In 1964, Alfa Romeo and Porsche were roughly on par with their mass-production cars. The 356C and the Giulia Spider Veloce had similar performance.

But by 1970 the two companies were worlds apart and have continued to diverge. Two things happened.

First, in 1965 Porsche introduced the 6-cylinder 911. It immediately outclassed Alfa’s new offering the four-cylinder Duetto—which was also heavier than the Giulia it replaced. It took Alfa 16 years, until 1981, to release the 6-cylinder GTV6.

The other thing that widened the gap between the two marques was their approach to smog and safety regulations. Without question, Porsche had more resources to respond to these regulatory challenges that kicked in 1968.

Underfunded Alfa was always on the defensive. It failed to produce a U.S.-legal car in 1968 or 1970, much to the dismay of its dealers. Despite what SPICA fuel injection lovers say, this Weber-replacing mechanical pump, adapted from another use, worked well only when attended to by those who understood them. Such experts were far and few between and remain so today.

Further, Porsche crafted a semi-attractive solution to the 5-mph bumper challenge. (I have a 1975 911.) Alfa, however, grafted heavy, ugly protuberances to its Spiders, Berlinas and Alfettas. On the Spider, the massive bumpers lasted until the 1991 S4. (I’ve got one of those too.)

Even during its dark “mid-years” of 1975-78, Porsches were relatively quick and still sports cars. The smog-strangled, powerless, heavy Alfetta GTs, Berlinas and Spiders were, in stock form, slow and clumsy.

I lived through this period, and in fact sold new Alfas for the Portland dealership, Ron Tonkin Grand Turismo. It was with sadness that I watched Porsche continue to evolve with iconic models like the SC while Alfa countered by offering “The Graduate,” which was nothing more than a decontented Spider.

I am far more an Alfa Boy than I am a Porche Guy, although I’ve had my share of each. I’m afraid that those of us looking to Alfa’s glory days with production machines that could stand head-to-head with Porsche are going to have to keep our or focus in the 1960s.

Do you agree that the 750-series Giuliettas, 101-series Giulias, and 105-series GTVs and Supers were the last great Alfas?


  1. Wow, great points made. My guess is a lot of the same could be said about British cars and the Datsun 240Z that wiped them out about the same time. But was it inevitable that Alfa and MG/Triumph lost out to the other guys? Maybe. Alfa was certainly starved for cash at that time relative to Porsche, but what about the Brits? They’d had a decent amount of market share for decades. And Datsun was seen (like all Japanese products) as inferior in the early 70’s. My guess is that there was also a fair amount of complacency and laziness. Sometimes (Like after a big defeat in a big war!), being reduced to rubble can be a huge motivator. Combine that with brilliant leaders (Porsche) and an almost maniacal work ethic and you have a recipe for winning.

  2. I have to agree with Keith. I am a committed Alfisti, but struggle to generate as much enthusiasm for post 105 Series cars as I can for my 1750 GTV or 750/101 Series cars. BMW was another comparator with the 2002 series cars, but greater investment moved them away from Alfa as well…

  3. The 1968 “Safe Car Act” and the 1968 “Clean Air Act” was pretty traumatic to alot of manufacturers (you want a 72 Corvette or a 75 for example?). It appears those who tried to adapt rather than change, lost out. The MGB traversed it all completely intact (same chassis and same engine) yet became only heavier and weaker. Alfa did eventually bring out a “new” cars but sold adaptive cars first. I wonder if offering heavy and weak “Bumper Cars” caused buyers to turn away.

  4. Can’t say that I’m much into classic Alfas, but as for modern ones…I purchased a 2023 Giulia Quadrifoglio last year. What a machine, holy smokes! Alfa hit it outta the park with this car. As they are going all electric starting with the 2025 models, to me, this is the last great (ICE) Alfa.

  5. I own a 57 Sprint and a 70 JrZ, and they were a good match for Porsche. Quality was pretty good and the cars had innovations like twin cam alloy engines and five speed transmissions very early in the game. And more interesting styling as well. Alfa quality took a nose dive in the 70s. And that was big factor in their defeat.
    Everything you have said is spot-on. BaT results reflect the miniscule interest in Alfa Romeo as a brand. Porsches almost always sell on BaT, at very healthy prices. Alfas are RNM much more frequently. New Alfas are glued to the showroom floor, even though the product is quite good. But don’t get me started on the $50,000 plug in hybrid Tonale, a market niche that no one wanted filled. What were they thinking in the marketing department? This dud will kill the brand. If it had been $39,995 as an ICE only vehicle with decent leases, it would have worked. Vey frustrating.

  6. I owned a 58 Sprint Veloce and it would go head to head with any equivalent Porsche.

    The 67 Duetto was Alfas US-legal highpoint. It’s been all downhill since then. (Excluding modern cars which I know nothing about and have no interest). Thanks for your thoughts.

