Berlina Register Newsletter No. 10 (March 2000)

Notes and Comment

I've evolved to a schedule of writing two newsletters a year, and I'm now sending overseas newsletters by email, rather than US Mail, because the postage costs were too much. I'm not good at getting the graphics into the word processing file, so I apologize to the email recipients, who are missing out on some of the photocopy-version "fun" Berlina graphics, but nothing of consequence. I'll probably start using Word for the email version rather than WordPerfect, as I have heard that WordPerfect is not widely used outside the US.

The Berlina Register now has its own web domain: This is a site I have control over, so I can now revise its contents and add new features. The first change is a free noncommercial Berlina-related classified ad section. Send ad copy to me at the postal or email address below. And I'll be amending incorrect text and adding images as I learn how.

My 74 GTV has had its body ills repaired (including a replaced left rear fender) and painted in Rosso Amaranto by Le Mans Autobody in Oakland, CA, and they did a lovely job. I plan to redo my Giulia Super's seats, re-web its seat belts, fix its heater fan, and put in a 1750 I have for it this year, then get it painted next year. I had big plans for my not one, but two, Fiat 850 Spiders, but a realistic outlook got the better of me, as they were taking too much time from the Alfas, and I sold them before swapping the 69's 903 engine into the prettier 67 body.

Sadly, my former metallic olive 1969 Berlina, the inspiration for the Berlina Register, which I sold about a year ago, got rear-ended in SF recently. The damage is moderate, but with the low value of Berlinas, probably is not viable to fix, so the car may end up at APE. Speaking of values, a few Berlinas have sold locally lately, ranging from a 2000 with a broken flywheel for $1,000, to a decent 1972 2000 for $1,200, to an original concours 1969 1750, owned by Kirk Powell since 1971, for an alleged $3,800. Interest in Berlinas is increasing (I've gotten a ton of calls recently from people looking for one for sale), but values are still low. A comparable concours GTV or Giulia sedan would be worth twice as much.

I got an email from Michael of Alfa Africa in Johannesburg, South Africa, who says they sell and restore Alfas, including Berlinas, Giulias, Alfettas, and GTVs, and hope to make overseas sales contacts. Contact them at

In this issue is a piece I asked Pat Braden to write about his infamous Giulietta-powered Berlina, pictured on p. 64 of his Alfa Romeo Owner's Bible. I hoped to have an "alternative power" theme to this issue, because an LPG-fueled Berlina was recently added to the Register from the Netherlands, but the owner never wrote up the piece. If he is still inclined to write it, I will print it. Another piece below concerns some glass odds and ends that have come up lately, and I finish up with Berlina Recall information taken off the US National Highway Transportation Safety Administration website. I'd heard of the "smoke-damaged" Berlinas previously as kind of an urban myth, but apparently it's true. Would the US government lie? Please note that Alfa corrected the problem by providing a replacement car. Wish I could correct my Alfas' problems that way.

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.

Berlina Personal History

The "101" Berlina

By Pat Braden

When I lived back in Michigan, there were two barns on my hobby farm. One of them, in fact, would have held the lot of my first house in California. If you can imagine the potential for storing cars on the Braden preserve, you have some kind of idea of the fun I had with Alfas, Fiats and Abarths. Of course, I collected a few spare parts along with cars. That was fortunate, because I managed to obtain Joe Benson's 1750 Berlina sans engine and transmission. The first transplant into this car was fairly straightforward: a Giulia Super engine. It was almost a natural for the car, and my wife and I put many pleasant miles on it before the engine began to tire. In fact, it gave so many miles of service that the car began to rust badly. I repaired the body by welding in sheetmetal from the top of a school bus. The repairs were made to all the fenders and doors from about knee-height down. It wasn't beautiful, but the 1750 started out a bit slab-sided anyway.

I set the car aside for a while, but finally decided that a spare Giulietta engine from a 101 Berlina would be an interesting transplant. The prospect of high-'30s miles per gallon in a comfortable, modern body was really quite appealing. At the time I was working in Detroit, a 60-mile commute one-way, and this seemed like a really logical conversion.

