Contested across savannas and deserts, the Safari is the emblem of the extreme in the world of rallying. A competition full of unforeseen events, prioritizing reliability over more attractive qualities such as speed or dynamic behavior. For this reason, utilitarian a priori little given to these adventures are more common here than it might seem. In this sense, the Peugeot 404 achieved four first places. Surprising fact that is accompanied by the two victories of the VW Beetle and even the victory in 1955 of a Ford Zephyr.
However, with the victory in 1970 of a Datsun 1600 from the Nissan official team, a mechanical refinement begins in which the first positions will always be taken by sports models. Moment in which Lancia officially puts all its impetus to win the Safari, sending successively units of the Fulvia and the Stratos both in private teams and in the official. However, it wasn't until 1988 that he finally succeeded with Miki Biason piloting a Delta Integrale. Almost two decades of struggle in which the bitterness of Sandro Munari.
I find that He started with his first participation in 1970 at the controls of a Fulvia. Model that he would use two more times and then return three times piloting a Stratos. In addition, he also tried it on board a FIAT 131 Abarth, a Dodge Ramcharger, a 911 SC, a Toyota Celica and even an Alfa Romeo Alfetta GTV6 in 1983. Probably the most unexpected car on this list.
And, after all, while most of Lancia's sporting history has been written in rallying, Alfa Romeo's has few episodes on gravel. Anyway, one of them came wanted go really serious thanks to the upgrade given by the turbo. We are talking about the 1979 Alfa Romeo Alfetta GTC Turbodelta. A short-lived model designed to compete in Group 4.
ALFA ROMEO ALFETTA GTV TURBODELTA. FIRST STEPS WITH TURBO
By 1983, three years had passed since Alfa Romeo suppressed any attempt to win a rally by the official Autodelta team. Thus, the only thing that explains the manufacture of a GTV6 for Sandro Munari to go to the Rally Safari is his close relationship with Carlo Chiti and his sports department. Nevertheless, Alfa Romeo's refusal to rally had not always been so restrictive, since in 1979 it came to manufacture 400 copies of the Alfetta GTV Turbodelta for homologation in Group 4.
An attempt to stand out in the world rally that, as the times marked, made use of the turbo to go further. Something strange in the Alfa Romeo of that time, still suspicious of any technology that did not go through atmospheric engines and an improvement in carburetion. Nevertheless, at the end of the seventies, the brand's engineers were testing the turbo to optimize consumption. An idea intended for production cars, but which Luigi Chiti took for his racing department looking for an increase in power in the supercharger that would allow the GTV to be competitive on the international rally scene.
This is how the Alfetta GTV Turbodelta was born. One of the first representative samples of the turbo in Alfa Romeo, which took its Twin Cam two-liter engine to new heights. An operation very similar to the one Ferrari did three years later in 1982 with the 208 GTB Turbo. Another sports car that with the turbo gave extra power to its engine limited to two liters of displacement. Limit imposed for tax reasons, but which unexpectedly opened the door to supercharging in a brand reluctant to it.
FROM V8 TO TURBODELTA ENDING IN A QUICK RETIREMENT
However, the Turbodelta version was neither the first nor the most exclusive sports version in the first series of the Alfetta GTV. In this sense the reference is the GTV 2'6 V8 from 1977. A strange variant with the Montreal engine of which only about twenty units were made at the request of the importer in Germany. An experiment that is still referred to in Alfist circles as "The bomb". However, the truth is that none of these vehicles made it far in competition. A dire fate shared by the Alfetta GTV Turbodelta.
Final due to poor reliability. Given that Regarding power, the KKK K26 turbocharger carried the four-cylinder in-line up to 180CV. In addition, in terms of chassis and suspensions, the units prepared for competition received improvements that give the Turbodelta more effectiveness on the track. Something that, however, did not manage to bring the official Autodelta team more than victory in the 1979 Danube Rally. A fact that contrasts with the victory of the atmospheric GTV the year before in the Group 2 category of the Italian rally championship. And it is that, definitely, this put on the table the limitations of the Turbodelta Group 4 within the international scene.
That is why Luigi Chiti decided not to go beyond the four hundred units required for homologation, while closing the door to all kinds of participation in rallies. Something disappointing a priori but that in its context gives a positive balance to the Alfetta Turbodelta. First, because thanks to him the brand was able to seriously test turbocharging. Fact that shows the large number of units used as test vehicles. And secondly because, today, the Alfetta Turbodelta is a rarity as coveted for Alfistas as for Ferraristas is the 208 GTB Turbo.
Photographs: Super Classics / Alfa Romeo
P.D. The Turbodelta unit illustrated in this article is for sale at the Italian classic dealer Super classics. It is one of those prepared for rallies by Autodelta, also used as a test car by Alfa Romeo itself.