim and limited to a total of 350 cars. Sources:
By Jessica Donaldson
Alfa Romeo's Alfetta was, and remains, a misunderstood and undervalued car. Perhaps Alfa's most technically sophisticated product prior to Fiat's takeover of the company in 1987, the Alfetta came from a long line of class-leading automobiles. The Alfetta was something of a last hoorah for pre-Fiat Alfa Romeo. Stylish and engaging, yet tragically flawed, the Alfetta turned out to be something of a metonym for the entire Alfa Romeo brand.
Before its absorption into the Fiat conglomerate, Alfa Romeo wasn't really in the business of making transportation devices—Alfa made cars. Giuseppe Busso, one of the Italian automaker's finest engineers, attested to this in Pat Braden's Alfa Romeo Twin-Cam Companion. Busso explained to Braden that, during the development of the Alfetta, Alfa management requested that Busso develop three different suspension designs for the upcoming car: a low-cost option; a cost-quality compromise, essentially a 'best bang for the buck' design; and a cost-no-object, technically brilliant alternative. Management chose the latter.
Busso stated, 'When the decision was made to proceed with the very best design, I realized I had worked for many decades for the very best automobile manufacturer in the world.' An overstatement? Hardly. While companies like BMW and Mercedes-Benz always maintained healthier postwar images than Alfa Romeo, the fact can't be denied that Alfa was the company that continued to innovate until it essentially ran itself into the ground. A hopeless romantic amongst buttoned-down pragmatists, Alfa Romeo—like other chronic innovators such as Citroen and Lancia—engineered itself to death.
Resisting compromises for as long as possible, Alfa eventually ran into grave financial difficulties. Its cars quickly grew outdated in the late 1970s and throughout the 1980s, outpaced by competitors and with no money left for improvements. Alfa bled itself dry, until no option remained but absorption into Fiat—a move that radically altered the marque's trajectory and led to a full model lineup of front-wheel-drive cars with no real ties to earlier Alfas aside from their fine styling. Anyone who insists that BMW has always built better cars than Alfa Romeo should be reminded that Alfa endowed its Alfetta with a stupendously advanced suspension system—more on this later—while BMW clung to its relatively primitive McPherson strut front suspension and semi-trailing arm rear suspension.
And so the Alfetta persisted against more straightforward and thoroughly-developed designs, a hot-blooded and hopeful Latin charmer put forth by a loving but underfunded parent company. Like Alfa Romeo as a whole, the Alfetta fought with optimism and with arrogance until it could fight no longer. Lack of development money and an insistence on uncompromising engineering led to a car that could never have been as sorted as, say, the far more conventional BMW 2002.
The Alfetta was a wonderful car—but it wasn't much in the way of transportation. Poor build quality, iffy dealerships, and the unreliability inherent in new technology hurt the Alfetta's reputation. The resulting slow sales perpetuated financial struggles at Alfa, leaving the cash-strapped company without sufficient funding to continue developing the ageing Alfetta. The model soldiered on in various forms until 1986, which, not coincidentally, was the year before Fiat took the reins, brining to an end the period of mass-produced postwar innovation to which Alfisti remain eternally indebted.
It's interesting that the Alfetta signaled Alfa Romeo's transition from innovator to also-ran, because another Alfa product—also called Alfetta—led an earlier but equally momentous transition. This first transformation was from prewar producer of exotic road and racing cars along the lines of Bugatti and Duesenberg, to postwar constructor of mass-produced jewels like the Giulietta and GTV. And the car at the forefront of this movement was the Tipo 158/159 1.5-liter grand prix racer, nicknamed Alfetta, or 'little Alfa.'
The original Alfetta was one of the very finest Alfa Romeos produced. A single-seat, open-wheel racing car with the profile of a missile making no secret of its potent straight-eight, this road-bound rocket surpassed all competition. Beginning its career prior to WWII, the Alfetta realized its full potential when racing resumed after the war's end. The Alfetta took the World Championship in 1950 and 1951, producing 300 horsepower per liter at the height of its development.
