Buyer's Guide

Buying Guide: Alfa Romeo GTV6 (1981 – 1987)

by Alisdair Suttie
20 July 2022 7 min read
Buying Guide: Alfa Romeo GTV6 (1981 – 1987)
Photos: Collecting Cars

An Alfa Romeo coupé with a melodic V6 engine that doesn’t cost a bundle to own or run? That’ll be the GTV6. Unlike the earlier 105 Series GTV or the later origami-styled SZ, which both cost from £40,000 nowadays for a decent example, the 116 series coupé can be had for a quarter of the price yet still provides all of the style and driving enjoyment of its highly regarded relatives.

Alfa introduced the first 116 GTV in 1973, a year after the boxy Alfetta saloon it used as a base. With a shortened wheelbase and styling by ItalDesign, it instantly gave Alfa a credible coupé for the 1970s to take on the likes of the Ford Capri and Datsun 240Z, reviewed here. It started life with a 1.8-litre engine, followed by 1.6- and 2.0-litre four-cylinder motors that offered the usual Italian zing and excellent handling. But the best was still to come…

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When the 1970s gave way to the 1980s, a facelift kept the GTV in the hunt, but its performance was beginning to look a little limp next to competition from the Mazda RX-7 and Porsche 924, not to mention the brawny 2.8-litre Capri. Alfa solved this when it dropped the 2.5-litre V6 engine from the decent but nondescript 6 saloon in its handsome coupé to create the GTV6. A measure of the success of this transplant is the V6 had a relatively short production life up until 1987 yet accounted for a third of sales for the coupé.

Alfa Romeo GTV6

Much of the appeal of the GTV6 lay in that fantastic engine, which was smooth and delivered 160bhp at 5600rpm. That was enough for 0-60mph in 8.5 seconds, though a Capri 2.8i knocked half a second off that and cost £7995 compared it the Alfa’s £9495 in 1981. Also, a Porsche 924 was almost £400 cheaper, so the GTV6 was a connoisseur’s choice even when new. That didn’t stop the plaudits flowing in from magazine road testers about the Italian’s handling balance, excellent steering, and fine grand touring credentials.

All of this had to be offset against a driving position that demanded an almost comically legs bent, arms outstretched position for the driver. There was also the less-than-ideal dash design, though this was limited to earlier cars and later ones gained a more sensible instrument pod with all of the main dials in front of the driver. The GTV6 could seat four people at a push, but the rear was always best reserved for kids, while the boot was hampered by no folding rear seats.

None of this should put you off considering the Alfa Romeo GTV6 if you’re in the market for a 1980s coupé. It’s good looking, drives well, and you get that magnificent V6 engine – all for a reasonable outlay.

What’s a GTV6 like to drive?

Alfa Romeo GTV6

Cultured is a word that keeps coming to mind as you make progress in the Alfa Romeo GTV6. Whether it’s the engine, the ride or the handling, this is a car that speaks quietly but firmly of pedigree. Alfa enjoyed a fair bit of success on the race track with the GTV, but it didn’t kowtow to over-firm settings for the road car in the way many modern sports cars do. What you get, instead, is a well damped ride that can seem a shade on the soft side compared to a BMW 325i Sport. However, there’s none of the looseness you’ll find in a Ford Capri or the E30 3 Series as you corner, especially in the wet. Provoke the GTV6 and it will slide, but drive with any degree of competence and the Alfa rewards with fluent, adept handling.

It would be even better if the steering had a little more feel in the straight-ahead position, but this is nit-picking and many GTV6s come with a smaller steering wheel than the original to address this issue to some extent. What’s harder to overcome is the vague, notchy feel of the gear lever as you work it through the changes. Even if the gearbox and its linkages are in good shape, the shift isn’t brilliant. However, the transaxle transmission does endow the GTV6 with nigh-on perfect 50/50 front to rear weight balance, and that accounts for much of the car’s fine handling.

Alfa Romeo GTV6 engine

And then we come to that 2.5-litre V6 engine, which is another part of the GTV6 that earns it such a cultured aura. Starting the motor from cold still requires a tug on the choke lever even though the engine uses Bosch L-Jetronic fuel injection. With the V6 up and running, and warmed through, you might notice a little whirr from the transaxle, but this is just because it’s quite close to you as it nestles between the rear seats. Once you’re accustomed to the mediocre gearshift, making the most of the 2.5-litre engine is a pleasure. It revs keenly, picking up strongly from 4000rpm where peak torque of 157lb ft lies. From there to peak power at 5600rpm and on to just beyond 6000rpm on the rev counter, the GTV6 has one of the world’s great engine notes. It’s not excessively loud or aggressive, it’s simply a noise you want to hear again and again. At a motorway cruise, the engine is quiet, while wind noise and road noise are commendably distant in the cabin.

