Berlina Register Newsletter No. 3 (September 1997)

Introduction and Contents

This is the third newsletter going out to members and friends of the Berlina Register. In Newsletter No. 2, I solicited personal histories and anecdotes about members' Berlinas, and received absolutely nothing in return; so much for that idea. But I do want to solicit everyone's input to this venture. If you are so inclined, send in any Berlina-related material you would like to see printed, whether technical and repair tips, sources of parts and repair, bragging about how great your own car is, or whatever. I'll print anything people want to send in. Indicate whether you would like me to edit your submission.

I don't have any big theme for this issue. I am going to run a periodic "Berlina Common Problem Areas" feature (first installment below), which I really hope people submit material for. I know the problem areas that come up on my car, but that's just one Berlina. Let me know what seem like common problems on your car, and I'll add them in a future issue. I'm also including in this issue an article I wrote ("Swapping 115 Series Master Cylinders") for the Alfa Romeo Association's Overheard Cams magazine about changing a hanging-pedal 20mm brake master cylinder for a 22mm cylinder. I did this on my GTV, and am very happy with the result. The procedure should be identical for a hanging-pedal Berlina.

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. Free Berlinas and parts gladly accepted.

Mailing Costs and Advertising Policy

The Berlina Register is a part of the Alfa hobby for me, which I enjoy, but this costs money, and I have two sources of funding other than my own wallet. 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, there is the 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 and we can work something out.

Berlina Classified Ads

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 a Giulia Super, two good to excellent Michelin MVX radials, size 185/70-14, two or four good orange [red?] Koni rear shocks for Berlina/GTV/Spider, and perfect 1969 stainless Berlina bumpers.

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

Berlina Common Problem Areas--Broken Front Seat Frames

This will, I hope, be a regular feature of problem areas that seem to come up for lots of Berlinas. In this first installment, I will talk about cracking front seat base frames. I have two sets of 1750 Berlina seats, and all the front seat frames cracked on the seat base, on the inboard side (near the driveshaft tunnel), where the seatback pivot pin fits into the thick pivot hole piece that is spot-welded to the base. On my seats, the thick steel piece that the seat-back pivot pin fits into is plenty strong, but the base it is welded to is of much thinner steel, and after years of "working" back and forth through use, the thin angled metal tears away from the rest of the seat base. This creates an uncomfortable condition, because the seat back twists and is not solid, and more important, an unsafe condition, because that whole area of the seat could break away in an accident. In such a situation, a seat belt is not going to help keep you in place if the seat breaks.

On my seats, to fix this cracked area, I first removed the seat from the car. Then remove the small travel limiter pin on the rear of one track, and finally remove the four Allen bolts that go through the seat tracks into the floor. Lift out the entire seat. Watch out that the rollers within the seat tracks don't fall out. There may be rubber blocks under the carpet that the seat sits on. Make sure you know how all the hardware and goodies fit together.

Next remove the seat back. This involves unscrewing the seatback adjuster mechanism on the outboard side of the seat. Removal is pretty easy with a small screwdriver to pry off the chrome cover, then use a couple Allen wrenches to remove the adjuster knob and mechanism. Watch out for the curved plastic spacer blocks; they get lost and broken easily. When that's off, lift the seatback to the side off the base pivot pin.

You'll have to remove the upholstery, and perhaps some of the seat foam, to be able to weld up the cracked seat frame. If you don't remove these enough, you will burn them up with the welder. The upholstery comes off by removing the outboard chrome trim (gently straighten the clips on the back), a few spring clips, hog clips, upholstery nails, and whatever other fasteners attach the material to the frame. It probably will have some glue around the edges, too. On original seats, strings underneath the seat base material pass through holes in the foam to tie the pleated material down. These may or may not still be in place. Reupholstered seats may have different attachment methods. After you get the upholstery out of the way, pry up as much foam as necessary to get access to the cracked area. The foam is probably glued down; be gentle with it, as it is expensive and time-consuming to cut new seat foam if you ruin the old.