Cute nickname aside, the Alfetta was violent and pugnacious. Raw, animalistic, and brutally aggressive, the Alfetta represented the pinnacle of auto racing excitement. Fast, sleek, dangerous—if ever there was a car built to satisfy the ambitions of F.T. Marinetti and his Futurist Manifesto, this was it. 'We declare,' wrote Marinetti, 'that the splendor of the world has been enriched by a new beauty: the beauty of speed. A racing automobile with its bonnet adorned with great tubes like serpents with explosive breath ... a roaring motor car which seems to run on machine-gun fire, is more beautiful than the Victory of Samothrace.' The Alfetta was a hyperbolic machine. It represented humankind's triumph over steel and gasoline (well, aluminum and alcohol-blend fuel in this case) to create viscerally expressive—and devastatingly effective—pieces of mechanical sculpture. Absolutely unsuitable for transportation, the Alfetta was nothing but a car. And it was fantastic.
Admittedly, bringing back the Alfetta name and applying it to a mass-produced sedan was something of a pretentious maneuver. Alfa Romeo exploited the supposed connections between the new Alfetta and its historical namesake in advertisements for the new car, though even such flagrant exploitation couldn't inspire much sales success. Apparently, most family car buyers didn't particularly care about whether or not their brand of car took the World Championship in grand prix racing two decades prior.
But while Alfa's application of the Alfetta name was somewhat contrived, it was not entirely baseless. There was in fact a legitimate technological link between the two vehicles—and this brings the story back to the newer Alfetta's insistence on using an advanced suspension system designed by Giuseppe Busso.
Both the Alfetta racing car and Alfetta production car used a deDion rear axle. This unconventional design combined the benefits of both a live axle and an independent rear suspension into a single package. A simplified deDion system consists of a rigid tube that attaches to a car's body at a centrally located pivot point. This minimizes unsprung weight while also preventing the camber changes inherent in primitive independent suspension systems. The deDion rear suspension, coupled with a torsion-bar-sprung front suspension, endowed the Alfetta with crisp handling and superb roadholding capabilities.
The later Alfetta also shared another key feature with its racing ancestor: a rear transaxle. This risky and highly advanced proposition turned the (production) Alfetta into a truly remarkable car. Alfa Romeo had the chutzpa to shoehorn a racing-derived hunk of aluminum exotica beneath the rear seat of a family sedan. In search of impeccable weight distribution, Alfa offered a genuinely exciting solution and created a fine machine that—despite its presumptuous name—proved an understated and subtle automobile.
The transaxle, though, was not without its problems. Alfa mounted the clutch with the transaxle unit itself, instead of leaving its bellhousing coupled to the engine. This greatly increased the mass between engine and clutch. The heavy multi-piece driveshaft, itself a reliability disaster using rubber giubo couplings to absorb driveline shock, spun with the clutch. Accelerated synchro wear resulted, as did a propensity for dropping revs slowly between shifts.
The Alfetta also developed (and rightly so) a reputation for severe rust issues. The cars' problems led first to slow sales, and later to low resale values. Both of those circumstances conspired to ensure that the Alfetta was never a common car on the roadway, particularly in the U.S., and the number of extant examples is declining all the time—a pattern that will hopefully slow as values rise to compensate for increased rarity.
Problems aside, the Alfetta was a remarkably accessible car given its exotic underpinnings. Its advanced suspension design, rear transaxle, inboard rear disc brakes, and all-alloy twin-cam four culminated in a tidy sedan that packed far more technology than bystanders expected. Compare that to the more famous BMW 2002, with its staid suspension, ordinary transmission, rear drum brakes, and SOHC four with an iron block. But the BMW had only two doors, allowing the German to be lighter and more tossable. Luckily, Alfa recognized the great potential of the Alfetta platform and, within two years, a two door version was released to compete more directly with machines like the 2002.
