As the saying goes ‘you can’t be a true petrolhead until you’ve owned an Alfa’, and if you are looking for one of the Italian marques most mad motorcars, you can’t go far wrong with the 147 GTA. While there are undoubtedly better performing, more reliable hot hatches from the GTA’s era, few were quite as crazy as the little Alfa.
Depreciation hit these cars pretty hard back when they were new, but today prices have levelled out and these mad Alfa Romeos are starting to become quite the collector’s item. In this buyer’s guide you will learn everything you need to know about buying an Alfa 147 GTA along with its history, specifications and more.
How to use this Alfa Romeo 147 GTA Buyer’s Guide
To start with we will be covering the history and the specifications of the Alfa Romeo 147 GTA, to give you a bit of background info about the vehicle. Once we have covered that, we will dive into the buyer’s guide section of the article, and we will finish off with some general car purchasing advice.
Table of Contents
The History of the Alfa Romeo 147 GTA
Designed by Walter de Silva and Wolfgang Egger, the standard Alfa Romeo 147 was launched at the Turin Motor show in June 2000. It was designed as a replacement for both the 145 and 146 hatchbacks and was based on the running gear from the larger 156 that was introduced a number of years earlier.
Deliveries of the 147 would start soon after the launch date, with left-hand drive markets receiving the car in October 2000. Both 1.6-litre and 2.0-litre Twin Spark Inline 4 petrol engines were available, along with a 1.9-litre diesel.
Alfa Introduces the GTA
The high performance GTA version of the 147 would come in 2002. Equipped with Alfa Romeo’s 247 hp (184 kW) 3.2-litre V6 engine, the GTA was a seriously hot machine. Acceleration was rapid with a 0 – 100 km/h (62 mph) time of roughly 6.3 seconds, while keeping your foot firmly planted in the carpets would get you up to 246 km/h (153 mph).
The magnificent 3.2-litre V6 was mated to either a six-speed manual transmission or a Selespeed automated one. Most buyers went with the manual, with only about 20 percent opting for the automated transmission.
Alfa’s engineers not only worked their magic with the power unit, but they also widened the body (15 mm each side) to accommodate the wider 225/45R17 tyres. Huge 17-inch alloy wheels filled the beefier wheel arches, and designers gave the GTA sharper-creased flanks and additional side skirts. New front and rear bumpers with large air vents were included, and twin tailpipes at the rear finished off the sportier appearance.
On the inside, many reviewers were disappointed that the interior didn’t match the stylish exterior and the exciting engine. They felt it was too dark and not daring enough for a fast hatch. There were a number of optional extras however, such as luxury leather trim.
Despite reworking the handling dynamics of the car with upgraded suspension and a lower ride height, the 147 GTA managed to avoid the bone-shattering ride that plagued many fast hatches. Despite some complaints about the somewhat light and unprecise steering, many drivers and reviewers loved the slightly unsettled rear end and nose-heavy braking of the 147 GTA.
Alfa Romeo 147 GTA Specifications
|Year of production||2002 – 2010|
|Layout||Front-engine, front-wheel drive|
|Engine/Engines||3.2-litre 24-valve V6|
|Power||247 bhp (184 kW) at 6,200 rpm|
|Torque||300 Nm (221 lb-ft) at 4,800 rpm|
|Gearbox||6-speed manual (4,025 cars)|
Selespeed (1004 cars)
|Brakes Front||Vented 330 mm (13 inch) discs|
Vented 305 mm (12 inch) discs – until November 2003
|Brakes Rear||276 mm (10.9 inch) discs|
|Tyres Front||225/45 R17|
|Tyres Rear||225/45 R17|
|Suspension Front||Double Wishbones, Trailing Arms, Anti-Roll Bar|
|Suspension Rear||MacPherson Struts, Transverse Levers, Offset Coil Springs, Anti-Roll Bar|
|Weight||1,435 kg (3,164 lbs)|
|Top speed||246 km/h (153 mph)|
|0 – 100 km/h (62 mph)||6.3 seconds|
Alfa Romeo 147 GTA Buyer’s Guide
With all that out of the way, let us take a look at what you need to know about buying one of these furious little Italian machines.
Setting Up an Inspection of a 147 GTA
Here are some things you should keep in mind when setting up an inspection of an Alfa Romeo 147 GTA:
- Try to view the Alfa at the seller’s house are place of business if possible – This will not only allow you to see how and where the GTA is being stored, but it will also give you a chance to see the condition of the roads that the car is regularly driven on. If the roads are really rough and full of potholes, the suspension, wheels, tyres, etc. may have had a hard life.
- Look at the 147 GTA in person or get a reliable third party to do so for you – Purchasing a used vehicle sight unseen is usually a recipe for disaster, so we recommend that you try to view the Alfa Romeo in person or get a reliable third party (friend, associate, etc.) to do so for you. Some auction services and websites vet their cars prior to purchase, which does reduce the risk quite a bit, but this is a rarity.
- Take somebody with you – This is a good idea as they may be able to spot something you missed. Additionally, they can give you their opinion on the Alfa Romeo 147 GTA you are looking at and whether or not they think it is a good buy.
- Try to set up an inspection for a time in the morning – This will give the seller less time to clean up any potential issues such as a big oil leak. Additionally, it will also give them less time to warm up their 147 GTA prior to your arrival – make sure the engine is cold when you get there and let them know you don’t want the car warmed/driven prior to your arrival.
- Don’t inspect a used car in the rain – Water on the bodywork and paint can cover up numerous different issues that may have been easy to spot on a sunny, dry day. While you can’t control the weather, you can go back for a second viewing of the 147 GTA if it happened to be raining during your first inspection.
- Be cautious of freshly washed cars – While most sellers will probably wash their GTA prior to your arrival, you do have to be careful for the reasons mentioned above (if there is still water on the bodywork). Additionally, some sellers will wash the engine bay, underside of the vehicle and any other components to cover up an issue such as an oil leak.