The installation was not straightforward, but I finally got it fired up. There was a 4-speed gearbox behind a powerplant that gasped combustibles from a single-throat Solex carburetor. Lest you think this is all a fiction, a photo of the engine installation is shown on page 64 of the Alfa Bible. What I failed to anticipate was the dynamic of a 62 horsepower engine driving a 9/41 rear end. In point of fact, this is exactly the same ratio used on the 101 Berlinas, but the original 1750 developed 56 more horsepower and the body weighed only about 70 pounds more than its Giulietta forebear. Since I had never driven a Giulietta Berlina, I was unprepared for the performance my conversion had wrought. I can still remember the first test drive. Pulling out of the driveway and accelerating down the road, it seemed that only two cylinders were firing. I knew better: the engine was doing its part, but the combination of low horsepower and a little more body weight produced a car that was dead slow.

Slow really does not begin to describe the performance: dangerous is more accurate. The car was unable to keep up with traffic from a light, and I recall that merging into traffic required approximately the same amount of room that a small airliner needs for takeoff. I've grown marginally wiser with the years. I finally had a ride in a Giulietta Berlina and realized that its stock performance bettered my old conversion by only a very little. The other car I've experienced which comes close to my project was a 240D Mercedes with an automatic transmission. It would have been quite a drag race between my hybrid and the Mercedes Diesel, but after an appropriate time, I think the Mercedes might have won by a slender margin.

My exercise in engineering does underline a fact of life: all modifications are a trade-off. No doubt, the Giulietta-powered 1750 would have returned great mileage, even being flogged to extract its maximum performance. The downside of the conversion would have been the amount of time required to travel far enough to be able to see the fuel gauge move.

The subjunctive is appropriate here because I realized that I had created an unworkable combination. I removed the engine from the car and it sat for several years in Michigan. I brought it to California with me, still engineless. It sat in my back yard for several more years before I gave it up to Portello Works, where it was cut up for its few serviceable parts.

Issues Relating to Windows

Here is a collection of thoughts relating to windows. When I had a new headliner put in my Giulia Super a couple years ago, I had the front and rear window removed first. This step is required to get the headliner in correctly, as it is glued (and sometimes clipped) along the body seam under the windshield and rear window gasket (and along the seam in the door openings too). This will also be true for Berlinas, though US 2000 models have a glued-in, not gasketed, front window. You'll also need to removed the fuzzy weatherstripping around the door openings, plus all the hardware, such as sun visors, grab handle, courtesy lights, etc.

I had my 2000 GTV painted recently, for which I had the front and rear windows removed, and a couple things came up. It's not advisable to do glass work yourself unless you're trained in doing it. It is specialized work, and the consequences of screwing it up are (1) breaking the glass, (2) having the window seals leak, or (3) having the finished job look lousy. I took my GTV to Frank's of Berkeley, who has been working on Alfa glass to 25 years, and it took them 7 hours to get my GTV's front and rear windows in an out properly, and they did it without breaking the windshield. That's a lot of hard work.

Any time you're having a Berlina painted fully (or any Alfa), as on my GTV, it's a good idea to take at least the front and rear windows out. Unless your car is unusual, there's sure to be rust under the window gaskets or windshield glue. The glued windshields seem particularly vulnerable to getting trapped puddles of water under the glue that develop into rust holes right through the windshield pillar. Rust can also badly develop on Berlinas on the lip of the grille over the wiper motor and body flange under it, as well as in the apron/fender around the rear window and the windshield. And you'll be amazed how much hidden rust there can be under what looked like a good-sealing window gasket. Other advantages to removing the windows before painting are that you know you have a strong paint barrier underneath the window seal helping to keep out rust, and you have a nicer paint job at the edge of the gasket, as the paint goes right under the gasket, and you avoid unsightly or poorly done masking lines.

Rear window gaskets are available new from ReOriginals for 1750 and 2000 Berlinas, and front windshield gaskets for early 1750s are similarly available. These pieces are not cheap, but it's usually not a good idea to reuse an old gasket back, even if it looks OK, as the rubber will not have the suppleness necessary to seal well. For late 1750 and all 2000 Berlinas in the US, the front windshield was glued in, according to safety requirements of the time, and so (1) the glass size is slightly bigger than 1750 windshields, and (2) the glass needs to be glued in, which as I say, is a tough job to do right. Go to someone who really knows what he or she is doing. There is glue between the body and the glass, and more glue between the glass and the bright trim. Both have to be done carefully to avoid leaks. There is a weave-pattern rubber trim that covers the metal edge just inside the glued windshields that usually deteriorates over time. This trim is available from ReOriginals, alleged to be identical to the original stuff, although the trim on my GTV required cutting down in thickness to allow the windshield to seat properly into the glue. I stopped by to look at my GTV in the glass shop one day and was surprised to see that the windshield was being held tightly in place by a giant seatbelt type device, clamping the glue/glass/glue/bright trim sandwich in place for a couple days until it was fully dry.

