Berlina Register Newsletter No. 6 (August 1998)



Notes and Comments



In this issue, we have an important notice (see Keeping Yourself on the Register Mailing List, below) and two larger pieces. First is an article by Pat Braden about the value of Registers, such as this one. Thanks Pat. Also included is the roster of the Berlina Register, so you all can see the cars on the Register. I've included owners' names and general locations, but not specific address, phone, or email information.

Al Carlson in Canada says Lockheed brake boosters are available for 200 from Chris Sweetwood in England, email: Highwood@compuserve.com. He also has Bendix brake boosters at 130.

Heikki Kuokka reports that A.F.R.A. in Milan (Via Carducci, 36/38; tel. (02) 3286111; fax (02) 32861150 buys all the remaining old stock parts direct from the Alfa factory that they no longer want. He says he found some incredible stuff there on his last trip.

I continue to struggle with my 1967 Giulia Super, slowly accepting that I can see its restoration through. I've done many small jobs on it, and it is improving. My 1969 Berlina continues to be a reliable daily car, but [I've said this before, so don't trust me] I plan to sell it once the Super is ready for the road on a daily basis. I recently bought a pair of 2000 Berlinas, one running (1974), one not (1972). I wanted only the parts car, but the owner would sell them only as a package. So I took them both, cleaned up the running car and sold it the same week, and have stripped down the parts car. I'm keeping most of the mechanical pieces and trim, and most of what I don't want is already sold.

The keeper of the Berlina Register is Andrew Watry, 1284 Monterey Ave., Berkeley, CA 94707 USA. Phone (510) 526-0391. Email: Andrew.Watry@bender.com. 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.



Keeping Yourself on the Register Mailing List (PLEASE READ)



With about 100 cars and 80 members, I consider the Berlina Register a success. However, success is getting expensive, because it costs me about $45 each newsletter issue for mailing and other costs. People have kindly sent in stamps and cash to help out, but those funds are pretty much spent. Advertising income has been negligible, but I'd love to hear from anyone who wants to pay for an ad. In short, I'm spending too much and taking in to little. I don't mind some expense, but $45 in stamps each time is beginning to feel like too much. So here is what I have in mind.

First, I need to figure out who cares about the Berlina Register and who doesn't. To do that, I ask that you respond to me in some way that you want to continue receiving the newsletter. If I hear from you, I'll keep you on the mailing list; if I don't hear from you, I'll drop you. You can contact me by email <andrew.watry@bender.com>; phone (510) 526-0391 or (800) 424-0651 ext. 268 (toll-free); or mail 1284 Monterey Ave., Berkeley, CA 94707, USA. There are many members and newsletter recipients I haven't heard from in ages, so I have no idea whether they are still interested.

Second, as I say, a number of people sent in stamps and small amounts of cash to help get the newsletters out, and I appreciate that very much. But if you haven't contributed in some way, please consider doing so. Those who have already given, don't feel obliged to give again. For a subscriber in the US, just $1 covers three issue's postage. I don't want to charge mandatory subscription fees (I think that would kill the newsletter, because not many would pay), so that's why I'm handling it this way for now. I want to keep this all voluntary. We'll see how it goes.

I've done four newsletters a year so far. That wasn't planned, it just worked out that way. I plan to do two or three per year from here on, beginning with this issue. We'll see how the $$ and editorial submissions go. Which reminds me: send articles, tech tips, and other Berlina stuff to print!

If you have a change of mailing address or email address, please let me know. A couple of newsletters have been returned to me from formerly good addresses, and that's just a waste of postage.

Some have suggested that I do the newsletter by email, but I have a few reasons for not doing so. First, many Register members don't have email or haven't given me an email address. Second, I'm not good at the computer graphics and whatnot, so I don't think I could do a good job. Finally, I don't have a useable computer at home yet, so all the emailing would be on my work computer, which I don't want to do.



Berlina Opinions



In Praise of Registers



by Pat Braden



When I joined the AROC, there were really only Giuliettas, so the interest was very focused on that model. When I became the first vintage editor of the club, I concentrated on locating all the pre-war Alfas in the US. Not a hard job, because there weren't that many to be located.

Over the years, the proliferation of Alfa models has diffused the focus of Alfa interest. In this respect, I see the Milano as a dividing line between the hard-core enthusiast Alfas and commodity Alfas which I consider to be the Milano and 164. It is too early to see this clearly, but I think that Milano owners are significantly different in their expectations and attitudes towards Alfa than, say, Giulia owners. They expect a more reliable--commodity-like--product. Also noteworthy is the fact that, by and large, they get it. Alfa would very much liked to have made all their models commodities, to be bought and sold on a volume competing with television sets or toasters, but the marketing and design was not mature enough to chase that market until it was too late.

