Alfa Romeo GT Research

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.IMG_4766

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.

Mechanicals

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”

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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

Belts

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

Water pump:

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)

Brakes:IMG_4756

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:

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.

Clutch:

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.

Internal:

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.

External:

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.

Conclusion

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.

Forums:

http://www.alfaowner.com/Forum

http://www.ausalfa.com

http://www.alfaworkshop.co.uk  – brilliant resource, even gives ideas, parts and prices

http://www.alfaclubvic.org.au/forum

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

http://automoda.com.au/

  • Max Oddi Automotive Alfa Repairs Pty Ltd

29 Moore St, Leichhardt NSW 2040

Phone: (02) 9552 2054

  • Alfamotive

81 Railway Parade Marrickville

02 9519 8501

http://www.alfamotive.com.au

 Spares:

EB Spares in the UK, who offer excellent, reliable service

http://www.ebspares.co.uk/news77.htm

http://www.ebspares.co.uk/alfa_147/Q2_diff_for_6_speed_manual_cars/

By: Gabriele B. - CC BY 2.0
By: Gabriele B.CC BY 2.0

 

 

 

 

 

 

Alfa Romeo GT

alfa romeo gt

Alfa Romeo GT, hmmmm, mmmm

I say hmmm because it’s the first thing that comes to mind. “It’s an Alfa,” for those un-initiated in the Alfisti, is synonymous with “it’s a piece of shit,” let’s face it. Not to look at mind, but with respect to reliability. I guess it’s the automotive equivalent of marrying a porn star. It’s as sexy as hell but has a penchant for other men who like lube.

Mmmm speaks for itself. I mean look at it. The Alfa Romeo GT is a thing ofbeauty. On the inside as much as the out. Yes the leather seats are as good as they look and there’s even room for 3 kids, small ones preferably. But it’s the engine, all 3.2 litre V6 of it, and how it delivers its power that is the hook. You don’t even struggle because the sound then embraces you, the red hide squeezes your love handles and it’s all over red rover, its exhaust note sounding very much like a woman exhaling on a cigarette.

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I can see why you’d want it, but do you need it?

If I were a younger man, say like Nadim, my chauffeur for the next 25 minutes, this car would have to be it. It’s got the lot. I think you can just make out the words chick and magnet on the side.

But I’m not going to ask him to let me drive because fair’s fair it’s not my place, he’s trying to sell it. If he offers though, I’d bite his arm off.

There are no nasty clunks on upshift, no jarring of the clutch. The power comes on so progressively that I have to check myself for being so used to turbos. The ride is firm but comfortable, and sitting amid the waves of red cow and beaches of tactile black plastic makes this a very nice place to be. I have to admit that for a passenger this is a tidy ride.alfa romeo gt interior

Now I must confess that on this occasion necessity stated that I had to bring two of my offspring with me, so perhaps you can understand my reticence to not ask to drive, I am taking liberties enough. I’ve just asked a bloke to drive me around in his impeccably presented motor with two – (vomit/sticky sweet/mess oh the mess) insert which ever is most appropriate – monsters in tow. And he did. Hats off to him.

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But why this Alfa? This is the only GT V6 I can find locally that has had the Q2 diff upgrade. And why is that important I hear you ask. Well, other than the fact the original differential was hugely suspect engineering-wise, that when it went, it often took large chunks of the engine with it, much like a major operation back alley style. Other than that, the heavier nose and increase in power exposed the limits of traction, control and compromised the steering.

The Q2 on the other hand is different. Alfa’s limited-slip diff almost eliminates torque steer and understeer, which for a front driver with 244 horses/177 kW in its nose is no mean feat. And it works too with very few reported issues, if any. Traction and cornering are aided substantially, and Nadim has had few issues even in the wet. It’s almost like a 4WD  system for a front wheeler, as it splits the torque to either wheel according to the road conditions and means you can get on the throttle with more confidence as you exit a corner. So you’re safe in the knowledge that, if the inside tyre spins, the torsen type diff will transfer torque to the off-side wheel and maintain a peachy drive. It even improves the steering. And that is what this car should have always been about. 

“a self-locking front differential which incorporates all the strong points of a front-wheel drive system in terms of active safety, increasing driving enjoyment and control, while providing some of the advantages typical of four-wheel drive, but at a significantly lower cost and weight.”  Alfa’s take on its Q2 system

IMG_4762Equally as important is its ability to function. Forums the world over seem unanimous with praise and so far, few problems have been identified. From “it is probably the best upgrade you can do, and definitely worth doing as soon as you can afford it,” to  “the GT definitely needs a Q2, as well as protecting against the well talked about diff failure it transforms the way the car drives in all conditions.” Total costs for the upgrade range between $2-2,500 and whilst you are at it you could have the master cylinder and the clutch checked as the engine needs to come out.

So if you were to scratch that itch and finally say you own an Alfa, is this one to go for? Many would say the 147 GTA is the best, but in my opinion, the GT with the Q2 upgrade looks better, and has the slight edge when it comes to dynamics. It’s fast, it holds the road exceptionally well, and when compared to Alfa’s of old this one won’t be seeing too many blokes behind your back.

Prices

$11,000 – 35,000 for a mint condition 100th Anniversary edition built in 2010. Interestingly the MY2010 cars still did not come with the Q2 as standard, which is a shame.

The car on show here is for sale for $17,999 ono with just under 75,000 kms on the clock  – visit car sales for more information: http://www.carsales.com.au/private/details/Alfa-Romeo-GT-2004/SSE-AD-2333325/?Cr=4&sdmvc=1

Maintenance 

Service work ranges from $400 to around $1000 for a major service. This increases further depending on any parts needed.

Cam belts must be changed every 50,000kms or so. Alfa used to suggest every 72,000 miles but revised this down to 36,000 miles. It is worth changing the water pump at this time as it is a “belt off” job and will save you time and money.

The suspension has been known to get a bit “crashy” but otherwise it is up to the job. Nonetheless, it would be worth investing in new dampers & springs, so budget for that.

Research

For more information on the GT go to the Research link: http://rezoom.com.au/alfa-romeo-gt/

 

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