Keith’s Blog: Buying the GTV

Eight years ago, on June 18, 2011, I was sitting in my office cleaning off my desk.

I was about to throw away a three-month old copy of the local Alfa Romeo Club Newsletter, “Alfa Bits.”

An ad for a Daytona Blue 1967 GTV caught my attention. It had a 1750 engine and an upgraded Rugh suspension. I knew the car instantly.

The seller was local Alfa engineering legend Dave Rugh. The price was $18,000. It didn’t say “firm,” but I knew Dave, and his prices were always firm — but fair.

Dave had built this car as a daily commuter for his wife Colleen (an SCCA racer like Dave). It had flashy Panasport mags and was lowered just a bit by the Rugh suspension.

I called Dave. To my surprise, after three months, the car was still available. I asked Alex if she wanted to go look at the GTV with me, and two hours later, we were at the Rugh’s home.

The car was straight but a little scruffy. Dave had installed aftermarket high-backed seats and a smaller steering wheel to help clear his long legs. There were some rust bubbles in the rear fender lips and some more behind the front passenger wheel opening.

Dave explained that he had combined the shift towers of two transmissions to create a “short-shift” kit in the GTV (the only one I have ever seen), had drilled out and lightened second gear to facilitate smoother shifts and had installed a roller bearing on fifth gear.

He also said the 1750 engine had been a “mild build,” and it had been done years ago. It had never had any problems.

Included with the car were a set of the proper 1967-only bucket seats and a correct larger-diameter thin-rimmed steering wheel. Particularly appealing to the Alfa Geek in me was the original radio block-off plate in the dash. Dave said that to his knowledge there had never been a radio in the car.

He explained that the car was originally white, but that he had taken it completely apart and painted it Daytona Blue decades ago. I couldn’t find any evidence of white under the hood or in the door jambs.

I took the car for a drive and it felt terrific.

Alex agreed we should try to buy it. I was about to ask Dave about his “friendly price” for a fellow Alfa club member when he said, “Now don’t try to steal this car with a lowball offer like the other Alfa club members have. That’s why I haven’t sold it. My price is $18,000 and it’s firm.”

I said “done” and the car was mine.

The price was a fair one at the time, especially given the incorrect interior, the visible rust and the color change.

Over the past nine years we have been constantly refining the car. Our local guru Nasko has kept it tuned — the engine has never needed anything besides spark plugs and a valve adjust. We replaced the 4.56 rear end with a limited slip 4.1, which the 1750 engine pulls easily. At an indicated 4,000 rpm (2,300 below redline) the car is going over 90 mph.

Tom Black performed the rust repair, and we had a gorgeous Matt Jones Re-Originals interior installed by Guy Recordon. Guy also rebuilt the correct bucket seats. I also had him install seat heaters and lumbar supports. Don’t laugh — I actually drive this car in the winter, and the heated seats are much appreciated when the temperature is in the 30s.

It took us two years to chase down a vibration that turned out to be an improperly balanced driveshaft. During that time the car went to Bill Gillham, who installed European rear taillight lenses, the correct Veloce script on the trunk and basically tidied things up under the hood.

I also had Nasko overhaul the gearbox with parts sourced from Jon Norman’s Alfa Parts. It is now quieter and smoother shifting.

Most recently I installed a set of 165×15 tires, smaller than the 185/70/15s that were on it. The handling and steering improved appreciably. With all my cars, I am tending towards installing the size tires the manufacturers intended. Those suspension engineers at the factory knew what they were doing.

The car has been the cruiser of choice for the SCM gang. It has gone on the Oregon Porsche Club 1,000-mile NW Passage three times, and made the Caravan to Corcorso another. Our styling analyst Robert Cumberford was my co-pilot on that trip, and I doubt I will ever have another three days filled with such an exuberant and thoughtful nonstop conversation.

When I took all three of the SCM 1967 Alfas (GTV, Duetto and Super) on the NW Passage three years ago, Miles Collier declared the GTV to be his favorite driver.

I prefer the single-headlight, step nose 1967 to the later four-headlight cars. The more simplified interior appeals to me as well.

The seating position is nearly perfect for long cruises. While the trunk is not huge, there is plenty of room in the back seat for a small child, a dog or a gym bag full of roadtrip gear. For tunes, I have a Bluetooth speaker that plays music from Pandora. No cutting holes in the door panels or rear decklid.

Partly due to the affection of the gang at Bring-A-Trailer for Alfa GTVs, prices of these cars have climbed dramatically over the past five years. I would think this car should now be worth north of $50,000 — making it one of the few times where I have not paid too much and immediately buried myself in a car. However, it’s not for sale and I can’t imagine when it would be.

SCM’s Mercedes specialist Pierre Hedary recently drove the GTV over 1,000 miles on this year’s NW Passage. His short note at the end summed it all up.

“Now I know why you love this car so much.”

Keith Martin

Keith Martin has been involved with the collector car hobby for more than 30 years. As a writer, publisher, television commentator and enthusiast, he is constantly on the go, meeting collectors and getting involved in their activities throughout the world. He is the founder and publisher of the monthly Sports Car Market and bi-monthly American Car Collector magazines, has written for the New York Times, Automobile, AutoWeek, Road & Track and other publications, is an emcee for numerous concours, and has his own show, “What’s My Car Worth,” shown on Velocity.

Posted in Blogs, Keith Martin

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  1. Lovely car in dark blue. I am heartened by the fact that you buy cars for passion, not necessarily investment and therefore you wind up upside down sometimes (or often!), just as I do (don’t tell my wife!).

  2. I bought my ’74 GTV with the idea of driving it for 3-5 years for the experience, then thinking I’d sell it to buy something else to experience. That was 10 years ago, and the car’s not for sale. I prefer the GTV 1750s for cosmetics in and out, but the 2-liter engine in the ’74 is a really nice unit for driving purposes. I wound up spending quite a bit of money on my car over these 10 years, including a glass-out repaint about 4 years ago, but it’s been well worth it. The car has been resuscitated into a great driver, being incredibly reliable (knock on wood!), and has become a bit of the workhorse of my meager collection. Those GTVs have a way of getting under your skin!