Should you buy … an Alfa Romeo GT?
Price when new: from $79,990 in 2006
Price March 2014: $11,990 – $35,000
I’ve been hesitating before commencing this post. Why I procrastinate is simple. It’s time to consider an Alfa.
Yes I know. I want to walk home, it’s great to look at someone else’s and don’t they tend to rust like there’s no tomorrow? All things that people who don’t own an Alfa tend to say.
Well this was true at one time, but the last 10 years has seen Alfa improve its products and its maintenance issues are no worse than any other sporty car out there. All Alfa’s are now galvanised so rust is not the problem it once was, if it ever was an issue in Australia. Hot climates have tended to affect certain cars more than colder climates however, so particular parts were prone to shredding themselves, like the differential. But more on that later.
No, the real reason that I hesitate to review an Alfa is because I have never driven one. Other than the 25 minutes with Nadim in an earlier post, the closest I have come was as a passenger hurtling down a steep hill in a mate’s Alfa Sud. It took the quickest time to manage the 1 in 4 gradient replete with two almost hairpin bends, and much of the blood to my head. I remember clambering out, brushing red dust from my trousers, amazed we had survived and marvelling at the little Sud’s cornering ability. Its red line hugging 1.2 litre engine, its skinny tyres scrabbling for grip and it’s throaty 4 pot burbling away, you could almost forget that every panel was rust eaten to the core.
So 25 years later is there an Alfa out there that would be worth a second hand punt? Probably a few, but I am focusing on the 156 based GT, a car built between 2004 and 2010, and in 3.2 V6 incantation. It has the grunt, as well as the looks, to match any coupe out there.
Barely 80,000 GT’s were made worldwide, in 1.8 TS, 2.0 JT, 1.9 JTD or 3.2.V6 guise. Given the global majority tend to be the diesel, which never seem to crop up in Australia, the 3.2 V6 has the exclusive tag. It has more power, it has that throaty rasp we have come to expect from Alfa’s V6’s and it only gets better the more you floor it. It is acclaimed as one of the greatest engines ever produced.
The most expensive versions available today are the 2010 Centenary editions (in celebration of Alfa’s centenary that year). Only 100 reached Australia clad in special colours (Rosso Alfa, Atlantic Blue, Black and Ice White) and all came laden with airbags, leather, VDC (Vehicle Dynamic Control), ASR (Anti Slip Regulation), EBD (Electronic Brake Distribution) and ABS.
Engine: 3.2 24v V6, six speed manual
Top speed: 243 km/h
0-100: 6.7 seconds
“It’s is all about keeping up with the maintenance, e.g. oil and filter changes, cam belt changes every scheduled service”
As already mentioned, this is a world class engine that is as happy revving to 7000 rpm as it is tootling around town. But putting such a heavy engine in a small front wheel driver tends to come with a few problems. The most notable is torque steer that only exacerbates the sub standard differential. The diff has been known to fail from as little as 30,000 kms and when it does shards can pierce the gearbox, as well as the bell housing, meaning an expensive rebuild as well as a new, but rubbish diff.
So, if you are considering this car, budget for a Q2 diff upgrade if it has not been done, and negotiate with the owner. Be preventative and it will save you thousands down the track and improve your driving experience drastically. Isn’t this after all the reason you want to buy an Alfa in the first place. Price wise, it’s upwards of $3000 to repair a broken diff, maybe much more if it’s chewed up the gears. The Q2 can be fitted for less than that.
Tony Dron, from the UK’s The Telegraph, wrote great article explaining more: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/motoring/carreviews/2744796/What-a-difference-a-diff-makes.html
Cambelt changes for the V6 were lowered from 72,000 to 60,000 miles or 5 years. However Alfa revised the 2 litre down further to only 32,000 miles/3 years, so my advice is reduce it further for the V6. If you are not sure, either walk away or budget to replace the belt as soon as possible. Change the timing belt at the same time
Worth changing this when you remove the cambelt. The original used a plastic impeller that was well known to crack over time.
One owner suggests to use the water pump from the 3.0 GTV which had a metal impellor and thus lasts longer. According to the forum member there “are no compatibility issues with this. I have found that if you use a pattern pump, some cambelt tensioning tools will not work on them. Its not a major issue and competent mechanic should be able to work around this.”
Ensure oil levels are topped up, as an engine with low oil suggests poor maintenance.
Flat spots or an unwillingness to rev may indicate a faulty air flow meter (MAF)
The 3.2 V6 has the largest stoppers in the range with 330 mm (13.0 in) ventilated discs at front. The GT comes as standard with anti-lock braking system with electronic brake force distribution and hydraulic brake assistance.
Suspension was toughened up for the GT to improve handling but the front wishbone and anti-roll bar suspension bushes can wear. A squeak from behind the dash can alert you to the change. For the rear, check the rear hub bushes and rear radius arms, for if these are faulty it can lead to uneven tyre wear.
It’s hardy but can become heavy with age. If the gear lever does not move easily across the gate you will need a pair of bushes in the pivot point on top of the gear box. Another $200 or so.
There has not been too many issues electrically but check all the warning lights come on and then switch off after approximately 3 seconds. If they don’t, you know what to do.
The tailgate can leak slightly and has a habit of squeaking in its aperture, but regular silicon spray silences that.
Paint fades, especially red into pink.
Rust can still be an issue but at least it won’t be hiding, it will be clear as day say on the roof or around the front screen.
A poor panel fit or variations in paint colour indicate there has been an accident.
The front undertray is prone to grounding as you drive over speed bumps, which is a legacy of the 156 platform.
So is it worth it? After spending less than half an hour in Nadim’s GT, I can say yes, as long as you maintain it fastidiously, it is worth it. The sound, the traction and the power delivery overcomes all and it really is a car you should try before you discount it. Like with many of the cars Rezoom reviews, if you are prepared to budget $2-4000 per year to keep the car in fine fettle, then you may become like the rest of the Alfisti, well and truly hooked.
http://www.alfaworkshop.co.uk – brilliant resource, even gives ideas, parts and prices
The Alfa Workshop – http://www.alfaworkshop.co.uk/alfa_gt_guide.shtml
Alfa Specialists (Sydney, NSW):
- Automoda Service Centre, 85 Queens Road, Fivedock NSW 2046
Phone: +61 2 9744 7112
- Max Oddi Automotive Alfa Repairs Pty Ltd
29 Moore St, Leichhardt NSW 2040
Phone: (02) 9552 2054
81 Railway Parade Marrickville
02 9519 8501
EB Spares in the UK, who offer excellent, reliable service