- Get the seller or owner to move their 147 GTA outside if it is in a showroom or garage – The lighting in places such as showrooms and garages can hide problems with the body/paintwork.
What Should I Pay for an Alfa 147 GTA?
This really depends on a number of different factors from the condition of the 147 GTA, to its mileage and even where it is being sold. Later models in good condition are of course going to be worth more than earlier ones that have seen a lot of mileage and wear and tear.
To work out roughly what you need to spend to source an Alfa Romeo 147 GTA, we recommend that you check on your local auction/classifieds websites, dealers’ websites or with any owners’ clubs in your area. You can then use these prices to figure out roughly what you need to spend to nab yourself a 147 GTA. Remember, it is always a good idea to keep a bit of spare cash in reserve for any unforeseen expenditures.
Where is the Best Place to Find a 147 GTA for Sale?
While auction/classifieds websites and dealers tend to be the most popular places to find used cars for sale, we do recommend that you check for any owners’ clubs in your area as well. There are loads of Alfa Romeo clubs in a wide range of locations worldwide, so check to see what is near you. Here are a few examples of some Alfa clubs:
Club GTA – Owners’ club dedicated to the 147 and the 156 GTA.
alfaowner – Dedicated to all Alfa Romeos including the 147 GTA. The forum has been running since 2001 and there is some really great advice on it from experienced owners.
Should I Get a Mechanic to Inspect a 147 GTA Prior to Purchase
It is not completely necessary to get an Alfa Romeo mechanic or specialist to inspect a 147 GTA prior to purchase, but we feel it is generally a good idea. An experienced mechanic who is familiar with the 147 GTA will know what to look for and may be able to spot something you missed during the initial inspection. They can also run more tests and will be able to give you their opinion on the vehicle.
Even if you do not plan to take the car to a mechanic before buying it, we recommend that you ask the seller if you can. If they seem funny or hesitant about it, it could be a sign that they are trying to hide an issue.
Checking the VIN/Chassis Number
It is always worth checking the Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) or chassis number of a used car prior to purchase. This series of characters can tell you quite a lot of information about the Alfa 147 GTA you are looking at. The VIN on a 147 can be found in the following locations:
- On a plate on the front slam panel under the hood/bonnet (at the front right of the engine bay)
- Embossed on the right-hand front strut top
- Base of the original windscreen on models produced after 2005
- Registration documents, etc.
If you can’t find the VIN in the correct locations it may be a sign that the vehicle has been in an accident and body panels have been replaced (remember to check that the VINs you find match as well).
It is no secret that Alfa Romeos have a reputation for being a bit unreliable and expensive to maintain. While there is a tiny element of truth in that, it really comes down to maintenance. A well maintained 147 GTA should provide plenty of miles of trouble-free motoring, so it is important to look out for one that has been cared for properly. Unfortunately, many of these cars have wound up in the hands of people who couldn’t afford or couldn’t be bothered to maintain them properly.
To begin your inspection of the engine, move to the front of the 147 GTA and lift the bonnet/hood – does it open smoothly? How is the catch (big one on these cars)? Are the struts in good condition?
The bonnet catch is a common failure point on these cars. Alfa greased the release mechanism at the factory, which leads to a build-up of dirt and other unwanted material. This eventually prevents the primary catch from engaging properly, leaving only the secondary catch to hold the bonnet down. Unfortunately, this can lead to the bonnet flipping up and smashing into the windscreen and roof (a rare but very scary problem).
Alfa Romeo issued a recall for this issue, which largely entailed degreasing, cleaning and refitting the existing catch mechanism. In some cases, the catch was replaced and later models were fitted with a plastic mechanism instead of a steel one that greatly reduced the chance of this issue occurring (however, it did not solve it entirely).
With the above being the case, it is important to make sure that the bonnet catch on any 147 GTA is working as intended. Close the bonnet again and check that it is secure and doesn’t lift. Open the bonnet to continue inspecting the engine.
With the bonnet open, have a good general look at the engine bay, looking out for any obvious issues such as oil leaks, broken or missing components. A completely spotless engine bay is usually a good thing, but it may be a sign that the seller is trying to cover up an issue with their Alfa Romeo 147 GTA (especially if the engine bay is still wet).
Checking the Fluids
This is something that is often overlooked when conducting a used car inspection, but we feel it is an important thing to do. The engine oil, coolant and other fluids can give you a good indication of the health of a particular 147 GTA and how it has been maintained.
Fluid levels that are too low or high, those that are old, and those that are unsuitable for the Alfa Romeo 147 GTA can lead to increased wear and possibly even engine/component failure.
When inspecting the engine oil/dipstick, don’t forget to keep an eye out for any metallic particles or grit. If you notice any it could be a sign of some serious engine issues. Additionally, watch out for any foam on the dipstick as this could indicate a very serious issue (more on that later).
Ask the owner/seller about the Alfa’s service history and don’t forget to actually check the service history and any accompanying documents. If the seller can’t or won’t let you see service history it is a bit of a red flag.
Alfa Romeo recommends replacing the engine oil and filter every 20,000 km (roughly 12,500 miles) or every 12 months. Many owners feel like this is a bit too long between changes and like to do it at half that distance/time, with some doing it even more often. This is only a good thing and shows you that the owner probably cares about their 147 GTA. One other thing to note is that Alfa Romeo recommends that a good quality 10W-60 be used, so check with the owner to see what they use.
The oil filter is quite difficult to get to and is often left unchanged, which in the long run could lead to main bearing failures and other issues. As this is the case, check that the oil filter has been changed with every engine oil replacement. Watch out for some aftermarket oil filters as they can cause issues.
Checking for Oil Leaks
The biggest thing to watch out for here are the oil cooler pipes. These can corrode leading to an almighty oil leak if the problem is not sorted (Leak should originate from around the front). Replacing the oil pipes is not cheap, so if you notice any leaks be very cautious of the car (even if they are small).
