Berlina Register Newsletter No. 12 (May 2001)
Notes and Comment
Here's Berlina Register Newsletter Number 12. In this issue, I've updated an article about SPICA setup I wrote for the ARA's Overheard Cams when I had my first Berlina in 1995. It's still relevant, at least for owners with injected cars. Please send feedback about Berlinas you've bought and sold, which I'll put in the now-regular ABerlina Market Report@ section.
The Berlina Register once again owns a Berlina (my fifth). It's a beige US 1973 2000 from Oakland I looked at last year and made on offer on. The owner agreed to the offer but then got cold feet. He called me back recently and we re-made a deal. The car is in decent condition but has sat for several years. It doesn't run yet, but I will go through the systems and get it back on the road. It is complete but has rust above the windshield; otherwise the body and interior are good. I also recently looked at two bizarrely similar maroon 1974 Berlinas in the Sacramento Valley and made offers on both, but neither was accepted.
I decided the Porsche 912 I had was not for me and I sold it. It was fun to drive with great steering, but needed more work than I was prepared for, and the four-cylinder 356 engine is no match for the 911 body. I also bought a nice original 1967 VW Bug in January. I've had fun with it (it's my kids' favorite car) but with the new Berlina, it probably will go.
The keeper of the Berlina Register is Andrew Watry, 1284 Monterey Ave., Berkeley, CA 94707 USA. Phone (510) 526-0391. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org. Send me corrections to your register information or any other Berlina-related facts, rumors, tips, or needs. Always seeking articles for the newsletter. Free Berlinas and parts gladly accepted.
Berlina Technical Issues
Spica Injection: Easy to Deal With, Tolerant of Abuse
I've heard over the years that Alfa's Spica injection system is reliable and forgiving. It purportedly tolerates ham-fisted, improper, and infrequent maintenance, and will run well or adequately even when wildly out of adjustment. I always wondered about the truth of this claim. In 1995, I bought a 1969 1750 Berlina with some engine woes. Now I have first-hand knowledge that this claim about Spica's flexibility and forgiveness is true.
Before this (my first) Berlina, I'd owned three Giulia sedans, and had worked on friends' carbureted Alfas, but had never worked on a Spica-injected car. So I had mechanical experience and confidence, but no experience on injected cars. I went to an ARA Spica tech session, got a Spica manual, and bought AROC's Spica tech manual (see http://www.aroc‑usa.org/merch.html).
When I bought the Berlina, an exhaust valve was burned and some of the valve clearances were very tight. The car ran OK at medium and high speed, but low speed and idle performance were poor. The car didn't sound right; it didn't have the distinctive raspy Alfa exhaust note. But it was fast and always started and ran.
Because of the burned valve, the Berlina didn't pass its [then required] smog check, so I decided to do a valve job. I did the mechanical work myself and Norman Racing did the machine work, which went well, and the car passed its smog check. It now had better power, idled tolerably, had the proper Alfa exhaust note, and seemed fast. The guy who did the smog check had monkeyed with a lot of the injection settings trying to get it to pass. And some of the pump settings had been wrong even before the smog check. I was pretty sure the settings were off, because no matter how much I leaned the mixture of the pump, a look at the spark plugs showed that the engine was still running very rich. I was getting about 15 MPG, and was reported to the Air Quality Management District by a fellow driver for excessive smoke on acceleration. Nonetheless, the car started and ran reliably, and I used it as a daily commuter.
Not wanting spend big bucks on an injection tuneup, I decided to set up the injection pump myself. I started with Tom Sahines's ARA tech session on carburetors and injection. Tom let me use his factory throttle bellcrank-setting tool. This tool allows you, in about five minutes, to set the travel of the throttle bellcrank from closed to full throttle (you can do it with a simple plastic protractor though). To set the throttle stops, I had to adjust the closed throttle screw about six turns and the full throttle screw about two turns. That's a lot. Next, using Tom's injection set-up reference guide, provided at the tech session, I went through the other steps. I adjusted the throttle pedal stop screw (inside the car on the floor), the throttle cable length, and the short rod, which controls the throttle butterflies. What with the big changes in the closed throttle screw stop, I had to lengthen this rod a few turns. I didn't do anything with the long rod yet.
