Berlina Register Newsletter No. 15 (October 2002)
Notes and Comment
Well, I haven't bought any new Berlinas this newsletter period, but I did decide it didn't make sense to own my 1978 Spider (two seats, four family members) so I sold it to a happy new home in Alameda, CA, after having replaced its clutch and head gasket (a couple of fun home projects, let me tell you). In July I bought a rear-ended-big-time 1973 GTV from a friend that I may part out, but maybe someone can make it into a race car. It runs and drives great. Finally, my beige 1973 Berlina, having been hit in March, got complete dent and rust repair this summer, and new paint. It turned out well, not perfect (what can you expect for a Berlina?), but I didn't want to spend the big money it was going to take to get a great paint job. The car overall looks great and now won't leak when it rains, so I can use it all year. I had planned to make a mild track car out of it, but it may now be too nice for that. It sure is a great daily use car though.
Interest in Berlinas has been up this year, with a number of people looking for cars, a number of cars changing hands, and prices generally on the rise for the few decent cars that came up. One flawless US 1969 car has lived its life on eBay lately, the seller trying for the big money. Several cars have been resurrected and restored, keeping a few more on the road, including a rubber-bumper car I brought back to life last spring, and a 1972 2000 that had been slumbering in a barn in Petaluma, CA for more than 10 years. Its new owner may fit it with a Twin Spark engine, which would be really cool to see. And a rubber-bumper car here in the Bay Area that was having problems, and that was maybe headed for the junkyard, went to San Diego and donated some of its vitals to another Berlina that had its oil pan ripped off by an errant curb, with resulting engine seizure. Sadly, a few Berlinas have proven to be too far gone to be viable, and have been parted or scrapped, including a long-time nonrunner 1969 model in Los Angeles, a lost-cause modified 1974 US 2000 in Marin County, a complete but tired 2000 in New Mexico that got bid to only $400 on ebay and so, not having met the seller's $1,200 expectation, is getting parted out, a nice but badly wrecked 1972 US 2000 in Berkeley, a withering rubber-bumper 1974 that got donated to the Salvation Army for want of a $100 offer for it in Los Angeles, two similar rusty but complete 1969 cars in the Monterey/Santa Cruz area, and a partially cut-up 1969 US car in Colorado.
The "barn-find" Berlina from Petaluma, mentioned above, was interesting, and I looked at it twice. The owner emailed me, asking if I was interested in the Berlina and/or a bunch of Alfa and other parts stashed along with it. I drove up with a friend to look at the car and the parts. I ended up buying all the Alfa parts (mostly Giulia Super and cast-iron 2000 stuff), but didn't buy the car. It had been off the road since 1987 and in this owner's barn since 1991. He was an interesting guy, who also had many Fiat 850s, an Autobianchi, a Lancia Fulvia, a Rover 3500, two old Mercedes, and several Austins in the barn. He had always been happy to take on any oddball car someone offered him, intending to restore them all someday. Now in his 60s, he began to realize he'd never get them all done.
Evidently the Berlina had a head gasket or valve problem in 1987, because the head was removed and in the trunk. The paint was very sunburned and ratty looking, but the body was totally straight and rust-free, except the hood which was covered in surface rust. Why? The interior and rubber trim were all sunburned too, so my guess is the car sat outside for some time somewhere hot, though it had been inside since 1991. The car was complete other than a missing intake manifold, but having sat so long probably every system would need going through, though the brake and clutch circuits amazingly still held pressure, as did the tires. I didn't buy it, already having too many projects, and my friend, hoping to find a clean SPICA Berlina, had to admit this car was too much. Eventually it found a new owner on the SF Peninsula who will put it back on the road, probably with a Twin Spark engine. A happy end to a story that could have gone sour, resulting in another lost Berlina.
Speaking of which, I looked at two project 2000 Berlinas in Sonoma County, California. Here's a brief description: Both are US 2000s, one a rusty LeMans blue 1974 model with Webers, rubber bumpers, no pedal assembly, and no driveshaft, not driven in over 10 years. The other is a slightly rusty silver 1973 2000 with a smashed RF fender and suspension, plywood back seat area, 1750 nose, and pop-up plexiglass 70s-style sunroof. This one was on the road til an accident about a year ago, and is basically complete, but has dented bumpers, missing grille and headlight, etc. If these cars don't find homes they'll get parted or scrapped for sure. Let me know if you're interested and I can pass along contact information.