If you notice any dripping oil or puddles of oil underneath the Alfa Rome 147 GTA we would probably walk away as if it was a simple fix the seller probably would have got it sorted before putting the car on the market.
Make sure you check for oil leaks (and any other leak for that matter) both before and after a test drive, as that shiny, clean engine bay may not be so shiny after a trip around the block.
It is a good idea to talk to the seller/owner about their 147 GTA’s oil consumption as you aren’t going to be able to tell if there is an issue during a short test drive (unless there is a very serious problem). The 3.2-litre V6 engine in the GTA tends to use a bit of oil when driven hard, but the consumption is nowhere near as bad as the Twin-Spark versions of the 147.
Does the Alfa Romeo 147 GTA Have a Timing Belt or Chain?
The GTA’s Busso engine uses a timing belt (cambelt) and not a chain, which means that it needs to be replaced at regular intervals. Alfa Romeo originally recommended replacing the belt every 116,000 km (72,000 miles), but this was later reduced by around half to 60,000 km (37,000 miles). At 36 months the belt should have been replaced regardless of mileage, so check that this has been done (some places recommend 48 months, but a few owners have experienced timing belt failure in this fourth year).
If the timing belt has not been replaced and it is past the service interval stated above be very cautious as if it breaks you could be looking at a very, very expensive repair bill. Most of the time it’s the tensioner that fails, but either way its bad. Put your ear to the timing belt area and if you hear a rubbing noise it could be a sign that the belt/tensioner is past its prime.
Many owners replace the water pump with every second replacement of the timing belt, tensioner, aux belt and pulleys. They also often opt for a metal water pump over the original plastic impellor variant as they last a lot longer.
Failure to change the timing belt and other components at the correct service interval suggests poor maintenance and you should be wondering what else has been neglected. If the timing belt needs to be replaced in the near future make sure you get a hefty discount or get the seller to replace it for you (check where they are getting it done).
Checking the Cooling System
The cooling system is an integral part of the engine, and a failure here can lead to some serious damage and possible even total engine failure. Below we have listed some of the components that make up the cooling system.
- Radiator – removes heat from the water/coolant
- Thermostat – sends water/coolant that is hotter than the target temperature to the radiator to be cooled
- Water Pump – belt that is driven from a pulley. Pushes water/coolant through the engine
- Overflow or Expansion tank – removes air from the system and provides a filling point for the coolant
- Coolant Lines – hoses that allow water/coolant to remain contained as it moves through the engine/cooling system
Check the expansion tank and lines for any crusted coolant as that could indicate a past or present leak. Cracks in the expansion tank are quite common, so make sure the one in the GTA you are inspecting is in good condition (sometimes this occurs if the bolts are overtightened). The radiator is another cause for concern, especially as these cars are getting a bit older. Getting a new radiator shouldn’t be too expensive, but the labour can add up depending on who you take it to.
Remember to check for coolant leaks both before and after a test drive, along with the coolant level (watch out for any big changes). Once you have carried out a test drive, turn the 147 GTA off and wait for around 10 to 15 minutes. Following this, recheck for any fresh puddles of coolant under the vehicle and do a sniff test. If you don’t notice any puddles of coolant, but still smell the sweet aroma of coolant, it could be a sign of a leak.
As we mentioned earlier, many owners replace the original water pump with a metal unit. The plastic impeller in the water pump can split overtime and eventually fail. A whining noise that almost sounds like turbo whistle could be a sign that the water pump needs replacing as well.
Signs of Overheating
Below we have listed some of the signs that may indicate that the Alfa Romeo 147 GTA you are looking at is overheating/suffering from some sort of cooling issue:
- Temperature gauge on that is on the high side
- Bubbles in the radiator or coolant overflow tank
- White and milky oil
- Spark plugs that are fouled (if you or probably a mechanic can get a look at them)
- Low cooling system integrity
- Smell of coolant from the oil
- Sweet smelling exhaust
- White smoke from the exhaust pipe (especially if you see lots of it)
- Steam from the front of the car
If you notice any of the above symptoms, be very cautious of the 147 GTA you are looking at. Do not purchase the car until you can find the cause of the issue or simply move onto another GTA.
Check that the water temperature sits at around 90 degrees when the car is warmed up (give or take 5 degrees). It really shouldn’t go below 80 degrees as this indicates a problem with the cooling system (most likely the thermostat). Be very cautious if it is sitting well above 90 degrees.
Inspecting the Exhaust on a 147 GTA
There’s really not too much to worry about when it comes to the exhaust on an Alfa Romeo 147 GTA. They are fairly robust and reliable, but it is worth checking for the following:
- Corrosion/Rust – Surface rust is quite common, but the exhausts on these cars are quite resilient to any more serious rust issues (still worth checking for).
- Black sooty stains – This may indicate a leak in the exhaust system. The exhaust is almost certainly leaking if the GTA experiences poor acceleration, an unusual odour, strange noises that get louder with acceleration, and bad fuel efficiency.
- Damage – Check for any cracks, dents, dings or scratches. Make sure the exhaust is secure and that it doesn’t wobble or move freely.
- Low rumbling, scraping and rattling noises – As mentioned above, strange noisesmay indicate a leak or some sort of issue with the exhaust (the noises could also be a sign of something else as well).
- Bodge jobs (bad repairs) – Always be mindful of a quick fix that has been done to bring a vehicle up to a somewhat saleable condition.
The CATs can eventually fail (just like on any car), so check for the following.
- Smell of sulphur or rotten eggs from the exhaust
- Reduced acceleration and sluggish engine performance
- Excessive heat from underneath the 147 GTA
- Dark smoke from the GTA’s exhaust
- CEL (Check Engine Light)
Some owners will do a decat if the catalytic converter fails, but this means that their Alfa Romeo 147 GTA won’t pass emissions regulations in countries that have them.