In buying this car, I had made what Pat Braden in the Alfa Bible describes as a big mistake. He says any Spica car that has its pump reference screw anti-tampering cap removed should either be avoided or have $1,000 deducted from its price. (This is because all the other pump settings are derived from the position of the reference screw, and it's difficult to get the pump into tune if this screw has been tampered with. It's not a simple job to know how the reference screw should be set.) Not only did my Berlina not have the cap, but the reference screw had obviously been moved. Sigh. Once again to the rescue, Tom Sahines measured several pumps he had lying around and told me what the standard protrusion of the reference screw should be: about 1/8 in. through the screw boss toward the lever. My car's screw protrusion was closer to 1/16 in. In a pump where the Apump gap@ is set in terms of thousandths of an inch, 1/16 in. is a long way. So I adjusted the reference screw.
The gap between the pump lever and the reference screw is supposed to be .019 in. when the engine is hot (the pump lever from which you measure the pump gap is affected externally by the long rod, in turn moved by how much you press on the accelerator pedal, and internally by how far the thermostatic actuator plunger is pressing it, depending on how hot the engine is). Even after moving the reference screw 1/16 in., the gap on my pump when hot was still more than 1/8 in. I figured that the thermostatic actuator's probe must not be extending out far enough to close up that gap (the probe on the actuator extends farther as the car warms up, due to expansion of the fluid within it, heated by a bulb in the intake manifold water jacket). The screw in the pump that the actuator bears on couldn't be screwed in enough turns to compensate for this gap. So I took out the actuator and put it in boiling water to measure its protrusion. It's supposed to extend 23 mm; this one came out only about 19 mm (different model pumps and different year cars can have different measurements here). In a common-but-not-recommended practice, I dented the actuator bulb (which is heated by engine water) lightly with a small ball peen hammer a little at a time (and reboiling and remeasuring) until I reduced the internal volume enough to get the full 23 mm extension. One of these days (so I said then, but never did) I'll buy a rebuilt actuator, but this works fine for now.
Reinstalling the actuator, I could now get much closer to the desired .019 in. gap with the engine hot. By trial and error, I adjusted the screw under the actuator a little at a time until I got the right gap. I ended up turning that screw about 1 2 turns. Now that the lever gap was set, I could set the length of the long rod, controlling the injection pump from the throttle bellcrank. It needed several turns of the ball joints to be the right length.
Finally, with all that set, I could finally set the mixture, which had been way too rich. This is done by turning a small screw with a locknut on 1969 pumps, rather than by turning the fuel cutoff solenoid as on later pumps. Revving and fiddling, I finally got a good mixture, ultimately turning the screw about two turns. A check of the spark plugs revealed good mixture color, and I got about 20 MPG. The car always started immediately, hot or cold, with standard coil and points ignition.
I checked the cold start solenoid, which clicked and gave the proper rpm drop when energized, so I didn't adjust it. I removed the previous owner's toggle switch under the dash, installed to defeat the cold start solenoid on hot starts, and reconnected the original wiring. I also replaced the pump timing belt, and checked the pump timing, which was correct (early 1969 cars like mine originally had different pump timing from the later cars; in late 1969 Alfa changed the standard pump timing, and updated early 1969 cars= pump timing (by removing the old injection timing mark on the crank pulley and marking a new one) to provide better performance and economy). I didn't mess with the screw that adjusts the fuel cutoff on deceleration (1969 pumps have a mechanical centrifugal fuel cutoff; later pumps have an electric microswitch), because it seemed about right, kicking in around 1200 RPM, though the car did backfire a little. I planned to adjust it but never did. At this point, I decided I was finished. The car started and ran great.
