Jeremy Clarkson once said, “you can’t be a true Petrolhead until you’ve owned an Alfa Romeo”. While this is of course a bit of a strong statement, there seems to be a vibrant aura radiating around the fabled Italian car manufacturer. The legendary brand has produced some of the best looking, most enjoyable and highly capable cars, both for the road and for the race track. And today, with Restomodding becoming a bigger and bigger business, there’s plenty of ways to cater to your classic-Alfa needs.
If like me, you scour the internet in search of cool stories almost every day, then like me you will have noticed an abundance of restomods, continuation programs, revival builds or whatever you want to name them. Taking a car that is once considered obsolete but now a beloved classic, and upgrading, modifying and perfecting it in every conceivable way possible. Whether we’re talking about former Grand Prix cars (BRM, Vanwall), a TV-famous coupé (Volvo) or a great big luxury saloon (Rolls Royce), there are plenty of amazing projects around. And there’s always the option to build your own car, using something completely unrelated as a donor car.
The Alfa Romeo 105-series
The topic of choice today is not one, but two restomodded Alfa Romeos, both using the same iconic platform; the Alfa Romeo 105 series. More commonly known as the Junior, this compact 1960s styled coupe is an enthusiast’s dream car. Small, elegant, nimble, and with a gorgeous engine in the front and drive to the rear. The Alfa Romeo 105 series sprouted a range of cars while in production, running from 1963 to 1977. To better understand all the differences, you can split the 105 series into two groups basically; the GT/GTV style models and the Junior models. The Giugiaro designed body is the same for all of them, with only subtle details on the outside to distinguish one from the other. Underneath though, is where things differ a little more.
Below, an early GT 1300 Junior (photos by Garage Maestricht)
The GT Junior series was the entry-level of the 105-series model, introduced in 1965. It featured a 1300cc inline-4, later to be replaced by a 1600cc variant. These were sold in far greater numbers than the more powerful GT/GTV derivatives. This also sprouted the limited production two-seater coupé Alfa Romeo Junior Zagato. As the name suggests, the body was styled by Zagato and was far edgier and more aerodynamic than the curvy shape Giugiaro originally penned.
Below, an unrestored, fully original 1965 Alfa Romeo Giulia Sprint GTA (photos by Girardo & Co)
The GT/GTV models are actually the ones to lust after from an automotive enthusiast’s perspective. With the abbreviation Gran Turismo (GT) shared throughout the 105 series, the addition of the V for Veloce should tell you all you need to know. They’re fitted with more powerful 4-cylinder engines, ranging from 1.6 to 2.0-litre displacements. To make things a little bit more complicated, both the GT/GTV and GT Junior models also became available as a GTA variation, with the A standing for Alleggerita, or lightened.
The rarest of them all is the GTAm, which was built by Autodelta as a performance variant. Offered as a road car (Stradale) or race car only (Corsa) the GTAm had aluminium body panels instead of steel ones and a little bit more power than the standard GT/GTV or GT Junior models.
The Alfa Romeo 105 Series serves as a platform for two prolific restomods that took off in a different direction. On one hand, we have a celebration everything Alfa Romeo is famous for, turned to eleven. On the other, we have a sexy Italian coupé updated with 21st-century technology, perhaps turned to twelve even.
The Alfaholics GTA-R 290
Alfa Romeos from the sixties and seventies were renowned for their handling capabilities and being bundles of fun driving them hard. Now, this might not be true for all cars produced at that time, but it certainly was true for the 105 series GT/GTV and GT Junior cars. A small and relatively lightweight package with a front-mounted engine and rear-wheel drive is a classic recipe for driving pleasure.
Alfaholics provides perhaps the ultimate thrill-inducing Alfa Romeo you can imagine. The company is based in Bristol, United Kingdom and is famous for being the one-stop-shop for all parts necessary to restore and improve an Alfa Romeo 105 Series. They have been doing it since the early nineties when the financial situation led to the decision not only to do full restoration work but offer clients the opportunity to work on their cars themselves and provide off-the-shelve, mail-order parts.
