Many people—myself included—have been guilty of claiming that we live in a “golden age the automotive industry”. The thing is, if you go back to the 90’s, the 60’s, or even as far back as the genesis of the automobile, journalists, engineers, and bar-stool racers have all been saying the same thing about their era. In a clearly biased opinion, all of those past petrol heads are wrong, plain and simple.
As evidence of this, I present the (re- in some cases) proliferation of performance and enthusiast models throughout the globe. For the first time in history, both a Honda Type-R and NSX are on sale in the States at the same time as a Ford RS product and a GT supercar. On top of that, entire brands such as Alpina, Fiat, and Alfa Romeo are coming back to the United States.
To celebrate the return of one such brand—Alfa Romeo—this week’s History Hits is going to take a fond look back at the 70’s and 80’s-era GT/GTV 4-seater fastback coupe, and the special edition, tuned, performance models it spawned.
What Tuners had to Work With:
From the factory, the Alfa Romeo GT and GTV models were strong performers. Nicknamed Alfetta (tiny Alfa) everywhere but the United States, these models shared the bones of the sedan of the same nickname. This means they featured strong (for the time), DOHC four-cylinder engines, powering a transaxle spinning the rear-wheels, which themselves were supported by a sporty De Dion-type suspension.
Perched atop these bones was a Giugiaro-designed body, ensuring the sporty car had the looks to complement its performance. While the body featured the coupe-standard 2-door layout, as the car was based on a 4-door car (albeit a tiny one) the rear seats were usable. The roof sloped back into a fastback-design, with the rear C-pillars featuring sport-inspired louvers: the GTV models featured ‘GTV’ inserts rather than louvers.
As the model matured, more engines were on offer over the standard 1.6L and 1.8L 4-cylinder engines. Performance models were often denoted with the addition of a ‘V’ at the end of the model name. These ‘GTV’ models began with a 2.0L 4-cylinder, eventually growing to include a GTV6 powered by 2.5L and 3.0L V6 engines: the famous ‘Busso’ engines, often cited as a contender for one of the best engines to be produced.
This combination of a good chassis, great engines, and stunning bodywork, ensured that the aftermarket would take notice. Over the years the Alfa Romeo Alfetta coupe spawned numerous special editions; however there are three that truly capture the attention of the more performance minded customers.
The first, and most official, of these modified models was the modified 2.0L GTV built by factory-backed race effort, Autodelta. Modified by the addition of KKK turbocharger, the model produced around 175hp, which also necessitated the revision of the suspension to better cope with the power. Built primarily for racing in FIA Group 4 rallying, rules at the time necessitated the building of 400 street-legal and customer-sold models.
Marketed as the awesomely-named Turbodelta, these 400 models were sold, which coincidently made it the first turbocharged Italian car for serial sale. Passerby were well aware of the breathing-aid strapped to the motor, as the sides of the car featured 80’s spec ‘Turbodelta’ decals.
While the 400 which were built may seem like a small amount, it means that the Turbodelta was the most-produced of the special, limited edition, performance models.
Callaway Twin Turbo:
Featuring much smaller production numbers, and much higher power levels, is the Callaway Twin Turbo GTV6. While Callaway Cars Inc. is now known for their tuning efforts in the Corvette sphere of influence, the origins of their company is actually much more European. As company founder Reeves Callaway had cut his teeth driving the BMW 320i for Bob Bondurant’s racing school, his tuning efforts began with perfecting the platform. Eventually resulting in the Callaway Turbo Systems (C1) for various European models, Callaway Cars had their name on the board.
One company to take notice was Alfa Romeo, which commissioned a high-performance model of their GTV6. This started the C3 project inside Callaway’s tuning halls (Callaway internally labels its projects chronologically starting from C1, and progressing onwards; C2 was a stillborn Indy Car engine). The project’s centerpiece was the turbo that was strapped to each cylinder bank of the ‘Busso’ V6, resulting in a twin-turbocharged powerplant pushing 230bhp and 245lb-ft to the rear-wheels.
Modifications extended to the engine’s details, with the compression ration being lowered through modification of the pistons and heads. To maintain commitment to EPA regulations, the fuel-injection system, and catted-exhaust, had to be maintained in their stock form. To fuel the turbo’s job of supplying the maximum of 10lbs of boost, Callaway had to be inventive. Using BMW 318 throttle bodies to transfer the air from the turbos to the cylinder heads, Callaway equipped each throttle body with its own fuel injector controlled by a ‘Microfueler’ of Callaway’s own design, while leaving the Bosch stock fuel-injection system untouched.
To handle the power, Callaway mildly modified the suspension, while changing the standard, metric wheels with more specialty, Oz, BBS, or other specialty, standard measurement wheels and tires. Depending on whether the working, registered prototypes are counted or not, either 30 or 35 Callaway TwinTurbo Alfa Romeo GTV6’s were ever produced, making this a stunningly rare sight.
Australian Mystery Market:
While the Callaway may number as few as 30, there is an even more rare, almost mythical, twin turbocharged Alfa GTV6 supposedly built for the Australian market. I say supposedly, because almost every site which mentions the twin turbo Callaway version usually have a sentence like Wikipedia’s, “A different twin-turbo GTV was also built briefly for the Australian market”. What is unclear is if this is a different Callaway model, or a different company altogether.
As we look back on these great versions of a single Alfa model, it is important to remember the new possibilities now that Alfa Romeo is returning to the US market. I certainly can’t be the only one who would love to see a Callaway Guila Quadrifoglio, and if you agree with me (or not) let me know in the comments down below! Like the article? Remember to actually hit the like button, as well as sharing it with your friends.
I recently recieved a degree in History from the University of Nevada, Reno.