What's the point of all this? Two things. One: the Alfa owner with moderate mechanical skills can set up his or her own Spica system pretty easily. It takes a methodical approach, care and patience, about one full day for the novice, common hand tools, and very few special tools other than the bellcrank stop tool (a simple plastic protractor will work) and a fuel cutoff solenoid loosening tool (a hammer and chisel or screwdriver will work, but are not recommended) for 1971 and later cars. Setting the fuel cutoff microswitch on 1971 and later pumps is a tougher task that requires removing the pump. Make sure to draw diagrams and write notes about things you might later become confused about. Be careful with the thermostatic actuator.
Two: as I mentioned at the outset, the Spica system is incredibly forgiving. I radically changed virtually every setting on this pump (other than the timing), yet the car ran tolerably well before the adjustments. It ran really well afterward. Granted that it got poor gas mileage and smoked before, but the smoke was not such that the driver would notice (it wasn't a thick cloud or anything), and Alfas tend to be trailed by a little oil smoke anyway, so who'd really notice?
After I wrote this (1995) I bought a 1974 2000 GTV. I learned my lesson with the Berlina: the GTV's Spica pump has its reference screw anti-tampering cap in place. I=ve since had four other Spica cars: three 2000 Berlinas and a Sport Sedan, and they all ran great.
Berlina Market Report
There's been a fair amount of Berlina sales activity lately. There seem to be more Berlinas in California and the West generally, and they tend to be less rusty cars than in the rest of the US, so you=d think they'd be worth more. But one correspondent pointed out that with few cars to choose from in the Midwest and East, prices are higher, even for cars in worse condition. This seems to be borne out by the prices I=ve seen lately. So take my California and West Coast prices with a grain of salt if you are located elsewhere; most of what I see is naturally in my area. If you're buying a Berlina and aren't a cheapskate fixer-upper (like me), the standard Porsche club advice to buy the newest (rubber bumper cars excepted maybe), best car you can afford is true for Berlinas. It's cheaper to buy a car that someone else has done the work on than to pay for it yourself. You might save $500 buying a car that needs a new engine, but it will cost a lot more than that to have it rebuilt. Send me details of deals you make or ads you see. Here are some actual recent sales:
C 1973 US 2000 Berlina. $670. December 2000. Sold on eBay, advertised there twice before selling. Yellow with black interior, had AC, 122,000 miles, it was in Alabama, and had been sitting for years. Appeared complete, but didn=t run and was dingy looking in the pictures and had some rust. Went to Minnesota. Not a project I=d want, even for free, especially with the cost to move it 1,000 miles.
C 1969 US 1750 Berlina. $2,000. February 2001. Bay Area car, owned by an Alfa mechanic. Faded red with black interior, had a fabric sunroof and strong engine. Original price was $2,400 in the San Francisco Chronicle; sold after a couple months to a guy from Milwaukee. Had an engine breakdown on the way and was transported the rest of the way. At first seemed like a decent deal for the buyer, although if he now has to pay $$ for a new engine, it will be a bad deal unless the engine failure was his fault.
C 1973 US 2000 Berlina. $2,000. April 2001. Pennsylvania car with nice body, straight with minimal rust in passenger side footwell. Bad paint. Rebuilt brakes and good transmission. Head gasket and SPICA needed work. Decent interior. Price seems high for condition.
C 1974 US 2000 Berlina. $395. April 2001. Pennsylvania car listed on eBay. Faded red with black interior, rubber bumpers. Had run until recently, when the owner figured something in the injection had gone wrong. It was sold Aas-is@ as a non-runner. Cheap for a complete, recently running car, if the rust wasn=t too bad.
C 1973 US 2000 Berlina. $200. May 2001. California car that is complete but has been sitting several years. Decent shape, minimal rust, but condition of engine unknown. Very cheap for a complete straight car but resurrection costs and problems are unknown.
C 1971 1750 Berlina. $3,500. May 2001. In B.C., Canada, genuine Italian 105.48 maintained to high standard with good mechanicals, paint, interior; oil leak and minor rust to fix. As nice a Berlina as anyone could hope to find. Good price for buyer for such a nice car; original asking price was much higher.