There are loads of different aftermarket/performance exhausts available for the Alfa 147 GTA. If the car you are looking at is fitted with an aftermarket exhaust, make sure it is from a good, well reviewed manufacturer or custom builder (find out who made the exhaust and check for any reviews/feedback). If the exhaust is just a cheapy, it may be a sign that the car has been poorly fixed for a quick sale.
Like all the models in the 147 range, the air flow meter isn’t the best on these cars and will need to be replaced every 110,000 km (68,000 miles) or so. Here are some signs that the MAF needs replacing on the GTA you are looking at:
- Rough and poor idling
- Engine warning light
- Poor or inconsistent acceleration
It is possible to clean the MAF, however, you need to be very careful when doing so. If the MAF does need replacing, get the owner to replace it for you or get a discount on the vehicle.
Turning on an Alfa Romeo 147 GTA for the First Time
We always recommend that you get the seller or owner to start the car for you for the first time for the following two reasons:
- So you can see what comes out the back of the GTA’s exhaust
- If the seller gives the Alfa a load of revs when its cold you know to walk away
It is a good idea to turn the car on yourself at a later point during the inspection/test drive. Additionally, don’t forget to check that the warning lights illuminate on the dash during start up. If no warning lights appear on start-up, it could be a sign that they have been disconnected to hide an issue. If a warning light stays on, check what the light is for and do not purchase the Alfa GTA until you can find out what is causing the issue.
What Should the Idle Speed Be on a 147 GTA?
The idle speed should sit around 750 rpm, with some owners experiencing slightly higher and some experiencing slightly lower idle. Expect the idle speed to be slightly higher when you first start the 147 GTA, but it should settle once the car warms. Turning on the air conditioning will increase the idle speed a bit, so check to see that happens.
If the Alfa Romeo 147 GTA you are looking at is experiencing idle issues, it could be down to a range of different issues from a bad MAF sensor to coil pack issues and more. It will probably be hard to determine the exact cause of idle issues (getting the codes read might help), so assume the worst and hope for the best. If the idle issue was a simple fix, the owner of the GTA probably would have got it sorted before putting the car on the market. Alternatively, they may simply not have noticed.
During a Test Drive
When you are out on a test drive, make sure you wait until the GTA is fully warmed before giving it a good amount of throttle. See how the Alfa responds under both light and hard acceleration, and check for any flat spots. Open the windows to not only make sure that they work, but also so that you can get a better listen to the engine as you are driving along.
If you notice that the engine vibrates excessively during acceleration/throttle application, it could be a sign that one or more of the engine mounts/stabilisers are past their prime. This isn’t a known issue with 147 GTAs, but it is still worth checking as many of these cars are getting up there in terms of mileage/age. Here are some things to watch out for:
- Clunking, banging, or other impact sounds that are a result of engine movement
- Excessive vibrations
- Engine movement – rev the car and see if the engine moves excessively
Smoke from an Alfa Romeo 147 GTA
As we wrote earlier, get the seller/owner to start the GTA for you for the first time. Before they turn the car on, position yourself at the rear and if you have a white piece of paper or cloth, hold it up in front of the exhaust. Get the seller to start the car and check to see how much soot gets on the paper/cloth. It is not uncommon to see a very small amount, but large amounts of soot indicate a problem.
Don’t worry too much if you see a small amount of vapour on start-up as this is usually just condensation in the exhaust and is more noticeable on a cold day. If there is a large amount of vapour or smoke that doesn’t go away, move onto another 147 GTA. Here are what the different colours of smoke indicate:
White smoke – Lots of white smoke from a 147 GTA’s exhaust indicates that water has made its way into the cylinders due to a blown/leaking head gasket. Give the exhaust a good whiff and if it smells sweet, it is probably coolant.
Blue/Grey smoke – This colour smoke could be caused by a whole range of things including warn pistons rings, valve seals and more. To test for this colour smoke during a drive, get somebody to follow you while you are in the Alfa Romeo 147. Take the engine through its rev range and see what comes out the back. If you don’t have a helper, get the owner to drive for a bit while you look out the back.
Black smoke – This sort of smoke is usually a sign that the engine is running too rich and burning too much fuel. There are quite a few things that could be causing this issue from something like dirty intake components to incorrect spark timing and more. If the exhaust smells of fuel, the engine is almost certainly running too rich.
Buying a 147 GTA with a Rebuilt or Replaced Engine
Some buyers get put off when they find that a vehicle has a rebuilt or replaced engine. However, we feel that there is absolutely nothing wrong with a 147 GTA with a rebuilt or replaced engine, as long as the work was done by a competent Alfa specialist or mechanic who has plenty of experience with such work.
Be very cautious of home rebuilds as many home mechanics have more ambition than skill, however, there are some good ones out there. If the GTA you are looking at does have a rebuilt or replaced engine, find out who did the work and check any reviews (give them a call as well if you are really serious about the car as they may be able to tell you a bit more about it).
It is usually best to avoid fresh rebuilds or engine swaps with only a few hundred miles on them. For example, an Alfa Romeo 147 GTA with 10,000 km (6,200 miles) on a rebuild or replacement is going to be a much safer bet than one with only a tenth of the mileage.
Should I Get a Compression Test Done Before Purchase?
While not completely necessary when purchasing a used 147 GTA, a compression test is often a good thing to get done to help determine the health of the car’s engine. If you are taking one of these cars to a mechanic or specialist prior to purchase, we recommend that you get them to do a test.
Some owners will get a compression test done before sale and put the results in the advertisement. The most important thing with the results is to make sure that they are all roughly the same (within around 10% of each other).
The vast majority of these cars were sold as manuals, so that is what we are going to be looking at first.
Manual 147 GTAs
Alfa Romeo’s 6-speed transmission is fairly robust and reliable, so just check for the general manual gearbox related issues. The gearbox should feel reasonably accurate and slick, so if it feels sloppy then there is an issue that needs to be addressed. On the other hand, watch out for an overly tight gear selector as this could indicate a number of problems from gear linkage corrosion to a gearbox casing being slightly out of alignment. Shifts will probably be a little bit stiff when cold, but should loosen up as the GTA warms.
