Alfa Romeo “GTV” and GTA The Bertone Designed 105 Series Cars

7 Feb

In September 1963, at the Frankfurt Auto Show, Alfa Romeo showed off a prototype penned by Giorgetto Giugiaro, the fantastic young designer working at Bertone.   The general looks were loosely based on the Alfa Romeo 2000 Sprint that Giugiaro had designed a few years previously to favorable reviews from the automotive world.  Alfa Romeo called their new car, the Giulia Sprint GT and though well liked, the car was somewhat overshadowed at the Frankfurt show by the Porsche 901 concept car, which later became the Porsche 911.

By the time the Giulia Sprint GT, known in Alfa Romeo manufacturing as the 105 Series, started production in 1964 Alfa Romeo had dropped the Sprint title and was called the Giulia GT.  (Though they still used the emblems that had already been made that read Giulia Sprint GT)  The simple neat design combined with straight forward mechanicals and Alfa Romeo’s responsive handling characteristics made this series a very popular seller for years, in spite of the fact that they cost more than a Jaguar XKE or Corvette.  The Alfa Romeo plant in Arese, just north of Milan produced the cars.  As the details on the cars changed, so did the names creating confusion that is typical today.  The 105 Series cars started in 1964 known as the Giulia GT before ending production by 1975 as the GTV 2000.  In between, there were names like GTC , GT Junior, GTV 1750, GTA, GTA Junior, GTA-SA, and GT-Am.

Additionally, heavily modified versions of the 105 Series cars were produced.   Ercola Spada, the chief stylist at Zagato, known for creating the Alfa Romeo TZ, which used many 105 series mechanicals, penned another 105 Series based car, the Alfa Romeo Junior Z which came with either the 1300cc or 1600cc engine depending upon year.  Also at Bertone, Marcello Gandini famous for creating the Lamborghini Miura, also designed the Alfa Romeo Montreal show car onto a widened and modified 105 Series chassis and running gear.  None of these cars looked at all like the car they were based on so few will ever confuse them as a GTV or GTA.

With the many possible versions, enthusiasts, and Alfa Romeo fans can get confused by the cars and often refer to them under the generic GTV name if it’s a street car, or GTA if a full race version.   This is often incorrect so to help provide you the knowledge needed, I’ll try to go over the key differences focusing on the GTAs in comparison to all the others.

To start, since the “A” in GTA stood for Alleggerita, or lightened, the single largest weight savings was that all body panels were made out of Peraluman 25, which is a combination of aluminum, zinc, and manganese.  This meant the standard welds wouldn’t work so where seams are bonded together you’ll find rivets, most noticeably along the drip rails.  This also leads to a method for determining an original GTA from an excellent replica.  With a magnet in hand, carefully hold it close to the cowl just ahead of the front windshield.  If the magnet pulls, it is steel and the car did not start life as a GTA.  Currently, all the other body panels can be purchased in aluminum, but the cowl doesn’t appear to be available to make a replica.  Another quick thing to spot is the GTA door handles are a small aluminum loop just big enough to put a couple fingers into, with a separate push button.  All non-GTA cars have a flush chrome handle about 3 inches wide.

It was at Autodelta SpA, the race prep company headed up by Carlo Chiti which had recently been acquired by Alfa Romeo, where the specs for GTAs were developed.  Chiti had a highly regarded history as an Alfa Romeo / Ferrari designer and engineer.  Cars were being ordered with a number of optional race goodies so there can be mechanical or technical variations.  Examples might be if customers opted for wheel flares, different wheel sizes, fuel tank options…  Some cars were ordered with creative options, with the same said of non-GTAs so this won’t help draw distinction between cars.

A quick look at the front of a GTA, the grill is a black mesh with a small chrome trim surround.  The standard V shaped emblem is also slightly unique in that it was made of stamped stainless steel, plus the flat top fits just under the front body lip.  GTVs have a similar style but it fits slightly higher and overlaps the front panel.  One more emblem detail difference is that the GTA had the standard round Alfa Romeo logo lower in the center emblem, just under the top bar.  Once you’ve seen the difference, even these subtleties are easy to spot.  Just below the grill, GTAs came with two horizontal mesh covered vent openings at approximately 3 x 9 inches with rounded corners.  Similar but slightly smaller versions were only used on the later models of GTV 2000 and GTV 1750, but both of these cars were produced without the “stepnose” look of all GTAs making these easy to distinguish.

Glancing inside the cars there are a number of key details as well.   The GTA steering wheels were three spoke Hellebore brand.  Aftermarket versions of these wheels can be bought, but typically have 7 mounting holes, while the originals had the 6 holes.  The inner door panels were smooth vinyl with simple aluminum door handles, and window crank.  The door pull is a small black vinyl strap with a braided look.  Non GTAs had a variety of textured door panels with sound deadening and larger handles with robust door pulls.  One cool secret is that since most GTA buyers chose the option of Plexiglas windows to save weight, the window lift mechanism was made of lightweight aluminum, after all, it was raising a lightweight “glass”.  Another option that a few customers bought was aluminum flooring.  Since this made the body flex a little too much, it often wasn’t worth the weight savings.  The result is that seat rails are riveted down.  Based on the type of racing that customers were planning to enter, some chose the optional cross brace between the rear wheel wells that added a little stiffening to the body.  While looking at the rear wheel wells, you may note that some GTAs have deeper rear wells to accommodate larger wheels without fender flares.

