Alfa Romeo’s GTV given more muscle.
For power-hungry clients desiring a ‘maximum’ Tipo 116 GTV, the 2000 and later 2.5-litre GTV6 were, with the exception of the rare Autodelta turbocharged version, the limit. However, if you happened to live in South Africa, the USA or Germany, there were other exciting options, one of which also involved Autodelta.
Alfa Romeo GTV6 3-litre, South Africa: As was the case with some other unique South Africa only special versions, the GTV6 3-litre came to be because of motor racing competition series and the homologation requirements that come with them. BMW ruled the domestic Group One championship for years with their 535i. The GTV6 2.5 that Alfa Romeo at first entered was simply not powerful enough and lacking in torque to make any kind of impression on the German dominance.
Alfa Romeo SA approached the Italian firm’s competition department, Autodelta, to enquire what they could do to help. As luck would have it, Autodelta was already in possession of a suitable engine, a three-litre version of Alfa’s lovely V6. This had been abandoned because the Italian motor tax regime levied a punitive additional charge on cars with engines with a displacement of 2,000cc and more.
Autodelta manufactured the special cylinder heads, crankshafts and pistons, which were shipped to South Africa. Alfa Romeo SA took it from there and assembled the engines in-situ, including the machining of the engine blocks and cylinder heads. Six Dellorto RFP40 carburettors replaced the electronic fuel injection, although the last six 3-litre GTVs made would once again be fuel injected. The end result was an increase in power from 158bhp to 171bhp but, crucially, also an increase in torque from 157 lb ft to 163 lb ft. The GTV6 3-litre still lagged slightly behind the 535i in the 0 to 100km/h (62mph) sprint, but now matched the BMW’s standing kilometre time and had a slightly higher top speed.
The GTV6 3-litre won its debut race at Kyalami, ending a longstanding hegemony by BMW, and would score many more victories. Homologation rules required that Alfa Romeo SA produce a minimum of 200 roadgoing versions of the 3-litre GTV, which they duly commenced building.
From the outside, the GTV6 3-litre is easily identified by its prominent bonnet bulge with NACA duct; the rest of the visual modifications are modest: a larger front spoiler, thin red striping along the bumpers and side mouldings and, of course, a GTV6 3.0 badge on the back. Between 1983 and 1985, Alfa Romeo SA produced 212 copies, each with a price tag of ZAR 29,495 (South African Rand).
Alfa Romeo GTV6 2.5 Callaway Twin Turbo, USA: Located on the other side of the Atlantic Ocean, Callaway Turbo Systems of Old Lyme, Connecticut was founded in 1977. Today best known for their conversions of Chevrolet Corvettes and Camaros, the firm’s first fully engineered roadgoing conversion (i.e. not a kit) was an Alfa Romeo GTV6. Callaway tackled the job very thoroughly: every 2.5-litre V6 engine was disassembled, the piston crowns modified and twin IHI RHB5 turbochargers plus an intercooler were installed. Callaway also added a solid-state fuel injection control named the Microfueler, which sensed engine speed and manifold pressure to monitor the Bosch L-Jetronic injectors.
Both the brakes and suspension were also augmented to cope with the substantial increase in power: the engine now produced 230bhp and could propel the car to 100km/h (62mph) in just under six seconds. Unlike some later and brasher Callaway products, the GTV6 2.5 Twin Turbo only distinguished itself from the regular factory model by a relatively subtle air scoop on the bonnet, a rear spoiler, sixteen inch BBS alloy wheels and “Callaway Twin Turbo” lettering on the windshield. Driver and passenger sat on leather Recaro seats.
Surprisingly, with the emission controls still in place, the turbocharged Alfa complied with EPA emissions requirements and Callaway provided a 12-month/12,000-mile warranty, matching that of Alfa Romeo USA. Owners would also be able to have their cars serviced at any American Alfa Romeo dealership. Cheap the GTV6 2.5 Twin Turbo was not, however: at over US $27,000, it was 50% more than the standard 2.5-litre GTV6.
The Italian car maker was by 1986, however, struggling to keep its head above water in the United States, and a total of just 35 cars left Callaway’s factory gates before the programme was cancelled.
The small firm would be thrown a lifeline though: General Motors got its hands on one of the modified GTVs and was impressed by Callaway’s workmanship and the car’s performance, which was a virtual match for the then current Corvette C4, albeit achieved in a very different manner. Corvette chief engineer, Dave McLellan, offered Callaway the opportunity to cooperate on some special turbocharged Corvette projects. The company’s founder, Reeves Callaway, naturally jumped at the chance. So began a succesful long-term association with GM, ensuring that Callaway would grow and prosper, all thanks to that Alfa Romeo.
Alfa Romeo GTV 2.6i V8, Germany: In 1977 Horst Reiff, owner of the large Alfa Romeo dealerships in Aachen, was convinced that the German high-speed Autobahn network provided enough of a business opportunity to justify a faster GTV than the 2000, which was then the most powerful version available. Autodelta, the official competition department of Alfa Romeo, had already built a few GTVs fitted with the Montreal’s V8 for racing and rallying, but the parent company showed no interest in introducing a roadgoing version. Undeterred, Reiff enlisted a German tuner confusingly named ‘Delta Auto’ to produce exactly that.
As might be expected, the V8 was a tight fit under the GTV’s bonnet, necessitating a prominent bulge to accomodate the powerplant. Apart from all the chromed trim pieces being painted matte black and ‘2.6’ badges on the bottom of the front wings, there was little else to give the game away, until the driver fired up that 200bhp V8, that is. While the 0 to 100km/h (62mph) time of 9.3 seconds might seem somewhat underwhelming, the top speed was a strong 223km/h (138mph) which was, in those days, certainly enough for a bout of Autobahnstorming.
The standard GTV had a 54-litre fuel tank which the V8 would empty quite rapidly especially when driven hard, so Delta Auto installed a second 54-litre tank in the boot, likely reasoning that prospective customers would not mind the loss of luggage room as much as having to stop for fuel every hour.
At close to DM 50,000, the GTV 2.6i V8 was double the price of the 2000 GTV but Reiff still believed he would be able to sell 100 cars. It was not to be, however, as Delta Auto filed for bankruptcy after reportedly only twenty cars had been completed. Even that modest number may be an exaggeration as today only two cars are known to remain. Notwithstanding Alfa Romeo’s usual corrosion issues, one would expect more survivors, considering the car’s uniqueness.