Once all that is done, weld the broken area. Let it cool, then paint, and replace the foam and upholstery (gluing and clipping where necessary), and reassemble and reinstall the seat. It's a good idea to clean and grease the seat runners and slider mechanism before reinstallation. That's about all there is to this job. On my car, just the bases were cracked, but it's possible the seatbacks crack too, though I haven't personally seen that.

Remanufacturing Unique Berlina Parts

There didn't seem to be a lot of interest in Fred Zimmerman's idea about reproducing the air extractor grilles, but how about dashboards or replacement cosmetic dash caps? All Alfas of the 60's and 70's have problems with cracking dashes, especially around the defroster vents, and Berlinas are no exception. Spider and GTV dashes and caps are available new, but unfortunately, 1750 and 2000 Berlina dashes are different from Spider and GTV dashes, and further, are different from each other. Is there interest in getting whole dashboards, or cosmetic caps that cover the cracks on top, produced? I think Centerline and Alfa Ricambi, at least, have sources for Spider and GTV dashes, so let me know what you are interested in, and I'll look into it further if there is enough interest.

On a not-unique-to-Berlinas note, I am looking into an alleged source of the 1969-style amber and red small round side marker lights used on Berlinas, GTVs, and Spiders. Supposedly these are available at a good price. I will provide further information when I have some.

Berlina Brake System Issues

The supply of floor dual-circuit master cylinders (both LHD and RHD) has long since dried up, and apparently the rebuild kits are now also unavailable. Single-circuit floor master cylinders (1967 and earlier) are also becoming unavailable. So for those of us with floor-pedal cars, it's getting difficult to keep the master cylinders working. There a couple of items to mention here. First, Dan Przybyliski of the Alfa Romeo Association is checking into a source of rebuild kits for floor-pedal dual-circuit master cylinders. Let him (email: <>) or me know if you are interested and maybe we can get a group of kits made up specially. This would most likely consist of just the rubber seals, not pistons or whole cylinders.

Second, conversion to the earlier single-circuit master cylinder is possible, though more work than would first seem apparent. The older MC will bolt right in, but it requires some replumbing of brake lines, because you need only one booster for the single MC, and don't need the "shuttle" fitting that illuminates the brake failure switch in the event of a hydraulic failure. You also need to come up with the older style brake light switch, because on a dual-booster car, it is contained in the shuttle fitting. If you can find an old single-circuit brake line junction fitting that goes at the right rear of the engine compartment, it contains provision for a brake light switch.

Third, I have heard that it is possible to convert a LHD floor-pedal Berlina to hanging pedals and cylinders. This requires removing the floor pedals, cylinders, and pedal box, welding up the old hole in the floor, and cutting a hole to fit the new hanging pedal box with its cylinders. Some replumbing and rewiring is also required. Has anyone done this? I would love to hear about the procedure, and will print it if someone writes it up. I personally like the feel and simplicity of the hanging pedal brakes better than dual-booster floor pedal brakes, but am unwilling to convert my own car until such time as that is the only option to keep the car on the road. I would probably go to a 1967-style single-circuit floor MC first, but if those become unavailable or unrebuildable, it would no longer be an option.

Swapping 115 Series Master Cylinders

I was always dissatisfied with the "feel" of the brake pedal on my 1974 2000 GTV. The master cylinder had last been replaced in 1987, and it seemed like time for a new one. The existing master cylinder was a standard 20mm ATE unit, which came stock on the car. Dan Marvin of Norman Racing Group had told me that the replacement ATE 22mm master cylinder was a straight bolt-in replacement, and gave a much firmer, shorter-travel brake pedal. Dan had made that change on his 2000 Spider, and was very happy with the result. So I decided to go to that slightly larger size, rather than staying with stock. I bought my master cylinder at Jon Norman's Alfa Parts.