Under the front hood, a few GTA items are recognizable in both the GTA 1600 and the GTA Junior 1300 cars.  The most obvious is they’re twin spark engines.  The larger valves necessitated a cylinder head design with twin plugs pushed slightly towards the outside, along with a unique Marelli distributor to fire the 8 sparkplugs.   Also needing more air, larger 45DCOE Weber carburetors were fitted with a unique GTA airbox assembly.   Larger exhaust headers were also made, with the GTAs using a carefully crafted, very rare header design.   As well, radiator shrouding was carefully done to ensure best use of airflow for cooling both the radiator and the added oil cooler.  Harder to see, but only used on the GTA cars was weight saving magnesium on items like the camshaft and timing chain covers, bell housing, oil pan and sump.   While in the engine bay, if you spot the chassis numbers, for reference, all GTAs begin with 613xxx or 848xxx.

Even the trunk had some GTA only details.  With the trunk closed, the GTA insignia was noted.  With the trunk open you can see the riveted in aluminum spare tire well.    Some GTAs were fitted with a 23.75 gallon (90 Ltr) fuel tank designed for endurance racing.  This tank was so large it had to be installed from below the car.  Otherwise, the standard GTA fuel tank at 12.1 gallons (46 Ltr) fit inside the trunk.

In all, around 500 each of the GTA 1600 and GTA 1300 Junior were produced in both Stradale (Street) and Corsa (Race) versions.  They dominated sports car racing in 1966, 1967 and 1968 and continued as strong competitors up through the 1970s.  In 1967, the GTA-SA was produced, but only 10 were made.  The SA stood for Sovralimentata; Italian for supercharged.  Produced to compete in Group 5 Touring Car races with overall wins at Hockenheim in 1967 and four more races the following year.  Starting in 1970, the GT-Am race cars, based on the steel bodied GTV 1750  and GTV 2000 were produced in low quantities utilizing extra wide pontoon style fiberglass fender flares.  Though a few GTAs had the pontoon style fender flares, only “stepnose” cars might be a GTA.

By comparison, non-GTAs were sold in much larger volumes.  The Giulia GT, distinguished by the “stepnose” front, single headlights, 1600cc engine w/ twin carbs, had 21,054 produced from 1964 through early 1966.

GTC

In 1965 the GTC, with the C designation for Cabriolet, or convertible, was produced.   Steel bodied cars were pulled from the Arese plant and moved to Carrozzeria Touring for the roof to be cut off and then fitted with a convertible top.  Unfortunately only about 1000 of these very attractive cars were built.  Starting in 1966, Alfa Romeo offered a smaller 1300cc engine option for the Giulia GT and they called it the GT Junior.  These continued with the last ones sold in early 1976.  A total of over 90,000 GT Juniors were sold, with the last 14,299 cars actually using the 1600cc engine.  The later were still “Juniors” because by this time, the GTVs were using the larger 1750cc or 2000cc engines.

Additionally in 1966, the car had the name GTV.  First sold with the “stepnose” front, 1600cc engine w/twin carbs, single headlights, but now having 3 chrome bars across a black front grill.  A round 4-leaf clover badge was added to the rear quarter pillars, improved seats with more support, and the script Veloce on the rear.  In 1966 and 1967 they produced 13,442 of these.  In 1968, no Alfas were imported into the US while the Spica fuel injection system was tested and certified to meet new US emission laws. The improved fuel economy and reduced emissions were the win!  The rest of the world (and the US in 1969) got the larger, fuel injected 1750 engine in the GTV, with dual headlights and a single chrome bar across the black grill.  This was also when the nose bodywork changed slightly… the original “stepnose” design was modified to be a smooth front lip.  The interior upgrades included improved seats as well as the prominent dual round instruments straight in front of the driver and a larger console with gauges and controls.   The GTV 1750 was produced through 1970 with 37,459 total made. 

Still very popular, Alfa Romeo rolled out the GTV 2000 in 1971.  The engine had enlarged to 2000cc, and with slightly reworked rear fender lines, and the front grill had the traditional V shaped logo as a raised design built into the chrome cross bars.   Inside were new seats with the telltale wooden headrest supports, new clustered dash and gauges, added chrome trim.   They sold around 30,000 of this last model, before retiring the 105 Series cars with over 200,000 total being built.

No matter how you try there are plenty of details to remember but hopefully, going forward, you’ll be able to spot differences quickly and impress your Alfa Romeo friends and endear yourself to the car owners.   The other thought is to ask the Alfa owner about their cars.  They usually enjoy talking about the details, history, and why their cars are so unique.  Like the owners, they all are.

Reference book credits:

Alfa Romeo from 1910 to 2010  by Maurizio Tabucchi   ISBN: 978-88-7911-503-2

Fantastic Alfa Romeo  by Luciano Greggio  ISBN: 0-7603-0237-5

Alfa Romeo  Always With Passion  by David Owen  ISBN: 1-84425-117-9

Alleggerita   by Tony Adriaensens  ISBN:  9080119717

 

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