Berlina Register Newsletter No. 4 (January 1998)

Introduction, Comment, and Current Register Size

This is the fourth newsletter going out to members and friends of the Berlina Register. In Newsletter No. 2, I solicited personal histories and anecdotes about members' Berlinas; I finally received the one, from Fred Zimmermann, which is printed below (Berlina Personal History). I want to continue to solicit everyone's input to this venture. Send in any Berlina-related material you would like to see printed, whether technical and repair tips, black and white artwork, 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.

The Berlina Register is up to about 65 (approx.) cars. About half are in California, with another quarter or so in the rest of the US, and the remainder in Canada, New Zealand, South Africa, and western Europe. About two thirds are 2000s, one third 1750s. 1973 is the best-represented year with 15 cars, 1972 next with 13 cars, 1974 with 12 cars, 1969 with 11 cars, 1971 with 10 cars, two 1970 cars, two 1968 cars, one 1967 car, and one 1975 car. These numbers include wrecked and parted cars, so some may not actually exist anymore. If you see Berlinas parked around, or in junk yards or Alfa shops, please scribble down the serial number, color, and model if you can, and send them to me for the database. Thanks in advance, and thanks also to everyone who has sent stamps and money for postage; I really appreciate it.

Since the last Berlina newsletter, I sold my Sport Sedan, bought and sold a Giulia TI, and bought a Giulia Super, and immediately rebuilt its engine. So I've been busy. And I haven't been doing much work on my Berlina (or my GTV) other than oil changes, and making sure everything (except the heater fan) continues to work. I may write a Giulia/Berlina comparison article for a future issue, after I get the Super registered and on the road. But sad to say for Berlina fans, I like the Giulia Super better. I've had a total of five Giulia sedans since 1977 (two Supers and three TIs), and I think they are the greatest cars ever. They are just enough smaller to have, to me, a much sportier feel. So my Berlina may be for sale at some point. But not yet.

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.

When I was at Alfa Parts Exchange (510) 782-5800 in early December, they were just beginning to part out a 2000 Berlina with perfect stainless bumpers. I don't know about the status of the car at the moment, though.

Steve Koenig (916) 274-8904 is looking for amber tail lights (both sides), and a new metal windshield frame piece (meaning the trim?), for a 2000 Berlina.

Michael Williams (916) 452-3399 is looking for a glovebox interior for his 2000 Berlina.

Tomas La Costa <TLACOSTA@DRCO.COM> seeks a 1750 Berlina, a Giulia TI with column shift, and any model of 1900.

Robert Holbrook (916) 532-1938 is looking for a very clean Montreal.

William West Clark (408) 757-2644 has 1969 and 1972 parts Berlinas available.

Mark Thornton (206) 367-4208 is looking for straight stainless bumpers and performance suspension parts for his 2000 Berlina.

Andrew Watry (see address and phone above) wants Giulia Super seat belts and shoulder harnesses, a Giulia Super radio blanking plate, good 14-inch 1750 wheels with tangs for hubcaps or a set of late "star" mags from a Spider, two good to excellent Michelin MVX radials, size 185/70-14, two or four good orange [red?] Koni rear shocks for Berlina/GTV/Spider.

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

Samuel P. Partin III (501) 327-6370 has Berlina glass, trim, Spica parts, and seats for sale, and is looking for good outside front door handles with locks.

Berlina Personal History

A Jewel in the Rough: An Auto Biography

by Fred Zimmermann

I drove and fell in love with Alfa Romeos while I was in the Air Force in Germany in the early 1960's. My best friend was assigned temporary duty in Frankfurt for three months, and he asked me to take care of and drive his 1960 Giulietta Spider Veloce. Well, hey, anything for a friend, right? What a wonderful 2 months. He came back two weeks early, damn it! I drove a dozen or so Alfas after that in Germany--mostly test drives at dealerships, I was hooked!

Almost a decade later, in 1972, I found the most stunning, beautiful Alfa that I had ever seen. It was sporty in a subtle way. It exhibited understated elegance. It was a 1969 1750 Berlina, metallic silver with a burgundy interior. To me it was gorgeous--an impression that I was soon to learn was not embraced by others. I made and appointment to show my new-found beauty to my soon to be wife, Melanie. I was so excited I had to strap on an adult-sized Pamper. I pulled into the driveway and parked next to the Italian jewel. My honey looked at the Berlina and flashed back at me and said, "You've got to be kidding." I was crushed! It was obviously going to take more time to convert her to what I anticipated. The next year, we bought a metallic silver 1971 1750 GTV. I still think about that '69 Berlina and have never seen that color combination since. It was really beautiful.

We sold the GTV in 1975. We later bought and sold a 1979 Spider after keeping it for 10 years. We bought and still have a 1967 Duetto, bought back the 1971 GTV from the guy we originally sold it to 17 years earlier, and finally in 1990 I found and bought back my beloved 1969 Berlina.

It was a three-line ad in the AROC Alfa Owner. The car was near San Diego and the guy wanted a little over $4,500. It wasn't metallic silver, it was a faded plum or prugna. It had been repainted very close to the original color by a paint shop in Tijuana that specialized in painting over every sticker, label, metal plate, and gasket under the hood. They were not as skilled in their overspray techniques, but they did manage to cover most of the wiring, hoses, and grommets, along with selected spots on the bumpers, headlight rings and lenses. I was really starting to like this plum color. It was everywhere!