The company is run by brothers Max and Andrew Banks, who started developing parts for their personal cars outside of the mail-order catalogue for Alfaholics. Having some success as historic racers lead to the development of specialized parts to make their cars perform better and better over time. Clients got wind of this and started asking for these parts for their own cars. One plus one still equals two and by now you can almost buy an entire car in parts from Alfaholics. Upgrades include carbon fibre body panels, titanium suspension parts, high-end engine components and much, much more. A lot of work is done in-house and what they cannot do in their own workshop is outsourced to true specialists.
The culmination of all the work over the years is the Alfaholics GTA-R 290. A full-spec restomodded Alfa Romeo GT Junior made into the purest driver’s car that you can possibly buy. The GTA-R 290 is a full carbon-bodied, lightweight hooligan. In a good way of course.
What Alfaholics does is strip the original car down to single components and rebuild it with the best possible parts, mostly made for them or by them. A competition chassis is fitted with performance suspension parts, an enlarged 2.3-litre 4-cylinder engine, roll-cage, full period-style racing interior and if you want; a carbon-fibre body. All of this work results in a car that hovers around 830 kilos with 240bhp. That puts it at around the 290bhp-per-tonne, and just as a comparison, that is rather close to the power-to-weight ratio of a Maserati MC20, Chevrolet Corvette C8.R or McLaren 570S.
With such specifications, you can imagine this car being a hoot to drive, and as Chris Harris demonstrated in a Top Gear clip (see below) it surely is! No power-steering, servo-assisted braking, traction control or other computerized safety features can help you. You have to rely on your own skill (and guts) to be able to get the most out of it. The specifications for a car like this are a little less relevant than in a brand new supercar if you ask me, but rest assured it is fast enough for just about all of us.
As with all of these projects, things don’t come cheap. A base GTA-R 290 with a carbon fibre body comes in at around GBP 200,000. Upgrades like a titanium suspension kit will push that too well over GBP 300,000. You could also go for aluminium body panels to keep the price down a little bit.
The Totem Automobili GT Electric
On to the second, rather different restomod based on an Alfa Romeo 105 Series. Totem Automobili is an Italian company that takes things down a whole other path when compared to Alfaholics. Instead of relying on technology from the era the original car was built in, and bring that into the 21st-century, Totem opted to electrify the GT Junior platform. The clue was already in the name of course, and the GT Electric by Totem Automobili is worlds apart from the GTA-R 290.
To some, this might be sacrilege, and to others, it may be a solution to keep classic cars on the road. Regardless of what your take on it is, the level of craftsmanship and expertise is nothing short of amazing.
Again a donor car is stripped down to the essentials. The chassis is stiffened and strengthened throughout to accommodate the new electric drivetrain. According to Top Gear, about 10% of the chassis is left untouched. New suspension to cope with the extra weight of the battery pack is essential and Totem has gone for proper high-end components all around.
Now the upgrades are not just mechanical either as the body is tweaked to a wider shape and modern light units are fitted. There’s also a more pronounced nose and rear-end with a diffuser set-up underneath, emphasizing the car’s intentions. This might not be everyone’s taste but it does fit with the electrification done by Totem. The electric motor is mounted behind the front axle, with the battery pack in the back. Drive goes to the rear wheels only, just like the original.
The specifications are pretty spectacular, certainly considering the most powerful GT/GTV had 192bhp back in the days. The entire drivetrain puts out 518bhp, considerably more than the Alfaholics. It does have a lot more weight to lug around though, with the car coming in at 1,410 kilos. This puts the power-to-weight ratio at about 360bhp-per-tonne. From a standstill, the Totem Automobili GT Electric will take 3.4 seconds to hit the 100kph mark and will soldier on to a top speed of about 150mph or 240kph. A single charge should go to 224 miles, depending on how hard you push it, of course.
The interior of the car is fully bespoke and simply drop-dead gorgeous. The seats are carbon fibre with leather upholstery, there’s handmade wood panelling and a period-inspired dash. Modern amenities like air-conditioning, electric windows and keyless entry come standard. Totem Automobili will only build 20 of these GT Electric’s and each one will start at a price of GBP 385,000. Naturally, bespoke options will come at a premium.
So, if you compare the Alfaholics with the Totem Automobili, what would be your pick? Do you go for the modernized vintage appeal of the GTA-R 290 and its purely mechanical driving experience, or do you go all the way into the 21st century and opt for the futuristic GT Electric? Let us know in the comments!