In commercial news, Centerline Alfa Parts in Boulder, Colorado (888) 750-2532 reports a shipment of Berlina and Giulia sedan lights, trim, and I believe exhaust systems. 2000 Berlina dash caps are still in the works; have faith and call Centerline to tell them how many you'll buy. Re-Originals in Houston, Texas (713) 849-2400 has some Berlina body parts and new bumpers in stock. Ricardo Cavallero S.R.L, Bahía Blanca 1070-78 - C1407ABT - Buenos Aires - Argentina, e-mail email@example.com; website www.chsauto.com, reports that they manufacture and repair manual steering boxes and have spare parts, including Berlinas. If anyone contacts them I'd like to hear how about it.
The keeper of the Berlina Register is Andrew Watry, 1284 Monterey Ave., Berkeley, CA 94707 USA. Phone (510) 526-0391. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org. 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.
How and Why I Came to Own a Berlina
by Dave Mitchell
I have always been a sucker for a good looking interior, after all how else do you explain the range of cars I have owned (and still do in some cases). The first one in this vein was my Fiat 124 sport (AC) now fully restored complete with Conolly leather interior, then a Giulia Super (still awaiting its restoration), a Fiat 125S, Fiat 130 sedan (now that had a truly gorgeous interior), and later on an Alfetta GT 1.8 and 1.8 sedan. I actually liked the split instrument panel on the GT’s and early Alfetta GTV’s which so many motoring journalists at the time criticised. Therefore, given my history, progression to a Berlina was natural, a 2000 in my case (unfortunate to some extent as I prefer the 1750 main instruments and fabulous console) and more recently a 1750 GTV (series 1), the best model in my mind.
Actually the manner in which I bought my Berlina was most unlike all of my previous purchases. A good friend of mine, Norm Henry and confirmed Alfisti (especially 105 series), was going on a short holiday to Melbourne to catch up with some friends and to go skiing. He offered to check up on Berlinas and Guilia Supers for me while he was there, in case he could find a good one for me. Unfortunately at the time I couldn’t afford much and so I had to place a limit of $1500 (Australian) on whatever could be found. In addition, while I don’t really like white cars and given my preference for the 1750 Berlina over the 2000, what do you think I ended up with, yes, you guessed it, a white 2000. History later repeated itself, when Norm, who was living in Melbourne for a while, also found my 1750 GTV for me in Melbourne and it also is white.
The Berlina was in fair condition, you know the sort of thing, minor dents and some rust, but essentially straight and sound mechanically. Or that was the description given to me when I gave him the approval to spend $1400 AU of my money on the car. Mind you, it came with a huge range of spares, trim, panels, glass, and some mechanicals from another car which the previous owner had broken down. To prove that the car was a good purchase Norm thereafter drove it to the mountains for his skiing holiday and then back to Hobart, Tasmania, loaded up to the gunwales with all the spares. I later collected even more spares when I brought the GTV back to Hobart.
Well now, having acquired the car, what was it like? In reality it was in pretty ordinary condition, the carpets were shredded, the paint on the front panels was crazed and the left hand side rear panel had been hit and crudely reshaped. Rust, while not rampant, is present in the front of the drivers side sill, bottoms of most doors, drivers side front windscreen piller (albeit not too bad) and bottoms of the rear guards (again not too bad). All the rubber trims were in poor condition and would need to be replaced, the front and side indicator lens were faded, the rear bumper is bent (but I have a perfectly straight replacement one) and the Alfa badges were in poor condition or missing. Mechanically the car was at best in poor to average condition, tired suspension, brakes sticking, a miss in the carburettors, nonfunctioning handbrake, problematic electrics, dreadful headlights, and clapped out tyres and exhaust. But at least I had a Berlina !!
So what to do with it. Well an open-chequebook restoration was out of the case, for this car was going to have to earn its living. In the first case I had to get it registered and that of course meant I was going to have to spend money on upgrading some of the worst bits. Its restoration therefore was to be a gradual process of elimination.
The first things that needed to be done to the Berlina in order to get it registered was to ensure that all electricals worked (they didn’t when I bought the car), including high beam, the horn and windscreen washers. In addition a muffler had to be replaced, the starter motor replaced, carburettors tuned, handbrake adjusted and a general clean up underneath the car. Do you think that it passed on the first inspection, no of course not. High beam still failed even though I had checked that it was working just minutes prior to the inspection, and also the windscreen washer failed, actually it was the jets below the windscreen which had become clogged with polish, as a result of my efforts to make the car look presentable. Needless to say with a little more tinkering the car passed its inspection on the second attempt.
Of course this was only the start of a meaningful relationship with the Berlina. Over the past three years I have spent a lot of time and $$$ spent on trying to sort out the electrics, brakes and carburettors. Further work on the car to ensure reliability has seen me have the master cylinder overhauled twice, clutch slave cylinder rebuilt, new alternator, coil, distributor overhauled, condenser replaced and the carburettors (Dell'ortos) rebuilt. The outer headlights were eventually replaced when after many attempts to find replacement original type Carellos I had new quartz halogen sealed beam inserts fitted into the original light shells. Now instead of candle-like lighting it tends to be the opposite and seems to annoy the hell out of most oncoming drivers. But who cares, at least I can now see where I am going at night.