Here are some cars that were advertised that didn=t sell yet, as far as I know:
C 1969 US 1750 Berlina. Plum exterior, tan interior. Described as original and perfect with warranty; in fact paint is faded and it's converted to Webers. $7,800 in SF Chronicle.
C 1973 US 2000 Berlina. Tan exterior, pigskin interior. Stored for years and returned to running condition, but needed injection repairs and paint. An Arizona car, it had little rust and was complete and everything worked. $2,250 in an Internet ad.
C 1973 US 2000 Berlina. In Sacramento, listed in SF Chronicle as original and excellent conditon, but didn=t run when looked at. $5,000.
C 1973 US 2000 Berlina. In Davis, Calif., advertised in various papers. Plum with tan interior, rubber bumpers, cracked windshield. Complete and running, asking price began at $1,800 and down to $1,000 by April 2001. Drove well except for heavy steering, but body had medium rust and poor accident repair, and interior was cheaply redone.
C 1974 US 2000 Berlina. In Sutter, Calif., advertised in SF Chronicle as Aas-is@ nonrunner. Plum, tan, rubber bumpers, cracked windshield. Body not bad besides cowl rust. Drove OK with good engine but worn clutch and rusty brakes; has Marelliplex. Asking $1,000.
C 1973 US 2000 Berlina. In Los Angeles. Automatic automatic transmission. Rusty, not running, offered as possible time trial car. Internet ad asking $450.
C 1969 European 1750 Berlina. Red, black interior, sunroof. 90000 miles. Canadian car with Euro accessories. In Michigan with lots of rust and not run in two years. Garaged for 10 years. Many extras including 2000 and 1750 motor, carbs. Internet ad, asking $2,500.
Berlina Classified Ads
Berlina parts and trim for sale including taillights for late 1750 or 2000. email@example.com
1971 Berlina 1750 for sale. Owned for 14 years; Good driver; engine, spica, and mechanicals top notch. Interior good, one small crack in dash, discolored headliner. Needs new paint (original AR#213/Oliva Metallizzato). Usual rust (rockers, engine compartment, driver floor). Arese installed electric sunroof, Alfa stereo/cassette, original tool kit, owners manual. $2,200. Near Boston, Massachusetts. e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
1976 2000 Berlina for sale. AVends berlina grise, bonne base a restaurer, freins, echappement, bas de caisse roulante 110000 kms , 9000 frs.@ Seems to be in France. Mcobelli@aol.com
Berlina wanted. Looking for a pre-73 Berlina. Non-runner is okay. Modest budget; looking to pay less than $1,000 for car in Wash, Or, or N. Calif. Contact Mark.CAMPION@state.or.us
Parts for sale from 1973 2000 Berlina: Windshield w/no cracks or stars $100; Complete core 2 liter with transmission including spica fuel injection. Engine runs well but burns oil 120K miles, Transmission shifts fine w/weak 2nd gear syncro. $300 each or $500 for both. 2 liter 4.56 LSD diff. $250. David Alexander, email@example.com; 630.655.3535
Parts for sale from 1970 Berlina with 37,000 miles: Bumpers, windows, side chrome, window chrome, front and rear hoods, consol with gauges, speedometer, tachometer, door panels (brown), front seats (brown), hardware, calipers, driveshafts, gas tank, taillights, headlight chrome, center grill, steering wheel, transmission, differential, brake and clutch fluid tank, fuel injection. Ron Thiel. firstname.lastname@example.org; 905-887-8800
1969 1750 Berlina for sale. Rebuilt 1750 with Webers, five speed. Red with black interior. Straight with some rust on rockers and trunk lid. Interior good. 4 good Vredestein snow tires. Car has been in storage for several years (but license fees paid), needs brake boosters rebuilt, and not currently running. In Des Moines, Iowa. $1,500. email@example.com