Berlina Register Newsletter No. 2 (June 1997)

This is the second mailing to members and friends of the Berlina Register. This newsletter includes some general information and a new regular "About My Berlina" feature. In this first installment, I talk about my own Berlina, and I hereby solicit all of you Berlina Register members to send me a similar one- or two-page writeup about your Berlina(s) and other Alfa experiences. I will print one per issue, generally in the order I receive them. Send me a disk with an IBM-compatible word processing file, a hand-written or typed note which I will type up, or email a note or word processing attachment, which I will try to deal with (I'm not good at complicated email). I use Wordperfect 6.1 for IBM, so I can probably accommodate files from the major word processing programs (but I'm uneasy with some of this computer stuff). Indicate whether you want your feature edited or printed verbatim.

I've added a new "Berlina Classified Ads" section below, which lists cars, parts, and services for sale or wanted. Let me know if you have something to list. See the Advertising Policy below.

The keeper of the Berlina Register is Andrew Watry, 1284 Monterey Ave., Berkeley, CA 94707 USA. Phone (510) 526-0391. Email: Send me any corrections or additions to your register information, or any other Berlina-related facts, rumors, tips, or needs.

Mailing Costs and Advertising Policy

The Berlina Register is a part of the Alfa hobby for me, which I enjoy, but this all costs money, and I see two possible sources of funding. First, please feel free to send postage stamps that I can use for mailings, or nominal amounts of money (a dollar or two) to cover postage and printing costs. Second, I have added a Berlina Classified Ads section below. For non-businesses, a small classified ad listing cars or parts for sale or wanted is free. Just provide all relevant information to me. For businesses, a small classified ad of cars, parts, or services is $3. For a larger business ad, such as an 8 x 11 insert, contact me.

Berlina Classified Ads

This will be a regular feature if there is enough interest. For commercial sources of Berlina and other Alfa parts, see "Berlina Parts Sources" from the first newsletter of March 1997. I am kind of a Berlina information clearinghouse myself, so contact me if you have specific needs.

Tomas La Costa <TLACOSTA@DRCO.COM> (contact Andrew Watry for phone or address info) seeks a 1750 Berlina, a Giulia TI with column shift, and any model of 1900.

Andrew Watry (see address and phone above) wants two good to excellent Michelin MVX radials, size 185/70-14, and two or four good orange [red?] Koni rear shocks for Berlina/GTV/Spider.

Fred Zimmermann (805) 682-5744 is looking into having new reproduction pieces made of the air extractor grille on each C pillar just behind the rear door. These would be cast, polished or chromed, metal. Contact Fred or Andrew Watry (see address and phone above) if you are interested in joining in on this, and what you would be willing to pay. Price and delivery dates are unknown at this time.

Jay Niederst (805) 654-0555 has a 1968 Berlina that he is parting out. It is a Euro model with a 1750 with Webers

About My Berlina

I have one Berlina (my first), which I bought in April 1995. I also have a maroon 1974 2000 GTV and a black 1979 Sport Sedan (Alfetta), and I previously owned two Giulia TIs and a Giulia Super. I also have a 1959 MGA Twin Cam, a 1972 BMW Bavaria, and a 1970 VW bus.

My 1750 Berlina is a metallic olive green early 1969 US-specification car, VIN AR*1555393*. It has 206,000 miles on it. My car had two owners before me that I know of, and probably more. It has been in California since new, and in the San Francisco Bay Area since at least 1990. Before that, I don't know. The person I bought it from was not an Alfa fanatic, though he did take it to a good Alfa mechanic, and spent a lot of money on maintaining it.

My car has its original stock 1750. As far as I can tell, the bottom end of the engine has never been apart or rebuilt. The engine has a rebuilt head with a mild port cleanup by Norman Racing Group, installed by me in 1995. The injection is all stock, and works well, and the cams and exhaust are also all stock, except that the rear muffler has been replaced by a glasspack, so the car is somewhat noisier than stock. The car runs well now, but had a burnt #4 exhaust valve, incorrect valve clearances, and very poorly set up injection pump when I bought it. I had the valve job done, set the valve clearances, set up the injection, and did an ignition tuneup to get the engine working decently. I also had to tweak the thermostatic acutator bulb a little to get the actuator probe to extend the proper amount. The engine shows 55 pounds of oil pressure at speed (0 at idle), and burns/leaks about one quart of oil every 750 miles. I use Chevron 20W50 oil and UFI filters, both changed every 3000 miles. The engine always starts (except once after sitting for two weeks in the pouring rain), and gets about 20 mpg in town and 25 mpg freeway. It passed its two California smog checks easily.

Nowadays the coolant temperature hovers around 185 degrees. But when I bought the car it ran to 200 degrees normally, and 215 or so when the weather was hot. To fix this, I had the radiator cleaned, rodded, and repainted by Berkeley Radiator. I also adjusted the ignition timing, and cleaned out of the inside of the engine block when I had the head off. When putting this all back together, I installed a European fan, which has thinner blades than the normal US fan, but seems to pull plenty of air.

