Horst Keck Trans-Am GTA

Alfa Romeo GTV, GTA, and GTA Junior
Dana Loomis
The Alfa Romeo Giulia coupe and its derivatives-the GT Veloce (GTV), GT Junior, GTA, GTAm, and GTA Junior-has enjoyed one of the most successful racing records of any production car of its era. The Giulia (sounds like "Julia") was an evolution of the 1300 cc Giulietta, the first car Alfa Romeo produced for the post World War II mass market. The Giulia was introduced in 1962 in the form of a space-efficient, aerodynamic four-door sedan with an all-aluminum, dual overhead cam 1600 cc engine, four-wheel disc brakes, and a five-speed transmission. Like its predcesssor, the Giulietta, the Giulia had dual wishbone front suspension and a live rear axle. At the time, the Giulia was considered to be an advanced design that marked Alfa Romeo's re-entry to the middle-class car market. Although BMW is often credited with having "invented" the modern sport sedan with the introduction of the 1602, the Giulia is a more fitting candidate for the honor: it was introduced four years earlier than the '02, and was in many was more technically advanced.

A coupe version of the Giulia, with dual side-draft Weber carburetors and other performance-oriented mechanical improvements, followed in 1963. The Giulia coupe's elegant bodywork was a product of the well-known Bertone design studio, but the actual design work was done by Giorgetto Giugiaro, who went on to produce other classics including the Maserati Bora and the original Volkswagen Golf (Rabbit in the US).

Production History
The Giulia coupe was produced from 1963 to 1975. The styling and mechanical design remained essentially the same, but progressive changes throughout the production period produced variations in engine displacement and other mechanical specifications, in addition to minor changes in appearance and in the car's name.

The coupe originally had a 1600 cc engine and was known as the Giulia Sprint GT. In 1966, a few minor mechanical improvements were made and the name was changed to Giulia Sprint GT Veloce ("fast"). More substantial mechanical changes, including a new 1.8 liter engine, were made for the 1968 model year, and the coupe was renamed the 1750 GT Veloce, better known as the GTV. A 2.0 liter engine was introduced in 1972 and the coupe became the 2000 GTV. For economy-minded Europeans, a 1300 cc version of the Giulia coupe, the GT Junior, was introduced in 1968. US versions of the 1750 and 2000 GTVs used Alfa Romeo's own proprietary mechanical fuel injection system in place of the European model's Weber carburetors.

In 1966, a special, limited-production variant of the Giulia coupe was developed specifically to enhance the car's prospects in international touring car competition. This car, which was hand-fabricated with lightweight aluminum body panels, was officially named the Giulia Sprint GT Alleggerita ("lightened")-the GTA, for short. The GTA used the 1600 Giulia engine with a special cylinder head with two spark plugs per cylinder that allowed it to produce 170 HP in full-race form. It also had a special, close-ratio transmission, a unique sliding block device to laterally locate the rear axle, and a host of other race-bred parts.

The ultimate evolution of the Giulia coupe, introduced in 1970, was the GT America, usually shortened to GTAm. The GTAm was derived from the steel-bodied, production, US-model 1750 GTV. In this sense it was different from the GTA: the GTAm was not a production model, but a pure race car. It used many of the special components developed for the 1600 GTA. However, it had a purpose-built, fuel-injected 2 liter engine producing over 200 HP. The GTAm was also visually distinct from the GTA; it had wide, plastic fender flares and 9 or 10x13 inch alloy wheels that had originally been used on Alfa Romeo's Tipo 33 sports racer. Ironically, the factory never raced GTAms in the United States, despite the name.

The popular 1300 cc GT Junior was also given the GTA treatment and offered for sale as the GTA 1300 Junior. Although the GTA Junior had the same 1290 cc engine displacement as the standard production GT Junior, and the Giulietta before it, that displacement was achieved with a unique engine with a shorter stroke and larger bore than the standard unit. The Junior was produced for a longer period of time and in a wider variety of configurations than any other Giulia coupe. Early versions of the GTA Junior were essentially identical to the original 1600 GTA except for the engine displacement, but by the 70s, Juniors began to be fitted with the GTAm's wide wheels, fender flares, and fuel injection. Some late GTA Juniors even had motors equipped with an exotic twin-plug, four-valve-per-cylinder head.

