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deschodt

Comparo 2002 - Alfa GTV - for fun

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(edited)

Long read - for bored people ;-) 

 

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I had those 2 cars on my bucket list, read all the comparisons, and eventually managed to acquire both - figured it was time to make a review of my own. 

As it happens I found the 2002 first, like 7 years before. I bought it along with a later 3 series donor from which we stole a 5 speed gearbox, rear brakes, spare head, whatever else we could. My wife drove it home from the shop one day before giving birth, so you don't forget a car like that... Eventually, it was gone over properly: Bigger radiator, fuel injection from a later car, Recaros, Limited slip diff from an E30, and ultimately a real paint job. That took 2 years and the car had to be rescued from the shop it languished at in boxes, reassembled and retuned... It's finally back! It’s essentially like a Tii, dynoed at a conservative 105 hp at the rear wheels, but very torquey. 

For the alfa I took the opposite tack: buy a finished car, enjoy now. More money but instant gratification. It's also not 100% stock, has Weber carbs instead of the Spica injection and 50 lbs of A/C hoses, compressor and air vents... Both cars sport aftermarket wheels and slightly bigger tires than stock, for looks and availability. The alfa a 74 GTV (bimmer a 73 base with Fuel injection). They were direct competitors then, and more often than not you will find that enthusiasts love them both for the same reasons... Not always to the point of owning both though.. So here's a real-life comparo: 

 

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Looks: Far from me to be the final word on this, but this is my write-up and you can’t do it right unless you piss off someone on the internet. Both cars draw more attention than a Pope visit in Papua New Guinea. With the bimmer, keeping in mind the subtle bright orange, I've seen people drive like complete boneheads and weave through traffic just so they could catch up with me and flash a "thumbs up" from another lane. If stopped, people will tell me they had one in college, loved that car… Drive it and people will smile at you, like they just saw Robin Williams… It's probably the *only* totally unpretentious BMW out there (sorry E9, you're far too pretty not to be pretentious). People dig it, they smile at it, it's...."cute"...  Not beautiful in a classical kind of way, the same way some people find a Lotus Cortina or an A-10 Warthog pretty, it's a stylish shoebox! But the shark nose angle, the lotus-like tail lights (yes it's a roundie!!), the tall glass house and the trim pull it off... It's clean. Bauhaus, or something... That said, it’s very personal - I had car enthusiast friends visiting and one beelined to the alfa and never gave the bimmer a second look. Then other went straight to the bimmer and never noticed there was an alfa parked next to it. Me, I like both. 

The alfa is something entirely different: It's not cute. It's sexy. Where the bimmer is that cute girl next door you should and probably will marry, the Alfa is that Italian foreign student bombshell that just transferred to your high-school. She's hot, she's a little nuts, she’s tiny and you know she's gonna leave you, gets angry all the time and speak with her hands. But she's hot. So yeah. Also, whereas you still see a fair number of 2002s on the roads where I live, you never see another Alfa, unless you go to an alfisti meeting. Car people see a GTV and point. One guy screamed something at me in italian that had "bella" and "machina" in it at a light. Ok, so it's not a Ferrari 250 Lusso, but it has "that italian vibe" of a mini ferrari... you certainly won’t see yourself coming and going like in a Prius... There's  a sense of occasion when you go to it, open the door, sit in it, try to start it (yeah I have carbs!), gaze upon its instruments binnacle. Then hear it run...

If I'm honest, I think the side profile on the Alfa is the least successful part of the design, it kinda looks like rust prevailed, the car broke in the middle and the back end is falling down, weird downward angle going on there... But the front end is gorgeous. The back end tapers off... It's just so damn sexy, it says "Monica Bellucci" where the bimmer screams "cute puppy" and proceeds to hump your leg. There's a place for both. The alfa feels tinier too, because it is a whole foot shorter in length and height ! shorter glasshouse too. I never thought I’d call the 2002 big but next tot he alfa it is undeniably a bigger car - the alfa on my ramps is as tall as the bimmer on the ground ! I mean look at those things... 