There wasn't a lot involved in the swap. First I removed the three 11mm brake line connections to the master cylinder with a flare nut wrench. I put a little cup under the master cylinder to catch the dripping fluid. Next I removed and marked all the wires for the two fluid level sensors on the reservoir. Then I undid the two 13mm nuts that hold the master cylinder to the brake booster assembly. Once the nuts are removed, you simply pull the master cylinder forward off the booster and slip it off the brake pedal pushrod. Be sure to catch the flat rubber O-ring that seals the vacuum where the master cylinder attaches to the booster.

With the master cylinder out of the car, the next step is to pry off the reservoir (if you plan to reuse it; new reservoirs are available separately from the master cylinder). Two cast-in nipples attach the plastic reservoir into rubber grommets in the top of the master cylinder. You need to pry and wiggle the nipples a little, but eventually they will come free. It's best to try one nipple at a time. The whole assembly seems very loose and flaky, but soon enough pops out just fine.

Now get out your new 22mm cylinder, and make sure it matches up exactly with the old cylinder. The next step is to thoroughly clean the old reservoir if you are reusing it (don't use gasoline to clean brake system parts). Once it is clean, firmly press the reservoir, oriented the correct way, into the rubber grommets in the top of the master cylinder. It will pop or snap into place when the nipples are all the way into the grommets. Remove the protective cardboard sleeve from the pushrod, place the new flat rubber O-ring in its shoulder on the end of master cylinder, and slide the master cylinder over the brake pedal pushrod and onto the mounting studs on the brake booster. Put the two attaching nuts and washers loosely on, just the hold the cylinder in place. Now while you can still move the cylinder a little, attach and tighten the three brake line fittings. These may take a little wiggling, and you definitely do not want to cross-thread or force these. You should be able to tighten these all the way down by hand, then use a flare-nut wrench to snug them up firmly. If you have to force them, you are probably ruining them. Once the brake lines are firmly attached, tighten fully the two cylinder mounting nuts, reinstall the fluid level sensor wires, fill the reservoir with new fluid, and tighten all the reservoir caps.

The last step is to bleed the air out of the entire brake system. This can be done with one or two people. With two people, one pushes on the brake pedal, while the other opens and closes the caliper bleed screws at the proper time. Read relevant sections of your shop manual before attempting brake bleeding. For one person, one-way valve brake bleeder hoses and pumps are available. Some work well, some poorly. In any event, always begin bleeding brakes with the caliper farthest from the master cylinder, working to the caliper closest to the master cylinder. If you are contemplating replacing your flexible brake hoses (or doing any other work on the brake hydraulics) now is the time to do it while the hydraulic system is opened up. I won't get into the merits of mineral versus silicone brake fluid (it's up to you), but if you go with mineral, definitely use DOT 4 fluid, which has a much higher boiling point than DOT 3 fluid.

That's it. I did the entire job on my GTV, including replacing all the brake pads and getting the rear rotors turned, in a couple hours. I bled the system twice, until I couldn't get the brake pedal to "pump up" any more. I am very happy with the swap. The pedal is firmer, travels a shorter distance to get equal braking as before, and requires slightly more pressure than the old 20 mm cylinder. Some of this may be due simply to a new master cylinder and new fluid, but I think much of it is due to the new cylinder's moving a bit more fluid with each application.

Notes and Comments

There are about 55 cars on the Berlina Register now. About half are in California, many others scattered around the US, three in Canada, and three in Europe. Surely there are more existing Berlinas than that?

Michael Williams <> has the following questions:

1. He is looking for the rubber bump stops that are riveted to the hood latches of a 1973 2000 Berlina. Anyone know of suitable replacements if they are no longer available?

2. His Berlina has Jaeger gauges but Veglia Borletti clock. Is this standard? (That's how it is on the set of 2000 instruments I have.) Anyone have any luck fixing these clocks? (His runs but is not "setable," nor does the hour hand move.)

3. He is looking for the rubber strap that holds gas vapor tank in the trunk. He has a broken one, and is also interested in a source for the clear green hose (or other similar hose) for the vapor recovery system.