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Try this at your next Alfa club meeting.

Take a poll. Ask how many of the members own or have owned GTVs in either 1600, 1750, or 2000 flavors. Ask those that sold them if they wished they had them back. Ask those who have them how they feel about their cars.

Odds are, the response will be something like this: 'My GTV was the best Alfa I ever owned. Powerful enough to cruise at 90 mph all day long (take THAT, Ralph Nader); roomy enough for long trips if you considered the back seat an extension of the trunk; easy to work on and a car that for its era defined nimble.'

The tradition of small, 2+2 Alfa Berlinettas or coupes began with the inspired Giulietta Sprint, designed by Bertone in 1954. In 1963, a new, 1.6-liter engine was installed in the Sprint body, along with a five-speed gearbox featuring an overdrive fifth gear.

In that same year, Bertone unveiled a new, more contemporary body, the Giulia Sprint GT. This two-headlight car featured a new floorpan and suspension, along with its distinguishing 'step-nose' hoodline. The leading edge of the hood sat approximately 1/4 inch above the front nosepiece. The 1.6-liter drivetrain was enhanced by the addition of the dual side-draft Weber carburetors.

In 1967, the Giulia Sprint GTV was introduced, an elaboration of the earlier Sprint GT. It had an engine of slightly higher tune, and supportive bucket seats with side bolsters.

For the US market, there was no 1968 model year as Alfa regrouped to meet new American smog and safety regulations.

1969 saw the introduction of the 1750 GTV, which was mechanically and visually easily distinguished from its carbureted predecessors. The 1750 sported a four-headlight front end, the step-nose was gone, SPICA fuel injection was fitted, and the interior was upgraded with tastefully applied wood trim and bucket seats reminiscent of the Junior Zagato line.

Alfa was absent from the US in 1970 again due to our regulations. The 1971 GTV 1750 had only minor interior differences from the 1969, one of them being the unfortunate demise of the stylish bucket seats.

From 1972 to 1974, what most Alfisti consider to be the ultimate Alfa sports coupe was sold, the GTV 2000. The 2000 referred to the 2.0-liter twin-cam engine, with SPICA injection that produced 132hp at 5,500rpm in standard trim. New in 1972 was an integrated front frill and larger tail-lights, as well as a revised dashboard and gauge layout.

Over the years, many GTVs have done double duty as daily drivers, autocrossers and time-trial vehicles. Unlike their Spider brethren who were sometimes allowed to rest indoors during the winter months, GTVs most often flogged along through rain, wind snow and salt.

Finding a decent GTV 2000 these days can be a bit of a challenge. Unfortunately, as their value does not support a full-bore professional restoration, GTVs are most often seen in various forms of 'sympathetic but amateur' restorations, ranging from engine overhauls that consist of little more than fitting new piston rings and honing the cylinder walls to color changes where a good mid-west hailstorm will reveal the "baby-puke orange" original paint beneath the current shiny red. Luckily, all the parts necessary for maintenance are readily available and are not very expensive.

The second gear synchros in the transmissions disappear after 10,000 miles of ham-fisted shifting, and although we prefer to leave them rough as a reminder to practice the fast-disappearing skill of double declutching, transmission overhauls can be accomplished for under $1,000 including parts and labor.

Don't let your fellow cheapskate Alfa owners talk you into simply rotating the synchro rings - replace the inner and outer rings, period. Inspect the teeth of the second gear - if they show any wear from shifting abuse, replace the gear as well or you will just tear up you new synchros in record time.

2000 engines are robust, and bottom ends have been known to survive 200,000 miles if the oil is changed every 3,000 miles. Top-end overhauls, including new valve guides and seats as needed, seem to occur at 60,000 mile intervals; less if your valves aren't properly adjusted, and consequently tighten up and burn.

The SPICA fuel injection is problematic at best, but specialists like Wes Ingram in Seattle seem to be able to make them perform better than they did when new. Given that by now most GTVs are driven only a few thousand miles a year, you probably won't have to perform a pump overhaul until the year 2000. However, it never hurts to have a few spare pumps around just in case. Also - find a guru who understands the Rube Goldberg complexities of the various automatic SPICA adjustments like the thermostatic actuator, have him/her adjust the car, and then DON'T TOUCH ANYTHING.

Our local Alfa Ace, Nasko of Nasko's Imports, has gone so far as to threaten to take our SPICA-equipped cars away from us if he finds any evidence that we have been "adjusting things."

Be careful when fitting aftermarket suspension and performance parts that you don't upset the inherent balance of the car. Gaining a hypothetical few tenths of a second at the next autocross at the expense of a hard ride and peaky power supply doesn't seem like a smart trade-off to me.

While the GTV 2000 is an extremely attractive Alfa, it will never be an extremely expensive Alfa. This is good news for enthusiasts. 'Best in the World' cars with under 20,000 miles (where have they been all these years?) are being advertised for under $20,000, and no one seems very interested.

$10,000 to $12,000 seems to be the magic number for truly exceptional cars accompanied by a chest-full of receipts and no deficiencies.

$7,000 to $8,000 will procure a very nice "daily driver" with no immediate needs.

Spend less than this and you descend directly into 'cheapskate hell' where every dollar you think you are saving by buying a car that only needs a few things like paint, upholstery, mechanicals or suspension work will extract itself two or three times over from your bank account during the ensuing "forced" restoration/repair.

Ten years from now, the perfect GTV 2000 will be a $25,000 car. But don't buy one now for $15,000 and wait. Spend $8,000 for a driver, put the other $7,000 into an aggressive mutual fund, and in seven years you can sell your driver (probably for $10,000 if you don't hit too many tree stumps with your sump), take your now $15,000 from your fund and buy a perfect GTV to enjoy for another ten years.



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