Back in 1984, an Alfa Romeo was the “fastest locally produced car” sold in South Africa. It was of course, the Alfa Romeo GTV6 3.0, and it was a result of a collaboration between Alfa Romeo SA and Autodelta, the Italian firm's competition arm, and Alfa Italy.
The fierce on track rivalry between BMW and Alfa, forced the Italian automaker to create this “limited edition” model. Originally, Alfa’s GTV6 2.5 went up against the BMW 535i, but with a much smaller motor, and far less power, it couldn’t match the Bavarian.
Alfa figured than an extra 500cc would do the trick, and make them more competitive. It did, winning its debut race at Kyalami in 1983, and followed that with a stunning 1-2 in the Group One class of the Castrol Three-hour race at Killarney. But the secret to its success was its powerplant, and the story behind it.
Alfa Romeo SA imported the cylinder head casting, crankshaft, special pistons and sleeves from Autodelta - the components required for a capacity change and had larger valves made in Italy to South African specifications. Everything else was done in this country - including the machining of both block and cylinder head.
Alfa’s aim was low and mid-range torque instead of top end grunt, as aggressive acceleration out of corners was what they sought. The EFI of the 2.5 motor was binned in favour of six Dellorto RFP40 carburettors. The carbs were already being used on the Alfa Six sedan, but were rechoked and rejetted to suit the larger capacity and bigger valves.
The bore and stroke were increased from 88 x 68,3mm to 93 x 72mm, yielding a total displacement of 2934cm3. As a result, power jumped from 118kw and 213nm to 128kw and 222nm. While the 3.0 improved on the 2.5’s 0-100kph time of 10.8 seconds to 8.36, it was still slightly off the 535i’s time of 7.9 seconds. They were a dead head in the standing kilometre, both completing the sprint in 29.3 seconds, however its top speed of 224.2kph shaded the big Bimmer’s 220.7kph – but it needed its rev limiter shifted from 6,500 to 7,000rpm in order to achieve it.
Where this motor scored though – especially on track – was how it combined its enormous reserves of power with docile tractability – which made it an exceptional cruiser in the real world. The five-speed rear-mounted overdrive transaxle retained standard ratios, including the 4.1 to 1 final drive, but because the car was lower, and used wider and lower profile tyres, the overall gearing was lower. This combined with a superior power-to-weight ratio (up from 97.2 W/kg to 112.5W/kg) was the reason why it was so strong on acceleration.
Its brakes were said to be superb, running 269mm vented discs up front, and solid discs at the rear. One of the greatest strengths of the GTV6’s chassis, was the feedback it gave the driver. Its wide track and low stance gave a sense of immense stability and grip, as the driver sought to find its limits.
Everything from the powertrain – to the steering – to the suspension worked in perfect harmony to give a truly special and satisfying experience behind the wheel. It was easily distinguished by the aggressive power bulge on the bonnet, deeper front spoiler (which lowered radiator temperature by as much as 5 degrees Celsius), 15-inch Compomotive wheels, and red striping on the bumpers and side mouldings, whilst the interior had a leather-wrapped steering wheel, and Recaro seats covered in Italian velvet.
All of these, together with its low, road-hugging stance conspired to give it the look of a proper race car. To race in Group One, Alfa Romeo had to homologate the model by building at least 200 examples, and this was done from 1983 to 1985, with it carrying a price tag of R29 495. These days expect to pay up to R250 000 for a clean 3.0. Thankfully, Alfa Romeo has kept its V6 tradition alive to this day, with its Giulia Quadrifoglio Verde super sedan.