 

Let's talk interior: I'm more conflicted there when it comes to the Alfa. On the one hand, the sexiness continues. The crazy old retractable lap belt, the view of the upturned edge of the fenders is priceless... While the dash plastics are a little cheap, it's by and large a very pretty interior. The seat pattern is very italian, the wood works here - don't ask me why, I normally HATE wood veneer in any car save a Jag - but it works here with that gorgeous steering wheel. The instrument binnacle is reminiscent of the Alpine Berlinette, I love it. The controls placement or function make no sense at all and appear to have been sneezed out all over the dash and console. But at least the turn signals are where you expect them to be (Hello BMW? Right hand turn signal is so weird - What the hell were you thinking ?) All in all, it's a nice place to be with, again, a sense of occasion - the weird shifter location actually works very well and it falls within reach of your already stretched arms (more on that later). Room wise, it's kinda cramped in there if you are the passenger, and the rear is very good good for double amputees, children under 6, and possible 3 yoga instructors... there are mounting points for kid seatbelts in the back of both cars... However, the talk in old magazines about the italian driving position are no joke. Apparently, Alfa drivers are able to summon deeply hidden and suppressed chromosomes and over time, lengthen their arms while shortening their legs, orangutang like. Unless you were born that way, it's impossible to have a normal driving position ”arm slightly bent at 9-3 while your shoulder blades rest on the seat back" and not have your legs folded up unnaturally under your adam's apple. If you are a guy, and have an adam's apple, otherwise you just saved an inch of knee room.

 

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 The seat is also tilted slightly backwards, and the reclining seat back angle does not move straighter than "barcalounger". I heard from many alfisti I'd "get used to it", and "let evolution lengthen my arms and shorten my legs", "hold the wheel at 7:25", etc... but much as I can now tie my shoe laces without bending over, I found mine impossible to drive for any extended period of time until I moved shims around and removed/replaced the forearm long gas pedal so that I could unfold my right leg a bit. Now I heel and toe all the time, mostly by accident ;-) But i can sit mostly comfortably.

The bimmer, by contrast, is boring as shit inside. Boring dash, any color you like so long as it's black. Bland  stock seats (not like my added recaros). No frills, unless the opening quarter window for ventilation counts on both cars. But on the flip side, boring rules: the driving position is *normal*. Good, even ! And comfortable for any duration! I only heel and toe when I want to on that car! My kids fit in the back with their legs intact, and I suspect even an adult could sit back there and not die of deep vein thrombosis. Talking about kids (I mean, if you don't have any, quit reading and go buy a damn 911 instead), they like both but prefer the bimmer for its amazing view and airiness.. The bavarian's roof shape (box anyone?) also means more headroom. Mostly, though, what gets you is the visibility and airiness of the car I just alluded to. It's like sitting in an aquarium, minus the fish poop floating around. You can see all around you, there is not a blind spot in the house thanks to spaghetti thin pillars. I have it on good authority that Stevie wonder drives a 2002. It's as light and airy as the alfa is Tora bora dark and somewhat cramped. So cute, airy, practical. But sexy? no, no sir.. unless you have a shoe box fetish. 

 

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Here's something you don't get in magazines. Everyday stuff... Honestly both cars work. Both start well. Neither one breaks down if in proper tune. The alfa broke down on my first ever family outing, but it was one wire that broke and managed to kill all power in the car. A small wire at that, real odd wiring design... But in reality and in my personal experience, a properly maintained alfa is just as good as properly maintained bimmer. Both also suck big fat donkey balls when it comes to adjusting valves or reaching the oil filter for removal. But only compared to say, an aircooled beetle.. Eccentrics, shims, moving the car around in gear to spot an invisible ball in a small hole, measuring TDC with a stick... doesn't matter which car I refer to, they both similarly kinda suck a little for some of the easy maintenance unless you relocated stuff like the battery (keeping in mind my bimmer's EFI is in the way). The bimmer wins the everyday use case on account of better visibility, lower cost, bigger trunk - if not actually bigger it is just squarer with a bigger opening and a truck opener outside the car - unlike the Alfa - then again my bimmer trunk stinks of gas and the alfa's does not. So for veggies shopping: Alfa, for Ikea: bimmer. 

