Berlina Register Newsletter No. 8 (May 1999)

Notes and Comments

Welcome to the first 1999 issue. Below are two pieces I wrote, one on what it's like to totally strip down a Berlina, and another comparing Berlinas and Giulias. Still seeking Berlina anecdotes, histories, tech tips, or queries from Register members to publish. The Register now has almost 150 cars on it.

Speaking of Registers, I was contacted in November by Robert D. Mulder van Leens Dijkstra, secretary of the Dutch Berlina Register. It seems funny that neither of us had heard of the other til recently. There are about 130 cars on this Register, most I would guess in Europe. The Dutch Register has been around since 1990, is much more professional than mine, and seems to have a budget! I am including them in future mailings, and hope they will do the same for me. Contact Robert at Genootschap der Berlina Bezitters "GIOCATTOLO" Honthorststr. 36, 1071 DG, Amsterdam, The Netherlands, Tel. 31-252-226959; Fax 31-252-218981. If anyone knows of other Berlina Registers, please let me know.

I should have put this item in the last newsletter, but I forgot. In the Alfa Corral at the Monterey Historic Races at Laguna Seca last August was the broadest representation of Alfa sedans I have ever seen. There were: a Giulietta ti, Dave Mericle's Giulia TI (which used to be mine), Bill Gillham's Giulia Super, my 1750 Berlina, several 2000 Berlinas (including Paul De Rosier's and Michael Williams's), several Alfetta sedans, a bunch of Milanos, and several 164s. That's a pretty good generational representation. The only post-Korean War US-market Alfa sedans missing were a 1900 Berlina, "cast-iron" 2000 Berlina, 2600 Berlina, Giulia TI Super, and Alfa 6 (of which I have only ever seen one). I realize there are lots of other sedans in Europe, Asia, etc., but I'm being US-centric here. So many Alfa sedans in one place is really something, and it was fun to compare styles and changes over the years. Paul DeRosier's Berlina was probably the sedan in the nicest condition, in my opinion. Dave Mericle's TI, now white with maroon interior, gets the "most improved" award (formerly periwinkle with white vinyl interior), which most of you, mercifully, did not see in its "before" state.

Mark Guinther of Portello Works in Chula Vista, California, sent me a list of things he has available, and lots of it is of interest to Berlina owners. The biggest news is rebuild kits for ATE 1969-style floor-pedal dual-circuit brake master cylinders, which have been unavailable for some time. Mark stocks Giulietta, Giulia, Berlina, and other 105/115 new, old, and reproduction pieces. I stopped in last year, and it's a fun place to poke around. Call Mark at (619) 429-6518.

Brad Bunch of Alfa Ricambi tells me they have lots of Berlina pieces in stock, including doors with windows, non-rusty hoods and trunks, new lights and lenses, a new center console, and new and good used bumpers and guards. Contact them at (800) 225-2532.

I sold my 1750 Berlina in April, so now I am Berlina-less. I plan to continue to run the Register for the time being, though, as I enjoy doing it. I also sold my Giulietta Sprint, as it was just too much of a project for me. So now I can concentrate on my Giulia Super and GTV, both of which have gotten lots of upgrades recently. Next on the list is to get the seats of the Super reupholstered, rebuild the 1750 I bought for the Super, and get the GTV painted.

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.

Stripping a Berlina to the Bone

For several months in 1998, I had three Berlinas. It was interesting to compare the three (my olive 1969 1750 [AR*1555393*], a non-running green 1972 2000 [AR*3000698*], and a complete maroon 1974 2000 [AR*3002061*]). I sold the '74 whole to Marcus Alley, a Register member, and completely stripped the '72 down to a shell, which I sold to Al Huerby, another register member, to cut up to fix the bodywork on his own car (AR*3001431*). I thought I'd tell what it was like to completely strip down a car.

First and foremost, it was fun to strip the Berlina down. The car was unregistered, rusty, dented, hadn't run in several years, and the interior was torn up, so I didn't feel too bad about parting it out; it wasn't really a viable car to put back on the road. When I got the car, it was already missing its instrument cluster, exhaust, driveshaft, and water pump, and the engine had lots of rust in it from sitting out in the weather for several years. There was no hurry to the project, and I knew I didn't have to remember how to put it back together, so I could work at my own pace and not take notes about how things fit together. The most fun part was learning how all the pieces fit on the car, and how the systems work together. I tried to take the car apart one system at a time. First I removed all the exterior trim and lights, which is the fun and easy part, as those pieces are typically small, light, clean and accessible. But stripping all the brightwork and lights really makes a car looked like an abandoned hulk quickly. Chris Off used the rear window and taillights for his car (AR*3001805*), and Robin Curtis took the rear bumper, windshield trim, and handbrake cable for his car (AR*3003466*).

