For first gear, it’ ll give us first gear ra­tio x diff ra­tio, or 3 x 4.1 = 12.3

New Zealand Classic Car - - FEATURE - By al­ter­ing the diff ra­tio to a much closer unit, for ex­am­ple, a 4:1, we can re­duce the top speed in first, mak­ing ac­cel­er­a­tion bet­ter. Let’s work it out.

Fol­low­ing the same cal­cu­la­tion as be­fore, we get:

The gen­eral man­ager of our pub­lish­ing com­pany shook his head in dis­be­lief. Why would any­one spend $5800 on a brand-spank­ing Alfa Romeo 1750 GTV, when an equally new Ford Cortina 1600 could be driven out of the show­room for a mere $2660? It was 1969, and mag­a­zine’s pho­tog­ra­pher and pro­duc­tion man Jack In­wood was air­ing his en­thu­si­asm for his newly ac­quired Alfa, which stood in the staff car park.

There was, of course, no need for an an­swer to the ques­tion posed, since it merely high­lighted the dif­fer­ence be­tween a car en­thu­si­ast and some­one who sim­ply re­garded a mo­tor ve­hi­cle as a means of trans­port. In­wood’s Ital­ian-car love af­fair had be­gun with the pur­chase of a new Fiat 1500 five years ear­lier, be­fore pro­gress­ing to a rare Alfa Guilia GT 1600 Sprint that had been the per­sonal trans­port of New Zealand mo­tor rac­ing cham­pion Ross Jensen. Jack so loved this car that the step up to the 1750 GTV model seemed only nat­u­ral.

Coin­ci­den­tally, Jensen held the Alfa Romeo fran­chise at his deal­er­ship in Auck­land’s New­mar­ket, and dur­ing this ten­ure lent the white Guilia 1600 to us to drive, and pho­to­graph with Glassie Gray’s fa­mous 1933 Za­gato-bod­ied 1750cc su­per­charged Alfa Romeo. In 1964, New Zealand was home to just two of the hand­some Ber­ton­estyled Guilia Sprints, a con­se­quence of those im­port-re­stricted pre-dec­i­mal-cur­rency days when al­most half the lo­cal re­tail of $4600 was needed in over­seas funds to se­cure an im­port li­cence.

Al­fas have never been thick on the ground in our neck of the woods, but that does not de­tract from the ap­peal of this spe­cial brand, which has been around for more than 100 years. Count Giovanni ‘Johnny’ Lu­rani, who raced Al­fas for 20 years be­tween 1928 and 1948 and owned 17 of them, said, “The

Track suc­cess

New Zealan­ders’ full ap­pre­ci­a­tion of Alfa magic dawned in 1951, when Les Moore im­ported two re­mark­able rac­ing ex­am­ples — an 8C 2300 and the 1935 ex-nu­volari works P3. Ron Roycroft en­joyed con­sid­er­able com­pe­ti­tion suc­cess in the P3, an amaz­ing car that wound up in the hands of Bill Clark in Christchurch be­fore val­ues raced away, and the ma­chine was sold at a Monaco auc­tion in 1989.

Alfa Romeo and mo­tor sport have al­ways been syn­ony­mous, of course, with Max Ste­wart run­ning a 1.6-litre four-valve Alfa-en­gined Mil­dren open-wheeler in the Aus­tralian legs of the 1969 Tas­man se­ries and, ear­lier, a pair of 1600 GTV

’70s, and, when the 2000 was last im­ported in 1976, the price has risen to $9212. It’s doubt­ful that more than a hand­ful of 1300s ever landed in New Zealand.

Driv­ing en­joy­ment

The 1600 GT Sprint en­joyed an en­thu­si­as­tic re­cep­tion from day one. mag­a­zine in the US had this to say in its March 1963 edi­tion: “Few cars can ri­val the 1600 Alfa for sheer driv­ing en­joy­ment, and the keen driver de­vot­ing his full at­ten­tion to driv­ing it will be am­ply re­warded. The car does every­thing so ef­fort­lessly, with proper use of the five-speed gear­box, that one gets the feel­ing of com­mand­ing much more power than it ac­tu­ally puts out. And as for fa­tigue, it just never seems to set in — this car’s all fun.”

