30th September 2014
So at number three of my favourite Alfa Romeo's we have the absolutely classic 105 series Bertone Coupe, those of you that know me will be aware that I have a 1750 GTV series II. In fact, I have the first right-hand-drive series II car, chassis number 1454001, and I have had her for around 25 years! For at least 4 years she was my daily driver and she is an amazing car. I remember once in the early 1990s putting her head to head with an Astra GTE 16 valve and she was quicker to around 60 mph which rather surprised my friend in his shiny new car as even then she was 20 years old! On another occasion, I did a track day at Mallory Park and somehow or other we got mixed up with the Lotus seven owners club. I had two sevens nipping at my heels around the hairpin and being a bit braver then than I am now I gave Bertie a boot full on the exit of the turn and fairly obviously she went into a full opposite lock slide taking up most of the track, this scared the sevens (perhaps unsurprisingly) who thought I was going to spin and they backed off while I was still on the gas. It took them until the pit lane entrance to catch up again and by that time they were stuck behind me for the next few corners, great fun. Now she is a venerable old girl and does not see a lot of that abuse although she happily did a Classic Alfa track day a couple of years ago.
Having had her for a couple of years now I have had plenty of time to fiddle with her and get her how I want her but I suspect her time before my ownership was altogether more interesting. Back in the mists of time a friend of mine who knew I was into Alfa's told me he knew of an Alfa in a lock-up and that it was for sale. So off we trotted to the lock-up and in it stood a very sad and slightly decrepit Bertie, anyway after a bit of haggling we came to a deal at £500 (the other basket case in the shed was a 246 dino which is still there!) Once I had dragged the car back to my workshop I slowly began to take her apart and in the glove box, I found 6 Italian tax disks for Milan all dated for the early '70s which was slightly odd as the car was registered in the UK as a 1977 car (ULB164R). This caught my interest and I also started to note some other oddities; a kmh speedo; white indicators on the front, very strange. I was getting all the spares I needed for Bertie from Chris Sweetapple who at the time was based in Waltham Abbey just down the road from me and I mentioned this to him. He came up to have a look after we had removed some of the paint from the chassis number and discovered her identity. Those of you with the same anorak as me will know that the differences on a right-hand drive 1750 series II are halogen headlights with dual line brakes with twin servo's slimmer bumpers with over-riders, indicators mounted on the body and internal trim changes. Well, my car has all the series II modifications but has a series I interior with the sculpted seats. The brackets for the servos are hand-welded on, not spot welded as the later cars were, and just to add to the mystery she has a 2.0l rear panel which has been fitted very professionally. By the way, it has been fitted I think it may have been done at the factory. So she was a right â€œbitsaâ€ when she was imported in 1977 and by the time I bought her she had been fitted with a 2.0L engine as well just to add to the mix.
So now as she needed a complete restoration it was my turn to put my signature on the car, and as I saw it I had two options; make the car what I wanted or restore it to its original specification. Most of the time I would opt for originality, that is the way Alfa designed it and they spent millions doing it and who am I to disagree. But in this case, it was virtually impossible to tell how it had left the factory so I really did not have an option; I had to go for my own take on the car which is always a challenge. When a customer comes to me wanting to modify their car, the first thing I always do is send them away with a flea in their ear informing them of the amount of test driving Alfa did, how much Alfa spent, etc, etc, etc you get the idea. IF they come back they get the next lecture which is to make sure that they know EXACTLY what they want to end up with from the start. For example, should you initially decide that you want say 165-170 bhp from your Bertie the modifications that would have to be made would be totally different to the ones carried out to get 200 bhp. So if you start by ordering a 165 bhp engine and then get bored with it and want 200 bhp you will end up having a lot of the work done twice which is a waste of time; you have been warned! So bearing in mind my own advice I proceeded with carefully restoring Bertie, so much care in fact that the restoration took 10 years and I have still got issues with some of the things I did. The interior was originally cream with cream door cards, which with green is a very nice colour combination. However, it is far from practical in my job and so the seats are now leather bolsters with Alcantara squabs all finished in black! This also meant that I could replace the door cards as cream ones were not easily available at the time; unfortunately, as practical as they are especially with my two small sons climbing all over them I still prefer the original cream!
