Sometimes a name says it all. The moniker GTA has acquired a great meaning since its introduction in 1965 and since then, it became synonymous with “legend”. All true Alfisti speak their language and if some words are called, they will stand still, with ears raised to their attention. If you’re at an Alfa gathering, and you utter “Ti”, “Veloce”, “Quadrifoglio Verde”, “SZ”, “Sprint”, “SS”, “GTA” and “GTAm”, anyone who knows what’s what about Alfa Romeo will know immediately you’re talking important stuff.
These words when they’re applied to any Alfa mean a specific mechanical development aimed at making a special car even more special. These names began to be used with the 1900 Ti saloon and then progressed with the Giulietta and Giulia. The names “Super Sprint” and SZ and everyone will think of the excellent hand built SWB 1900 Coupès and the round and incredibly fast Spada-designed Giulietta of the early 60ies. On the other hand the “Veloce” stood for the best engine treatment any twin cam L-4 could get at the Alfa premises, normally including dedicated cams, exhaust, intake, head, piston and oil pan. But if there’s a name that screams “ultimate Alfa Romeo” to the sky is GTA and GTAm. Besides the out-of-this-world names such as “33 Stradale” and “8C”, “Gran Turismo Alleggerita” means a racing car which was born with one idea in mind and that was to win.
The original Giulia GTA’s was conceived as a true track-day special for homologating the model in the Gr.2 Touring class. The rules required a minimum of 500 examples produced so Alfa Romeo proceeded to create a road car that had all the good “racy” bits from Autodelta. Presented on February 18th, 1965 the GTA was a true 2+2 which had been significantly lightened: weighing an impressive 205 less thanks to the use of Peralumn 25 alloy, it registered 745kg final weight. The chassis wasn’t modified as it was already a remarkably rigid structure: light and strong it was suited for the enhanced power of the GTA’s new 1.6 litre Tipo 502/A engine.
The 1.6 litre twin cam was modified with twin coil ignition with the enhanced Marelli S119 distributor, magnesium valve cover, bigger steel exhaust and Weber 45 DCOE14 carbs the GTA produced 115 hp in stock form. Also as standard, the GTA had an oil cooler and deeper oil pan casted in Elektron. The wheels were magnesium Campagnolos and the brakes were the stock Dunlops used in the regular production GT.
The weight saving treatment was also applied to the interior, where a thin layer of rubber and minimum insulation acting as floor carpets was used. There were no arm rests, no sun shields (although they were later installed due to some protests from Auto Italiana’s director, Flavio Moscarini) and a very bare-bones interior. The gorgeous Hellebore steering wheel, the same used in the Giulia TZ, completed this attractive package.
The GTA was born to win and for the following 10 years it was able to establish itself in many competitions, both in the hands of the official Autodelta team but also with privateers such as the Jolly Club, Monzeglio Corse and an army of enthusiastic racers who made the GTA their weapon of choice.
The GTAm arrived when FIA changed the Gr.2 regulations at the end of 1969. To maintain a competitive edge, Alfa Romeo homologated on October 1st of that year, the new GTAm, where Am stood for America. Based on the Fuel Injected US spec 1750 Veloce, the new Giulia became the most powerful evolution of the Giulia. The first prototypes made their first outing at the same year’s Tour De Corse where Autodelta participated with two 1300 bodied GTAm’s fitted with the new 2 litre engine fitted with Lucas injection. Despite both not finishing the race, they made a lasting impression due to their impressive performance power. Using the steel frame of the 1750 and producing more than 200 hp, the GTAm was a remarkable beast. For the next 4 years, the GTAm dominated above everyone and everything, being used both by Autodelta and Italian and European teams. It has been since the end of production of the original Giulia GTA that we did not see that moniker applied to a rwd saloon. Indeed, we had the excellent 147 and 156 GTA’s but now it’s a different story: no one thought that the Giulia Quadrifoglio could be improved and further turned into a beast.
Surely we already had a go with it in Balocco last April, but we still had to have our proper Escape on the road. Normally, any track-day focused car we test always results to be more compromised and difficult to fully exploit on the road. Could this have possibly been the case with the Giulia GTAm? What was the best place where we could have experienced it properly? Needless to say, the Dolomites provided once again the best proving grounds possible for a complete test drive: Passo Giau and Falzarego are definitely the driver’s place.
Fast turns and technical sections are what makes this place unique: this is where you can feel the car and not get just a glimpse of what it is. As discussed during our test drive in Balocco last April, the GTAm is all about lateral acceleration. You can feel the wider tracks and that stickier tires have been fitted: motorsport-derived suspension and geometry set-up add to the fact that this car can take corners without any problem at all. Yet, it’s the sort of car which you do not want to upset: all the confidence could be gone in a matter of seconds, and the combination of a long wheelbase and snappy oversteer handling can definitely ruin your day. On the road, things are different than on track: while the GTAm gives plenty of security to its driver at first she is not as forgiving as it seemed in Balocco.
The steering is still among the best we’ve ever tested, having clear feedback, no dead-zones and a light and linear feeling. What’s more impressive is how the driver can exploit the wonderful grip it offers thanks to the wider tires and magnificent rear differential. The tires are always in contact with the ground, no matter how fast you drive on an irregular surface. When you want to get closer to the apex, especially during slow and tight corners, she’s almost magical as it’s already doing what you want and more.
The traction is immense and it can vigorously power you out of the corner even with lots of steering angle and with lots of positive and neutral feeling. The fun begins after 5000 rpm, which is where the extra power is felt strongly and the GTAm becomes a fury. It almost feels more aspirated than turbocharged and it’s fantastic. For being a sedan, this Alfa gives way more than a regular performance car can: it is definitely not a 100% full-on hardcore two seater, but it’s a fun tool, a car reminescent of the great days of old, reinterpreted in an exciting new package.
The combination of perspex windows, no rear seats, a roll cage and an overall menacing look, give you the impression of driving one of those legendary 155 and 156 Superturismos of the 90ies and early 2000’s. For sure, driving the GTAm is a treat, especially because many will end up locked in a garage for collecting purposes. This car is a great reminder of all the great Alfa Romeo sedans and coupes that made this Brand great: is it right to ask us “will this be the last”? Probably, but if it’s so, the Giulia is going out with a loud bang, with its name etched in the annals of “great cars”.