IT’S QUITE A shock to discover that something you’ve written just a few years ago is now completely and utterly obsolete. However, as we are about to discover, the reason for this obsolescence is really rather knee-tremblingly exciting.
The last time we spoke to Max Banks about the family firm, it was based on the edges of Exmoor offering parts for one of the classic series of Alfas, plus a few rather superb suspension bits ’n’ bobs. Visit Alfaholics today though, and the company has relocated to two industrial units in Clevedon on the outskirts of Bristol – with an equally marked increase in staff. This, in itself, is a remarkable transformation, but as we are about to find out, this is only the visible bit of the iceberg.
“When you came to us originally to do the article on how to modify the 105-series coupé, if you now re-read that article, it perfectly illustrates how much we’ve done. Compare the ways we used to modify them with the range of products we offer on our website, and to a degree you wouldn’t think it was the same company speaking. That’s how much we have developed and how many more products are available,” says Max.
Interestingly Alfaholics has also noted the change in how retro classics are being enjoyed. Alfa owners in particular, are now increasingly interested in getting the best out of their cars, rather than slavishly rebuilding cars to factory spec, polishing them and then parking their car in a field.
Max continues: “The big difference for us has been the change from a company selling standard remanufactured products for the 105-series Alfas, into one that is now dedicated to manufacturing all our own components. A lot of it being race, performance and tuning parts – some of it is standard parts that aren’t available or are only available in poor quality. We now control production ourselves so that we can offer our customers a better quality of product and a wider ranging product as well.”
“Before it was ‘you need to find this, out of this car.’ Now we’ve actually gone and remade it ourselves, made it better than it was originally and the parts are all on the shelf and are easy to get. So it’s made the availability of tuning far easier than it was before.”
Walk around the parts shelves at Alfaholics and they are divided into sections, the standard parts and the modified tuning parts. Not only are these latter parts beautifully engineered and presented, but they have come about by the company liaising with Britain’s world-leading motorsport industry. So if you buy a performance oriented Alfaholics component, you can be sure that it was made in Britain. Needless to say, this is something of which we are hugely supportive.
“There’s been a change of supply chains, to higher quality companies that manufacture products for us on an exclusive basis for Alfa Romeos. It’s a two-way process where they work with us, as much as we work with them. We’re helping them develop different stuff, like the differentials, where we’re doing a lot of the development work for the diff manufacturer. They can then offer that information and knowledge to their other customers, and by working together we both end up with a better product for our own markets.”
Of course, given the range of performance products available and all manufactured to Alfaholics specified standards, this has lead to a truly exciting development – the building of turn-key GTA Replicas.
“When you last came to us to feature my car, it was a) your article; and b) the stage-by-stage build of my car on the Alfaholics website that rekindled people’s demand in wanting us to build them a car. At the time in Devon, we didn’t have the time and resources to be able to offer turn-key cars to people,” says Max.
“However, rather than rush it through at that point and build bits ’n’ bobs for people, we had a bigger plan in hand – to be able to predetermine a spec for a car which was a turn-key product. It’s really high-spec and the customer just has to choose the exterior colour and the internal trim colour – as long as it’s tasteful! Plus a few optional extras on top of it, that people can have.
“After your original article. The development of the car in the photos put a lot of the product lines on our shelves, as upgrades. So this turned into a development car where we learnt what breaks, what doesn’t break, when it breaks and how much power certain components can handle. That was the development process for what became the standard spec for our Works GTA Replicas. In a similar, but smaller way to how Porsche brings out their latest iteration of the 911 GT3 – they go and thrash it around the Nürburgring to determine their spec – that’s what we’ve done with these Alfas.”
Rather than opt for a limited spec, the GTA Replica comes with such an impressive array of performance modifications that it leaves precious little room for optional extras. As a matter of fact, there are just nine further cost-options on this £65,000 model.
“Our whole company principle is based on quality and this applies not just to our parts on the shelf, but to cars we build for people. The car has been Nürburgring developed to find the perfect balance and match of components for both speed and reliability. For this reason we chose not to offer a lower standard spec and give customers more options; of course if someone ticked a box for a 198bhp Twin Spark, but not the box for the race propshaft conversion or race LSD, they would end up with a car inherently less reliable as well as lacking the ultimate balance; this would never have been an acceptable approach for Alfaholics.
“As a result the mechanical spec is predetermined to a very high level and the only options are cosmetic and ‘toys’ such as a billet machined cam cover and a close-ratio gearbox. In doing so, of course, it will fulfill fewer orders each year but it’s a number we can handle building and finding donor cars of a high enough quality to match our company ethos was always an important consideration. Realistically, we thought we could take orders for three cars per year, but when we launched the Replica on the website, we sold four cars in the first two months… Now it’s looking like we’re going to have to build between six and 10 per year!”
