Berlina Register Newsletter No. 14 (April 2002)
Notes and Comment
The Berlina Register has inadvertently adopted a policy of buying one additional sad-case abandoned Berlina per newsletter. This time I bought another maroon 1974 rubber-bumper 2000 Berlina, which I first looked at in May 2001. For details, see "Bringing Home the Berlinas," below. Also included this time are an article by Pat Braden on SPICA fuel delivery pumps and an appreciation by Hans Quennet of one of his Berlinas. In other Alfa news, my GTV got a new water pump and a set of Bosch spider wheels and had a hell of a time passing its last California smog check, my Super needed some door latch adjusting and lubricating, and my beige Berlina continues to get better, with a rebuilt starter, new tie rod ends and an alignment, but boy does the rust area above the windshield leak when it rains. I bought a set of used Turbinas for it from a Register member, making it look real sporty. NEWS FLASH: I just bought a 1978 Spider that was headed for the junker/smog recycling pile. News at 11.
The keeper of the Berlina Register is Andrew Watry, 1284 Monterey Ave., Berkeley, CA 94707 USA. Phone (510) 526-0391. Email: email@example.com. Send me corrections to your register information or any other Berlina-related facts, rumors, tips, or needs. Always seeking articles for the newsletter. Free Berlinas and parts gladly accepted.
SPICA Fuel Delivery Pump Repair
by Pat Braden
I read with interest the article on SPICA in the last Berlina newsletter. I've been fiddling with a '73 Berlina, transplanting the engine from my '81 Spider into it. In the process, I've picked some parts from several of the Alfas in my back yard and come up against reluctant electrical Bosch fuel pumps. There are a number of different styles of pumps, but they all work essentially the same: a series of small steel rollers sliding in a wheel that is slightly offset in a cavity. The rollers compress the fuel as they turn, much as a Wankel engine creates compression (and some smog pumps operate).
Typically, if the pump sits for a long time, the fuel evaporates into an almost-insoluble gum that stops the pump from turning. Even if it's possible to free the pump by soaking it in solvent, some of the gum may migrate to the exhaust port of the pump, clogging it. This was the case of a used, but "working" pump I purchased from a reputable source: it turned fine, but delivered no pressure.
These pumps can be disassembled and cleaned mechanically. In almost every case, this means prying back some swaged portion of the outer body of the pump and withdrawing the internals. One of the challenges is to return the armature with the brushes in place, and a lot of fiddling is required to do this, depending on the pump's design. Another challenge is finding
appropriate rubber o-rings which seal the pump assembly against its outer housing. On the three-port pump, the blow-off return valve requires a great deal of care to disassemble and clean because the parts are small, but if it's not working correctly, the pump will not show proper pressure.
This is definitely work-in-progress. Every non-working pump I've disassembled has plenty of wear left on the brushes. So, since no parts are broken, it should be repairable. I've gained an understanding of how the pump works, but I have yet to be successful in reassembling a working pump that does not leak, primarily because I can't find appropriate replacement rubber o-rings. I plan to put some of this information in my next Alfa book. If you have a non-working Bosch pump around, don't be afraid to disassemble it: the cosmetics will be ruined, but I have no doubt that these pumps can be rebuilt if you take your time, can find the proper size o-rings and are meticulous. Meanwhile, virtually any 35-psi fuel injection pump will work. A Datsun 240Z pump seems to be a good replacement (at about $100).
Bringing Home the Berlinas
by Andrew Watry
This is the story of two Berlinas, brought back to the Bay Area from other parts of California on successive weekends in January 2002.
Car Number One. I bought another Berlina in January 2002, my seventh. This one is a maroon 1974 US 2000 with tan interior and rubber bumpers. It is bizarrely similar to the car I bought in June 2001, including the maroon/tan color combo, having rubber bumpers, being 23 serial numbers apart, being in the same general condition, having cracked windshields, being in California's Sacramento Valley, having formerly been in Berkeley, and having been worked on by Roger's Autoworks in Oakland. This car was advertised in the SF Chronicle for $1,000 or offer in May 2001, and had been sitting since mid 1997. I looked at the car then, but the seller and I couldn't agree on a price, and I found a better car for cheaper. In December 2001 I was looking for a windshield for my beige Berlina and recalled that this car had a spare new windshield in the back seat. I called the seller back, who hadn't sold the car in the meantime, and we were able to agree on a price and a date to pick up the car.
