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