Both had annoying gas filler necks gagging on the latest California gas nozzles, but both got cut/welded/fixed so it's a draw there. The bimmer's stupid right hand side turn signal is something you get used to faster than, say, a dogleg gearbox. I imagine you could swap positions if the wires are long enough. The advantage would go back to a stock Alfa while cruising, on account of a stock  5th gear. But 5th is geared quite short anyway, and it's getting hard to find 2002s without a 5 speed box now. In the end they pull the same sort of RPM at highway speed, higher than modern cars. Both are a little floaty at higher speeds, both have a little play in the steering despite replaced or repaired steering boxes, par for the course in 74 maybe? The mirrors on the bimmer are bigger but both it and the Alfa's tend to fold from the airflow at about 65 mph for aerodynamic gains, clever engineers (yes that is sarcasm).     

When it comes to their inherent build qualities, I'm sure one could dig out jokes about italian wormanship, Fiat, russian steel, a guy named Tony etc.... but honestly, having disassembled both to an extent, they seem the same to me. Same era-techniques apply, same cheap stuff here and there. More chrome inside the alfa. More (fake?) chrome outside the bimmer. 
Both co-invented rust, either that or BMW licensed it from Alfa. BMW has those genius holes all over the belt for the trim clips, that essentially open up the double walled and inaccessible innards of the chassis to collect water over time, and rust from the inside out (ask E9 folks). The alfa roof, in turn, will bend if you lay your key fob on it. Or blow on it… They both rust, everywhere. Buy something non terminal, body trumps mechanicals... 

 

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Everyday driving / handling: This is the part I waited for, well, for 6 months, so I could have both at my house, as opposed to at a mechanics, on a lift, in a paint shop, on a truck, in pieces. And I do realize my Alfa's got carbs,and my bimmer has a 5 speed and a limited slip diff... I drove it before that too, it's not radically altering the comparison. 

I'll break it to you slowly: they're the same f-$%$%$g experience overall. Shocking right ? Same front engine rear wheel drive, same engine size, same size/weight (ish)... They drive pretty much exactly the same day to day if you ignore the driving position and the view. I don't race those in a historics track series, so I can't tell you 10/10th on public roads. But in spirited driving, both go, brake well, shift well, exhibit all the RWD characteristics you'd expect... The bimmer is more playful with the limited slip differential and will slide the rear end more readily in the wet. The alfa seems to move around more on lift off in a turn, but not to a 911 extent. It revs easier too…  Whatever difference existed on stock 1970s era 165 tires, I fear  is now hidden by modern tires and slightly bigger wheels. In regular "fun" driving, they are both fun cars. They go, they sound good, they are confidence inspiring and feel fast at lower speeds. You can push those cars on a country road and feel like a hero, while not greatly exceeding the speed limits and probably keep your license. Try that in a GT3! The non-tii bimmer is supposed to be lower on power in stock form, but my EFI mods takes it to the same level as a Tii (dyno verified)  and therefore as the alfa. My alfa is supposed to have a slightly tuned higher compression Bobcor engine, but it feels like the stock 130hp to me (not dyno verified), no more. Both cars aren't great fans of a rushed 3rd -> 2nd gear downshift, but if you do it at human speeds, or fast but with a little blip of the gas, all good. Sound wise, stock the alfa wins, but it's also not the exotic godly music I’d read about in magazines. it's a 4 cyl, it's OK. Plesant even, but not a Ferrari V12 or an angry MFI porsche flat 6! My bimmer's aftermarket exhaust makes it a draw, but the bimmer is a otherwise quieter stock. Jeremy Clarkson once said you weren't a proper car enthusiast until you owned an Alfa.. He's got a point, to an extent, but if you said that of the Alfa, you could just as easily say it of the 2002 - I cannot think of a better "bang for your buck" classic car that does everything, from drifting out of a corner to carrying your kids in comfort. 

Both cars have a fairly active aftermarket presence and excellent Web forums. Slight edge to the bimmer on account of the sheer number made, the parts are cheaper and plentiful, also BMW seems to care about maintaining a catalog of every part ever made, cue in the mobile tradition exercise of publicly rebuilding a new 2002 with just catalogs part that made the rounds on the internets. With some notable exceptions, you can find almost everything... That's slightly harder for Alfas but if you look long enough, and towards Italy (whihc as of today is still in the EU) or the UK (which is not, twats), you will find what you need. The bimmer suffers / benefits from a more mods oriented community. People drop M3 motors in there, a tranny swap is a given. This is both great for fun and ease of upgrades, and bad as far as finding stock cars for future value. The alfa has more of a classic vibe now and the money is with stock... 