Given the immense workload ahead of them, when I ask the question about the company’s other plans, I expect to be put in my place – however, there are plenty. What though, about the company’s long-term future? Will we see Alfaholics expand into other series of Alfas?
“The next one is probably the 916. The problem with Alfettas is/was they did suffer badly from rust – worse than a lot of the Alfas. They were valued so lowly for years, that there aren’t many left.
It’s a bit like the Giulia Super scenario, that was always of a lower value than the GTs and although Alfa made more saloons than two-doors, you hardly ever see them now. Then it’s the way cars get treated because of their low value.
“There are hardly any 116 series left now, and I don’t think the parts market is very big and we don’t really know the cars very well. Then Alfa didn’t really do anything significant – 75s are so hard to find and again suffered the same sort of value issues as the 116. We’ve owned 916 GTVs and Spiders for nigh on 10 years, so we know them inside out. It’s the next obvious model and it does have a really good following with modern Alfa enthusiasts,” says Max.
Undoubtedly, there will be people who will baulk at the cost of a GTA replica, but if you add up the sheer expense of the hardware alone – never mind the labour – and you missed out on buying a Giulia Sprint GTA first time around, then it is a tantalising prospect.
Looking around at a couple of the cars – and drooling over the quality of the workmanship – which are awaiting completion and delivery, and I do find myself asking what else would I buy for the money? To me, the GTA always has been and always will be, a superbly blended concoction of style, badge, performance and unquestionable coolness – free of the ‘try too hard’ image and depreciation of modern tin.
By buying an Alfaholics GTA Replica, yes you are buying a replica, but you then find yourself freed from the burdens of reliability worries and maintaining a precious piece of Alfa Romeo history. Instead, you’re free to turn up to a track, humiliate far more modern machinery and put a very large smile on
Alfaholics GTA Replica – Technical Specification
Alfa Romeo 105-series two-door Giulia Sprint GT, GRP bonnet and boot, lightweight windscreen, Perspex rear screen, GTA style grille conversion, GTA door buttons and hoop handles, Bonnet and boot fastening pins.
Alfa Romeo 75 2-litre Twin Spark, twin Weber 45DCOE carburettors, bespoke inlet manifold, head fully ported and polished on flow bench, 8mm race valves, with race valve springs, billet performance camshafts rifle drilled for weight saving, forged oversize race pistons, high capacity oil pump, windage tray/block strengthening plate, lightened balanced and re-nitrided crank, lightened balanced polished and shot-peened rods.
Aluminium radiator with high performance twin row core, silicone water hoses, thermostatically controlled electric fan. Race oil cooler with thermostatically controlled sandwich plate.
Fully programmable 3-D mapped ignition system, crank triggered with throttle potentiometer, remote coil packs.
Aluminium race foam-filled fuel tank centre mounting in boot, with race fuel pump and pressure regulating system. Power: (standard) 198bhp.
Front-engined, rear-wheel drive, five-speed gearbox, Sachs sport clutch, fully reconditioned gearbox with all new synchros and bearings. Race LSD unit with 4.3:1 rear axle ratio. Race triple UJ propshaft conversion.
Front: aluminium adjustable race dampers with 2 ¼ ” ID spring conversion, lightweight wishbones, lightweight spring pans, large front anti-roll bar, geometry improvement kit to correct roll centre, roll-on camber and castor issues, Rose (hemi) jointed steering trackrod kit.
Rear: aluminium adjustable race shock absorbers with 2 ¼” ID coil over springs, aluminium t-bar, lightweight swage punched trailing arms.
Front: six-pot billet aluminium calipers with 11.8” vented discs.
Rear: two-pot billet aluminium calipers with 10.5” drilled and grooved discs. Dual circuit billet aluminium adjustable bias pedal-box.
Wheels and Tyres
Alfaholics 7×15” GTA Veloce wheels with 195/55R15 Michelin Pilot Exalto tyres.
Alcantara trimmed dashboard and consoles, leather trimmed Recaro race seats with inflatable lumber supports, 3” Sabelt four-point harnesses, bespoke trimmed carpets, carbon fibre race pedal blocks, six-point rollcage.
- 215bhp big-valve cylinder head upgrade
- Forged H-section rod upgrade
- Trackday/Race cerametallic paddle clutch
- GTA lightweight close-ratio gearbox
- Twin Spark GTAm cam cover
- Adjustable ride height 2 ¼” front spring conversion with RJ drop links
- Heated (lightweight) windscreen
- 205/50 Michelin Pilot Exalto
- 195/55 or 205/50 Yokohama AD08 road legal trackday tyres
Contact Alfaholics for pricing details.