Why you need to buy this Alfa Romeo 155 GTA Stradale | Top Gear
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BBC TopGear

Why you need to buy this Alfa Romeo 155 GTA Stradale

Giulia Quadrifoglio's lesser-known predecessor could be yours for, um, £190k

  • You know the Alfa Romeo Giulia Quadrifoglio. When the Italians turn out a 500bhp BMW M3 rival infused with a sprinkling of Ferrari DNA, how could you miss it?

    While it was lauded as a return to form for Alfa, what form that means is unclear. Because it’s hard to pinpoint a time when Alfa made a car that shared any specific characteristics with the bombastic Quadrifoglio. Not least because the car you see here never made production.

    It’s the Alfa Romeo 155 GTA Stradale, and we think it’s chuffing brilliant. It’ll soon go under the hammer at Bonhams’ Padua auction, with its estimate suggesting it could fetch close to £200,000. So why is a 1993 Alfa sports saloon worth as much as a Ferrari 488 GTB? Or, indeed, three 2018 Alfa sports saloons? Read on…

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  • It’s chock-full of motorsport pedigree

    The GTA Stradale was built as a concept, previewing a production car that would celebrate Alfa’s success in touring car racing. The 155 was a real star in saloon-shaped motorsport, where it won Italy’s highly evocative sounding Superturismo Championship, Germany’s DTM series and the more prosaically named Spanish and British Touring Car Championships. The latter famously with Gabriele Tarquini at the wheel.

    Understandably, Alfa wanted to mark those successes with a road car, one to emulate the success of sports saloons like the Mercedes 190E 2.5-16 and E30 BMW M3. How good would this 155 have looked in a group test alongside those two?

  • There’s a Delta Integrale underneath

    Building a motorsport-themed special needed some motorsport nous, and that was provided by development boss Sergio Limone, whose CV includes the Lancia 037. Lines on CVs don't get much more exciting.

    The GTA Stradale used the Alfa 155 Q4 as its base, a production 155 with a four-wheel-drive set-up evolved from the Lancia Delta Integrale, with a heavier, cast iron rear differential used to shuffle the weight distribution back a bit. Better for battling understeer, basically. Which means, in the right hands, more oversteer. Hurrah!

    The Integrale’s suspension was also transplanted into the GTA, while the interior was stripped of a few goodies and the exterior received a makeover with more assertive sills and bumpers and a big rear wing. Looks ace, no?

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  • A six-cylinder engine might have helped it make production

    The engine was a 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbo with around 190bhp. Which, back then, ought to have been enough to make this 155 competitive alongside the 190E (195bhp) and M3 (215bhp).

    Alas, it scared Fiat’s financial people, who reckoned a car like this needed a more premium sounding six-cylinder engine. Which wouldn’t fit the Delta Integrale mechanicals that would help make the 155 handle well enough to compete with that BMW and Merc. Boo.

    That, along with the staggering cost of fitting out a whole new bespoke production line for the GTA Stradale, killed the project.

  • It’s got even more motorsport pedigree

    But the GTA Stradale didn’t disappear from view without a fight. As well as appearing at the Bologna Motor Show, it made an appearance as Dr Sid Watkins’ medical car at the 1994 Monza Grand Prix.

    That was a bit of a watershed year for Formula 1, and Sid was famously a firm friend of Ayrton Senna, who’d been killed five months earlier at Italy’s other F1 race, the San Marino GP at Imola.

  • The sensible side of its history is strong, too

    After its moment in the sun, the car made its way into private hands, being road registered in Germany in 1998 and returning to Italy a year later to join the private collection of an Alfa engine specialist, where it stayed until very recently.

    A strong place to spend the vast majority of its life, and you’d expect the 40,000km (25,000 miles) it’s covered to have been accompanied with some careful maintenance.

  • It was a missed opportunity

    The good news if you wish to pay the £160,000 to £190,000 Bonhams estimates is that it’ll come with letters of authenticity, including one from development boss Sergio Limone.

    He recently told an Italian classic car magazine that the GTA was “a missed opportunity”, one which really ought to have made production. We couldn’t agree more. If you end up buying this - the only 155 GTA Stradale in existence - let us know. We’ll start searching for a 190E and M3…

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