A Sight for Sore Eyes - 1973 Alfa Romeo GT 1600 Junior


At Cars of Malaysia, we try our best to give great content for car enthusiasts in Malaysia. We provide car reviews (with technical explanations), we provide our perspectives on car events, and we feature cars we find worthy of our attention. Some are fast cars that get used and abused, some are quirky cars that don’t do things the conventional way, and some cars are just old and gold – like this Alfa Romeo GT 1600 Junior.

New Alfa Romeos are hard to come by in Malaysia. They were once officially distributed by Sime Darby but that all ended in 2013. (link to news article on paultan.org). With no official dealership for the Alfa Romeo brand, there are a lot of challenges for a person trying to buy one. The absence of an official dealership means you don’t get the after sales experience, which is very important considering the reliability of an Alfa Romeo. Alfa Romeos are often seen as a romantic and insensible choice for a car. Some people like the look of it, some people like the sound of it, and some may just have an affinity towards anything Italian when it comes to cars.

 


Before we go on, we must first thank our friends from Chemlube Malaysia for getting us sorted out with this beautiful Alfa Romeo.




To learn more about Chemlube, you can head on over to their website, their blog, their facebook page, or their Instagram account (@chemlubemalaysia).



Appreciating the GT 1600 Junior


I couldn’t imagine myself owning and caring for a classic car. Perhaps I haven’t been bitten by the bug yet. But there are people out there who would rather spend their money on an old car without power steering than a brand-new sports car that could do 0-60mph in 3.6 seconds. This Alfa Romeo GT 1600 Junior is an example of such choice.

Classic cars need to be driven carefully, have nasty rust issues, and are not practical. What’s the upside? Well, in the case of this Alfa Romeo, it’s a pleasure to look at. Not many cars can rock steel wheels and still look charming. The design is simple and has no complicated surfaces. The hood hinges at the front end like many older sports cars. There is no left or right front quarter panel. It’s just one big piece from the left, across the front, and to the right. Those bumpers are a joke by modern safety standards, but they give a beautiful minimalist look to the car. The curved edges of the car combined with the red paint do make it look like a biji saga on wheels.




Inside, the GT 1600 Junior is small. There’s not much headroom which reminded me of the NC Miata I tried some time ago (link to article). Of course, the Miata is a much more fun car to drive and the interior is more claustrophobic. There is no power steering in the Alfa and it isn’t the most ergonomic car out there. The dash configuration is unique by modern standards. There’s not much going on at the gauge cluster. You get the odometer, tachometer, and an oil pressure gauge (I guess). That’s about it. Everything else is spread across the length of the dashboard like the water temperature gauge, the fuel gauge, and some warning lights. 



Things like the parking light and windscreen wipers are operated by flick switches, you get an ashtray on the driver’s side door, and the foot pedals look very Italian. The car takes some getting used to and you need to be physical yet gentle when driving it. If you’re a hot headed young man with very little patience, this isn’t the car for you.




The gear lever is way up near the dash and it is part of a 5-speed standard manual transmission, the headrests are at a fixed position, and the roof lining looks like it belongs on the inside of a suitcase. The assist grips are spring loaded, but not in a modern car kind of manner. Being inside the car is a unique experience itself, and perhaps it’s the reason why some of us like old Alfa Romeos. 





Popping the Hood



There’s no engine code for the Junior’s engine. It’s just called the Twin Cam by Alfa Romeo - Aluminium alloy engine block, Twin carburettors, double overhead cams, in-line 4 cylinders, 2 valves per cylinder, and when fresh from the factory it had a rated maximum power output of 107.5 bhp. Alfa’s twin cam 4 cylinder does not have an iconic sound. It’s just a low rumble of an engine with a carburettor. However, popping the hood up is a pleasing sight. You are first greeted by the unique front-hinged bonnet and then you see the ‘Alfa Romeo’ wordings proudly cast onto the cam cover. It’s something different from the modern-day plastic engine covers. Although the Alfa with the hood up is a sight for sore eyes, we hope it is not something you’ll be forced to see during a breakdown.



To think that this was considered a sports car back in its day, we’ve really come a long way since then. Twin cams are now standard, we get 4 valves per cylinder now, we have electronic fuel injection (even better – direct injection), and even small modern economical cars can smoke grandpa Alfa effortlessly (Ford Fiesta Ecoboost).



Is the GT 1600 Junior powerful?
Not by today’s standards. You have to give it a bit more gas even when rolling off from a flat surface. It’s just carburettors in general – they are crude an inefficient.





Basic Science of an Old Car (Carburettor)



I am young, and I’m sure some of you reading this are young as well. Carburettors are a thing of the past, although you may still find them in go karts and lawnmowers. The only car I’ve ever driven with a carburettor prior to this was a Proton Saga Aeroback. And Carburettors can be an interesting topic to talk about. The twin carburettors of the GT 1600 Junior are partially hidden behind the air filter in the image above.

 



What does a carburettor do?
A carburettor mixes the air and fuel that goes into the combustion chamber

How does a carburettor work?
Like a spray gun. It’s a combination of Bernoulli’s principle and the working s of a venturi tube. Fast moving air sucks the gasoline from a reservoir and creates an air-fuel mixture rich enough to power the car.





left: spray gun; right: diagram of a venturi tube



What has happened to carburettors?
They have been replaced by fuel injection systems. There were mechanical fuel injection systems like the one we see in the M103 engine of the Merecedes Benz W126 300SEL (link to article). They can be a pain in the ass to fix. Today, we are blessed with electronic fuel injection systems which are more precise, efficient, and easier to modulate.

 

What is a carburettor choke?
A choke is just a butterfly valve. A choke is something you need during cold starts for a car. You choke the airflow in the engine to create a vacuum as the piston goes to BDC (Bottom Dead Centre). This vacuum pulls a rich mixture of fuel into the engine to help start it up.



A GTV Back End



If you noticed something a little off with this GT 1600 Junior, yes, the taillights are from a 2000 GTV.



Final Words



The aesthetics of a car will always be a subjective matter. I like the way this Alfa looks – nice clean edges, simple overall design, and very Italian. It’s just not something you can hoon around in. Modern Alfas maybe, but not this granddad of a car. You have to be gentle, and very patient at that too.

There is one ‘old’ Alfa that comes to mind when it comes to honing - the Alfaholics GTA-R. The one that Chris Harris drove some time in 2017. The downside? It costs 1 quarter million dollars (USD, I presume).






 

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