Make sure you test all of the gears at both low and high engine speeds, checking for any loose shifting, strange noises and/or notchiness. Additionally, don’t forget to check reverse as well.
Synchro wear can occur, so check for any graunching or grinding on both up and downshifts. This problem is usually most apparent on third and fourth gears, but can happen on other gears as well. While the synchros themselves aren’t too expensive, the labour to get the transmission rebuilt will be. Synchro wear can often be a sign that the car has been repeatedly thrashed or subjected to hard gear changes. Alternatively, it may simply be due to mileage/age.
Another thing you can do is to try and find yourself a bit of an incline and see how the transmission and clutch performs with a hill start.
The official Alfa Romeo service schedule never calls for a gearbox oil change, but many owners feel differently about this. They recommend replacing the oil every two to three years or every 48,000 km (30,000 miles) or so. If the 147 GTA you are looking at has never had a transmission oil change, it doesn’t necessarily mean the owner has done anything wrong, but we feel it is better if it has been changed.
Clutches tend to be quite a common failure point on 147 GTAs, so make sure you check them thoroughly. They tend to last around 80,000 to 100,000 km (50,000 to 62,000 miles), but some owners have experienced clutch failure much earlier than that.
Clutch release bearings are a weak point on these cars, so watch out for any creaking noises. The slave cylinders are also another problem area as well. Watch out for any brake fluid leakage down the front of the gearbox if this is the case (clutch and brakes use the same fluid). While this is not an enormous problem, it is a good thing to use to try and get a discount on the GTA. When it comes to the clutch itself, here are some things to check:
Clutch Engagement – The first step is to make sure the engagement is good. To do this put the 147 GTA you are inspecting into gear on a level surface and let the clutch out slowly. It should engage around 7 to 10 cm (2.5 to 4 inches) from the floor. Engagement that is early or too late indicates a problem.
Clutch Slippage – The best way to test for this problem is to shift into a gear that is too high for the speed you are going. You should notice that the engine bogs down a bit (don’t do this on a regular basis). The next thing to do is to accelerate. If you notice that the tachometer goes up out of relation to the speedometer and/or you notice jerkiness it suggests that the clutch is slipping.
Clutch Drag – Get the Alfa 147 GTA on a flat surface and press the clutch pedal to the floor (do this while you are stationary). Rev the car hard (once it is warm) and see If it moves. If the car does move, the clutch is not disengaging when you shift and parts will wear prematurely.
Clutch Shudder – This is usually noticeable when you accelerate from a stop. A small amount is perfectly normal, but an excessive amount is a sign that the release bearings need to be lubricated.
Replacing the clutch is a massive job and can cost well into the four figures. If the clutch does need replacing on the 147 GTA you are inspecting and you still want to buy it, make sure you get a quote for replacement before purchase, so you don’t wind up with a nasty shock.
To say that diff failure on these cars is quite common is an understatement to say the least, especially in hotter climates. It is believed that the planetary gears for the gearbox and diff just simply aren’t strong enough for the job, even at as low as 50% throttle. Unfortunately, Alfa Romeo wasn’t too sympathetic when it came to these failures and many 147 GTA owners had to fight hard to get the company to honour warranty claims for the problem.
There is really no warning when the diff goes bang on a 147 GTA, however, the best thing to check is to see if the original diff has been replaced by a Q2 torque biasing diff. If the owner has replaced like for like, the diff will simply blow again and you will be back to square one.
While the manual gearbox is fairly tough, the Selespeed has a bit of a reputation for going wrong and costing owners thousands (we are all too familiar with Selespeed transmissions). What makes this even worse is that Selespeed parts can be tough to come by, so you often have to go through Alfa Romeo to get them, making things even more expensive.
The main thing to watch out for when you first hop in the car is the Selespeed failure warning light. While “Selespeed System Failure” may simply be something simple like a faulty paddle (quite common), it could be something much more serious.
When testing a Selespeed Alfa Romeo 147 GTA, take the car through all the gears. Check that the paddles and shifter work as intended. The transmission should shift down gears as you slow, so make sure this happens. Watch out for random and slipping gear changes and if it doesn’t get out of “N” or any other gear walk away.
Listen out for any clicking noises as this could be a sign that the Selespeed pump is failing. Clunking noises are also a sign of big trouble and watch for any oil leaks from the Selespeed system.
Another sign of impending doom is longer priming when you first start the vehicle. While you probably won’t know what is normal, if it seems like a long time and you notice any other Selespeed issues you should move onto another 147 GTA.
To sum up this section, we are basically saying that you should avoid the purchasing a 147 GTA with a Selespeed transmission and just go with a manual version. If the Selespeed system has just been completely rebuilt/replaced, you may get away with it, but if you have the slightest concern do not purchase a Selespeed GTA.
Steering & Suspension
The biggest thing to watch out for here are the front lower arm suspension bushes as they are utter rubbish and a bit of a nightmare to replace. The upper wishbones are nearly equally as bad and again they are a right pain to replace. Another problem area at the front is the anti-roll bar. The bushes can wear, leading to the bar sliding from side to side and causing irritatingly loud knocking and creaking sounds (sounds like it is coming from behind the dashboard).
Rear traverse links are another common wear item and if the back-end wobbles excessively over bumps it is probably a sign that the trailing arm bushes are past their prime. Here’s a bit of a checklist to go through when checking the steering and suspension components:
- Dipping and swerving when the brakes are applied
- Excessive Rear-end squat during acceleration and rear end wobble over bumps (trailing arm bushes)
- Tipping during cornering
- High speed instability
- Delayed or longer stopping distances
- Uneven tyre wear
- Excessive bounce after hitting a bump or when pushing down on the suspension (trailing arm bushes)
- Leaking fluid on the exterior of the shock/strut
- Sagging or uneven suspension
- Knocking, clunking or creaking sounds during a test drive – usually the front bushings or wheel bearings – watch out for the front lower arm suspension bushes, upper wishbones, and anti-roll bar bushes.