My friend John Elrod and I drove up to Sutter on a January Sunday morning in his 242 GT Turbo Volvo to retrieve the Berlina. I brought tools, gas, a battery, and misc. fluids and spare parts in the trunk of the Volvo for whatever might come up. The Sacramento Valley was really foggy, so we took it easy on the way up and couldn't stretch the Volvo's legs much. But it was a beautiful drive with not much traffic, lots of birds along the Pacific Flyway, and the fog clearing. Arriving in Sutter, the Berlina looked pretty forlorn with two flat tires, grime and cobwebs, parked amidst a bunch of garbage. But it was as I had remembered from six months earlier, being complete, with a basically straight body, OK interior, and decent engine.
I put in the battery I'd brought, checked the oil and water, topped up the differential, and the owner produced an electric tire pump for the flat tires. With two gallons of new gas in the tank, the car started and idled on the second turn of the key. The oil pressure reading was not so good, but I trusted that to be a bad sending unit, since the low-oil-pressure light went out right away. In among the junk next to the Berlina was a full set of stainless Berlina bumpers, which the sellers agreed to give me, since they were headed for the dump anyway. We packed my tools and parts in the trunk, wrapped up the spare windshield in a tarp, and off we went to Sutter's only gas station. On the way I was reminded how rusty the brake disks were, and that the clutch pedal had to be pushed all the way to the floor to disengage. Also, the upper trunion bushings on the rear axle were very worn, so the axle clunked on acceleration and deceleration. But it basically drove fine.
At the gas station I topped up the tank, and wiped the worst of the cobwebs and green moss off the windows. It was really hard to see out. So far the engine showed no leaks or other bad signs, so off we headed. Slowly building confidence, I brought the car steadily up to speed, eventually cruising just over 60 mph. The bald tires, out of air for years, had flat spots and felt like they were made of wood. But they held air. Turning south onto SR 113 from SR 20, we cruised serenely through the beautiful Sacramento Valley, John's Volvo right behind me, hiding the fact (I hoped) that the Berlina had 1997 tags and no DMV moving permit. Really getting confident, I passed a semi-truck just south of Robbins, hitting almost 70 mph. Woo hoo! Still no major worries, although the low-fuel-pressure light glowed dimly on hard acceleration (probably a dirty fuel filter), and the brake light periodically came on for a minute or two, then would go out.
We stopped for refreshments after joining I-80 east of Dixon, with the Berlina still running fine. Coasting down a lot grade into Vallejo, John caught up with me to indicate I should pull over, so I pulled off at a gas station. John said there had been some big puffs of smoke coming down the hill. I revved the car some and there was no smoke or funny noises, so I think what John saw was the common oil-smoke puff an Alfa with worn valve guides will produce when the first throttle is opened after coasting downhill with the throttle closed.
This small worry aside, across the Carquinez Straits bridge we went, and home to Berkeley, two and a half hours and 140 miles later. I parked the car in my backyard, registered and insured it, and have been fixing its few ills. Though it's a 1974 model, it was built in late 1973, and luckily got registered as a 1973 model, so it doesn't need a Calif. smog check. It sat around my backyard after I brought it home, and still showed no signs of leakage from engine, trans, or differential. Amazing. I polished it, cleaned it, and it looked quite respectable. In March it went to its new home near Portland, Oregon.
Car Number Two. The following weekend, John Elrod and I went to San Diego to bring home a Berlina he had bought through an Internet ad. Jim Hart of Oceanside, a Berlina Register member, had made a pre-purchase inspection for John, and John had finalized the deal with the seller in December of 2001, but due to conflicting schedules couldn't pick up the car til January. The car was a cream with black interior 1971 German-market 1750, in the North San Diego County coastal town of Solana Beach. The car had been in the San Diego area for years, gaining a 2000 engine from a late US Spica Spider at some point, but keeping its carburetors. It had spent a couple years in Tijuana getting some body work done, resulting in among other things the loss of a lot of its body trim. But the cream paint was actually not bad. The car had been tan when new, then poorly painted silver before its return to cream. It reportedly had seen Alfa club action years ago, including competitive times on the gone-but-not-forgotten Riverside circuit (sniff) in time trials.