 

Market direction?  As similar and they are, i feel those 2 aren't positioned the same anymore. If they ever were, what do I know? I was just leaving diapers behind in 73-74! But I want to say the Alfa was more "sporty italian" and the BMW was more of a wolf in sheep's clothing. The alfa is now a bona fide classic, Stepnoses even more so. It commands higher prices currently and probably forever just based on surviving numbers, and with that goes the expectations of stock-iness. The bimmer still suffers from the stigma of being a $1500 beater, student's first car, for a long time. That’s no longer true, but it's considerably behind still. Stock “mint” Tiis now command similar prices as “nice” GTVs. “mint” GTVs are $15K more, easy. But on the flip side you can still buy an 02 head for peanuts. Hell, an entire motor. IMO purely on performance, looks and availability of unmolested cars, those 2 cars *should* be closer than they are in value… In terms of what they do and how they make you feel, they are -extremely- close... But I get that the Alfa is rarer and probably more exotic now, and has more of a sense of a special occasion.

 

Which one should I buy? 
Really ? How much you got, can you swing both? Pointers only... The Bimmer is easier to find and IMO under-appreciated. I'd buy one NOW. Preferably a nice roundie with no rust, and not worry about mechanicals. Parts are plentiful, mechanics are plentiful.  I predict a nice stock roundie will keep going up. It's a very usable everyday classic, in which you can take your kids... No muss no fuss...  Alfa wise, people swear by the 1750 over the 2000, I drove both and while I prefer the 1750's console and switches, I did not find it to be a significant difference. Really I'd buy the first nice car you can find that you can afford. With the least amount of rust...  It's harder to find Alfa specialists and parts, so if you don’t work on your car much, keep that in mind. It's also a more expensive car overall due to rarity and "cachet"... but you feel more of a sense of occasion in the Alfa. It's less common, more special. Totally intangible. Don't buy on performance, you never know what's under the hood of that 02 anyway and there is nothing between them now, in today's market, with modern tires (assuming tii or similar level and GTV2000). The bimmer is a little more pedestrian, but in a good way. You might end up driving it more often to more places, park it at the supermarket, not worry about it too much, and it'll still go up in value (if you don't overdo the supermarket parking anyway). The Alfas already did go up. They could keep going. Or peak. They are no faster, just sexier and rarer... I'm not picking one. The cute girl nextdoor, the hot italian nutcase, both fun rides! 

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Edited by deschodt

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always always always loved these 2 compared.......great job

 

 

Hemming has this comparo right now?..wow........the 02 is so very hot right now......man its been outed.

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I've got the 2002. A GTV is just about the only car I would trade it for. Since they would serve basically the same purpose in my autoverse (hardtop comfortable enthusiast car that wife will actually ride in) I can't justify both. If only the BMW wasn't such a great car and if I hadn't restored it completely from scratch. Damn life decisions. Thanks for the insights.

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while cruising to Boston from Hartford in 1974, a 2000 GTV pulled up alongside my 68 2002 on the turnpike - it was on  - I dumped into third and then 4th and I was gone.  He in turn was not quite as quick - even though I got the nod to race,  he fell back.  I ran her right up to redline in fourth and  had a nice lead but at about 110mph he went by me in 5th gear - I remember it like it was yesterday

 

I have always loved the look of the GTV - very very nice comparison - many thanks for the time it took to do so

 

Jeff

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Awesome post!  Ive always lusted after the GTV.  The prices of the Alfa is out of my reach though.  Glad I got my roudnie 2002 last year just before the prices went crazy!