Make full use of the 160bhp on offer in the GTV6 and it gets from 0-60mph in 8.5 seconds according to Autocar’s original road test figures. Keep your foot to the floor in fifth gear and the Alfa will top out at 130mph. With some consideration for fuel consumption, you should see mid-20s average economy.

How much does a GTV6 cost?

Alfa Romeo GTV6 buying guide

Prices for the GTV6 have been slowly moving up, but not in the way they have for the likes of the Ford Capri or Audi Quattro. This means you can find well sorted and looked after GTV6s in the £10,000 to £12,000 bracket. These cars will need some work either to bring them up to a higher standard but they can be used right away and offer cracking value for money.

You can browse values using the Hagerty Price Guide, here, but if you want a GTV6 that’s in excellent fettle, reckon on spending around £24,000, while the very best concours cars will require £36,000. Don’t rule out a left-hand drive version if you can’t find your perfect car in right-hand drive, as the market for GTV6s is stronger in Europe than the UK, so you should always be able to sell it on.

Another point to consider with the GTV6 is whether or not to buy on that has been modified. Alfa Romeo built a 3-litre version for the South African market, but it was not sold in Europe officially. Some 3-litre cars have made it the UK and are sought after, but plenty more 2.5s have been converted using the engine from the later 164 saloon. It’s a simple swap and offers an extra 30bhp without compromising the handling or balance of the car. However, be wary of spending extra to own a car converted to 3-litre power as originality usually wins out.

What goes wrong and what should you look for when buying a GTV6?

Alfa Romeo GTV6 interior

Underneath the distinctive bonnet bulge that is unique to the six-cylinder models, the 2.5-litre engine is a robust all-aluminium 60-degree V6. When looked after and routine maintenance is adhered to rigorously, this V6 can easily cover 150,000 miles and still feel fit. The head gaskets can fail, but modern one-piece replacements are much longer lasting and cost £120 for a set. Valve guides wear, so look for blue smoke on the overrun during a test drive. At the beginning of a test drive, watch to see if the owner lets the car warm through fully as the engine needs this to avoid blowing oil seals.

Most GTV6s will have had the troublesome twin-plate clutch replaced with the stronger, better to use single-plate type from the 3.0-litre V6 75 saloon. It’s a worthwhile upgrade and the 75’s clutch is also cheaper to buy. Staying with the transmission, don’t be surprised by a poor gearshift, but do factor in the cost of replacing the bushes to improve the change from a specialist such as EB Spares, which has all of the parts to do this job. A clonk from the gearbox is most likely worn mounts and these are readily available.

Alfa Romeo GTV6 interior

The rear brakes on the GTV6 use inboard solid discs, which are fine for road use, but they can fade under harder driving conditions. They are also difficult to access due to their design and the calipers are prone to sticking. New calipers are available, but a better overall solution is EB Spares’ ventilated rear disc conversion kit that comes in at £620 plus VAT. It comes with everything you need to complete the job and improves the brake pedal feel and stopping power, especially when combined with uprated drilled and grooved front discs. If the GTV6’s handling doesn’t feel accurate and responsive, new suspension bushes should put the sparkle back. You also need to check the front suspension turrets for rust.

Talking of corrosion, there are plenty of places to look for it lurking in this Alfa Romeo. Start with the wheelarches and move to the inner wings, then the sills, door bottoms, floorpans, jacking points and boot floor. Back on top, the front scuttle panel, A-pillars where they meet the windscreen, and the rear edge of the tailgate all need close inspection.

Most electrical niggles in the GTV6 are down to old age and poor earths, so time spent cleaning these connections pays dividends. The Bosch L-Jetronic fuel injection is reliable, so it shouldn’t give rise to any problems. More of a concern should be missing interior trim as it’s hard to come by secondhand, and the seats’ velour trim can disintegrate.

Which is the right GTV6 for you?

Alfa Romeo GTV6 buyers guide

If it’s a UK-spec Alfa Romeo GTV6 you want, there’s really only one model to choose from as the car was largely unchanged during its lifetime. Later cars benefitted from Recaro front seats, which offer a little more support, but you should buy a GTV6 on overall condition first and foremost. Cars from 1984 are reckoned to be a little quicker off the mark, knocking around half a second from the 0-60mph dash, while if you find one of the rare South African 3-litre models, it’s worth having. But with the GTV6, the rule of thumb is that condition trumps specification.

With so many alternatives from the same era, it’s worth driving a few different models – a to make sure the GTV6 is for you.

Stylish, great to drive and still in reasonable supply and at sensible prices, the GTV6 is one of those cars most enthusiasts can imagine themselves owning. Make it a reality and we doubt you’d regret it.

Read more

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  • Gianni says:

    You missed the fact that the Busso v-6 is interference and you need to be religious in replacing the timing belt along with the oil-fed tensioner that can leak on the belt and shorten its life or if you replace it with the dry tensioner, it can fail with age. Not insurmountable problems to own that song full v-6, but keep on top of T-belt maintenance.

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