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Estate Sale Survivor: 1986 Alfa Romeo GTV6

When car enthusiasts pass on to the big highway in the sky, what happens to their cars? In some cases, families retain them if the gearhead gene is strong; in other instances, due to lack of interest or needing the money, the cars are sold. This gorgeous 1986 Alfa Romeo GTV6 is listed here on craigslist in Brewster, New York, and is being sold to settle an estate. There’s no price listed and the seller merely says to check the NADA value before calling. 

So that last part: if the seller is reading this, that’s an attitude likely to turn people off to even calling in the first place. Man up, list a price, at which time you’ll realize you either gave someone a great deal or the estate isn’t going to be settled as quickly as you’d like (NADA is a horrible reference point for vintage car values, anyway). That said, this Alfa does appear to have a nicely preserved interior but it is by no means museum-quality; and let’s face it, to enjoy these cars, it is essential to see a fat stack of service orders and specialty shop invoices on the passenger seat.

Two major weak spots in these Alfas that warrant both explanation by the seller and inspection by a reputable shop are a list of timing belt changes and confirmation of rust-free condition. The GTV6 sports an interference motor, so a history of timing belt changes is a must (and you’ll want that information up front before firing up the motor); and getting this car on a lift to assess the condition of the body is essential. As this is an East Coast car, peering behind the body cladding is a must-do. The seller’s attitude notwithstanding, does this estate-sale Alfa look like a good project?


  1. flmikey

    …got chills when I saw the picture…I still have nightmares about the one I had…it was the most fun to drive…when it ran..I was under that car more than in the drivers seat..it was the poorest quality car I ever owned…and that includes my old Vega GT….and you are absolutely right about the timing belt…but include replacing the tensioner too…and the donuts…and the trans mounts…and the 2nd gear synchros…see where this is going?

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  2. Bill

    There’s a reason why these stopped coming into this country.

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    • Robert Allen

      They’re back, you know. My 85 with just over 100k looked better than this but it’s still sweet.

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  3. Tom Liebel

    flmikey, I couldn’t agree more. I had an ’82 GTV6, and when it ran it was glorious, with one of the best laid-out cockpits for driving that I have ever had the pleasure of owning. That being said, it only ran about half the time I owned it, and whenever it needed anything at all, it was crazy expensive (at least to a poor college student).

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  4. rando

    But alfa had a superbowl commercial! Surely that has driven the prices of older stuff up!?

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  5. Dolphin Member

    As owner of a GTV6 I have to agree with most of the comments so far.

    If the seller refers to NADA it’s likely they’re not familiar with cars, especially vintage sports cars. I’m guessing they don’t know much about the market for these Alfas. NADA says these are worth about $15K, “retail”. Maybe on the moon, but unless low-mile and perfect, not here. I think the seller wants people to make contact thinking that $15K is the going price.

    Service history is important, as with any complex Italian sportscar, so you need to think of the GTV6 as a cheap front-engined alternative to some of the more expensive Italian cars.

    And it definitely helps to know cars, especially Alfas, and be able to do much of your own work. Regularly changing the timing belt AND tensioner (to new style if not already done) AND water pump is important, and harder on a GTV6 than on, say, a Volvo or E30 BMW, but easier than lots of other cars. These parts are also a lot less expensive than on most semi-exotic vintage sports cars. There’s also a lot of information on the Web about GTV6s.

    And you need to know to ease these into 2nd gear, and to keep the battery hellhole clean and tidy, and what to do if the driveshaft has a problem. But there are good parts suppliers in No America, and probably most large cities have someone who knows Alfas and can deal with their problems.

    Bottom line, this seller probably wants too much. If so, walk away. There are still more of these around than you might think, and some of them have been kept by sympathetic owners. You just have to find the right car. Best to make it an unrusty one.

    And if/when you do you can have almost as much driving enjoyment as with a 308 for a small fraction of the price. It just won’t appreciate in value like 308s have.

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  6. Adam T45 Staff

    As I’ve said before, Jeremy Clarkson off Top Gear UK once said, “Alfa Romeo make cars to be as good as they can possibly be….briefly.”

    These are a beautiful thing to drive if you can live with the appalling ergonomics. I love driving Alfas, but owning one would send me rapidly down the road to insanity.

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  7. Robert Allen

    With all of my Alfa’s in the past 20-30 years, the GTV-6/Milano have been the most reliable and trouble free vehicles I’ve ever owned (and I’ve put over 300k (s)miles on them). That’s after taking it to various track events, auto-crosses, driving with a lead foot, etc. For the typical American owner used to Hondas and the sort, it does take a bit more attention. Timing belt changes on the Busso engine are relatively simple, would rather do one of those than pretty much any modern car. That being said, I’d hate for a belt to snap on me while driving because that would get expensive quick.

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  8. djkenny

    Get one for under 3 grand in MINT shape.. and plan for $ $ $ $ to keep it in good working order. They are wonderful to drive, but get your wallet ready.

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    • Gianni

      I would sure like to know where one can get a mint one for 3 grand…

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      • djkenny

        If you cannot.. Don’t buy it.