More successful modifications were the fitting of a limited-slip differential which is a must if you intend to use any of the performance of the 2.0l and which I would recommend to anyone. I also fitted the electronic ignition from an Alfetta which has improved the starting immeasurably. I can now leave her for 3-4 months and she will still start, better than most modern cars which will have a flat battery, drained by some weird electrical gismo that can't be turn off! I have also modified the front lights so the outer light does main and dip and the inner lamp just does main, this gives four main beam lights which are extremely effective. Last but not least I have put orange indicator bulbs behind the white lenses to keep the original look while getting it through the MOT.
Bertie is my wife, Isobel's, favourite Alfa and I can see exactly why and I do love them both* dearly. She is still a fast car and has no problem maintaining illegal speeds on the motorway and would do it day in day out. Cornering is how shall I put it, interesting! She is not a modern car and in many ways, this is where her age shows the most. The 185/70-13 tyres do not compare in any way at all to a modern 235/45-18 fitted to a Brera and the live rear axle defiantly makes itself felt when you hit an uneven road surface, the comparison is like night and day. That said, I can take liberties with the handling in front of her majesties finest and they just laugh as she is not even going particularly fast as far as they are concerned. While back in the office I get all the fun and the feedback from her with much more room for error; everything happens at 1/2 the speed of a modern car which is lovely.
16 November 2008
This is one of my favourite Alfa Romeos; I personally own a 1750 GTV mark 2 which I have had since 1988. The car however was released some 8 years before my car was built. In late summer 1963, the prototype was introduced to the public at Alfa Romeo's new factory at Arese. After a second showing at the Frankfurt Motor Show, the car went into production in late 1964. It was officially known as the Giulia Sprint GT but is now almost universally known as a Bertone Coupe after the design house that styled it.
Early cars had a stepped front and are known as such. These are the rarest of models you can get now and are among the most collectable of the mass-produced Bertone's.
The car is a 2+2 and was based on a Giulia saloon chassis, shortened by 160mm. The design was inspired by the Alfa Romeo 2000 of 1960. It is a very clean design, stripped of all superfluous ornamentation.
The car initially came with the 1600cc engine straight out of the saloon, however, in order to keep up with the sporting image of a Coupe, the GT came with twin carbs to increase the power output. The engine drive went through a very direct and easy-to-use 5 speed gear box, on to a live rear axle.
Braking was by disk brakes all round, and this was a very powerful setup. The suspension is by coil springs all round and to reduce the unsprung mass to a minimum, the shock absorbers were mounted upside down. This was one of the most advanced small cars of the time and would show a clean pair of heels to all but the most exotic supercar of the day.
In 1965 the Giulia GTC, GTA and GTV were released. The GTV had some very minor but significant changes; the inlet valve size was increased by 2mm, taking the maximum speed up to 185 km/h. The car sported the Veloce badge between the number plate and the right-hand rear light. In 1966 the little GT, the 1300, was released, presented to the press at the Balocco proving ground the 1300 weighed only 20 kgs less than the 1600 and initially came without a brake servo which made the brakes somewhat heavy. This was rectified in late 1967. Interestingly you could get hire purchase to buy a 1300 GT.
By 1967 the 1600 had lost its crown as the ultimate Giulia to the 1750 GTV. The release of the 1750 heralded the only major change to the bodywork of the Bertone coupe, the step front was smoothed out and the indicators were moved down to below the headlamps. Power was up to 122 bhp and the car got my favourite interior with the hooded central rev counter and Speedo, while the auxiliary gauges were put into the top of the centre console. The seats have a very interesting shape with cutouts between the centre of the seat and the side supports.
In 1970 the 1750 was updated and got dual circuit brakes, halogen headlamps, and bumper over-riders. Finally, in late 1972 at Gardone Riviera, the 2000 GTV was introduced. This had an LSD in order to keep the engines 132 bhp under control. The car is easy to distinguish by having a different grill, larger rear lights, and 2000 in script across the boot lid.
This was the final incarnation of the Bertone coupe and it went on until 1977 running in conjunction with the Alfetta GT for a number of years.