John flew down to San Diego early on Friday, handling the paperwork at AAA and taking ownership. He then drove the car from Solana Beach to Fred Zimmerman's Alfa shop in Vista to have a quick check-over before the 500-mile drive back to Berkeley. Fred looked the car over, changed the engine, trans, and differential oil, and pronounced the car fit to make the trip. I flew down to San Diego Friday afternoon as a sort of riding mechanic if needed, and just for the fun of the trip. I rendezvoused with John at my dad's house, conveniently located nearby in Carlsbad. I first saw the car at night, so it was kind of hard to tell how it looked, but generally it looked fine, and John was very enthusiastic about how it drove. That is, he loved it because it was fast.
We stayed the night at my dad's house, and by dawn's early light looked the car over, loaded it up with our tools, junk, and the numerous spares that were part of the Berlina deal (windshield, seals, brake parts, cables, all kinds of good stuff), and hit the road all of 10 miles to Oceanside to stop off and see Jim Hart and his daughter's blue 1974 Berlina and his 1971 GTV, which his dad bought new. Thanking him for his earlier inspection of John's Berlina and having said our farewells, we headed north on I-5. The carbureted 2000 in John's car, reputed to have European 10548 cams installed, was very strong. The power just kept delivering, even with the European standard 4.3:1 rear axle ration (US cars have 4.56:1). We settled into a speed of about 75 mph, no problem for the car at all. The carbs need a bit of tweeking; the idle was high and at part throttle they stumbled a bit, but in general the car drove quite well. The exhaust was kind of loud, and the car had no door seals, so it was pretty breezy and noisy inside. But it was a beautiful day in Southern California, passing serenely the coastal hills of Camp Pendleton and the closed border check at San Onofre, and we were having a nice drive in a really cool car. At one point we pulled off I-5 in Buena Park for a quick break, and managed to end up lost in the parking lot of some social event of rich OC folks. The parking lot was filled with Panteras, Vipers, PT Cruisers, Lamborghinis, Porsches, and other flash exotica, but we, in our loud cream-colored Berlina, had the rarest wheels in the whole place. It was great and we revelled in it.
We had pre-arranged to meet Gary Beauregard, a Los Angeles Berlina Register member, at his storage facility on Figueroa in LA just off the 110 freeway, to pick up some Berlina parts we'd agreed to buy from him off a 1969 Berlina he'd parted out a couple months before (which Berlina I had told Gary about in the first place, from a Recycler ad; it's a small Berlina world). Gary rolled up Figueroa in his Fiat 127 (how many of those have you seen lately, if ever, especially in the US?), which he got from the same person who sold him the parted 1969 Berlina, and we loaded up a bunch more junk out of Gary's storage space into John's Berlina, including a 1750 dash, console, trim, grille, exhaust, and odds and ends. Gary drove John's Berlina car around the block, just to compare to his (now sold) 1973 Spica Berlina, and was mightily impressed with John's car. After saying thanks and farewell, we tied on the feedbag at (God help us) Jack in the Box, then hit the road for the Bay Area about 1:00 pm.
As with my Berlina, it really was an uneventful trip. We stormed up I-5 and over the Grapevine with ease (the temp gauge didn't budge), and stopped for gas in Gorman, at which point I noticed one cam-cover hold-down nut was coming loose, because the composite washer was disintegrating. We kept our eye on that item at each gas stop, and continued to check the oil and look for leaks underneath the car, but nothing untoward appeared, and the cam-cover nut never backed out. I drove a couple hours, but John did the lion's share of the driving, a good way to get tuned in and turned on to one's fast new Alfa. With John driving, we settled into a cruising speed on the I-5 treadmill of about 80 mph, no problem for the car at all. It was cold and loud though, because of the car's noisy exhaust and total lack of door seals, and because of the setting sun in the late January afternoon. The unsealed doors created a lot more wind noise than you'd think, especially at high speed. The car never missed a beat though, and we passed most everyone on I-5. We got into Berkeley about 6:30 pm, five and a half hours after leaving Los Angeles, and just about 10 hours from San Diego, including a couple stops. All in all a very successful trip.