The diverse Alfa community in the US today has several places to hang its hat. There's the AROC and its chapters, the ARA, the internet, and informal local communities of owners clustered around the enthusiast-owned repair shop or parts house. These all overlap, of course, but they do so less and less as owner interests become more focused. As an enthusiast's energies are more and more directed to a favorite model, the membership in and quality of registers is bound to grow. Registers are probably the real future of Alfa enthusiasm in the US.

It's noteworthy that the US registers, having originated with the AROC, have now re-appeared outside the AROC, which has done nothing to encourage them. At first, these special registers formed around the most interesting models such as the SS, SZ and TZ. However, there are now registers for virtually every model Alfa, and these registers prosper through newsletters, or on the internet. A year ago, I proposed to host a Register section in the [Alfa] Owner (AROC's monthly magazine--ed.), but my offer was ignored. The club could still offer the registers easy distribution, something they currently have to work hard for. Bringing the various registers back within the AROC now may not be possible simply because they have been doing so well outside it.

If the registers will increasingly siphon off the "true" Alfa enthusiast, what's left for the AROC? In the first place, it serves well as an introductory group for those who have yet to develop any real experience with or lasting interest in the marque. These members will either move on to try other marques, or become attracted the specialized interest catered to by the registers.

Members may find the AROC more rewarding socially than technically. A number of car clubs (even, some AROC chapters) survive quite well as social organizations in which members can associate, serve, rise, be recognized and wield power. In this case, membership becomes a more important club feature than ownership. I once attended a Jaguar club where members earned points if they actually drove a Jag to the meeting (not many qualified).

In a club of itinerant owners, or in a club populated with socially-oriented, mechanically disinterested owners, the cars are in danger. Depending on the economic level of the membership, service is either under-informed and do-it-yourself, or left to the pros. One of the things which I have most enjoyed about Alfas is that their owners tend to be underfunded and overenthusiastic. They are, by and large, average folk trying to enjoy the most exotic vehicle within their financial means. They are also--any aftermarket supplier will tell you--notoriously stingy.

That means that Alfas are more often owner-maintained than more expensive exotics, and the need for technical support is more critical to keep the cars from being destroyed by their owners. There is anecdotal evidence, especially on the internet, that the technical ability of the current Alfa owner is significantly lower than has been the case in the past. As the number of casual owners within the club increases, so does the danger to the cars. The AROC is doing nothing special--and certainly nothing new--to fill this critical void. That's why I've changed Note Brevi (in Alfa Owner--ed.) from a quasi-philosophical to a technical column.

The registers, its seems to me, are the safest haven for the true enthusiast who wants to conserve his Alfa. I don't mean to be too invidious with the AROC: members of the registers should probably also be members of the larger club. But the real focus of durable Alfa enthusiasm, it seems to me, will increasingly trend towards the registers. They are the safe haven for cars that, in a decade or so, will be classics.

Even berlinas. Last year at the Concours Italiano, a Castagna-bodied drophead coupe showed up. Beautifully restored, it was highly regarded, and undeniably rare. The reason for its rarity may surprise: I can remember when you, literally, couldn't give a 6C1750 James Young or Castagna drophead away. For several years, I owned the front half of a 6C Turismo which had been cut up simply because it wasn't worth the room it would take up as a whole car. There was a number of 4-door 6C berlinas produced (even some limousines), but I doubt seriously if more than 5 survive in the world now. If you're in your 20s, you'll live long enough to see modern 1750 and 2000 berlinas become prized classics. While the Berlina register is perhaps the least likely enthusiast group at the moment, it does underline the undeniable charm of the Alfa sedans.

It may come as a surprise, but Alfa was a sedan company. In my research for the original Giulia book, I developed graphs comparing berlina production to the spiders and sprints. The material showed the tremendously lopsided number of berlinas produced over the spiders and sprints. That material, now over a decade old, may finally see print in the revision to the Giulia book I'm currently working on. If you've discovered the quiet joys of berlina ownership, count yourself lucky. And be thankful: if they were more widely appreciated, they'd be much more expensive! Berlinas are the essence of Alfa, as they have been since 1910.



Berlina Classified Ads

Dan Noonan wants a 1750 or (pre-large bumper) 2000 Berlina. Excellent condition. I'll travel in the US for the right car. Email at dnoonan@lycosmail.com or call 804-979-5289.

'69 Berlina, Rusty, but bumpers and dash are in good shape. No engine or trans. Good parts car. Free OBO :-) tim@accrue.com (408)542-8935

Wanted: Left front fender for '71 Berlina 1750. Frank Dollerup Jensen, Aprilvej 104, DK-2750 Herlev, Denmark

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

Mark Thornton (206) 367-4208 is looking for straight stainless bumpers, a u-joint steering box, and performance suspension parts for his 2000 Berlina.

Andrew Watry (510) 526-0391 wants one red Koni 105/115 rear shock absorber.

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.

Current Berlina Register