By to­day’s stan­dards, the 1600 model is no fire­ball, but the light al­loy two-valves-per­cylin­der mo­tor gave good per­for­mance in spite of the mod­est power out­put of 79kw (106bhp). What was there not to like about the hand­some en­gine, with the high stan­dard of fin­ish of the camshaft cov­ers, in­tri­cate fin­ning of the alu­minium oil pan, and the twin hor­i­zon­tal We­ber car­bu­ret­tors?

We were sur­prised at the will­ing­ness of the 948kg coupé at the top end, and the max­i­mum speeds of 160kph in fourth gear and 180kph in fifth. Alfa in­creased the en­gine stroke for the 1750, which has an ac­tual ca­pac­ity of 1779cc and achieved peak power at lower revs than the 1600. It was branded ‘1750’ rather than ‘1800’ be­cause of the as­so­ci­a­tion with Alfa’s renowned pre-war rac­ing 1750s, and power in­creased to 90kw (120bhp). Fi­nally, the iden­ti­cal-stroke, al­beit big­ger-bore, 2000 GTV’S en­gine pro­duced 97kw (130bhp).

Jack In­wood took de­liv­ery of the 1600 Sprint, reg­is­tra­tion AR1040, a few months af­ter our test re­view in the mag­a­zine, and the car con­tin­ues to give ster­ling per­for­mance with no prob­lems. It seemed in­evitable that he would ad­vance to a 1750 GTV a few years later, and he was just as de­lighted with the newer model. Eas­ily

Head to head

By the late ’60s, the Volk­swa­gen agent — Five Star Mo­tors in Auck­land — also held the Alfa fran­chise and, in 1969, en­trusted its lone 1750 GTV demon­stra­tor to us for a four-day 1250km test that in­cluded an Auck­land-toLevin re­turn jour­ney. At the time, the Alfa cost twice as much as a new MGB GT, yet it was ar­guably twice as good to drive.

We still re­tained mem­o­ries of the pas­sion­ately en­gi­neered 1600 Sprint with the five-speed man­ual gear­box, light clutch, four­wheel disc brakes, and tac­tile han­dling. The ride was firm, but there were no com­plaints about the live rear axle with lo­cat­ing arms and coil spring. A re­ac­tion link on the rear axle acted as a sta­bi­lizer, ab­sorb­ing axle-to­body move­ment and re­duc­ing any prospects of rear-end break away. The Alfa could be thrown about with aban­don while re­main­ing safe and se­cure.

So, how do the two mod­els fare to­day? The lower-revving 1750 lacks any sig­nif­i­cant per­for­mance in­crease over the older 1600 but is more flex­i­ble, eas­ier to drive, qui­eter, and more re­fined. Mi­nor changes were made to the front sus­pen­sion that re­tained the lower A-arms with two up­per links, rais­ing the roll­cen­tre height, while the ride was im­proved by the adop­tion of slightly softer front springs.

Ex­tra torque, well-cho­sen gear ra­tios, and a slick trans­mis­sion (ham­pered moder­ately by a new, if some­what heavy, hy­draulic clutch) all add to the fine cruis­ing abil­ity of the car, with its top speed of 191kph and zero to 100kph time of 9.4 sec­onds — al­most two sec­onds quicker than the 1600. Servo-as­sisted ATE discs, aided by a pres­sure-lim­it­ing valve fit­ted to the rear brake cir­cuit, give strong stop­ping power with ex­cel­lent pedal pres­sure.

There was less body roll than be­fore, although the Miche­lin XAS 165x14 tyres on the 1750 test car failed to in­spire on slip­pery, wet sur­faces. That said, the Alfa can be beau­ti­fully bal­anced be­tween the steer­ing and throt­tle. On tight cor­ners, when driven in anger, the in­side rear wheel is in­clined

Left: Safe, pre­dictable han­dling in the 1600 GT Guilia, seen here on the Levin race track

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