John is (to use a San Diego-ism) utterly stoked with the car, and plans to sort out the carburetors and attend to its other minor needs. He cleaned it up, got some hubcaps, and installed a set of fuzzy door seals on it, so now after he gets the on-the-door rubber seals, the car ought to be weatherproof. What great cars.
Willy Schmidt reports: A local enthusiast here in Vancouver has developed an electronic retrofit for the Bosch and Marelli 103B distributors. Basically it is the magnetic pickup and trigger module for the coil which can be fitted to an existing distributor and coil, replacing the points, but retaining the advance features in the original units. He has a custom-made adapter that fits over the distributor lobes so that the pickup will work in the 103B Marelli, as I mentioned above. This is great as this 103B distributor which was standard on many of the 1750-2000 cars has a much better curve than the Marelliplex, especially for the non-injected cars. Also as he has a distributor machine, he is able to check out existing distributors and recurve as necessary, with or without this upgrade. Pricing will be in the $150 range for the retrofit including the magnetic pickup and add-on adapter and trigger module. Contact Willy Schmidt at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
Berlina Personal Histories
Copyright 2000 by Hans Quennet
"Enough of this sentimental man and machine claptrap already!" Yeah, that happens all the time and some people get enamored with a box on wheels. If you don't much care for this kind of stuff, don't bother reading on. We won't hold it against you but then, we won't connect, either ...
"That's UGLY!" Funny, I remember thinking that when I first saw it, under its own little happy canopy in Phoenix, October 1971. That dark green box on wheels had been sitting there for almost half a year. From what I know, they couldn't keep Spiders or GTVs on that lot but a four‑door sedan, Verde Muschio, wasn't what your average desert dweller craved.
"Take it for a spin!" That nice man suggested, "it'll grow on you!" After all, there was a sizable trunk, a back seat; room for our group of four.
Okay, so you don't have to believe any of this but when I turned that key I felt her speak to me. "Her?" I've never quite thought about it this way until now, really. Are cars male or female? Is it merely a figure of speech or do we actually give them animal qualities?
"Where have you been? I've been waiting for you for such a long time!" That's what I heard her say to me, honestly! We got to know each other well for the next few hours, putting that dark green box through her paces. So maybe it was the moment, the weather, my state of mind; I'm 6' 3" ‑‑ this car had been made with my frame in mind. It fit, perfectly. And, without taking my eyes off the road in front of me, I could reach back and roll down the right rear window! The left one, too; we did that a lot toward evening in Arizona.
Obviously, I signed on the line, wrote my check and headed south, to Tucson. Daddy's coming home with a new car! Our eight‑year old son sounded incredibly excited about that. A few hours later, as I pulled into the drive, he came running out, his face terribly disappointed; "that's ugly", he offered.
Yeah, never mind, eh? At least we both saw things the same way.
That's now the better part of 30 years ago, 280,000+ miles, to Europe for three years and back again, playing with various other boxes on wheels on the Autobahn, rarely ever getting "flashed aside", hitting on‑ramps at about 75 mph just to merge with the "slow" lane of traffic, to Austria, Switzerland, France, Belgium, Holland, England, then Canada not to mention all but a few States, 100+F days in some, 10 below days in Nebraska, seven winters on salted roads, the sixth set of 40‑50K mile tires, one clutch, rebuilt this and that, same paint (for the most part), one windshield, and all those memories...
Memories are what life's all about, right? I gave her what will probably be her final bath the other day. I had a lump in my throat. Some of her better parts are already on a twin; she didn't mind. Organ transplants are commonplace, aren't they? Some of her parts will live on, regardless.
Long ago, I changed the 165 size tires to 175's. The advice was good. Speedo error was less than 1 mile in 50. The fact that we did rather more than posted limits only the Berlina and I know, along with the occasional passenger mumbling something or other to himself. I felt surer and safer doing that than I have felt driving or riding in any number of other automobiles. She never once let me down.
She looked good wet; that's been so for the past several years. I can't wax that old paint any more; they used dark red primer under that green paint and it looks like there's some soft of horrible disease there. Yes, that, too. It's called oxidation; in people we'd call that ca. Shhhhhhh ...
One more time around the block! The battery is way down; start it up and run it just long enough to move it around the house and the plugs foul. Easy remedy. It turned over about five times, caught, belched, then got going, just like me at sun‑up. We're growing old together, eh old thing?
