Friday, September 11, 2009

1976 Alfa Romeo Alfetta GT - I Once Owned This Car...

My jaw hit the floor when I spotted this eBay listing. This is my old Alfa Romeo Alfetta GT. Not one just like it, but mine.

Back in the eighties I was driving an Alfetta sedan. The drive train was good, but the body was starting to rust pretty badly. At the time I had a friend with a quasi-body shop set up in his garage. Looking back, my friend was a hack when it came to bodywork, but he was teaching me a few things and would let me use his shop / garage whenever I wanted to. I had used his shop to restore an MG Midget for my girlfriend at the time and it came out pretty decent. It was a respectable a "10 footer". With all that in mind I planned to restore my Alfetta sedan.

Enter my friend Jeff. Jeff had done some mechanical work on the sedan and knew of my plan to re-do the body. He also knew my skills (or lack thereof) at bodywork and was politely suggesting that maybe I should think about finding a rust free body to dump my drivetrain into. One night he called me and told me he'd found a car. An Alfetta GT that had been restored at a local bodyshop, but needed an engine. It was the perfect car for what I wanted to do, he said.

He was right. It was perfect. The bodyshop had done a great, professional job at restoring the body. It's only flaw was the paint, which was incredibly thin. I bought it.

As the Alfetta was not my "everyday car", there was no rush to do the engine swap. Of course, that gave Jeff and I time to think of what else we could do with the car. While the engine in my Alfetta sedan ran well, it was old, so we decided to rebuild it before installing it in the GT. Alfas of the mid-seventies came with a Spica fuel injection system. It's a really good system when it's working right, a genuine pain in the ass when it's not. I had a set of Weber 40DCOE carbs kicking around, so we decided to replace the Spica system with those. I had the cams reground to match the carbs.

We threw on a header, an Ansa exhaust, a Shankle suspension, Bilsteins, lowered it a bit, and gave it a new set of wheels and tires. It was ready to go. Almost...

On a trip to Rhode Island I spotted a 1978 (maybe 1979, I forget) Alfetta GT in someone's front yard. The motor was blown and the body less than perfect, but it would be a decent parts car. I bought it.

I had it towed to Jeff's shop and when it got there I realized some of it was in much better shape than the car I was restoring. I put the dash, seats (after having them recovered professionally) and carpeting from the 1978 into my car. In a true test of friendship, I asked Jeff to put the A/C from the '78 into my car which didn't come with A/C. It was a monumental task, but he did it and it worked great.

In the meantime, I bought my Alfa Romeo Milano. I drove the Alfetta a bit (including to a weekend long Alfa Owners Club convention - The plaque from that event is still attached to the dash, to the left of the steering wheel.), but I was in love with the Milano and after awhile, after also buying an Alfa Spider, the Alfetta was put in the garage where it stayed for almost 10 years. I put less than 10K miles on it after restoring it.

A few years ago I sold it to some guys in Vermont who said they were going to use it for hill climbing events. I lost track of it until now.

What can I tell you about this car? The carbs / cam set up meant that the car ran slightly rich at low RPMs. Once the RPMs increased all hell broke loose and the car was extremely quick. I had it up to 110 MPH on the Massachusetts Turnpike one night (racing a Porshe 911) until a friend started screaming at me to slow down. I could have gone faster. The steering wheel is a Formuling France wheel that I found new in the packaging at an auto swap meet. It took me almost a year to find the proper hub for it and, if I remember correctly, had to get it from Europe.

Most of the flaws the car had back then it still has now. The hatch leaks. My plan was to replace it with one from a later Alfetta that used the rubber window gasket. I never found one that was in decent shape and /or had the right tint color (Alfa switched from a greenish tint to a bronze at some point). The exhaust manifold problem the seller mentions is a stripped stud. I did that. Oops. There is primer around the windshield as I took out the windshield, replaced some metal and resealed it. (I pumped the car full of Waxoyl before putting the interior back in, so rust in other places shouldn't be a problem. Waxoyl is amazing stuff.)

The new issues / problems on the car are the lack of carpeting. I assume it was removed because it smelled like mouse urine. My garage was not mouse free! I don't know what the brake problem is, but given that the car sat for so long, it's a good idea to re-do the brakes anyway. I'm pretty certain the carb problem is probably a gasket. The "stiff" steering is a mystery. Again, it's probably from sitting. The rust above the rear bumper is new, but an easy fix.

This is the only car I've ever written about that I have an emotional attachment to. It looks basically like I remember it, including my Quadrifoglio and Sports Car Club of America stickers on the back. It was an incredibly fun car to drive. It looked great. I got compliments everywhere I went. In many, many, ways I miss it.

Honestly, if I had the space to store it, I'd buy it myself. But, storage space is an issue for me, so I hope it winds up in good hands.

I'd love to see someone restore and drive this car. The eBay auction appears to be a "no reserve" auction. Besides e-mailing the seller, feel free to e-mail me for more history of the car.

Click here to see the eBay listing.


t.c. said...

Dear Sir,
i enjoyed reading your article, and would love to w-mail you in regards to the car. What is your e-mail?

Just A Car Geek said...

Hi - You can use either e-mail address located in top box on the right side of the blog.