In compliance with FIA rules for Touring Car racing, roadgoing versions of the GTA and the GTA Junior were available for purchase by the public. The GTA was produced from 1966 to 1969, and the GTA Junior from 1969 to 1975. More potent versions of both cars were prepared for the factory racing team by Alfa Romeo's own racing shop, Autodelta. Private owners who were racing their cars could buy any of the special competition parts developed for the factory team and could even have their cars prepared by Autodelta. As a result of these combined efforts by the factory and private owners, large numbers of Alfa coupes competed worldwide in the 1960s and '70s.

Alfa Romeo Giulia Coupe: models produced, production years, engine displacement and major competion classes in Europe and the USA
Name Model number Produced cc Competition classification
Giulia Sprint GT and GT Veloce 105.02, 105.36 1963-67 1570 FIA Touring Car, Group 1
Giulia Sprint GTA 105.32 1966-69 1570 FIA Touring Car, Group 2 through 1969; Group 4 from 1970
SCCA B Sedan; Trans Am under 2.0 l

GT 1300 Junior 105.30 1967-75 1290 FIA Touring Car, Group 1
Giulia Sprint GTA 1300 Junior 105.59 1968-75 1290 FIA Touring Car, Group 2
SCCA C Sedan

1750 GT Veloce 105.44 (USA model 105.51) 1968-71 1779 FIA Touring Car, Group 2
SCCA B Sedan

Trans Am under 2.5 l

2000 GT Veloce 105.21 (USA model 115.01) 1971-75 1962 FIA Touring Car, Group 2
SCCA B Sedan

GT America (GTAm) 105.51 1970-72 1985 FIA Touring Car, Group 2

International Competition History
Alfa Romeo's factory racing team campaigned the Giulia coupes aggressively in the European Touring Car Challenge from 1966 to 1972. The Alfas indisputably dominated the sport during those years, winning first place titles in six of seven years: 1966, 1967, 1969, 1970, 1971 and 1972.

Private teams also entered many GTAs, GTA Juniors and GTVs in national and regional races from the mid 1960s through the late '70s. Alfas were so popular that period photos often show fields crowded with GTAs. Adding to their spectacular success in Touring Car competition in Europe, the Alfa coupes appeared in circuit races in such venues as South Africa, Australia, South America, and the United States, and could also be found in rallies, hill climbs, and the equivalent of showroom stock races.

Racing in the US
While the Giulia coupe's successes in professional touring car racing in Europe are documented in several comprehensive books, much less information on the Giulia's record in the United States has been compiled and published in an accessible form. Research using various sources shows that that record was impressive, nevertheless. In the Trans American Championship, Alfa Romeo won the Manufacturer's Championship and the under two liter (U-2) title twice, in 1966 and 1970, and Alfa drivers claimed national titles in SCCA sedan racing classes in 1966, 1967, 1969, 1970, and 1971.

According to the January, 1966 issue of the Alfa Owner (the national magazine of the Alfa Romeo Owners' Club), the story began that same month with the GTA's first racing victory in this country in the "Refrigerator Bowl" at the now defunct Marlboro Raceway in Maryland, with Monty Winkler and Pete van der Vate at the wheel.

The Trans Am Championship
Alfa Romeo's factory racing team made its first US appearance with the GTA a few months later, when several GTAs were brought over for the inaugural race of the new Trans American Championship, a four-hour event at Sebring in March, 1966 Although the field was packed with heavy American iron, Jochen Rindt won the race outright in a factory GTA. Bob Tullius came in second in a Dodge Dart, followed by Andrea de Adamich/Carlo Zeccoli in another factory GTA, then Paul Richards, Horst Kwech and Howard Hannah in privately-entered GTAs, finishing fourth, fifth and seventh overall, respectively. In the under 2 liter (U-2) class, the Alfas claimed the top five places. As eye-opening as this achievement was, it was to be the last time the factory campaigned a sedan in the United States. The works GTAs were sold off after the Sebring race and the team went back to Italy, leaving American privateers to carry the flag.

And carry the flag they did! After the inaugural race at Sebring, the "Trans Am" series continued with races at Mid America, Bryar, Virginia International Raceway (VIR), Marlboro, Green Valley, and Riverside. By the end of the race at VIR, Alfa Romeo had already won enough points to secure victory in the U-2 class for 1966. At season's end, Alfa had emerged as the overall Trans Am Champion, amassing more championship points than any other manufacturer (57 overall, followed by Ford with 44, Plymouth with 39 and Dodge with 33) and finishing first in 7 of 9 U-2 races. The Trans Am Challenge did not have an official driver's championship until 1971, but Horst Kwech and Gaston Andrey, who shared a GTA, were the top points getters among all drivers in both classes.