- Rattles – drive over some bumps – there should be no noise from the suspension components (however, you may hear some rattles from something in the cabin).
- Clicking sounds (especially at full lock) – usually a bad CV joint. However, clicking sounds may also indicate something like a bad wheel bearing as well
Don’t forget to visually inspect as many of the steering and suspension components as possible. Look out for any visible damage, wear, leaks or modifications. A torch/flashlight and a mirror and really come in handy here.
If the Alfa Romeo 147 GTA you are looking at has aftermarket suspension make sure you are happy with its ride. Non-stock suspension can sometimes be setup a bit harsh, which can make driving on regular roads a bit uncomfortable.
Remember to Check the Wheel Alignment
Find a nice flat, straight section of road to test the wheel alignment of the 147 GTA. Make sure the car runs straight with minimal wheel corrections. If the wheel alignment is bad it can lead to excessive/uneven tyre wear (costing you more money) and can even lead to a less safe and enjoyable driving experience.
Most of the time a simple realignment is all that is needed, however, in some cases bad wheel alignment can be a sign of serious suspension/steering issues or even accident damage.
Inspecting the Wheels & Tyres
Make sure you check that the wheels and tyres are in good condition and are not showing excessive signs of wear or damage. The 147 GTA is getting on a bit, so don’t be too surprised to find the odd scrape and scratch on the rims, but a lot of curb damage is a sign of a careless owner/driver.
If the GTA you are looking at is fitted with aftermarket wheels, check with the owner to see if they have the original 17-inch ones (it is a good bargaining point if they don’t). Alfa Romeo did offer 18-inch wheels at the end of the 147 GTA’s life, but very few owners picked this option. Owning the original wheels will only add value to the 147 GTA if you decide to sell it in the future. Check for the following on the tyres:
- Amount of tread – If there is minimal tread left try to get a discount as you will need to get the tyres replaced in the near future.
- Uneven wear – Wear should be even between the right and left tyres on the Alfa Romeo 147 GTA. Additionally, make sure wear is even across the tyre itself.
- Brand – They should be from a good or well-reviewed brand – if they are from a poorly reviewed brand it suggests that the owner has cheaped out on maintenance.
- Same tyre – in terms of tyre make, type and tread pattern on each axle (preferably on all four wheels) – mismatched tyres can lead to poor handling performance and may even be dangerous.
Up until around November 2003, Alfa Romeo fitted all 147 GTAs with 305 mm (12 inch) discs at the front and 4 pot lug mounted Brembo calipers. Unfortunately, warping discs are quite common on these early set of brakes. If the discs have warped you may notice shuddering or shaking through the steering wheel. This problem usually becomes first apparent under high speed braking.
Later GTAs produced from November 2003 onwards were fitted with much stronger 330 mm (13 inch) discs and radially mounted calipers that some say came from the back of an F360. While warping is still a possibility, the chance of it happening on the later brake set is dramatically reduced. Some owners have swapped out the original brakes on their earlier Alfas with the larger ones from later cars (Alfa Romeo did this upgrade for many owners for free, so check to see if it has been done). Another benefit of the larger brake set is that it is compatible with a wider range of aftermarket brake pads. If you want to learn more about this brake upgrade, check out this link.
Remember to test the brakes under both light and hard braking conditions, with some repeated high to low-speed runs being a good idea. The brakes should be more than adequate for road use, so any sponginess is a sign of a problem (may simply need a bleed or there may be a more serious issue).
Listen out for any squealing, rumbling or clunking sounds when the brakes are in use as this could indicate anything from worn/bad pads to disc issues and more.
Make sure the handbrake works as intended and see how it performs on a steep incline (if you can find one).
Seized calipers are a possibility, but don’t seem to be that common. If one or more of the calipers are seized, you may notice the following:
- Alfa 147 GTA pulls to one side (may even happen when the brakes are not in use)
- Car feels low on power as if the parking/handbrake is on (could also be a sign of diff issues)
- Brakes get extremely hot and produce a distinctive acrid smell and in some cases smoke
- You find that the 147 GTA doesn’t want to move at all
- Loud thud-like noise when pulling away for the first time
Like with the suspension and steering components, remember to visually inspect as many of the brake parts as you can get a look at. If the pads and discs need to be replaced anytime soon make sure you get a discount on the vehicle or make the seller replace them for you. The brake fluid should have been replaced every 2 years or so.
Body & Exterior
Bodywork, paintwork and just general exterior problems can be an absolute nightmare to fix, so make sure you are happy with the condition of the outside of the 147 GTA you are looking at.
Do Alfa Romeo 147 GTAs Rust?
We’ve all heard stories about rusting Alfa Romeos, but luckily, by the time the 147 came around the company had a pretty good handle on the problem. While the likelihood of rust is significantly reduced on these cars compared to earlier Alfas, it can still happen, especially around the floor as Alfa Romeo didn’t galvanise it (the shell is). Additionally, some owners have reported that the zinc coating has corroded away in places not well protected by the underseal/paint (this is really the job of the zinc coating when you think about it).
All this means that you really do need to take your time going over the 147 GTA, checking for rust/corrosion in all areas. The main problem areas are as follows:
- Drain holes at the rear of the floor pan
- Sills (usually rust internally)
- Front and rear wheel arches
- Subframes and many other structural parts and brackets around the engine bay that were painted extremely poorly
- Some cars had very poor underseal, so large parts of the underside can rust/corrode
- Legs supporting the lower trailing edge of the bumpers
- Power steering clips
Factors That Can Make Rust More Likely on a Car
- Vehicle has spent time in countries or areas with salted roads (UK, Parts of North America, etc.)