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If you have one already and are wondering about the other, I hope this helps put it to rest. Don't bother, go buy something different like a Cayman or something ;-)  

Essentially they are the same car with different interpretations. The alfa is more italian, lower, more cramped and sexy. The German is more teutonic, airy and logical (except for the reversed turn signal stalk location). I've asked myself which one I'd sell if push came to shove, and basically the answer is whichever I drove last wins, or whichever glitched on me that day loses. It's very close... That makes the BMW seriously undervalued in my book, then again I'm totally upside down on the bimmer and totally right side up into the Alfa, so maybe I am partial and hoping 2002s go up in price ;-)

 

@Jeff: I don't know what to say re: your encouter. A 68 2002, stock, should in theory be beaten by a stock 74 GTV. But maybe his spica injection was broken. Tii vs GTV 1750 or 2000 would be extremely close (seat of my pants). The alfa feels sportier on account of being lower and louder, but I drive them on the same loops and there isn't much in it. Especially nowadays - they're old cars, you don't beat them up as hard, you shift slower.... at least I do... I hope I get to keep both for a while...

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On 6/24/2016 at 1:58 PM, deschodt said:

Where the bimmer is that cute girl next door you should and probably will marry, the Alfa is that Italian foreign student bombshell that just transferred to your high-school. She's hot, she's a little nuts, she’s tiny and you know she's gonna leave you, gets angry all the time and speak with her hands. But she's hot. So yeah.

 

That's priceless!

 

I enjoyed your story more than the one in Hemmings...more facts, better written and way more entertaining!  And yeah, I married the cute girl next door (or at least across the room in my world history class)...

 

mike

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1 hour ago, mike said:

I enjoyed your story more than the one in Hemmings...more facts, better written and way more entertaining!  

 

Thanks Mike... Considering I've been enjoyed reading your stuff for years, that's a compliment I really appreciate ! 

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23 hours ago, deschodt said:

If you have one already and are wondering about the other, I hope this helps put it to rest. Don't bother, go buy something different like a Cayman or something ;-)  

Essentially they are the same car with different interpretations. The alfa is more italian, lower, more cramped and sexy. The German is more teutonic, airy and logical (except for the reversed turn signal stalk location). I've asked myself which one I'd sell if push came to shove, and basically the answer is whichever I drove last wins, or whichever glitched on me that day loses. It's very close... That makes the BMW seriously undervalued in my book, then again I'm totally upside down on the bimmer and totally right side up into the Alfa, so maybe I am partial and hoping 2002s go up in price ;-)

 

@Jeff: I don't know what to say re: your encouter. A 68 2002, stock, should in theory be beaten by a stock 74 GTV. But maybe his spica injection was broken. Tii vs GTV 1750 or 2000 would be extremely close (seat of my pants). The alfa feels sportier on account of being lower and louder, but I drive them on the same loops and there isn't much in it. Especially nowadays - they're old cars, you don't beat them up as hard, you shift slower.... at least I do... I hope I get to keep both for a while...

I think the only reason my 68 got the jump was the fact I was quicker at the downshift - don't forget, it was 1974 and he may have been in an altered state - ha.  I am sure I was.  Also, at the age we both were, redline meant it wouldn't go any faster - ...

 

again - great write up!

 

Jeff

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I guess I should chime in on this thread as I too am lucky enough to own both a '72 2002tii and a '74 Alfa Spider.  In my case, both cars are stock, but the tii has a 'tuned' suspension.  I would say these cars exemplify their national identity.  The BMW is all business.  It goes directly where you point it, revs to redline without complaint, and shifts with snick-snick precision.  The Alfa, on the other hand, is much more sensual.  You feel much more engaged with the car and involved in the driving.  It's less precise, but in a way that encourages more spirited driving and a 'la dolce vita' attitude.  Revs, gears, tires, brakes - when everything comes together the feeling is indescribable. 

 

Both are great cars.  I love the BMW for its precision.  I love the Alfa for its passion.

 

Dave

 

garage3.jpg

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After reading this thread, I pulled out my iphone, connected to SIRI, and asked her to "Remind me to buy an Alfa GTV 1750 or 2000 in 3 months". Siri made a note and now I will be reminded to buy one. 

 

Thanks a lot OP, now I'll be in even more debt on account to a terrible car collection-addiction.

 

 

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You know the longer you wait, the pricier they get, right ?  (2002s as well) 

 

(evil laugh)

 

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Awesome. Could you please now go buy a Lancia Fulvia HF and compare it? Thanks!

Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk

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