Next came the interior. The seats and carpets were too trashed to be useable, but I removed and kept the handbrake assembly, interior lights, mirror, and as much of the dash and console trim as was removable. The dash was very cracked, so it didn't seem worth keeping. I took the fuzzy door seals out too, as they are difficult to find, and expensive (this is a slow process, as you have to bend the seal back a little at a time, and free the clips underneath that attach the seal to the body). Conveniently, the seals fit Giulia sedans, as do the wind wings and their gaskets. I took out door locks too and window and door mechanism, all of which basically just unbolt.

Next to come out was the engine and transmission. This involves removing the hood, radiator, front sway bar, and steering rods. The engine and trans came out as a unit, and I was able to wrestle them out by myself, using a rented engine hoist, with the rear of the car jacked up high enough, and the lifting hook moved forward one row of head bolts on the engine to allow the engine and trans to hang at the proper angle. It was easier than I expected. Cleaning the engine was another story, with 25 years of caked-out crud.

With the engine out, I then removed the entire steering assembly, including the steering column and idler arm assembly. The front brakes had already been removed from the car, but I stripped out the brake master cylinder and booster, pedal assembly, brake lines, and proportioning valve. As you remove "layers" of a cars' systems it really becomes easy to get at the systems beneath. I have read about this with MGs, that if you remove systems of a car in the reverse order to which they were installed (remove that last installed system first), disassembly is quite easy.

The car had an apparently good limited slip rear axle, which I probably should have kept, but somebody offered me good money for it, plus a donor non-LSD axle to keep the shell mobile, so I sold the axle. Removing and replacing the axle is not a fun job, involving heavily torqued nuts and bolts, strong springs, and several jacks and jack stands. But over a couple hours, two of us were able to complete the swap, though the rear trailing arm bolts were much worse for wear by the time we were done; we just couldn't get the mounting holes on the axle to line up right with the trailing arm holes. One of the last big pieces to come out was the 14-gallon high gas tank (peculiar to some '72 and '73 model Berlinas and GTVs), which is normally straightforward: you remove the hoses and mounting screws, and just push the tank up and out through its hole in the trunk floor. But this car had been rear-ended, so the trunk floor and mounting hole were distorted, and I had to do a bit of prying and bending, as well as pushing the tank up with a floor jack. The fuel pump and fuel lines came out easily.

The Berlina was really barren by now and looking pretty sad. I had swapped wheels and tires with my Giulia Super, so it had cream-colored 15-inch wheels with worn-out tires and no hubcaps. The car was still rollable on its suspension, but had no shock absorbers. My kids used it for several months as a playhouse; with no shocks on the car, they could really get it bouncing by jumping up and down in the back seat. In fact, the rear tires would leave the ground. A good, fun, safe pastime for kids. Al Huerby and I worked out a time for the tow truck to haul the shell away to a body shop, Bella Machina in Berkeley. The car was rollable, but with no steering, the front wheels pointed every which way as the truck hauled the Berlina up onto its flat bed by winch. At Bella Machina, Tom cut it up for the usable pieces almost immediately, and late in April, I saw the last of it, as Tom was hauling the trunk lid to the steel recycler.

Berlina and Giulia Sedan Compared

There was a period of a couple weeks in 1998 when I had a 1750 Berlina, two 2000 Berlinas, and a Giulia Super at the same time. I thought it would be interesting to compare the cars. And I've owned four other Giulias sedans before (plus a Sport Sedan), so I'm pretty familiar with them.

The Berlina was derived directly from the Giulia sedan. The Giulia had been designed and styled in-house by Alfa Romeo. The Berlina was stretched about 3 inches in the wheelbase and six inches overall, mostly in the length of the rear doors, and in the overhangs. Bertone was retained to restyle the body. The interior was changed, with more of an emphasis on luxury. The engine was increased from 1600cc to 1750cc, the clutch actuation was changed to hydraulic from mechanical, and detail changes were made throughout the car's systems, including revised front suspension geometry, bigger front brakes, and an added rear sway bar. Early Berlinas could easily have been badged as a new Giulia, and under modern marketing theories, probably would have been. However, Alfa wanted to differentiate this new model as more prestigious in the lineup, as Giulias continued to be built parallel to Berlinas right up to the end of production for both in 1976. Alfa has a long tradition of differentiating models in a lineup by engine size. Giulias always had either 1300 or 1600cc engines, while Berlinas had first the 1750 engine, then later the 2000. This trend of non-overlap was continued when the Berlina began to be phased out in favor of the Alfetta sedan; the 2000 Berlina remained, while the Alfetta was introduced as an 1800, and no 2000 Alfetta was sold until after the Berlina was phased out. Similarly, 1600 Alfettas became available after the 1600 Giulia Nuova sedans went out of production.

