In the Alfa vocabulary, there are some words that immediately will call the attention of any devoted Alfista: Ti, Veloce, Quadrifoglio Verde, Sprint, SS, GTA and GTAm. Use any of these words in any context and anyone who knows what’s what about Alfa Romeo will know immediately you’re talking about serious stuff.
If you do not know much about these words, well, then you must know that when they’re applied to an Alfa, they refer to a specialized treatment aimed at making that car more special than it actually is. These names have been used in the post-war period, beginning with the 1900 Ti from the early 50’s and then progressing to the Giulietta and Giulia. Say “Super Sprint,” and everyone will think of the excellent hand-built SWB 1900 Coupès and the sleek Scaglione-designed Giulietta and Giulia SS of the late 50’s and early 60’s. On the other hand, Veloce stood for the best engine treatment a twin cam could get, with dedicated cams, exhaust, intake, head, piston and oil pan. But the names that scream “ultimate Alfa Romeo” to the sky are GTA and GTAm. Gran Turismo Alleggerita means a car that is dedicated to performance and has gone through a specific development.
The first Giulia GTA’s were conceived as true homologation specials for racing in the FIA Gr2 touring class, which required a minimum of 500 examples produced. Presented on February 18th, 1965, the GTA is a true 2+2 which has been lightened significantly: 205 kilos have been shaved off thanks to the use of Peraluman 25 alloy, resulting in an impressive final weight of 745kg. The chassis wasn’t modified as it already sported a remarkably rigid structure: light and strong, it was well-suited for the enhanced power of the GTA’s new 1.6 litre Tipo 502/A engine.
Fitted with a twin coil ignition with the enhanced Marelli S119 distributor, magnesium valve cover, bigger steel exhaust and Weber 45 DCOE14 carbs, the GTA produced 115hp in stock form. Also as standard, the GTA had an oil cooler and deeper oil pan cast in Elektron. The wheels were magnesium Campagnolos and the brakes were the stock Dunlops used in the regular production GT.
The weight saving applied to the interior, with a thin layer of rubber and minimum insulation acting as floor carpets, 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. It was born to win and, for the following 10 years, it was able to establish itself at many competitions, both in the hands of the official Autodelta team, the Jolly Club, Monzeglio Corse, and to the number of privateers that used them extensively in many races. Constantly evolved and improved over the years, it was a force to be reckoned with.
In 1970, the ultimate and most powerful evolution of the GTA was introduced, the GTAm. The first prototypes made their first outing during the same year at the Tour De Corse where Autodelta participated with two 1300 bodied GTAm’s fitted with the new 2 litre engine and Lucas injection. Despite neither finishing the race, they made a lasting impression due to the power of the new engines, which produced 208 hp. The later variants were then based on the 1750 Veloce with US specification, in order to obtain the homologation for a fuel injected car. Using now the steel frame of the 1750, the new GTAm (“Am” for “America”), was a remarkable beast. Using the same magnesium wheels of the 33 with modified holes to fit the Giulia’s wheel hubs, it was enlarged way more than the GTA ever was. A new head, with integrated intake heathers and with a narrow angle between the valves, was used and the engine featured the cylinder liners fused within the block, a solution which increased the strength of the unit.
For the next 4 years, the GTAm dominated everyone and everything, being used both by Autodelta and Italian and European teams. The distinctive shape and the angry looks made it a fearsome rival and an icon of that era of GR.2 racing.
And now, in 2020, we see for the first time in 50 years the comeback of the GTAm moniker on a car that we hoped for….the new Giulia GTAm! Like the old one, the new model has 50mm wider tracks front and rear, specific wheels with single hub, dedicated bushings, suspension and set up, plus an even more powerful engine, developing 540 hp. It’s lighter and even more aggressive in its styling and features a dedicated body kit.
If the Quadrifoglio Verde is a magnificent saloon with great power and near-perfect handling, the new GTAm is even more exciting to drive. No rear seats, roll bar and a focused interior are a serious interpretation of the original, no questions asked. For sure, there’s more to come: the GTAm history is not finished… yet!