"Want to go around the block?"
She sighed. "I'll go, but take that 45 mph corner at 40, not 55, like the old days, okay?"
She sang for me! Honest! She sang! We went for her last ten miles together. It was almost like she was still young and sound and spirited!
Beauty is, as they say, in the eyes of the beholder. Neither of us are as pretty as we once were, nor as complete. And if this moment doesn't speak to you then you haven't ever driven the right machine. People give their cars names. That's another thing I never did. She's in the garage, behind me as I write this, talking to me, I swear!
I'll give you a name, old thing, after all. You always have been and, in my memories, always will be, BEAUTIFUL!
What? After dark? Well, maybe just once more, when the world won't be able to see your aging face ...
Here are cars actually sold in the most recent period:
1974 US 2000 Berlina. $1,500. Maroon/tan. Rubber bumpers. Nice looking, drives well, cracked windshield, Marelliplex. Alfa Digest. Berkeley, CA (3/02)
1973 US 2000 Berlina. $800. Champagne/tan. Good mechanicals, sport suspension, poor paint. Recycler ad. Los Angeles, CA (3/02)
1971 1750 Berlina. $1,000. Cream/black. Cosmetically OK, mechanically good. Carbed 2000 engine; spares. Internet ad. Solana Beach, CA (11/01)
1974 US 2000 Berlina. $600. Maroon/tan. Body and interior OK, drives well, rubber bumpers, cracked windshield, Marelliplex, spares. SF Chronicle ad. Sutter, CA (12/01)
1969 US 1750 Berlina. $475. Beige/tan. OK shell and interior with slight rust and crunched fender. Complete, nonrunning. Recycler ad, El Monte, CA (11/01)
1972 2000 Berlina. $1,400 Australian. White/black. Tasmania, Australia (10/01)
1969 US 1750 Berlina. $6,800. Maroon/tan. Excellent original car, repainted and converted to Webers. SF Chronicle ad. SF, CA (9/01)
1969 1750 Berlina. 9,900 S.Fr. Gray/maroon. Immaculate. 70,000 kilometers. Oberwenigen, Switzerland (7/01)
The following Berlinas were offered for sale, but sale status is unkown:
1972 US 2000 Berlina. Maroon/tan. Mechanically good, cosmetically so-so. $6,500 in online ad. San Jose, CA (2/02)
1969 US 1750 Berlina. Maroon/tan. Excellent car, sold several times recently, painted and converted to Webers. Failed to meet reserve when twice bid to $8,000 range on ebay. LA, CA (1/02)
1972 US 2000 Berlina. Fully race prepared. $10,000 in Alfa club ad. FL (1/02)
1969 US 1750 Berlina. Green/tan. Alleged pristine original car with 48,000 miles. B/O. Madison, WI (12/01)
1974 2000 Berlina. Blue. Looked nice; didn't sell on ebay for $4226. Netherlands (1/02)
1969 US 1750 Berlina. White/black. Nice condition, ported 2000 with Webers; spares. $4,700 in Alfa Owner. LA, CA (12/01)
1973 US 2000 Berlina. Champagne/tan. Good mechanically, suspension upgrades. Poor paint. Mags and new stereo. $1800 in Recycler ad. LA, CA (11/01)
1974 US 2000 Berlina. White/black. Rubber bumpers. Good looking complete car. $1950 in online ads. Portland, OR (11/01)
Berlina Classified Ads
For sale: Four Vredestein Super Sprint tires, 165R-14, correct stock size for whoever wants his 105 Alfa to wear its original-size shoes. New in original plastic wrap. $180/BO plus shipping. Rebuilt clutch master cylinder from 1972 Berlina and similar Alfas. $70/BO. Will Owen 626-345-9659; email@example.com
Wanted for 1974 Berlina 2000 RHD: inner and outer offside headlights, rear window, black vinyl driver's seat, must be in good condition, also 1600 Junior dashboard and tan interior wanted. Adam, London UK phone 07764 921871; email firstname.lastname@example.org
1973 Berlina 2000 for sale: 74K miles, originally from CA. Great driver. Write or call & I will email pics. $2000. Mike Delepine. 503-475-7503; cell 503-329-1345; home 503-675-1378 email@example.com