This new coupe featured lithe fastback styling by Giorgetto Giugiaro. With its angular lines, hunkered-down stance, and large greenhouse, this new Alfetta GT had a look more in line with its radical engineering. The coupe (marketed as the GT, then the GTV, and labeled 'Sprint Veloce' in the United States from 1978) suffered from the same problems as the earlier sedan (called the Berlina). The Alfetta coupe, though, brought out the best of the Alfetta package by using the high-tech underpinnings to create a stylish grand touring car for the masses.
The Alfettas underwent many trim changes, which varied across countries. As an example of the haphazard sub-models that characterized the Alfetta range, consider the 'Alfamatic' automatic transaxle introduced in an attempt to boost U.S. sales. Alfa exported scads of these automatic-equipped cars to the U.S., only to find that they proved impossible to sell. Though most Americans preferred not to shift for themselves, the Alfa buyers in America were all driving enthusiasts who were willing to live with Alfa's shoddy quality control and poor dealer network in order to drive an exciting car. Alfa Romeo exhibited a distinct lack of knowledge regarding its U.S. customer base, and ended up alienating more buyers than it converted. So what happened to the unsellable Alfamatics? They went back to Italy, almost comically labeled 'America.' The Alfetta America, with its heavily-optioned spec sheet and automatic transaxle, actually sold so well in the home market that Alfa had to produce more of them in order to satisfy demand.
In addition to the ill-fated Alfamatic, Alfa introduced multiple special editions on the Alfetta platform to spur sales and inject interest in an ageing product. The Berlina became the Sport Sedan in the U.S., just as the GT became the GTV became the Sprint Veloce. The name changes and limited-production specials didn't fool buyers, though. The Alfetta was ageing rapidly, and its parent company lacked the finances to further—or even finish—the car's development.
From 1981 to 1986, Alfa Romeo did build a higher-tech version of the Alfetta coupe, called the GTV-6. This updated Alfetta featured an advanced V6 motor to replace the superb but dated four. The GTV-6 showed the great development potential of the Alfetta platform, but alas Alfa could not afford to develop the car beyond that point. The GTV-6, always a relatively rare machine produced in small numbers, was a glorious last gasp for the Alfetta platform. Fiat took over in 1987, and Alfetta was no more. (As an aside, the exotic, Zagato-built Alfa SZ of 1989-1991 bore a distinct mechanical resemblance to the Alfetta platform, specifically the GTV-6; the SZ showed how truly advanced had been the original Alfetta of 1972.)
The transaxle-equipped Alfas, which included the 75/Milano in addition to the Alfetta and GTV-6, were arguably the last true Alfas. They were some of the very last cars developed prior to the Fiat takeover. They were the last rear-wheel-drive Alfa products for years. And they were some of the tragic heroes within the tale of Alfa Romeo. Here was a company that built a name for itself producing some of the finest and most exotic prewar racing cars in the world; here was a company with a sense of humor, supposedly naming its 'Giulietta' range of cars to exploit a play on words, namely 'Romeo and Giulietta;' here was a company with slapstick managerial antics and a distinct disconnect between different departments; here was a company made by individuals and crippled by bureaucracy; and here was a company that bled itself dry creating cars it thought the world needed, with seemingly little regard for what customers actually wanted.
The Alfetta could have cleared a path for future Alfas to follow. Instead, it became a flawed bookend that stood at the edge of an illustrious automaker's history as a relatively independent company. Alfa has produced some great cars under Fiat, many of which have been more competitive and sold in higher numbers than the Alfetta. But one thing is for sure: the Alfetta will never happen again. Alfa is not dead, but the company's spirit of stubborn optimism and innovation seems to have rusted away with the last of the Alfettas. Sources:
Benson, Joe. Illustrated Alfa Romeo Buyer's Guide. 2nd. Osceola, WI: MBI Publishing Company, 1992. Print.
Braden, Pat. Alfa Romeo All-Alloy Twin Cam Companion: 1954-1994. Cambridge, MA: Bentley Publishers, 2004. Print.By Evan Acuña