Having got this far in improvements, let alone expense, the car was starting to be fairly reliable and enjoyable taking me to all sorts of places including rallies up in the forests, visits to my inlaws at the other end of the state, let alone numerous trips to the tip and general daily use. I had at one stage contemplated trying to sell it, having bought a low mileage two-owner from new Navy Blue 1.8 Alfetta sedan in superb unmolested condition. The problem being however, that I mostly ended up driving the Berlina. I actually enjoyed it more, even though the Alfetta was in mint condition in comparison to the Berlina. I sold the Alfetta thereafter.
I thereafter decided it was time to get serious with the Berlina’s restoration and with the help of Marc Panozzo of Milano Auto Wreckers, I started to the acquire some of the missing parts and replace others, including the Alfa and Desgni di Bertone badges, new front indicator/park lenses, door rubbers, B-pillar rubbers and so on. In addition serious upgrading of the front and rear suspension involved replacing the top and lower ball joints, front and rear lower suspension bushes, steering idler arms, front roll bar bushes with urethane ones and lastly new lower (by one inch, and should have been two-inch) heavy duty springs, and Koni yellow shock absorbers. I have got to know Marc quite well over the phone and via the fax, one day I may even catch up with him in person. A Momo prototipo steering wheel has now replaced the large-than-life original wooden wheel and recently I obtained some trumpets and socks for the carbs to help improve induction.
Next projects in mind for the car include the purchase of some 6 x 15 alloy wheels (probably Superlites, a Minilite copy) and some seriously decent, low profile tyres, probably either Pirelli’s or Yokohama’s. I need to investigate which will be best for the car and my pocket. Then after that, its off to have the body work dedented, derusted and generally tidied up. Given my dislike for white, it is also intended to change the colour to an Alfa Blue (Prussian Blue, it’s a bit deeper than Cobalt blue but not as dark as Navy).
After this there will be more improvements in mind including a new clutch, work on the interior and some mild tweaking to the engine and perhaps some better exhaust headers. As you will readily appreciate this all costs money and therefore may take a little time to complete. It therefore is a little disconcerting to find out that I have already spent some $5500 AU to date on maintenance and improvements. Who knows what the final cost may be. I am, however, hopeful that it will have all been worthwhile in the long term.
Thereafter I have plans for the Berlina, to try out some minor competition work, such as hill climbs, track days and possibly even a classic tarmac rally such the Lactos Heritage or maybe even Targa Tasmania. We shall see.
Postscript: David Mitchell kindly wrote this piece in 1999, and on receiving it from him I promptly misplaced it, finding it again in 2002, and so here it is at last. David sold the Berlina in 2001 to "concentrate on finishing restoring [his] Super, Fiat 124 sport, and possibly the 1750 GTV. It always seems to be the way for the poor old Berlina. I must say that I mostly enjoyed the experience (five years' ownership) and will always have a soft spot for Berlinas. The Berlina's new owner, Vlad Gala, has entered and been accepted for this year's Targa Tasmania road rally, but I suspect it will not be ready for this year's event. (A minor issue of tidying up the bodywork, installing a roll cage, rally seats, harnesses, trip meter etc). I suppose there is always next year's."
Berlina Market Report
1974 US 2000 Berlina. Maroon/tan, rubber-bumpers; good interior; OK mechancials, slight rust, cracked windshield. Free through Alfa Digest contact; San Mateo, CA (4/02). Complete, running, but troubled car donated to a new home in San Diego to keep another Berlina on the road, giving up first its engine.
1969 US 1750 Berlina. Maroon/tan. Webers, restored, extremely clean condition. $8,400 on ebay. LA, CA (4/02). Probably the nicest Berlina in the US, but has been for sale by various sellers almost constantly since it left its long-time, careful Bay Area owner in late 1999. Sold again on eBay for $6,995 (7/02). Hard to say if a Berlina is worth this much, but it any Berlina is, this is it. Are Berlinas finally on the rise?
1969 US 1750 Berlina. Maroon/tan. Good overall condition with slight rust, 2000 with Webers. $3,500 on eBay. LI, NY (4/02). A reasonable condition car with a few typical problems, but this price was higher than I expected for the condition, and the buyer didn't see the car before sale. It was on ebay at the same time as the $8,400 car above, and it may have seemed a bargain by comparison, perhaps explaining its highish price.
