Alfa GTV Restoration, Part I - Love Thy Neighbor
It was a 1974 Alfa Romeo GTV that was sitting in my next-door neighbor's backyard for 20 years. Greg Higham was my neighbor and friend. He is a car guy like me but unlike me, he was actually pretty deep in the sports car racing industry back in the 1980’s as Head of Bridgestone Racing in the US (Greg might be one of the best story tellers on the planet). That said, he called me up in August of 2017 to tell me he sold his house, but the Alfa wasn’t moving with him. I had already moved a few miles away, but we kept in touch regularly (and still do). We agreed on a price, and he even arranged to have it trailered to Alfa Performance Connection (APC) in Anaheim CA for a full (Fool) restoration.
So why did I feel compelled to buy an old, rusted Alfa GTV that needed so much work? There were a few reasons. As a B-Sedan fanatic I have always loved the lines of the car and the way they sound on and off the racetrack. Fun fact, in 1963, Bertone's young designer Giorgetto Guigiaro was only 25 years old when he designed the car for Alfa Romeo. Later in life he was named Car Designer of the Century in 1999 and inducted into the Automotive Hall of Fame in 2002.
However, it was the original owner of the car that made it an easy decision. His name was Vic Provenzano and he raced Alfa GTAs in the original Trans -Am (T/A) series from 1966-1972. While most Alfistis know of Horst Kwech, not many know that Vic was not far behind in his GTA. Vic entered over 20 T/A races, had one victory in the U2L at Riverside in 1968, had one fastest lap and finished 2nd behind John Morton at the infamous race in 1971 at Laguna Seca where Kwech was disqualified for an oversized fuel tank. He would later go on to work for Alfa's dealership program and acquired the '74 GTV as a demonstration car. So how could I say NO?
(Vic Provenzano in his Alfa GTA)
As you can see from the photos below, the car had a lot of rust. That is what happens when you live near the beach and have an early 70’s car that sits outside for that long. But this car was not destined to the junk yard or to be parted out by complete strangers.
(Leaving Greg's house and on the way to APC on 8/2017)
Little did that red Alfa know that it was on its way to APC and then to Gary Todisco, possibly one of the best paint and metal fabricator shops in the state who specializes in restoring vintage Alfas. Before the restoration started, Stewart at APC told me there’s two ways to address the body work. It was an easy decision - do it right, once, by a trustworthy person regardless of price. Gary was great to work with and because I was not in a hurry, he could take his time and I could afford his work. After 3 years in his hands, the metal work was done and the original color of Alfa Red 501 paint was applied. The inside was painted semi-gloss black, and the bottom of the car was undercoated. I learned a lot about color sanding. First is 1000 grit and then it needs to dry for 2-3 weeks then 1500 grit wet. After wet sanding with 1500, it was finished up with 2000 color sanding and buffing (There was a two week wait in between each step to let the paint dry and breath).
(October 10th, 2017. leaving APC and on its way to Gary Todisco’s shop)
(Notice the rust above the windshield frame)
(Leaving Gary's shop for APC on October 2020)
(Who doesn’t love the color red on Italian designs?)
(May 2021 at APC. Headliner, bottom end of engine and front suspension installed)
Now that the body work and paint are complete, the rest of the restoration process will go a lot quicker. As you can see in the photo above, the headliner and the engine are installed. When asked about the build, I respond with a question. What do you think Vic would do if he still owned the car? Since he is no longer with us, I am taking some liberty with the direction and the degree of tuning but my guess is he would want performance and reliability. For example, I am keeping the SPICA fuel injection but running a higher compression set up that is targeting 160hp. The electronic ignition, hotter cam and headers should give the GTV a sporty response without negatively impacting reliability. The suspension will also get a tuning with Alfaholic components along with a set of 14’ GTV style wheels and a lowered stance. There will be more to come on this build as the bright-work and tuning are dialed in.