In addition to marking the beginning of the Trans Am Championship, 1966 was the inaugural year of the B-sedan class in SCCA club racing. GTAs dominated this new class, too. Horst Kwech claimed the first national B-sedan championship in a GTA, and also won SCCA's President's Cup.

The privateer GTAs were back for the 1967 Trans Am season and again made a strong showing. It wasn't quite strong enough, however. Porsche had contrived to homologate the 911 as a sedan, and the car's superior acceleration challenged the GTAs on fast tracks. Alfa Romeo captured second place in U-2, but Porsche took first in U-2 and overall to win the 1967 Championship, with Ford (Lotus Cortina) 3rd and BMW 4th in class.

For Alfa, the 1968 and '69 Trans Am standings were a repeat of 1967's. Alfa was second in the U-2 class after Porsche both years. Porsche tied with Chevrolet for overall championship points in '68 then edged Chevrolet in '69 to take first overall for a second time.

Things improved considerably for the Alfa privateers in 1970. A change in the rules had again excluded the 911, so Alfa was in a strong position. Horst Kwech, Gus Andrey, Lee Midgely, Bert Everett, Harry Theodoracopoulos, Jon Norman, Wilbur Pickett, Ed Wachs, and others entered GTAs.

Midgely began a string of Alfa victories with a first-place finish in U-2 in the opening race at Laguna Seca. Class wins by Andrey at Lime Rock on May 7th, Everett at Mid Ohio June 9th, and Kwech at Donnybrooke on July 7th followed in quick succession. On August 2nd at St. Jovite, GTAs finished 1,2,3 in U-2, with Kwech again in the lead. With podium finishes in all of the previous races, this performance was enough for Alfa Romeo to tie up the U-2 Championship two months before the end of the season. The Alfa drivers didn't let up in subsequent races, despite their early success: Kwech was first in class at Elkhart Lake, Watkins Glen and Riverside, while Midgely won at Mt. Tremblant and Everett was first at Kent. At the end of the season, Alfa drivers had class wins in 9 of 11 races and accumulated enough points (81) to earn Alfa Romeo the overall manufacturers' Championship for the second time, in addition to the U-2 title. BMW was second in U-2 (52 points), while Ford (72 points) finished second overall.

For 1971, there were again major changes in the Trans Am's organization. Maximum displacements were increased, and a separate series- the 2.5 Challenge-was created for smaller sedans, which would now race separately from the V8s. It promised to be another strong season for Alfa. Horst Kwech was back with a new car sponsored by Wetson's, a New York hamburger chain. This time, it was a 1750 GTV, rather than a GTA. Some period publications incorrectly described this car as a GTAm, which it superficially resembled. In fact, it was built in Kwech's shop in Illinois, using a single plug, carbureted engine and a mix of GTA and US-made components. Bert Everett drove a similar GTV for the Wetson team, and veteran Alfa drivers Gus Andrey, Lee Midgely, Harry Theodoracopoulos, and Jon Norman competed in GTAs.

Kwech won 1971's opening race at Lime Rock, and Andrey won the second at New Hampshire, giving Alfa a comfortable lead over second place BMW. A new threat to the established order of things revealed itself in the third race at Mid Ohio, however, where John Morton won in a car that had not been a significant factor in Trans Am competition before-a Datsun 510. Morton's Datsun was prepared in California by Pete Brock Racing Enterprises with generous support from the factory. The BRE Datsuns driven by Morton and teammate Mike Downs surprised Americans still skeptical of Japanese cars with its outstanding handling and power.

Morton and the Alfas traded wins for the rest of the season: after the next-to-last race at Riverside, Morton had won five times, Kwech twice, and Everett and Midgely each once. Datsun had won more races, but they had only two cars and Alfas always finished in the top five. As a result, Alfa Romeo had more points and would win the championship unless Datsun could move ahead in the final race scheduled for Kent, Washington. When the Kent race was canceled on short notice, it appeared that the Championship had been snatched out of Datsun's-and Morton's-reach at the last moment. But Pete Brock reportedly approached the organizers of a Can Am race at Laguna Seca and persuaded them to add a 2.5 Challenge race as an opener, giving Datsun a chance at the win they would need to take the title. The outcome of that race left neither side satisfied.