Many aspects of the two cars are interchangeable or identical. As with most 105 and 115 Alfas, almost all mechanical components such as engine, transmission, differential, suspension, and brakes can be swapped from one car to another. The front doors of the two cars have the same size opening, so door seals between them are interchangeable. The front door windows, including the vent window, its mechanism, and its seal, are interchangeable too. The Berlina rear door is longer than the Giulia rear door. Reputedly the front windshield is the same for the Giulia and 1750 Berlinas, though I have not confirmed this. If true, the rubber gaskets would be useable on either car, too. 2000 Berlinas with glued-in windshields would not interchange, and they have no gasket. Many small interior pieces, such as the floor-level fresh air vents, sun visors, package shelf, floor pedal box, and other details will swap between cars.

The character of the Berlina changed significantly over its nine-year lifespan. Early cars are very similar to Giulias: they originally had carburetors, the Giulia intake system, single-circuit brakes, floor pedals, hubcaps, chrome exterior trim, a Giulia-style headliner, seats without headrests that resemble Giulia seats, wool carpets, a similar dashboard, very similar taillights, and the same 7 in. outer headlights with 5 3/4 in. inner headlights.

By the time the series ended in 1976, the car had become quite different. The engine had either a Spica injection system or non-Giulia-style canister carburetor intake, hanging pedals with new master cylinders replaced the old floor pedal assembly, the dashboard, carpets, and seats had been updated in more modern synthetic materials, the exterior trim had become more complicated and modern, including a black plastic grille with four 5 3/4 in. headlights. The wheels had lost their distinctive hubcaps, and 1974 and later US cars had large rubber bumpers. In a similar progression as from the Giulia to the Berlina, the late Berlina had a lot of stylistic similarities with the early Alfetta sedans (though the Alfetta is built on an entirely different structure).

There is plenty to be said about the relative aesthetic merits of each of the Giulia and Berlina body styles. Most people seem to think the Giulia is either charming or ugly, and that the Berlina is either cleaned-up or simply plain. The Giulia is certainly more flamboyant, with very curved front and rear glass, a very low and short nose, and scalloped body and roof edges. The Giulia grille emphasizes the larger outer headlights, making the car appear to be glaring or angry. The Berlina is shaped very like the Giulia overall, but the flamboyant features have all been cleaned up and sanitized. For example, the Berlina rear glass is much less radically curved, the scalloped edges have been smoothed out, the nose is lengthened and raised slightly with the chrome strip removed, the 1750 grille still retains the large outer lights, but the design of the grille does not emphasize it, and the car does not appear to sneer as does the Giulia. The Berlina 2000 grille is much more sedate, with four small headlights and lots of black plastic. In addition, the indented portion of the top of the trunk lid was smoothed out, although the Berlina countered here by receiving a much more sharply indented tail than the Giulia.

The interior is a bit of a toss-up, as the Giulia Super dash is very sporting with the two large instruments in the binnacle, coupled with nice wood facing and a vinyl top piece. However, many consider the 1750 Berlina dash with the two large pods for the tachometer and speedometer to be the best dash Alfa has done. In addition, the Berlina has a console, with four extra instruments there, compared to the Giulia. Berlina seats are very comfortable, although Giulia Super seats seem to wrap around a little more, holding the occupant in place better.

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.

Looking for a 1750 or (pre-large bumper) 2000 Berlina. Excellent condition. I'll travel in the US for the right car. Email at or call 804-979-5289.

Andrew Watry has Berlina pieces for sale, including a perfect 2000 front bumper with turn signals, 2000 center grill, door handles, lots of taillights, including a Euro NOS 2000 unit, and Euro NOS 1750 lens. Other pieces too. (510) 526-0391 or

Paul Haus in Princeton, New Jersey, says his two Berlinas (69 1750, 74 2000) need new homes. Both cars were driven to where they are now some years ago, and have been covered since, but are described as very rusty. Good glass and dashes, good bumpers on 1750. Contact Paul at (609) 924-2417.