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For Alfa admirer Richard McKee, some phone calls, faxes and emails led to a decision to purchase a 1986 Alfa Romeo GTV6 Grand Prix in Adelaide.
But it didn't exactly result in the dream ride back home he had hoped for.
“My wife and I flew to Adelaide on a Saturday morning and went straight to the place to pick the car up,” he says. “We then drove it back to Sydney, which was a terrible experience."
“It had been in a garage for such a long time with little use on the kilometres. Driving out of Adelaide we got to 80km/h and the car began shaking as if the wheels were out of balance.”
A quick stop into a garage and a check of the wheel alignment failed to locate the problem.
So it was one wobbly ride home, or as McKee calls it, “the worst trip out.”
After making it home safely, McKee discovered that all it needed was a new set of tyres.
But being confronted with Alfa problems isn't something new for McKee. His Alfa Romeo appreciation began in 1979 with an Alfetta model, the same family line this GP model belongs to.
“They're just unique in terms of their styling, their performance, but I definitely wasn't drawn by their quality control,” he says.
Despite some unreliable Alfas in the past, McKee says the looks are just one element that draws him back to the cars. And in the same way that 1980s fluorescent clothing, leggings and teased hair has struck a chord with the younger generation today, the stylish Italian 1980s car still hasn't gone out of fashion. His wife occasionally drives the car to her job as a primary school nurse, and even the kindy kids are impressed.
“The kids just love it,” McKee says. “A really young person would never realise the car is 22 years old. It still looks extremely good and that's probably one of the most outstanding things about Alfa Romeo's design. They're timeless ... this could be mistaken for a more current car.”
But as the saying goes, looks aren't everything. It's what's inside that counts and that's also an aspect that attracts McKee to Alfa models.
“It was about the styling of the car and the performance of the car was second to none when you consider the cc capacity of the cars,” he says.
“The engines are so well developed, it's just a pleasure to drive. Their torque, their overall performance, the longevity. They certainly build one strong engine.”
McKee says they were built with a 50/50 weight distribution, which was extraordinary at the time.
“Everything was about getting the balance of the car right,” he explains, adding this also provides better handling when on the race track.
Four-wheel disc brakes also come in handy, something that was also rare at the time. And aside from the initial forgettable road trip, McKee says this model hasn't caused him too much trouble, although as is the case with all classic cars, it does require general maintenance.
“It was worth going to Adelaide to get a car that had been extremely well looked after,” he says.
Indeed, this Alfa is a model clearly designed for the open road, rather than Sydney's traffic.
“The engine is very much geared towards open-road running,” McKee says. “Its potent 2.5-litre V6 delivers exceptional economy.”
With the previous owner adding a stainless-steel exhaust, McKee says the sound also adds to an enjoyable overall driving experience.
McKee is only the third owner of the car and when he bought it three years ago, it had just 107,000km on the clock. He's now added 8000km of his own, mainly through weekend drives.
However, as with many other classic car owners sharing their passion, McKee enjoys joining other members of the Alfa Romeo Owners Club of Australia on some longer cruises.
Of course, there's a really good explanation for all this. McKee confesses that he's not just a fan of the marque and says, “it's called being an Alfa nut” — something that can be illustrated by a quick inspection of his garage. The McKee household is not short on Italian machinery.
While he's currently restoring a couple of older Alfas, he also races an Alfetta model and his wife owns a 2001 Alfa Spider. So with both old and new models, McKee is considering selling his GTV GP.
The car originally sold for $39,812 when it first went on sale in 1986, but McKee believes it would now be valued about the $12,500 mark.
And it's not just he and his wife who have caught the Alfa bug. McKee also managed to pass it on to his son.
“When we were driving back from getting his first car, he was just 16, and I asked why he wanted an Alfa,” he says.
“He said, 'Because they're different'.”
1986 Alfa Romeo GTV6 GP
Value when new: $39,812
Value now: about $12,000
Verdict: This car still knows how to look cool in the 21st century thanks to its classic, timeless design and powerful performance.