The Laguna Seca race begain inauspiciously for Alfa. Marque partisans felt trapped into having the title depend on an extra race that wasn't on the official schedule (SCCA archives do not show the results of the Laguna Seca race to this day). To make things worse, the track presented Kwech with a technical problem. Races at Laguna Seca were run counterclockwise, opposite other tracks on the regular Trans Am calendar. As a result, the fuel filler on Kwech's 1750 GTV, which had been built for standard clockwise-running tracks, ended up on infield side. This configuration was disallowed by the SCCA race officials. Kwech declined to change it, so he would have to race on a single load of fuel, while the Datsuns and the Alfa GTAs, which had their filler necks in the center of the trunk, could refuel as needed.

The race shaped up as a duel between Kwech and Morton, who exchanged the lead innumerable times and "traded paint" in a style worthy of NASCAR. Despite being unable to refuel, Kwech survived to the end, crossed the finish line first, and was given the victory wreath. Alfa, it seemed, had won the Championship for the third time, thanks to the efforts of Horst Kwech and the other American privateers. To their disappointment, the victory turned out to be short-lived.

The engine of Kwech's GTV had died on the cool-down lap after the checker, apparently because he had run out of fuel. Suspicions were aroused and someone persuaded the officials that Kwech's car should be checked for excess fuel capacity. A day after the race, the fuel cell was found to hold three gallons more than the rules permitted. As a result, Kwech was disqualified and Morton was awarded first place, giving Datsun the 1971 2.5 Championship.

In any contest, the winners usually get to tell the story, and the historical "facts" everyone thinks they know support the Datsun victory. Kwech, for his part, insisted that his team hadn't knowingly violated any rule. Ron Neal, who built Kwech's engines, told writer Sylvia Wilkinson "...we would never cheated in such a stupid way. If we'd planned on cheating, you would never have been able to detect it." A few weeks later, Kwech told his side to George Bulwinkel, the Editor of Alfa Owner. He explained it this way: in hopes of solving a fuel delivery problem, the Wetson team had added 2 ½ inches of sheet metal to the metal container of Kwech's fuel cell for the Riverside race so they could pack in dry ice. It hadn't worked, but SCCA officials hadn't objected to the modification, and the team hadn't gotten around to changing it back. The excess fuel capacity measured after the Laguna Seca race might have been an unintended consequence of the modification: the larger can could have allowed the cell's internal rubber bladder to expand beyond its normal size and hold extra fuel.

The Alfa team also claimed that, even if that had happened, it had not given them an unfair advantage in the race. Kwech said his engine had stopped running on the cooldown lap because of a broken ignition wire, not because he was out of gas. When the race officials tested his car's fuel capacity, they drained and refilled the cell to determine the total volume, instead of topping it off to see how much fuel had actually been used during the race. Kwech and Neal explained in separate interviews that there were three to four gallons of fuel left in the cell when the officials drained it, meaning that of the 15.8 gallons put in the empty cell before it was sealed for the race, only 12 to 13 had been used. So, Kwech argued, even if the officials' estimates of his fuel capacity had been correct "there was no question that we complied with the spirit of the rule" by finishing the race within the cell's nominal 15 gallon capacity. "We got the shaft on a bodywork violation," he said. Kwech also had his own suspicions that the winning BRE Datsun had excess fuel capacity and tried to persuade the race officials to test all of the top five cars, as they had his Alfa, but they refused.

Kwech's disqualification particularly rankled Alfa partisans because, on the same day, Peter Revson won the feature Can Am race at Laguna Seca after ignoring a black flag and driving through a fiery crash. Revson was fined $250 and allowed to keep the win, and the purse.

And that was how it ended. Morton got the win and Datsun took the Championship, but Kwech said bitterly in Alfa Owner "They took the money away from us, but they couldn't take the glory away. We whipped them...we still feel we won the 1971 Trans Am, and we always will." John Morton was not completely satisfied with the outcome, either. He told writer Sylvia Wilkinson "...it doesn't really feel like we won."

The 1972 season was set for a rematch between Alfa and Datsun, Kwech and Morton. This time Kwech teamed with Theoracopoulos in the Wetson GTVs, while Everett, Midgely, Ken Schley, Vic Provenzano, Ed Wachs and others were in GTAs. The BRE team fielded three Datsuns 510s for 1972: Morton and Downs were again regulars, with several well-known drivers, including Peter Gregg, Bob Sharp, Hershel McGriff, and Bobby Allison handling the third car. There were other 510s, too, thanks to the publicity gained through Datsun's Championship in 1971. Photos from 1972 seem to show racing fields full of Alfas and Datsuns.