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  9. chad

    i noticed the ‘look it up yourself’ attitude too & had a similar reaction but know the pace of life down there, how jammed up side-by-side folks are & thought if there was a recent death (said in add?) may be some 1 was not in the right place emotionally right now to slow down & devote some time 2 research. May be not & they know it’s a low income item (esp. for NYC area people) & just will let things in the sales aspect run their course… Might be good for the purchaser (and seller?) in either case.

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  10. mark

    One of the most entertaining cars I had was a 1982 GTV-6. The stock exhaust had rotted off, so in its place I had a local shop custom bend a dual exhaust and added a couple of cherry bombs (sacrilege, I know). It made the most wonderful, albeit loud, sounds. I was pulled over more than once just to see if I had any exhaust at all. I will second the high cost of some repairs, including its exotic and pricey dual disk clutch, which I managed to burn out trying to get the thing out of a snow bank. And back then everyone thought it was a Datsun B210. I never did figure out why they had that odd plastic block-off plate in the middle of the hood- optional supercharger?

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    • Gianni

      It was for clearance. The car was originally powered by an inline 4 and sold as the Alfetta GT. The v-6 was taller than the 4 cylinder so they added the black plastic tea tray.

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  11. Marco G Ventura

    86 is the last and best of the series, mainly for better shifter and A/C. That said, these cars require constant attention to keep right. Most have been touched by the wrong hands and/or band-aid fixed. Driveshaft is normally out of balance on all these cars, so expect some driveline shake. East coast cars are prone to rust, even the best examples will have some. Electrical issues abound, plan on going though all the wiring and ground connectors. Engine is bulletproof as long as it was serviced regularly. How do I know all of this…? I bought an 84 from the east coast last year.

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  12. M4ff3w

    The Bussing engined transaxle cars are incredibly simple to maintain and very reliable. I miss my Milano more than any of my previous cars.

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  13. CarFreak Member

    AS an owner of a GTV 6 and a Milano Verde I agree with Mr Allen and Mr Ventura. Buy the best example you can, take care of any deferred maintenance, and drive the heck out of them! Amazing cars and will surprise most any other car from the same era… including Porsches and Corvettes.

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  14. Matt

    I owned two of these, one of the scariest/fun cars to drive! They could really move, and as stated above surprised many a Corvette on the road!
    I finally tired of mine, sold the first one to a racer in CT and the second to a kid as his first car who crashed it a week later.

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  15. BigE

    Owned several since I was 19, so that means for the last 28 years. Do all my own service, upgrades, etc. Sold my first one and had to get another. There is a certain smell of leather, oil and exhaust that add to the driving experience. The best part being the Busso V6, melodic to the ear, you don’t need/want a radio, just listen to the engine a you run it through it’s paces. When I was 19, an older, at the time co-worker asked about my GTV6 and stated he had test driven one, however stated the steering was heavy at slow speeds, shifting difficult and clutch was very heavy. I said, oh, well you know these cars where made for a real man to drive. Discussion was over!

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  16. Aaron Meyer

    I have owned a street/track Gtv6 since 1999 and has been incredibly reliable and trouble free. I drive it on 1,000 mile rallys without a hitch! She isnt pretty, but I still love her. Here is a video of me running Hoopty at Laguna Seca.

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  17. Allan

    I think that classic Alfa Romeo’s are going to continue to increase in value and are already… I own a 1985 Alfa Romeo GTV6 and love it! Its a special kind of car, not just any car and heck I’m going to buy a few more… I bought my GTV6 on Saturday and then road tripped it from Cincinnati KY through West Virginia onto North Carolina… 570miles over 2 days without a single incident… touch wood. Viva Alfa! Bravo! Bravo!

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  18. Luke2236

    Had an 82 GTV6 for years – so reliable youd have thought it was a Chevrolet.
    Obviously, looking for another – how I ran into this site.
    Owner sounds like a typical back-eastie ; once an interested buyer has performed due diligence – yes, they do rust if youre not careful adn the belt [and water pump] does require attention – hit em with a low offer and tell them to go look at the market themselves and call you when theyre tired of sitting on it. Theyll understand…

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  19. GLK

    Here’s the deal. All classic Italian sports cars have poor ergonomics, heavy manual steering, windows that don’t roll all the way into the doors, body corrosion, and loads of frustrating mechanical issues. But their engines have robust bottom ends and sound glorious. Their styling is like nothing else and their engine geometry and chassis dynamics rival most racing cars. The GTV6’s “problems” are no greater than those of some of the most desirable and collectible Italian cars on the market. The headaches people complain about were infuriating when they were new because permanent fixes were not available at the time. Nowadays their issues can be sorted so they do not recur, but it takes knowledge, time, and a financial commitment that most owners are not motivated to make because the cars have not appreciated to the realm of justifying the investment it takes to set them right. That will change because 1980s cars are becoming classics to a new generation of enthusiasts, and because there are precious few V6 powered Italian sports coupes that can be had for under six figures anymore. Let alone one that has an engine penned by Enzo Ferrari’s former engine designer and has a successful racing provenance winning a string of years-long championships on both road and rally racing. The GTV6 is a car that has not achieved its full potential in the marketplace yet, but that’s going to change. If you want one cheap you better act soon and buy the most rust-free example you can afford.

    Like 1

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