- Car has spent time in countries or areas with very harsh winters
- Vehicle is often parked/stored by the sea for significant periods of time
- Always kept outside (never garaged)
- Accident damage (stone chips or more significant damage)
- Old or no underseal
Looking for Rust Repairs
It is not only important to look for present rust, but you should also keep an eye out for signs of past rust repair (mismatched paint, paint overspray etc.). Watch out for any areas that may have been resprayed or cut out and replaced. You should also check the service history and with the owner (however, don’t trust what the owner says completely as they may be trying to hide something from you).
Use a magnet on steel sections of the car (cover it with a cloth so you don’t damage the paintwork) or a coating gauge thickness tool such as this one to find any areas that may have been repaired.
Accident Damage on a 147 GTA
More than a few of these cars have been in accidents, so watch out for any tell-tale signs of crash damage or accident repairs. Many owners/sellers will try to cover up accident damage or downplay the severity of an incident, and in some cases, you may come across somebody who claims their car hasn’t been in an accident when it clearly has. Here are some of the main things to watch out for that may indicate that the Alfa Romeo 147 GTA you are inspecting has been in an accident:
- Misaligned panels or large panel gaps – Inspect around the bonnet/hood and make sure everything lines up correctly. Check the door, bumper and boot/trunk panel gaps. If the panel gaps on one side look quite different to the other side, it could be a sign that the 147 GTA has been in an accident.
- Doors that drop or don’t close properly – If the doors drop or don’t open/close properly the Alfa Romeo you are looking at may have been in an accident or there may be some other sort of other issue with the door hinges.
- Inconsistencies such as waving, rippling or different coloured panels – Indicates a respray which may have been conducted as a result of accident damage or rust.
- If the bonnet/hood looks like it is popped when it is not – This may indicate that the 147 GTA you are inspecting at has been crashed into something (even a light knock can cause this problem). On the other hand, make sure this is not due to the bonnet catch release problem GTA’s are known for.
- Damage to the mounting supports for the headlights – This can be very difficult to fix on any car and is a good place to check for any accident damage.
- Bent or broken parts underneath the car – While inspecting the underside, check to make sure everything is straight. Look at the suspension and steering components as well. If the parts are different on one side compared to the other or much newer, it may be a sign that the GTA has been in an accident.
- Rust in strange locations – Can be a sign of accident damage.
- Paint runs or overspray – Could be a factory issue, but more likely due to a respray.
- Missing badges or trim – Could be due to repair work (body shop couldn’t find replacements) or a number of other things (stolen, etc.).
- Damage to the roof – If you notice roof damage or repairs, it may be a sign that the bonnet/hood has flipped up from the bonnet catch issue. The most obvious sign of this I usually ripples in the roof or bubbling above the windscreen.
While accident damage and repairs are a very serious issue, we wouldn’t necessary walk away from an Alfa Romeo 147 GTA that has been in an accident. Light to moderate damage that was repaired by a skilled panel beater/body shop is often okay and can usually be used to get a nice discount.
If the owner/seller tries to cover up or lie about the accident it suggests that the problem is worse than first appears. Alternatively, if the owner can’t tell you much about the accident/damage it may have happened when a previous person owner the vehicle.
While red 147 GTAs do look fantastic and its probably our favourite colour the car was finished in, we probably wouldn’t buy one. Paint fade can be a real issue with red 147s, quickly turning into a patchwork of uneven pink and red.
Unfortunately, pink 147s can not be polished back to red as Alfa Romeo decided to lacquer these cars. The only way to get the paint back to the nice red colour it once was is to carry out a fully respray. If you can garage the 147 GTA and the paint is still in good condition, you shouldn’t have too much issue with the red paint colour fading.
Specific GTA Body Parts
Make sure that the GTA-specific body parts are present and in good condition as these can be difficult and expensive to source. The 147 GTA came with unique wings, quarter panels and bumpers.
There are no real specific 147 GTA related issues with the interior, so just make sure it is in satisfactory condition. Check the seat material for wear, tears and stains, especially around the bolsters. Make sure the seats have not collapsed and all the adjustments work as intended. If the seats move during acceleration or braking it is incredibly dangerous and will be an MOT/WOF failure.
Excessive wear on the seats, steering wheel, shifter and carpets for the mileage may be a sign that the Alfa Romeo 147 GTA you are inspecting has had a hard life.
Remember to check for any leaks and/or dampness in the interior as if water is left to sit it can create a nasty smell, cause problems with the electronics and more. Leaks around the roof are commonly be caused by damage from the bonnet release failing, and the bonnet flipping up and hitting the roof. Check all other areas for leaks, paying particular attention to the carpets. Look in the trunk/boot as well and if you notice water residue on the underside of the floor mats it could be a sign of a past or present leak.
Make sure you have a look at the headlining above the driver’s seat. If it is a slightly different colour it may be a sign that the Alfa Romeo 147 GTA you are inspecting has been owned by a smoker. A smell test will also help you determine whether or not this is the case as well.
Electronics, Air Con, Etc.
The electronics are surprisingly reliable in these cars, however, problems with the battery can play havoc with system, so keep that in mind. Try all the buttons, switches and knobs, checking that they work as intended. If you do find electrical issues, be very cautious, especially if a battery swap doesn’t solve the problem.
Make sure that all the door locks, windows, etc. work properly and remember to check that the seller/owner has the original keys. Replacing the original keys is expensive, so if the seller doesn’t have them and you still want to purchase the car, use that to get a good discount.
When you switch on a 147, the air bag, ABS, and engine management systems are checked. Do no crank the engine straight away and wait for these three warning lights to go away. If no warning lights appear it may be a sign of an issue or that they have been disconnected. Alternatively, if they stay on there is a fault that needs to be investigated further. It is worth taking the car to an Alfa specialist or mechanic who can read the codes. Additionally, you can also invest in an OBDII scanner for yourself. However, be mindful of sellers who have cleared the codes without fixing the issue.
