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Cars, Features

October 19th, 2017

Owning Italian cars is an emotion. While each may add to what ticks the box for them, it largely comes down to the combination of their quirky nature and an almost-certain ability to connect the driver to what they are up to behind the wheel. And it’s said that the best possible way to experience this connection is from behind the wheel of an Alfa Romeo. Twins Iliya and Nikita Bridan along with Kira, who’s married to Nikita know all this a bit too well. For them, the journey with their 1974 Alfa Romeo GTV 2000 has been an extreme one that almost took the life out of their dearly beloved machine.

Iliya and Nikita are both automotive designers currently working with Honda and GM respectively, while Kira is a Senior Art Director for Garage Team Mazda. The Alfa has been the car that had been putting a smile on their face every time they head for a spirited drive around the coasts of Southern California, or into the mountain roads where the favourite playtime would be chasing 911s and BMW 2002s. The GTV has been a part of every memory for the three who have taken it literally to every extreme. One weekend it would be a Camping trip car while the other, it would be a companion at Monterey Historics.

As one would expect, the more the three drove the Alfa, the more they felt sucked in by its Italian charm. While the car came into their garage fairly stock, the three wanted to give it a personal touch. It started with light upgrades to the tyres and exhausts, and a bit of weight reduction, things soon started to look more serious. The September 74, sliver, US-spec Alfa Romeo GTV 2000 soon went through a complete engine rebuild where new high compression pistons, camps, lightweight pulleys were added. The fuelling was switched to Weber 45s sourced from Italy. Suspensions were upgraded, included race springs and shocks plus new bushings all around. The Alfa’s character had completely transformed. Sadly it wouldn’t last for long.

It all changed when the Alfa arrived at the mechanics about three hours late after getting loaded up in a trailer. They came to know that the car was loaded already damaged near the mechanic’s shop, and the driver wasn’t to be found. The car had been dropped off the flatbed during transportation. Instantly it was easy to see the car was pretty clearly totalled out. The rear of the car had taken the brunt of the visually assessable damage. It had landed on its rear end, bending the quarter panels and displacing the trunk. The fall was so severe that it had ripped several large gashes in the exterior sheet metal and internal structures. The doors now didn’t close perfectly.

A look under the Alfa Romeo GTV 2000’s belly completely broke their hearts. Assuming that the car must have slid off the truck, the engine seems to have caught a ledge and ripped both pieces of the oil pan off the car, shattering them completely. 7 quarts of oil spilt out of the engine. Some of the brake lines were also ripped apart. The fall had left a gruesome scene that would be a car lover’s worse nightmare.

In Iliya’s exact words… “It’s hard to really describe the feelings at a time like this, as a rush of emotions overwhelms you while fluctuating rapidly. It really feels like the world around you doesn’t make sense anymore. Disbelief and shock are the first things that race through your mind and it seems like life is playing a bad joke on you.” It was just worsened by the complete lack of information from the towing company making it saddening and imaginably frustrating.

The next few months dragged on… The body of the Alfa sitting at their house, compounding the feelings of sadness and frustration every time they looked at it. After several months of waiting to get some solution to the situation, they couldn’t take it anymore. They decided to rebuild it on their own, starting off with a fresh new design and a brand new appeal.

While it almost seemed and felt unreal every time they took off the car cover, all of them feeling excitement and fear at the same time. The only hope was to stay positive and keep pushing on. It was a patient full month when the day finally came when they would push the Alfa out of the garage in a huge sense of accomplishment. It was just then when the three of them realised that the Alfa was part of the family, it was one of them that had survived the junkyard ordeal and was back into their lives, to continue to create memories.

Bhuvan: How did you guys not lose hope and decide to take up such a herculean task?

Iliya: I think the first thing was to assess the amount of damage and to decide whether this would even be a project worth doing. Would the car be able to handle the stresses, were things completely out of alignment? Could the car be saved?? It took many months of the car sitting in our yard for us to finally get the courage to check the car out and not break down in tears. It was extremely saddening looking at the carcass of the Alfa. We looked at the damage numerous times and always had a different opinion. It was salvageable and then not, flipping our opinion nonstop.

After extensive research into the structure of the car, we decided to save the car and make it live again. It would be hard work but damn it the car deserved it. We knew we couldn’t afford to do a complete restoration on the car, as the insurance company was being very difficult with us. Playing dirty games and just generally not being helpful. So one day we came up with the idea of a Safari Alfa Romeo! A Safari Porsche is quite heard of nowadays, but a Safari Alfa is bound to leave your ears ringing…

Being designers, we set off to illustrate what this would look like as Google had zero examples of this ever being done. We got a basic model laid out in 3D software and began playing with ideas on stylistic looks. Tire sizes, colours, roof racks, wheels, suspension, stance, lighting…etc. Once we got to a happy place with the aesthetics all we had to do was the easy part! We had to build it. This proved to be an adventure of partly diving into the project and part logical research. The first thing we ordered was the tires that matched the CG model we created.

After mounting we attacked the suspension, which we had to redo multiple times to get the right ride height and stance as it was all a bit of guesswork to get the exact look of the CAD imagery. Afterwards, it was creating the custom roof rack – again an original design we created in CAD. Then filling it up with NATO tanks and a spare tire. Fixing all the structural areas in the body along the way and finally cutting the front wheel openings to clearance the oversized tires during turning and compression.

The Dropped Alfa is now back on the roads. And while the trio is still adapting to the transformation a couple of traits have become quite clear. While the car is no longer as nimble and eager to jump into corners as it was before, it’s got a new enthusiasm to let go at the rear quite easily. Everywhere the Alfa Romeo GTV 2000 goes people seem to enjoy the car. While there are always the righteous car snobs who think it’s sacrilegious to alter an Alfa, these guys are too much fun to care! Don’t forget to follow Dropped Alfa on Instagram to keep up with what happens next in its second coming.

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