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Owner Log: Everything I've learned about Alfa ownership

Written by Shayan Bokaie , Photography by Shayan Bokaie

Oct 6, 2021

I still remember the first time I fired her up and gripped the Nardi steering wheel. Those first drives are always a bit anxious but also incredibly exciting as you become familiar with all the nuances, quirks, and various 'moods' of your newly acquired classic. Since then, a blur of great drives, better memories, and amazing people have all been thanks to this little car. Six years later, my ownership experience with my 1968 Alfa Romeo GT 1300 Junior has taught me some practical and valuable lessons. There are stereotypes of Alfa Romeos tending to err on the side of unreliability, however this is a myth that requires further observation. For context, aside from Alfaholics wheels and an upgraded camshaft, my Alfa is bone stock and original. GTVs are phenomenal candidates for canyon-carving resto-mods, but my perspective is mostly from preserving its originality. Here we go:

Don't underestimate the 1300 engine.

While the 1.3L is the smallest displacement motor in the Giulia/GTV range, in my humble opinion, paired with Weber carbs it's the most rev-happy and best sounding engine that truly captures the Alfa magic. Recent sales in online auctions in the US show fully built out resto-mods 2.0L examples now reaching in excess of $100,000. To each their own, but my philosophy has always been as follows: unless you're building a race car, if you want the bigger 2.0L, just buy a later model year car that's correct for that displacement.

The 'Junior' models are a great entry point.

Yes, the prices of pretty much everything in the market are currently on the rise. Even if you adjust for said appreciation, in most cases the US market values the higher displacement cars (1750, 2000s) more than the smaller ones. This leaves the earlier cars with the coveted 'stepnose', the purest form Giorgetto Giugiaro penmanship, to be less expensive and an attractive way into the Alfa universe. Yes, they're a bit slower, but what they lack in top speed they make up for in momentum driving and happier rev range.

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Photographed by Shayan Bokaie

They all leak.

Call it a hot take, but it's not just all Alfas, it's all classics. A little drop here and there shouldn't be of much concern. Routine oil changes and monitoring developments before they become major leaks are the near-effortless measures you can to avoid any catastrophic outcomes. If your engine was restored and sealed correctly, you shouldn't have much to worry about. When you open the engine compartment, unlike more modern or complex engines, it's all there. All the components are there to see, hear, and occasionally smell, and even to a novice eye, many potential problem points can be observed. A wise man once told me with a smirk, 'they're not leaking, they're sweating'.

Find your mechanic.

Through references and research, I've had the help of some great mechanics. Overall, the quality of the restoration and routine maintenance has mitigated any major work required. Replacement of the water pump and brake master cylinder, and some minor adjustments to the carburetors done by Benny Hernandez at John's Alfa Romance in Los Angeles have kept the car healthy over the years. Striking a friendship with master mechanic Dorian Valenzuela of DV Mechanics has also been a great resource in planning for the car's maintenance going forward. Every region seems to have 'the go-to mechanic', so just make sure you're within tow truck distance of them (joking) and you're good to go.

Parts are available.

Between Alfaholics, Classic Alfa and a plethora of other distributors, I have never encountered an issue finding replacement parts. With the exception of a flaw in the design of the replacement brake master cylinder which can cause a premature failure, sourcing and ordering parts has always felt like an Amazon-like experience. This is a major consideration when choosing which set of 'headaches' you'd like to deal with in a classic car

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Photographed by Shayan Bokaie

Build friendships and join the community.

The Alfa community is beautiful and beautifully odd all at the same time, but the best way to access a great knowledge base and enjoy your time behind the wheel with like-minded Alfisti is to jump right in. Alfattitude is a great content platform for owner stories and activity in the Alfa world. The Alfa BB forums are a great resource for information and even cars for sale. Jethro Bronner hosts a great how-to series on YouTube if you're inclined to work on the care yourself. For the most part, GTV owners are tight-knit group and a great source for chatter and knowledge. I've reached out to many I've never met via Instagram and have almost always been met with a warm response.

Make sure you drive it.

There are a million slogans and hashtags to encourage driving the wheels off your car, so I won't elaborate too much here. The general gist is that the more you drive your car, the healthier the fluids can move about, stay lubricated, and keep the motor happy. They're no different than us; without regular exercise, problems arise. By extension, be mindful of where you park—rust can creep up on you if you're not careful. I have a small bubble on my car which I regularly monitor to make sure it's not spreading and will address at some point when I'm ready. Obviously, there are some cars that are neglected causing major rust concerns, but the honest truth is this is applicable to any car, not just Alfas.

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Photographed by Shayan Bokaie

If you're considering a GTV, it's one of the best motoring experiences out there and I am not personally aware of any enthusiasts who've regretted trying it. After 6 years of ownership, I believe my all-in maintenance cost has been less than $5,000, and have driven well over 10,000 miles driving up and down the California coast without issue. I don't pretend to be a mechanic or end-all expert, so if I've managed to get this far, so can you. A dear friend once told me, "buy the ticket, take the ride". It's good advice.

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