1972 US 2000 Berlina. Maroon/tan. Complete and rust-free; stale from sitting in a barn since 1991. Head off engine. $300, Alfa Digest. Petaluma, CA (6/02). Good price for a solid project car, though there's still thousands to be spent getting it back on the road, because everything needs sorting. In this kind of project, the purchase price of the car itself is typically a tiny part of the total expense, and is almost irrelevant.
1972 US 2000 Berlina. Red/tan. Complete, good-driving car with good mechanical care in everyday use. Body and interior rough. $600, Alfa Digest. Pasadena, CA (7/02). Typical price for a rough daily driver. This car was in better mechanical shape than most at this price with many new parts and new tires, so for a beater Alfa it was a pretty good purchase for the new owner. Remarkably poor body work though.
1971 US 1750 Berlina. Maroon/tan. Good solid daily driver with virtually no rust but tired paint and tired engine. Bosch Spider wheels. $1,500, Internet ad. San Jose, CA (8/02). A fair price for a good injected 1971 1750, the rarest, and to some most desirable, US Berlina. For a daily use car it was fine; a fair amount of work was called for to fix it up to a nice level, including head gasket, brakes, headliner, seats, and paint. But a great leave-it-as-is-and-drive-it car at the price.
1972 US 2000 Berlina. Red/tan. Average condition daily driver that is usable but needs ongoing bumper, grille, suspension, driveshaft, wiper work. $700 drive-by. Seattle, WA (8/02). Typical price for a typically rough but driveable Berlina. This describes most Berlinas for sale lately. Reasonable deal for both parties, about where you'd expect the price to be.
1974 US 2000 Berlina. White/black, rubber bumpers. Complete running car that looked generally OK, but has poor paint and mechanical issues. $600. Portland, OR (9/02). A car that had been for sale off and on for a couple years, originally at very unrealistic prices. Went through a couple hands. Complete and usable, but a car that didn't look so great once you got close. Reasonable price for a solid car the buyer can use now.
1974 US 2000 Berlina. Blue/tan, rubber bumpers. Very good condition original Arizona car with no apparent rust or flaws. Included rebuilt high-perf engine, Bosch mags, Shankle suspension. $4,000 on eBay. Mesa, AZ (10/02). An excellent condition car that needed no apparent work, but was modified to the point that it probably was an unpleasant daily use car due to sport springs and cammy engine. Nonetheless a good value if you could tolerate the modified rubber bumpers and the car's sporty nature. Good track car? The seller must have spent more than the selling price on the engine and suspension.
1969 US 1750 Berlina Beige/tan. Nice, complete car orginally from Arizona, and rust-free. Rebuilt SPICA and head. Extra perfect dash, hubcaps and 1969 sales brochure (4/02).
1971 Canadian 1750 Berlina. Red. 50,000 total miles, 1,000 miles on rebuild brakes, master cylinder, head, block; as-new tires. Runs great, immaculate black interior. Original paint but with rust on lower panels. $3,500 Canadian. Ontario, Canada (4/02).
1969 US 1750 Berlina. Maroon/tan. Webers, restored, fast. $12,000. LA Times ad. Same car as $8,400/$6,995 ebay car sold above (4/02).
1972 US 2000 Berlina. White/black. Decent but tired bodily and mechanically. Bosch Spider wheels. $1,500 on eBay twice. New Mexico (7/02). Probably to be parted out.
1969 US 1750 Berlina. Beige/tan. Complete registered car but no engine, trans. Moderately rusty from sitting outside for years, but straight and all trim and interior was present. $50/BO in SF Chronicle (7/02).
1974 US 2000 Berlina. Maroon/tan. Good paint, curdoroy interior, rubber bumpers. Alleged hot Weber engine, rebuilt trans. $3,500 in Hemmings ad. San Diego, CA (9/02).
1969 US 1750 Berlina. White/black. Complete but rusty car with bad 1750. $200 on Alfa Digest. Felton, CA (9/02) (Note: car was given away on Alfa Digest five years ago).
Berlina Classified Ads
1971 Euro Berlina for sale, cream with black interior. Best-year Berlina. Very fast; has carbureted 2000 engine with 10548 cams; hanging pedals; 4.3 axle; low-back seats. Good condition. $2,850/BO. John Elrod. Calif (510) 558-1818 or email@example.com
1973 2000 Berlina parts for sale: 1 hood, 1 trunk lid, 1 dash, 1 set of guages, 1 pair front seats. Charley Goddard. Indiana. firstname.lastname@example.org
Wanted: 4.30 rear end with limited slip from 2000cc Berlina. email@example.com.
Berlina, Giulia sedan literature wanted. Owner's manuals, parts manuals, sales material, etc. from any country. Andrew Watry at firstname.lastname@example.org