SHE SHOULD HAVE CHOSEN THE GTV
I was prompted to write a running report on my 1974 Alfa Romeo GTV 2000 after reading Pat's report about her Ford Laser TX3 1.8i which was published in the January issue of DRIVE. If Pat had searched a bit harder she probably would have found a GTV in sufficiently good condition to suit her budget. She should never have listened to her friends.
I owned a GTV (registration number PQ 7227) way back in 1973 which I bought new but hardly after a year, I swopped it for a Porsche 911S Targa. Hindsight then told me I never really had the time to enjoy the virtues of that car and many a time, I wanted to buy another one but could not find a good example. Then about a year ago, I was offered one in the form of AQ 848. It was so well kept and maintained that I could not resist buying it and I must have spent the whole of two minutes bargaining over the price.
In buying such an old car, the bodywork of the car is of paramount importance and there was nary a dent on any part of the body panels of AQ 848. The entire coachwork was straight and perfect. The car was totally accident free. The seats have been re-upholstered to the GTV's original design and the dashboard was surprisingly presentable despite a crack on the right hand side.
All the instruments worked and they included the tachometer, speedometer, fuel gauge, oil pressure gauge and the engine temperature gauge. Even the windscreen washers and cigarette lighter worked. AQ 848 had the original Alfa alloy rims and an airconditioner that put out very cold air, perfect for our hot climate.
Mechanically, the rebuilt engine, suspension (Bilstein shocks), brakes, clutch and the steering mechanism all seemed to be in good condition but as I intended to really enjoy the GTV this second time around, I sent it to City Motors, Ipoh, for a thorough mechanical check.
I was advised to replace or repair a few minor items, especially the rubber seals and some ball joints. In addition to that, I decided to fit in an Alfa original sports manifold, a new petrol tank and low profile tyres (Bridgestone RE 71) for better traction.
I commute between Penang and Ipoh once a week and I used the GTV every other week when I was not driving my Mugen Honda CRX or other cars. As any Alfista will say, the GTV has character and it goes about its business in a charmingly rustic manner.
The roar from the exhaust is unmistakably Alfa and the gearbox was excellent. I could cruise well above the legal speed limit and corners, however sharp or tight, were taken in style. In fact, whenever I drove the GTV from Penang to Ipoh, I preferred to use the old winding narrow road rather than the new Expressway.
For town use, a lady may complain that the steering is on the heavy side due to the lack of power steering. The Bilsteins gave a firm ride and the gear ratios were not really suitable for traffic crawls. But let it loose on the highway, there was every chance you could be clocked by the traffic cops in excess of 180 km/h.
Being 17 years old the GTV did have its share of ailments like a very stiff handbrake lever, an erratic horn button, a rear windscreen demister that did not work (and could not be replaced except by changing the entire rear windscreen which was available only in the UK or Italy) and the one-speed windscreen wipers could not really cope with our kind of thunderstorms.
However, I personally think that such niggling faults contributed to the overall charm of the GTV. Even new Alfas suffer from such shortcomings due to the notorious quality control in Italy. There is no challenge if everything works like clockwork as in the CRX.
Pat should not give up her first love (which is Alfa) and I am sure time will bring about a reunion. If she thinks the guys have their egos busted when she overtakes them in the TX3, imagine what it will do to them when she outguns their cars in her classic GTV.
The only thing she should be wary of in owning a GTV is the number of passes the guys will be making to her - about her car.
(This article was written by kayes and first published in the May 1991 issue of DRIVE, the official magazine of the Automobile Association Malaysia)
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I was associated with Wan Kien when he became the President of the Royal Perak Motor Club.When the badminton great Eddy Choong bought the used Alfa GTAM from City Motors I became his pit crew member. I have lots of stories to tell but bound by the Official Secrets Act of Penang. I eventually bought an Alfetta and later a Giulietta 2.0L. I will drive home to Ipoh every weekend from Penang in the mid-eighties like a road hog. Road rage was not invented then all we did was show the 2 fingers. When I migrated to Canada I bought a 75 and later Alfa bowed out of North America. Till today no high performance car can match the Alfa roadholding qualities. I await the return of Alfa to North America. Thank you Wan Kien for bringing Alfa to Malaysia.
In 1965, an Ipoh company called City Motors was given the Alfa Romeo franchise by the Italian carmakers. The man behind City Motors was Foo Wan Kien (now Dato). Wan Kien is the son of a famous and wealthy Ipoh tin miner, Foo Yet Kai and instead of following his father's footsteps in mining for tin, he preferred to be in the "car business".
The appointment of City Motors as the official distributor of Alfa Romeo cars in Malaysia was announced in the official Alfa Romeo magazine in 1966 where the article stated that Alfa Romeo was so well-known internationally, that it was being sold in a country where people still lived on trees. A credit to Foo Wan Kien and Alfa but not so kind to the country and we had no twin towers or the Sepang circuit to show off then.
One of Wan Kien's biggest achievements in handling the coveted Alfa Romeo franchise must have been the fact he managed to sell fleets of Alfa Romeos to the Malaysian Police and Customs. This achievement was not matched by any other distributor of Alfas outside Italy. The Malaysian Police and Customs were equipped with the Giulia 1.3 and 1.6 and in certain cases the Berlinas which made them pretty fast in catching the crooks who were at that time driving Datsun 1600 SSS, an Alfa pretender.
If you ask any "old policeman" who had the chance to drive the Alfas, they will tell you stories which any Alfisti will. Superb handling, speed and the unmistakable sound of the exhaust. This was poetry in motion. Personally I can vouch for all those stories, having owned no less than 12 Alfa Romeos from the Giulia to the GTV6. I must have been one of Wan Kien's fleet buyers together with Rothmans and of course, the Malaysian Police and Customs.
From the 1960s to 1980, Alfa Romeos were raced extensively in Malaysia and Singapore. This was another clever ploy by Wan Kien to ensure that Alfas remained the quickest cars and the fastest sellers. Racing drivers like Albert Poon and Andrew Cowan were brought in to race and they won almost all the major races. Harvey Yap gave Alfas a big scare when he drove the Ford Escort BDA but that was shortlived.
The Italian Government then nationalised Alfa Romeo and the new government appointed managers failed to recognise the performance of franchise holders like City Motors and they awarded the franchise to someone else, the late Tan Sri Yahya Ahmad. Later, Milan Auto took over the franchise and now it is in the hands of the conglomerate Sime Darby. Will the true Alfista spirit be ever revived remains to be seen.
I daresay I am one of the greatest Alfa lovers in this country and my ownership of 12 Alfa Romeos prove it. I am truly Alfista. I have not bought an Alfa Romeo ever since City Motors lost the franchise and presently I drive a Smart Fortwo Cabrio. Forza Alfa!