Saturday, March 30, 2013

That Other U2L Trans-Am Car (Alfa GTA/GTV)

Horst Kwech was born in Austria, raised in Australia, and emigrated to the States in 1961.  He developed an Alfa Romeo tuning (and race car manufacturing) business in the Chicago suburbs.  He  was a front-rank SCCA competitor in Alfas from 1966 to 1971.

The power train of the GTA/GTV came straight from the Giulia series of sports cars and sedans of the early 1960's: 1.6 liter DOHC engine, 5-speed gearbox, solid rear axle.  Both versions had aluminum body panels and plastic windows.  The principal difference was that the GTV's engine was taken out to 1.75 liters.

In the early days of Trans-Am, the Porsche 911 was competitive with the Alfa GTA (and also "owned" C-Production).  But Porsche was concentrating on prototype racing in Europe, so lightweight versions of the 911 were not available to SCCA racers in the States.  It fell behind in development and out of contention, especially as preparation rules for the Trans-Am pro series were liberalized.

By 1971, Kwech was the only Trans-Am Under Two Liter competitor who could consistently run with the factory-supported B.R.E. Datsuns.  (The other principal competitor in the U2L class was the BMW 2002.)  And run with them he did.  He gave the B.R.E Datsuns fits all season long; the championship went down to the last race of the season at Laguna Seca where it was decided in favor of Datsun.  For those who cared about U2L, the competition between between Alfa and Datsun was just as captivating as the "Mustang-Camaro Wars" in the big-bore class.

Although Kwech was born in Austria and his business and racing career were based in the Chicago suburbs, he was
raised "Down Under" and considered himself Australian.  Thus the Kangaroos on his GTA and helmet.  This car was
built by Autodelta, Alfa's racing subsidiary, thus the four-leaf clover logo.  Note the lack of a full roll cage and a
"proper" racing seat: the mid 1960's were the crossover from amateur to "full pro" preparation standards in the SCCA.

The color and the car's stance in this shot say "Alfa Romeo:" nose lift, nose dive, and body roll.  Kwech won both the
amateur B-Sedan and Trans-Am U2L championships in 1966.  In terms of street cars, the GTA was a reintroduction or
revival of the Giulietta Sprint coupe of the 1950's, sold side-by-side with the updated Spider--"The Graduate" version
used by Dustin Hoffman in the film of the same name.   

The story of the 1971 Trans-Am season: just reverse the cars from race-to-race or lap-to-lap.

Kwech's "all pro" (sponsored) Alfa for 1971 was a GTV, not a GTA, although they were essentially the same car.  By
now it had left-hand drive, a fully caged roll bar, and stiffer suspension.  This is the restored car at a vintage event.

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