Written by Andrew Golseth, Photography by Tamar Abrilian
Oct 26, 2021
You don’t choose the Alfa, the Alfa chooses you. While enthusiast Kayla McPhail grew up in Texas surrounded by trucks and t-birds alike, an Alfa Romeo still found its way to her heart. The infamous Alfaholics GTA-R on a cover of Octane magazine jumped out and caught her eye and the rest was history. Many enthusiasts are moved by nostalgia, looking back at the cars they grew up with as objects of desire later in life. But there is something to be said for enthusiasts who fall in love with ‘the car’ without the assistance of childhood memories.
Now behind the wheel of this hot-rodded Alfa Romeo Giulia Sprint GT Veloce that nods to the legendary GTA, Kayla shared her path to Alfa ownership with us.
Andrew Golseth: How did you fall down the gearhead rabbithole?
Kayla McPhail: My dad's always been into cars. Growing up, he was always watching Formula One, which I’d watch with him. Honestly, I thought it was kind of boring when I was younger, but as I got older and started to understand the sport, I really started to appreciate it. Once you learn about the drivers, the teams, the strategies, you can’t help but get into it. So from watching F1 to working in oil and gas, which is a very male-dominated sector, I was always around car people.
When it came time to learn how to drive a manual, I first tried to learn on a friend’s Acura Integra GSR, but had a tough time getting the hang of it. I ended up practicing and really learning on my aunt’s old Ford F-350, which is a very Texas way to learn stick.
Andrew: So, how’d a Lone Star born and raised daughter of an oil and gas worker end up having a thing for European sports cars?
Kayla: Good question. Growing up in Texas, I was exposed to a lot of American muscle cars, Mustangs, Camaros, that sort of thing. Those are everywhere in Texas, so that’s sort of what I knew and what I was raised around.
Later in life, I happened to see an issue of Octane with an Alfaholics feature cover page which caught my eye, and I was immediately curious. They did this whole spread on the Alfa Romeo GTA, specifically on the Alfaholics GTA-R restomods. There was something so intriguing about how this little Alfa Romeo Bertone Coupe was a “giant killer.” I’d never seen one before and it just blew my mind. I’m not sure exactly what it was, but there was just something I immediately loved about the look of them. Growing up in Texas, always seeing the big American muscle cars, I just really liked the design and character of the Alfa.
Andrew: And so began the hunt for an Alfa Romeo?
Kayla: Yes! I was working overseas at the time, so I wasn’t spending a whole lot of money. With some money set aside, I started searching. I’ve always wanted something fun and once I discovered the Alfa, I knew it was the one. In 2014, I ended up buying a ‘72 GTV on eBay, which surprisingly turned out to be in pretty good condition. I upgraded it a little and drove it around a bit, but it wasn’t what I really wanted. What I really wanted was an early model, a stepnose as it's often called.
I started searching again. They were already getting harder and harder to find in good condition compared to the later GTV models. I knew if I wanted a stepnose, I needed to make the jump while I could. So in 2016, I ended up selling the ‘72 GTV and purchased a 1967 GT Veloce, which is the car I currently have.
Andrew: I see it’s got some modifications. What have you done to it so far?
Kayla: I’ve really grown to love the Alfaholics cars, so I basically wanted to emulate that GTA/GTA-R look by using some of their parts. To start, I installed their Stage 1 Fast Road suspension kit to upgrade the handling and ride quality. I also got their stainless steel exhaust and wrapped the nose in white vinyl to mimic the old GTA-style livery. I installed a set of 15-inch Alfaholics GTA wheels with modern tires for more traction, as well.
When I first got the Veloce, I took it to my mechanic because it wasn’t running 100%. The original 1600 engine was down on compression, so we upgraded it to a later 2.0 liter GTV unit. So, it’s modded but nothing over the top, just a little bit of a hot-rod.
Andrew: Do you have future plans with it?
Kayla: Oh, yes. I’d really like to turn it into more of an Alfaholics type build. The long-term goal is to eventually get it repainted. There’s a Ferrari green, a light metallic green, that I think would be really cool, but I haven’t decided yet. A paint change is a tough decision. The cherry on top would be a hot twin-spark engine, something like what Alfaholics makes would be awesome, but that’s all down the road.
Andrew: From what I’ve gathered from your Instagram, it appears you drive it quite a bit. Any favorite roads?
Kayla: I try to drive it regularly even though it’s more of a weekend fun car, but I do occasionally drive it during the week if traffic isn’t super busy. There are so many great driving roads in California. Mulholland is always fun and so iconic, but I think my personal favorite is Route 23. It’s got great switchbacks and absolutely beautiful scenery of the Malibu hills and the Pacific Ocean.
Andrew: It’s hard to beat California, especially with the fervent car culture. As a young woman that’s into classics, what advice would you give to aspiring automotive aficionados?
Kayla: That’s a good question. I would say classic cars are more of an experience than simply owning a car. They're a lot simpler than they seem. Engine and transmission. No AC, no computers. They’re just very minimal. There's always trade-offs, but the experience of driving them far outweighs the drawbacks. The whole “life’s too short to drive a boring car” thing is so true.
I would definitely encourage anyone to get a classic. Not only are they fun to drive, but one of the greatest things are people’s reactions. People are generally so friendly when they see a classic car. I was at the zoo one day just taking some pictures of my Alfa in the parking lot when this Volkswagen group came up and introduced themselves. We ended up talking and taking pictures of our cars together. But even non-car enthusiasts are so nice and happy to see a classic out driving. The car community might look intimidating to get into at first, but everyone is so inviting and supportive. I don’t have the car knowledge a lot of people in the community have, but most people are super nice and welcoming. It’s just a really great thing to be a part of.
Marqued: Thanks, Kayla. We look forward to seeing your stepnose around!
You can follow Kayla on Instagram and keep up with the latest progress on her Alfa build (@kayla_00713).
Tamar Abrilian is a photographer based in Los Angeles with an eye for zooming into details that make both cars and the people who drive them special. When Andrew Golseth isn't scribbling about automobiles he's diligently in his garage restoring his Alfa Romeo GTV.
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