The transmission works well, though a little more notchily than I would like. The shifting may be slower than I'm used to on other 105/115 cars due to the heavy, complex clutch linkage of the floor-mounted clutch master cylinder. The second gear synchro is reluctant to work til the transmission is fully warmed up. When I bought the car, the driveshaft was very unbalanced, and had bad vibration periods at 20 and 40 mph. I removed the whole shaft and had Norman Racing replace the universal joints and the center bearing. Also, the front centering bushing had a piece broken out of it; this was replaced. Driveline Service of San Leandro straightened, balanced, and painted the shaft, and I reinstalled it with new hardware and a new donut.

The body is generally straight and not rusty. The car was completely repainted in the the original metallic olive many years ago (though not very well), and a dent in the the left rear fender was repaired and repainted not long before I bought it. There are no major dents to speak of on the car (just some dings), though the bumpers show the usual parking damage, and there is a little rust in each rear door, at the front of each sill, and in the spare tire well. But generally the basic structure is very straight and solid; the floors and chassis structure are all strong. All the chrome, badges, and other trim are present and in good condition, and all the lights work fine. The center Alfa grille was broken when I bought the car, but I found good replacement ones at All Parts and Alfa Parts Exchange (APE). I have lost a few headlight rims, but APE has provided good replacements.

The interior is tan vinyl with grey carpets. The carpets are original, and slightly worn and mildewed from water leakage. But generally they look fine. The door panels, glass, and headliner are all in very good condition. The seats in the car when I bought it were original. The back seat was in good condition, complete with the removable storage compartment/arm rest. The front seats were pretty worn and torn, and the bottom of the driver's seat had been poorly recovered. Also the driver's seat frame was cracked, which I had welded. I bought a complete set of seats that had been well reupholstered in a vinyl similar, but not identical, to the original. The driver's seat has been restuffed with modern firmer foam. One of these new front seats has a crack in the frame, which I will fix one day. The dashboard is original, and has two typical long cracks in the top running from the defroster vents. Otherwise, the dash is very nice. All the instruments work, the wood and other plastic in the dash is all good, and the dash has never had a radio in it, so there is no hole cut in the wood. All the switches and electrical equipment work, except for the heater fan, which is slowly dying, and the four-way flashers. I had to replace the heater valve soon after I bought the car, as it was leaking, and the glove box latch was broken, so I got a replacement at APE.

My car has stock suspension, brakes, steering, and wheels. The rear suspension is fine, but the bushings on the front end are pretty old and creaky. I've replaced one front ball joint, a couple bushings, and all the tie rod ends. The car has Koni shocks on the front, and Alfa shocks on the rear. The steering box works very smoothly, and even seems to hold its oil. When I bought the car, the brakes were really marginal: the pedal felt mushy, and both Lockheed boosters' vacuum chambers were full of brake fluid. I rebuilt both boosters, as well as the master cylinder, and replaced the brake hoses and brake pads. The brakes continued to work erratically, and dragged some, so I eventually bought and rebuilt two Bonaldi boosters, which fit in place of the Lockheed boosters just fine. Now the brakes are pretty good, and never drag. My car came with very worn and mismatched 165-14 tires, which I soon replaced with used no-name 185/70-14 radials, which work pretty well considering they cost $30 for the set of four at APE.

I use my Berlina as an everyday car. I maintain it, but I don't really pamper it. Unfortunately, I don't have enough garage space for all my cars, so the Berlina has to sit outside. I use it to run my kids around, take weekend trips, and periodically drive to work. The car is pretty fast, and is really fun to drive around town. The light steering, precise shifting, and good torque of the 1750 combine to make it an enjoyable driver. My car will cruise at 75 or 80 mph on the freeway easily, and I've had it up to about 100 mph. It had plenty of power to go faster, but I ran out of room and courage. The front suspension is geriatric enough that I don't corner radically, but I can still drive fast enough to have fun. I have driven the car at Sears Point Raceway twice on Alfa Romeo Association tour laps. The Berlina corners not nearly as well as my GTV, but is just as much fun.

In spite of my having worked on the car steadily since I bought it two years ago, there is still plenty to be done. At some point I should rebuild the engine, and replace the clutch and the synchros and bearings in the gearbox at the same time (in fact the clutch just started to slip some on hills). A stainless exhaust system would be nice too. I would like to convert the injection and airbox to a later 2000 system that I have sitting around, as the idle circuit is easier to deal with, and the later pump has several improvements over the 1969 pump. The motor mounts are kind of sagged out, the rubber of the exhaust-side mount fouling the oil filter. Eventually I may convert the brakes to a single-circuit system master cylinder as used on 1967 Giulias. And the front suspension badly needs to be rebuilt. I'd like to add Cromodora "star" mag wheels and better tires some day. I have a stock wood Personal steering wheel from a 1972 GTV that I'd like to install. I need to fix the heater fan motor, and tighten the pinch bolt on the shifter at the same time when I have the console out. And finally, I'd like to improve the exterior by taking care of the few dents, dimpled bumpers, and little rust, and get a good paint job in the original metallic olive.

Having owned Alfa sedans since 1977, I've amassed lots of parts, mostly Giulia mechanic components, and Berlina and Giulia trim and interior pieces. I have some NOS GTV, Berlina, Spider, and Alfetta lights, trim, and grille pieces that I am hoarding as insurance for the day that I need them. While writing this article, I bought a Sport Sedan, so I feel justified in hoarding parts. You never know what Alfa you may end up with!