I turned my attention to the interior. The upholstery was not original. It had been updated, and here I'm guessing, at the "Tuck and Roll" shop net door to the paint shop in Tijuana. A very pleasant bordello red velour had been selected for the update. But alas, it was okay. You see the seats were shredded and the foam was even torn. It did however, have one of those seat cushions that was originally purchased from, again I'm guessing, a Western Auto store in the 1960's. Actually, other that the headliner (which was sagging in the rear seat by about 6 inches), the rubber mats (worn through to metal) the side door panels (cut and worn) and the seats, it had a fine interior. Hey it was all there, right? Sure the dash was cracked (still is), but all the gauges were there even thought most of them didn't work. It did have a nice clean original steering wheel, which I later replace with a wooden one along with a wooden gear shift know. I still remember concluding after I had seen the Berlina for the first time the fact that it was not metallic silver didn't bother me as much as I thought it would. I was hooked! Yes, I was suffering from the "puppy in the window of the pet store" syndrome. It was complete--kind of--and it was the right year. I prefer the interior layout, with the black gauges on the center console, of the 1969 model. I continued my long-distance love affair very coyly for about 6 months. I stopped calling the owner every other week and appeared disinterested when the owner called me. Finally when the price came down below $2,000 I offered him $1,800 and he said yes. I guess I'm lucky because all of this time had gone by and no one else had swooped down and snatched up this little jewel in the rough.

The big day arrived to go get the Berlina and bring it home to Santa Barbara. Melanie and I left early on a Sunday morning in the 1979 Spider. We pulled into the driveway and parked next to my soon-to-be Italian beauty. This time she looked at the Berlina and flashed back at me, "You've finally got your Berlina, honey, buy you know, I liked the silver one better." I chose not to say anything and just smiled. Hey, this had been a 20-year project to convert her to appreciate the Berlina body style, and I saw no reason to voluntarily delay the process.

We paid for the car, swapped paper work, and I got all of the maintenance records. The records consisted of a thin folder with a dozen or so receipts (mostly oil additives) and about 20 color prints of the family vacation to Yosemite in their VW van. We actually made it all the way to Santa Barbara without any problems. It would not, however, go over 50 mph. At last, a Berlina in my driveway.

Restoration stared with the engine. I first discovered that the engine was a 2000 cc and not 1750 cc. The fellow said he was proud that he and a friend of his had rebuilt the engine. The next thing I discovered was that he and his fiend had never hear of thrust washers on the crank and the block was history. It also had Dell 'Orto carbs that had been modified. Well, no worries! I had just sold a Cadillac Eldorado and had enough money to get a used 2-liter block and Webers. After a complete engine rebuild, new Pirelli P-6's, a complete front end rebuild, new shocks, complete interior including seats, side panels, headliner, and carpet, a windshield, and two new taillight assemblies, I discovered that I had overshot my budget. But I finally had my Berlina. I also had a car worth $3,000 that I had spent well over $10,000 to refurbish. What a deal!

Since the rebuilt the Berlina has seen duty as my daily driver. The interior is still nice but showing some aging. I chose German vinyl, light tan or palomino in color. It looks like leather. With a good cleaner, the seats look new. The driver's side front carpet has worn through and needs replacing. Mechanically, it is very reliable. It has never failed to get us to our destination. Sure there have been times where it ran poorly, but I have always been able to fix it in my garage or drive it to the local Alfa shop for repair. The paint is faded and is now beginning to crack. With the aid of an 11-inch Sears Orbital Waxer/Buffer it retains a presentable appearance. I have also begun using Color Magic by Turtle Wax. This is the stuff that says "As seen on TV" that has color pigment mixed in the polish. I do recommend that use surgical gloves when applying, otherwise it is really hard to scrub your fingers and nails clean. I'm not big on product endorsement but this stuff does work.

Minilites with Pirelli P400 185/70R-14's have been on for 4 months now. The Minilites were on the GTV when we bought it back and Melanie felt they were too flashy for the GTV. They really spice up a rather conservative body style on the Berlina. The P400's replaced P6 195/60R-14's. I experienced tire-rubbing while cornering with 4 passengers. The rear springs may be weak, but going to skinnier tires solved the problem. Also P6's are no longer available. If you ever find yourself in Santa Barbara and you see a clean, plum-colored Berlina being driven by a fellow with a toothpaste smile streaking up US-101 or in the foothills, well you've found us--the "Jewels in the Rough."

Questions and Answers

Answers to questions posed in Newsletter 3:

For original-type green hose for use on fuel lines and vapor recovery systems, check with a supplier of pneumatic or hydraulic components. One suggested source is Royal Brass in San Jose, California. You may have to buy an entire spool (25 or 50 feet) of the stuff, though.

For vapor canister straps (located in the trunk) for Spica injected cars, check with Alfa Parts Exchange in Hayward, California (510) 782-5800.

For clock repair, see Palo Alto Speedometer in Palo Alto, California (which advertises in the US Alfa Owner), or Jacobs Automobile Clock at 4027 Broadway, Oakland, California. Both of these shops come recommended from several Berlina owners as doing good work, but may be expensive.

1969-style side marker light lenses are available as new reproduction items from Aftermarket Reproductions, 142 Nevada St., El Segundo, CA, 90245 (310) 322-8028 (talk to Yolanda Keh), for $15 each. This is just the lens, and not the base. I don't know how you fit them together. They also make Giulia sedan Carello side marker lenses, as well as other Alfa and Ferrari reproductions.

International Auto Parts in Charlottesville, Virginia (800) 726-0555 is looking into making dash caps for 1750 and 2000 Berlina dashboards. These would be the black plastic overlay type, similar to the caps currently being made for Spiders and GTVs. If you know of a donor dash (it doesn't have to be perfect) for IAP to use as a mold for the cap (the dash will be destroyed in the process), let me know or talk to Joel Hailey at IAP. I'll provide updates when I have them.

Everything for the Berlina:

* Genuine Alfa Parts

* Aftermarket Accessories

* Distributor for ReOriginals