Alfa Romeo 147 GTA: Future classic

By: Joe Kenwright

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Future classic: Alfa Romeo 147 GTA. Joe Kenwright gives us the low-down on an Italian hotrod

Alfa Romeo 147 GTA: Future classic
Alfa Romeo 147 GTA

 

Alfa Romeo 147 GTA

There was a time when all Alfa fans drew a clear line between the company's rear-drive models and more recent front-drive models. The problem is that for a new generation of owners, Alfa Romeo has never been equated with rear-wheel drive cars and among the more recent models, the Alfa 147 GTA has no peer.

If you are from the front-drive generation and sampled the last of the Alfetta-based RWD sedans and coupes, you might wonder what all the fuss is about. The 75/90's poor quality build materials and woeful gearshift don't make much sense against today's models.

There is another factor that favours the 147 GTA. If you have grown up almost solely with modern fast Alfas, an outstanding front-driver will count for more than some flawed old rear-driver. As an affordable used choice, Alfa's 147 GTA goes head-to-head with a Golf GTI but replaces German precision with Italian passion, beguiling imperfection and a healthy dose of mongrel.

It's what the XU-1 Torana was to 1970s children when Holden slotted a race-ready 3.3-litre six into a tiny 1.3-litre Viva. Alfa crammed its hefty quad-cam 3.2-litre V6 into the engine bay of its 147 hatchback. Packaging a gearbox and final drive strong enough to get the 147's 184kW/300Nm to the front wheels was no cake walk.

In fact, Alfa didn't get it right first-up, as the GTA needed the Q2 limited-slip diff upgrade to counter torque steer, though most have it now.

The 147 GTA was also a special-build model, which must help future desirability. The upgraded body still looks sexy with its extra detailing and flared wheelarches. The 166 family car engine was stroked, given improved intake and exhaust ports, and an engine oil cooler before it was fed through a heavy-duty six-speed transmission, clutch and driveshafts. Reinforced front suspension components, firmer springs, dampers and anti-roll bars, plus new rear geometry left little of the original 147.

A Selespeed automated manual option was offered in May 2004 but is crude compared to today's dual-clutch transmissions.

The 147 GTA's extra fuel consumption, larger turning circle and running costs are easily balanced by the chassis sophistication, body and cabin presentation, its glorious engine and sense of occasion - all too rare in a modern car. It'll require more owner commitment than a Japanese model but the rewards are there.

Whether it comes with the cloth-trimmed standard seats or leather-covered sports seats can change the cabin feel significantly. One of the 100 Monza limited-edition manuals from March 2005 is potentially the most valuable. Earlier cars start well below $20,000.

 

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