For glued-in US windshields, it may not be possible to get the glass out without breaking it, if it has never been out of the car and the original glue is still holding well. I have seen this happen on several cars, even by quality shops. The glue in some cases is simply stronger than the glass, and it's not possible to get a cutting tool between the glass and the body to separate them; plan on buying a new windshield. Probably ReOriginals has them, and I've heard lots of tales of regular glass shops like Windshields America having esoteric Alfa glass available through their suppliers. It is also often the case for a gasketed windshield that to remove the glass without breaking it, the gasket must be cut. In that case you'll definitely need a new gasket.

For US 2000 Berlina owners, some people prefer the look and ease of installation of gasketed glass, so you could convert, if you can find the smaller 1750 glass, buy the gasket, and find the 1750 trim, which is different from trim on glued glass cars. In all cases, be very careful with the bright trim, as it is fairly soft, easily bent, and very hard to find used.

Relating to Giulia sedans, I know for a fact that Giulia and Berlina wind wings (vent windows, quarter lights) and their gaskets are identical (except the look of the pivot rivet), because I have interchanged them. I believe, but cannot confirm, that the front roll-down windows are identical, and rumor has it that Giulia windshields are identical to gasketed Berlina windshields. The gasket and trim probably would be too. Can anyone confirm that? The fuzzy door seals on the front doors are also identical in size, if not color, but the rear Berlina doors are a couple inches longer, so you can use Berlina rear fuzzy seals on Giulias by cutting them shorter, but not vice-versa.

Berlina Recall Information

Here is information I got off the NHTSA website relating to official recall of US-market Berlinas due to safety problems. For more info, see

NHTSA CAMPAIGN ID Number: 70V065000 Component: Brake MC

Potential Number of Units Affected: 2405

1970 Alfa Romeo Berlina

Summary: Possibility That Brake Master Cylinder May Contain Defective Seal. This Could Aow Air to Enter Brake System, Causing Reduced Braking Efficiency Resulting n Low or Soft Pedal and Eventual Loss of Braking Power and Control of Vehicle. (Correct by Installing New Master Cylinder When Required.)

NHTSA CAMPAIGN ID Number: 72V062000 Component: Electrical Fuse

Potential Number of Units Affected: 2552

1971 Alfa Romeo Berlina Manufactured From: JUN 1970 To: DEC 1971

Summary: Alfa Romeo Campaign No 92 80 05. Possibility That During Assembly of Fuseholder Spring Cup, Which Is Secured to Fusebox by a Hollow Rivet, Rivet Was Incorrectly Installed. If Condition Exists, Could Result in Total Loss of Electric Power. (Correct by Inspecting and Installing R & R Fusebox With Solid Rivet.)

NHTSA CAMPAIGN ID Number: 73V149000 Component: Brake MC

Potential Number of Units Affected: 2900

1971 Alfa Romeo Berlina

Summary: Campaign No 89 30 16. Possibility That the Brake Fluid from the Master Cylinder May Leak into Power Brake Servo Vacuum Chamber. If this Condition Exists it Will Result in Warning Light Signal and Rough Idle. (Correct by Inspecting and Replacing Master Cylinder Where Necessary.)

NHTSA CAMPAIGN ID Number: 74V012000 Component: Steering Coupling

Potential Number of Units Affected: 2024

1973 Alfa Romeo Berlina

Summary: Alfa Romeo Campaign No 196650. Possibility That the Steering Box Universal Joint, Lower Yoke, Pinch Bolt Was Overtorqued During Assembly, Which Could Cause the Bolt to Stretch. This Condition Could Result in the Lower Joint Yoke Having Excess Clearance Between the Serrated Teeth of the Steering Box Shaft and Yoke Teeth. (Correct by Inspecting and Replacing Bolt with New Improved Type Bolt.)


Potential Number of Units Affected: 27

1974 Alfa Romeo Berlina

Summary: Alfa Romeo Campaign No N/A. Possibility That Some Defect May Develop Due to the Vehicle Being Exposed to Smoke, Heat, and Sea Water Vapors During a Fire Three Decks below on Board the Transport Vessel During its Transatlantic Crossing. (Correct by Replacing Vehicle with a New Vehicle of the Same Model.)

Berlina Classified Ads

Various Berlina pieces for sale: perfect 2000 front bumper with turn signals, deep gas tank, front door handles, others (510) 526-0391;