Kiran Winder’s track focused tuned Alfa Romeo 147 GTA proves that owning a modified Italian hot hatch can be more rewarding than you might imagine. Well most of the time…
Modified cars are pretty awesome. There’s no denying it. But there’s also no denying that more often than not, a rather uninspiring car is chosen as the basis of the project. Of course, there’s nothing wrong with this at all – in fact, some will say that transforming a run-of-the-mill hatchback into a show-winning mega build is the most impressive route one could possibly take.
But what happens if you dare to begin with a beautiful, powerful Italian hot hatch as the starting point for your latest venture? If your story goes anything like Kiran’s here, it’ll be a tale of never-ending engineering nightmares and worrying amounts of resistance to your modifying decisions. But one that ultimately ends in a smug smile as you realise you’re living every petrolhead’s dream.
Cycle mechanic Kiran has had his fair share of more conventional modified cars in his time, starting with a couple of Fiestas that both received varying levels of tweaks along the way. “They say that you’re not a true petrolhead until you’ve owned an Alfa, though,” he says, explaining how this hot GTA version of the famous 147 hatchback ended up in his proud hands in the summer of 2015.
It may not surprise you to hear that the Italian brute had already experienced some pretty major mechanical issues ahead of Kiran’s purchasing of it, in the form of the previous owner hydro-locking the engine, meaning a full rebuild was undertaken by west Sussex- based Monza Sports Tuning. The firm also tuned the engine up from around 250bhp to over 270bhp whilst undertaking the work. Another factor that understandably drew Kiran into snapping up the car for himself.
So, a world-renowned V6-powered, wide-arched beauty of a sports car was now in his ownership. Surely it wouldn’t need to be fettled too much to enjoy? Actually, Kiran had already begun the modding process, hitting up German coilover specialist Vogtland for a custom suspension kit before the car had even been picked up. “The kit had to be made in Germany and there was a four-week wait,” he explains. One of the downsides of owning a very rarely modified motor.
Still, how difficult could a simple set of coilovers be to bolt on? As it turns out, pretty damn difficult, just like many other aspects of this car’s build process would prove to be. “I started with the front coilovers, and found the suspension pinch bolts were completely seized in place,” Kiran begins, highlighting the less glamorous side of owning a 13-year old slice of Italian automotive history. “I took it to a local garage and the guys spent a whole day getting them out, telling me never to bring the car back again as it was a nightmare to work on!” It was a similar story for the rears, with Kiran’s car soon getting blacklisted from the majority of his local garages. Charming!
Forking out a small fortune for labour costs proved to be a running theme, like when Kiran’s alternator gave up the ghost shortly after the suspension fiasco. “It’s a small car with a massive engine, so it’s difficult to work on under the engine bay,” he reveals. “That’s another reason the labour costs seem to have outweigh the costs of the actual parts!”
Major headaches over for now, Kiran was left with a pretty solid little mega-hatch, which he believed was just screaming out for a few more touches to make it his own. Opting for the bold choice of a modern JDM look on a classic 147 GTA may sound slightly mad on paper. But Kiran was convinced he could make it work and create something truly unique in the process.
A set of wide Rota Grids were therefore ordered, along with a super-cool 147 Cup front splitter which complements the aggression given off from those bubbly GTA arches, topped off with some canards for that ultimate race look. Seeing a track day-inspired example of this car, complete with its tyre-painted sticky Toyo rubber, is something that’s never really crossed our minds before. But it looks completely badass in the flesh.
A Supersprint exhaust system and carbon fibre air box were then added into the mix to allow that beautiful V6 lump up front to howl freely. “You can’t help but grin every time you hear that awesome sound,” says Kiran. “I’d like to do some track days in it soon. But every time I’ve put some money away for more track mods, I have to spend it on some unexpected maintenance issue.” Well, it wouldn’t be a true Alfa Romeo otherwise, would it?
Talking of true Alfa Romeos, Kiran admits he’s received more than a bit of negative feedback from his slightly controversial take on a 147. “Some people love it. But some tell me I’ve ruined a beautiful car,” he lightheadedly reveals. “I’ve had someone random message me on Instagram asking how I could spoil such a car and countless arguments on forums. I don’t see the problem though. It’s my car and puts a smile on my face, which is the main thing.” Well said, Kiran!
Kiran’s ownership of his 147 hasn’t been the most plain sailing in the history of car-owner relationships. But having the nous and courage to bring a little more flair to the modified car scene has undoubtedly created something far more memorable than many cars out there.
Some will love it, some will wish it was still standard. But it’s hard to deny the sheer presence and passion a chunk of howling Italian muscle can bring to the modifying table. When it’s not being worked on in the garage, that is.
TECH SPEC: ALFA ROMEO 147 GTA
3.2-litre V6 engine re-mapped to 270bhp by
Monza Tuning; BMC CDA carbon-fibre air intake; Supersprint straight-through centre section and back box with Scorpion de-cat pipe; Autolusso red hose kit; polybushed engine stabiliser.
Six-speed manual gearbox.
9x17in ET30 Rota Grid Drift alloy wheels with shotgun shells as lug nut covers; 225/45×17 Toyo Proxes T1-R tyres; VOGTLAND adjustable coilovers; OEM Alfa Romeo Brembo brakes all-round.
Alfa Romeo 147 Cup front splitter; Stuke front and side canards; 3000k HID headlight kit; Speedhunters tow strap; Team Hard Driven sun strip.
OEM GTA leather interior.
Words Tom Willcox Photo Slim Jules