Talk About A Rare Occurrence
Down at West Racing in Perth, Western Australia, I was fortunate enough to photograph not one, but two very unique Giocattolo Group Bs. How rare are these cars? Try only 12 production versions and three prototypes in Australia.
The Giocattolo was the brainchild of Aussie Paul Halstead who was an Alfa Romeo dealer as well as owning the Australian distribution rights for DeTomaso vehicles. It was a dream of his to produce something out of the ordinary which would rival many supercars in both looks and performance.
Halstead knew of a unique car that Alfa Romeo had created during the crazy times of the boundary-pushing Group B in the mid-’80s – it was named the ‘Sprint 6C’. Based on the Sprint coupe, it was fitted with a mid-mounted 3.0-litre V6 engine running through a ZF transaxle and was intended to be a loose-fitting, Group B machine.
It never got off the ground though, because Alfa Romeo determined that it would be far too expensive as a road car, and would never become a race car because it would interfere with Lancia’s own race program. Halstead still loved the concept and decided that it was something that he just had to replicate back in Australia. Thus, the Giocattolo was spawned.
The Starting Point
Halstead’s idea was to get brand new Sprints direct from Alfa Romeo at a reduced price, ditch the front-wheel-drive 1,500cc boxer motor and replace it with the Alfa Romeo V6 in the mid-mount position. The idea was simple enough, and the plan was to let them carry a combined Alfa Romeo/Giocattolo warranty, so the cars could be serviced at any Alfa Romeo dealership.
Unfortunately, his enthusiasm wasn’t shared by the big wigs at Alfa Romeo Australia who ultimately refused to supply him with the vehicles. Not a problem for Halstead, he decided to pay full whack for the cars and purchase them one at a time. Once Alfa Romeo caught wind of the first prototype being produced, they screwed with Halstead threatening to take his dealership away if he continued with his programme. It seemed as if it was over before it began for the Aussie genius.
Not one to back down, Halstead gave Alfa Romeo the two-finger salute and decided to shoehorn a modified version of Holden’s 304ci V8 from the Walkinshaw VL Commodore into the body. His connections with DeTomaso led the team to choose the super-strong, ZF 5-speed transaxle that was used in the Pantera GT5, but at $15K a pop it was a majorly expensive piece of the puzzle.
The car’s impressive, hand-made bulletproof Kevlar/fibreglass bodywork was another massive cost because Halstead was purchasing the cars brand new, stripping them back to bare shells, only to end up using the body shell, doors and a few assorted trim and interior pieces and then making the rest from moulds.
The original leftover Sprint parts were discarded and not worth a penny on the secondhand market. With such odds stacked against him, insane build costs and labour times exploding, the company eventually closed after just a total of 15 cars had been produced and the dream was over. However, with such low production numbers, it was obvious that the cars were going to become hot commodities amongst collectors one day.
The two I viewed are owned by the same enthusiast but are two very different examples – the white version is a factory spec machine and the blue car is a heavily modified version, so for interest’s sake, I will focus on that weapon.
Modifying A Rare Car; Would You Do it?
Tim Slako from West Racing is the man responsible for the comprehensive build on the ‘F*cken Blue’ Group B car, and it has taken 5 years to get the car road registered and fully approved for street use.
One of the biggest changes to the car has been the upgrade in the horsepower stakes. The old school V8 has been replaced by a 300kw (402hp), 5.7-litre LS from a later model GTS Commodore. A Motec M800 ECU talks the talk, a reworked fuel system and an improved exhaust system round out the necessary engine mods.
The car now wears modified 4-pot Alcon callipers with 2-piece rotors all round, which are somewhat hidden away by the charcoal coloured 18-inch Simmons wheels. The modified suspension, which was originally designed by ex F1-engineer Barry Lock, now consists of custom fabricated control arms with cast alloy uprights and coil-overs.
The interior is a mix of stock Alfa Romeo and race car. It is a tight fit within those Velo bucket seats, too. The pedals are close together and hard to the left, you can’t see out the back at all and you are seated down, super-low. It might be a tad uncomfortable but boy oh boy, it felt good to me when I was taking the car through its paces out on the road, thanks to that noisy LS nestled behind my head.
The Giocattolo Group B was modified from the standard Sprint in the body styling department and as mentioned earlier, it was a costly exercise. The main changes at the rear have been achieved by extending out the small kick-up spoiler the Sprint had and then really amplifying the size of the rear wing to supercar proportions.
A small, unobtrusive bumper has been incorporated into the sheet metal and replaces the bulky plastic version of the Sprint. The rear guards have been heavily pumped to contain the massive rear wheels and the side vents.
The Giocattolo designers altered the front heavily – only the factory headlights remained. The front guards have been flared like the rears and replicated in Kevlar and the bonnet maintains the same overall shape but has been modified for the new grille and been treated to matching strakes like the side of the car. The one-piece integrated front spoiler bares no resemblance to the Sprint’s original bumper at all.
Being a rare commodity; some people may be mortified that the car has been modified but remember, there is already the standard version in the owner’s collection and every modification on the blue car has been executed with performance in mind.
The way I see it, Tim took the owner’s diamond and just polished it some more to really make it sparkle.