Although the Alfa drivers put up a brave effort, it seemed from the beginning to be Datsun's year. The Alfa teams were increasingly vocal in their discontent with the 200 lb. weight penalty they were assessed because of the car's DOHC engine. Bert Everett said in Alfa Owner magazine "We're not getting more horsepower [than the Datsuns], so why should we carry extra weight?" Alfa fans also worried that their cars were getting old and would inevitably lose ground without better support from Italy, a new car, or both.

The disparity in factory support was also clearly evident. Alfa drivers got some contingency money, discounts on parts, and technical advice from Alfa Romeo's North American arm, but no direct help in preparing or campaigning the cars. Road & Track reported after the 1971 season that "the parent factory provides mostly good wishes" for teams racing Alfas in the 2.5 Challenge. Horst Kwech had done much of the preparation of the Wetson Alfas himself and could frequently be seen working on them at the track, clad in his driving suit.

By contrast, the BRE Datsuns traveled in a well-equipped semi transporter with a crew of mechanics, and the President of Nissan US personally accompanied the team. Pete Brock's BRE shop seemed to function as a US-based extension of Nissan. Road & Track said "BRE is the Datsun factory team...BRE has the biggest shop, the most equipment, the largest and most experience crew, and the most money."

The BRE Datsuns won the first four races of the 1972 season, while the Alfas could do no better than third. The Alfas finally seemed to have gotten it together in the sixth race at Donnybrook in July: Kwech and Everett finished first and second and Wachs was fourth. But at Road America a few weeks later, the Datsuns finished first and second again. The Alfas roared back at Sanair, Quebec, where Everett, Schley and Theodoracopolous finished 1-2-3. It was their best performance of the season, but their final win. Datsuns finished in the top three places in the next race at Road Atlanta, clinching the 2.5 Challenge title for Nissan a second time. The best the Alfas could do after that was a second by Kwech at Laguna Seca. At the end of the season, Alfa was second in the Manufacturers' Championship, with 40 points to Nissan's 81.

1972 was the last year Alfa Romeos competed in the Trans Am Championship. The 2.5 Challenge was eliminated as a separate class in 1973, and afer that the field was dominated by American sedans and Porsche 911s. With no Alfas entered in 1973, Kwech and Theodoracopoulos shared a Ford Capri, while Everett drove an Escort. There were no more Datsun 510s either; John Morton appeared in a Camaro. Of Alfa's rivals in the Trans Am's peak years, only a few BMWs 2002s were left. It was without doubt the end of an era.

SCCA Club Racing
Alfa Romeo GTAs and GTVs also had a strong presence in SCCA Club Racing from 1966 through the early '70s. Records of individual races and Regional championships are not readily available, so tracing this aspect of the cars' history would likely require days of sifting through paper records in the SCCA archives. The winners of National championships are recorded in several places, however, so this facet of the story can be told.

At the time, the top three class points-winners in each SCCA region were invited to the national Championships at Road Atlanta, then called the American Road Race of Champions (ARRC). At the ARRC, titles were awarded to drivers, not to car manufacturers, but the car can usually be discerned from the driver's name.

From 1966 onward, the 1600 cc GTA and the larger displacement 1750 and 2000 GTVs were all assigned to the B-sedan class, while the 1300 cc GTA Junior was classified as a C sedan. In 1966, the first year for SCCA's sedan classes, Horst Kwech won the B-Sedan title in a GTA. In the same year, Kwech also won SCCA's President's Cup, conceived to honor the driver who best embodied the spirit of amateur motor racing. A GTA driver took the B-Sedan honors again in 1967, when Vic Provenzano won the title. The next national championship win in a Giula coupe was in 1969, when Harry Theodoracopoulos won the C-Sedan title in a 1300 GTA Junior. Provenzano and his GTA came back to win the B-Sedan Championship a second time in 1970. Dick Davenport in a GTA Junior was the C-Sedan Champion in 1971, giving Giulia coupe drivers national Championships in five of six straight years.

Year Trans Am Championship SCCA Club Racing National Championships
1966 Manufacturers' Championship
U-2 Championship

B-Sedan: Horst Kwech/GTA
1967 U-2, 2nd place B-Sedan: Vic Provenzano/GTA
1968 U-2, 2nd place
1969 U-2, 2nd place C-Sedan: Harry Theodoracopolous/GTA Jr
1970 Manufacturers' Championship
U-2 Championship

B-Sedan: Provenzano/GTA
1971 U-2, 2nd place C-Sedan: Dick Davenport/GTA Jr
1972 U-2, 2nd place

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