    • “The 67 Duetto was Alfas US-legal highpoint. It’s been all downhill since then.”
      I do not agree with the second phrase. The GTVs were excellent cars and better looking than any Porsche.
      Design is also a very important element in cars. Porsche has overlooked design. Old and new Porsches are all variations of the same design.

      GTV6s were also very good as it had an excellent engine and nice design.

    • Keith, do you still do a B-J write up each year? I’m curious about this years numbers and trends. As an 80+ year old enthusiast, it’s always interesting to see what each January brings to Scottsdale. I continue to be amazed at what the rest-o-mods can bring! $1M+ commission for a ’67 Corvette Roadster for example. Thanks

  7. Keith’s situation appraisal is exactly how I remember the rise of Porsche and fall of Alfa.
    One very important factor is missing. After the 904 and 906 were launched, Porsche race cars that followed (including 911 variants) would dominate the Motorsport world for a long time. Win on Sunday sell on Monday.
    And what baby boomer doesn’t relate to Steve McQueen. Who’s never been pictured in a T33, GTA, etc.

  8. Agree that Alfa’s and Porsche’s paths diverged in the late 60s / early 70s. Up until then, Alfa actually had a few advantages–a broader line up including a wonderful sedan, more forgiving handling, and beautiful Italian designs. (And, hey, even a late-70s Spider looks better than a 914…) Then Alfa became the underdog at some point, which is endearing in itself to us committed Alfisti. The 105 cars are much more affordable than their Porsche counterparts and Alfa owners are a relatively accepting bunch that tends to use their cars. I have a scruffy 74 Spider that serves as a fair weather daily driver and, price notwithstanding, there is no contemporary 911 that I rather have than my 1970 Giulia sedan. It may not have won all the races but can’t be beat in terms of fun and practicality.

  9. alfa’s also suffered from weak dealerships,most were secondary offerings,(meaning; they shared showroom floors with other makes,usually american marques) when i bought my spider in 1986,it was a mainly oldsmobile dealership and they only had 1 alfa mechanic,as did other dealerships in the area. i still have my spider and do all the work myself,mechanics in my area will not work on the older models,even the present dealers will not touch them.

  10. I am a contemporary Alfisti with a budget for only one car. I have enjoyed a red 2017 Giulia since new and while I miss the multiple models, it works for me. The beauty is unsurpassed in the class and driving pleasure is there at all speeds, as it is far quicker than my former 1976 Alfetta GT. It is not dependent on touch screens and nanny nonsense like so many new cars (check out Harry’s Garage video on the new BMW i5 M50 EV).

  11. My. 2000 GTV was, on the days it ran right, more fun than any car I have ever owned. Unfortunately there were very few days it ran right. Colder weather starts put enough fuel in to wash down the cylinders resulting in scoring and high oil consumption- Alfa claimed it was normal and did nothing until I paid to have it torn apart to prove there was a problem.

  12. Owning both a ’65 Giulia Spider and a ’65 Porsche 912 for decades has provoked interesting thoughts. The two are quite similar in weight, power, and fun but obviously differ greatly otherwise. The 912 was built better and steers and handles much better. The Alfa offers that great convertible feeling on a sunny day in the Rockies, but give me the 912 when it’s cold and snowing. Dealers don’t matter to me now, but back in the day, Alfa dealers were often a little suspect; here today, gone tomorrow. Craig Morningstar is my friend, but Porsche always did a better job of supporting club activities than Alfa did. Porsche parts are easier to find today.

    Back in 1967, I went to the Alfa dealer in State College, Pennsylvania, ready to buy. He had a red GTV on the showroom floor and suggested we drive it. Unfortunately, it had a dead battery, so I went across town and bought the used 912 instead. I became very active in the Porsche world and even met my wife through PCA. Just think, one dead battery changed my life!

    Anyone who owns a German car should also own an Italian car—and vice-versa.

  13. Seems like there are some parallels to the slow-motion crash and complete demise of the English motorcycle industry, about which books have been written. It’s more forgivable, though no less tragic, with Alfa, as they probably saw what was happening but didn’t have the resources to fight for their share of the market. Considering the tradition of fine engineering at Alfa, had they had the funds they might have been able to keep up with Porsche.

  14. Porsches, while being excellent cars of high quality always lacked a bit of the „passion-element“ of the Italian competition. Porsches from the Seventies on were probably better cars than comparable automobiles from Italy but when it comes to design the Italians usually had the advantage. I have a 1967 Giulia GT stepnose and love it to bits. If I was offered an early 911 in exchange I would take it of course and would immediately swap it for another stepnose AND a Duetto spider.

  15. I’ve owned 9 street Alfas and 2 full race Alfas. All 105/115 except for a single Milano. Loved the Milano. The ownership experience was not what one would have hoped with the Alfa and the dealer duking it out over warranty issues. Still have my 73 Spider hot rod. Enough said.