Don’t forget to check that the air conditioning works as intended and that plenty of cold air comes out of the system. If it doesn’t, don’t let the seller convince you it just needs a re-gas as it may be something like the compressor (expensive fix).
General Car Buying Advice for an Alfa Romeo 147 GTA
How to Get the Best Deal on a 147 GTA
This information applies to both dealers and private sealers. Knowledge is power and it can save you a lot of money when purchasing a vehicle.
- Research heavily – Prior to starting your search for an Alfa Romeo 147 GTA, figure out what specs and condition you are happy with. Do you want a low mileage late model GTA or do you not mind an earlier
- Shop around – It is always best to shop around a bit before you make a purchase. There are loads of different GTAs out there in different levels of condition and mileage, so don’t limit yourself to one seller, dealer, area or auction platform.
- Go look at and test drive multiple 147 GTAs– It is a good idea to test drive a many cars as possible, so you know what makes a good and what makes a bad Alfa 147 GTA.
- Adjust your attitude – Never rush into a purchase. If you are desperate to buy a car you are more likely to get ripped off. Take your time when looking for a 147 GTA for sale and only go for promising looking cars.
- Use any issues with the car to your advantage – Take a mental note of any issues you find with the vehicle. When it comes to discussing the price, use these problems to try and drive down the price. For example, if the car needs new tyres or brake pads make a point of it and try to get the seller to reduce the price.
- Don’t trust the owner – While some owners/sellers are honest about their cars, many will lie to get a quick sale. Take in what the owner has to say but back it up with a thorough inspection.
- Go between sellers/dealers – If you are looking at multiple 147 GTAs, let the owner/seller know. This way they will know that you have other options and they may try to undercut the price.
- Be prepared to walk away – If you are not happy with the deal, simply walk away. You may miss out on the car or the seller may get back to you with a better offer.
Mileage vs Condition
Mileage vs condition is always a hot topic for debate, but we feel that it is always better to buy on condition and then on mileage. Lots of owners make the mistake of believing that they are preserving their car by not driving it. In reality, this is completely false and not driving a vehicle can actually do more damage than good.
Short distance trips do not allow the engine to warm up properly, which can lead to increased component wear and reduced engine life.
Rubber seals and plastic parts will fail regardless of mileage and can even deteriorate quicker on cars that don’t get used often. Letting a car sit will not prevent rust or stop the electronics from failing.
Service History and Other Documentation
It is incredibly important to check any vehicle’s service history and any additional paperwork that goes along with it. While the servicing doesn’t need to be done at a dealer, it should be carried out by a competent Alfa Romeo specialist or mechanic (especially for major repair work).
The service history will give you a good idea of how the 147 GTA you are inspecting has been maintained. In addition to this, receipts and paperwork for modifications (if the car has any) can help you determine whether they have been done by an experienced tuner or a bad one.
If the owner can’t or won’t let you see the service history, you should probably pass on the vehicle. A complete service history will only add value to any vehicle your purchase and will make it easier to sell the car in the future.
Additionally, you can check websites such as CarFax (USA) and CarJam (NZ) for more information about the car you are thinking of purchasing. These sort of websites can be incredibly useful, but there is usually a cost associated with them.
Questions That You Should Ask the Seller/Owner
- How often do you drive the car?
- When was the last service and who was it serviced by?
- How much oil does it use?
- What oil do you use in the car?
- What parts have been replaced (timing belt, etc.)?
- When were the coils, spark plugs, leads changed?
- What’s the compression like?
- What modifications have been made to the vehicle?
- Has the vehicle overheated at any point or has the head gasket failed?
- Has the car been in any major or minor accidents? Is so, what repairs were made?
- Is there any money owing on the car?
- Have you got any information on the previous owners and how they treated the vehicle?
- How are the speakers
- Is there any rust?
- Has rust been removed at any point?
- When were the brake pads replaced and have the calipers seized at any point in time?
- Where do you store/park the car usually?
There are loads more questions you can ask the seller, but we feel these are some of the most important.
Things That Would Make Us Walk Away from a 147 GTA
Here are some things that would make as walk away from one of these cars. While you may be happy with a vehicle with these problems, we are not.
- Overheating problems or blown head gasket
- Significant Crash Damage or poorly repaired roof
- Money owing on the car
- Modifications with no paperwork or carried out by a poorly reviewed tuner
- Excessive amounts of power
- Bad compression
- Bad resprays
- Significant rust problems
- Engine swaps with non-standard engines
- Significant track use
- Major engine or transmission issues
- Owner who is not forthcoming with information (could be trying to hide something)
Notes on the Owner
The owner is one of the most important things to think about when viewing any vehicle. You need to ask them plenty of questions when inspecting their Alfa Romeo 147 GTA (however, don’t trust their answers completely). Remember, it is your problem if you wind up buying an absolute lemon. Here are some things to watch out for.
- How long have they owned the vehicle? If it is less than 6 months it tends to suggest that the car needs major work done to it that they can’t afford. It also could be a sign that they deal cars as well.
- Do they thrash the car when it is cold or continually launch the vehicle? If so, you are better to walk away.
- Why are they selling the vehicle? Could be a genuine reason or they may be trying to offload their problem onto an unsuspecting buyer.
- What sort of area do they live in? Is it a good area or a complete dump?
- How do they respond when you ask them simple questions?
- Do they know anything about the 147 GTA and the model they are selling.
- What can they tell you about previous owners?
- Do they have lots of cars on their drive? If they do it may mean they are a dealer.
- What is their reaction when you ask them about money owing on the car? Tell them you are going to do a check and see how they respond.
- What is their reaction to you asking for details for HPi check?
- How do they react if you ask to do a compression test on the vehicle?
- How do they respond when you ask them to show you the service history and paperwork for the car?
If you get a bad feeling about the owner, you are better off moving onto another Alfa Romeo 147 GTA.