Berlina Register Newsletter No. 17 (November 2003)
Notes and Comment
Greetings. The marquee author this issue is Damian Magista of Seattle (two-time Berlina owner; three Berlinas and you're out), who has written part one of a piece on his varied Berlina experiences. I apologize for whatever self-promotional angle there may seem to be in this article, which mentions me a couple times; Damian wrote it, not me. As always, if you write an article about your Berlina, I'll print it! I had planned to write a piece about driving a 1973 Berlina back to Berkeley from Phoenix last January, but Damian's piece was timely, and long, so I'll wait to do mine til next time.
In other news, if you're looking for Berlina parts, check with Centerline Alfa Parts in Boulder, CO (888) 750-ALFA; http://www.centerlinealfa.com/home.html. In the past year they've gotten a bunch of new exhausts, taillights, turn signals, gas tank senders, window gaskets, and other hard-to-find items for Berlinas, Giulia sedans, and others. Plus, in my experience, they're nice to deal with and know their stuff on these older cars. (Alert: the newest US Berlina is now 30 model-years old.) The status of 2000 Berlina dash caps is unknown; have faith and call Centerline to tell them how many you'll commit to, to help move things along.
In my own news, I'm down the three Alfas (Berlina, Giulia Super, GTV), and may soon reduce further to two. I am seriously thinking of selling my Berlina to (1) be less busy, and (2) fund body repair and paint on my Giulia Super. If you're interested in a recently painted, rust-free beige 1973 Berlina with SPICA, let me know and I can tell you more about it.
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.
Quest for a Berlina, Part One
by Damian Magista
In the Beginning
For some reason I had become obsessed with the idea of owning a Berlina. I think at first it was because I knew you could purchase one for relatively lower prices then other 105/115 series cars and wasn’t going to be able to afford a nice GTV anytime soon. They also appealed to me because they are fairly rare. You definitely don’t see them around. I had only seen photos and read about them at this point. Above all they were funky looking. Plus, because I had already owned two Milanos, a Berlina would fit with the sedan theme.
A couple years back a friend of mine claimed to have seen a Berlina with a racing stripe for sale up on the Olympic Peninsula. He said that it was parked in a driveway off Highway 101 a few miles outside of Port Angeles. That was all I needed to hear, I called up another friend and made plans to make the run up 101 looking for the mystery Berlina.
The next day I went to the bank and withdrew a wad of cash. My friend picked me up in his 164L and we took off. We headed across the Hood Canal, turned up 101 and began the search. I scanned every possible driveway on the way to Port Angeles. In the end we came away empty handed. The $400 mystery Berlina had eluded me. Did it ever really exist? I, to this day, have no idea.
After my fruitless search I just sat back and waited watching for any hot Berlina action to turn up. I passively scanned Alfa specific classifieds, Ebay and whatever other auto classifieds sites I came across. As I learned more about Berlinas, I became more and more taken by them. I was slowly being turned by their disarming and somewhat odd charm.
A year or so later, as I was driving to work, I passed a coffee cart near the on-ramp I take to get to work. I saw a very familiar shape out of the corner of my eye …was it? Could it be? Yes it was! And what was that in the window? It was a big old for sale sign. This was too good to be true. I immediately turned around and pulled up next to the Berlina. I got out of my car and wrote down the number and jotted down some notes. The barista noticed me and walked over asking if I was interested in the car. I told him I was interested and asked him a few questions about it. I told him I’d stop back by the next morning to speak to him further about it.
To make a long story short the Berlina was in sorry shape and he was asking $1,500 for it. I offered $500. He flinched, but thought about it and said he couldn’t go that low. I countered with $700 and he took it. I was now the proud owner of a rather beat 1972 Berlina 2000.
The paint was bad, the exhaust was rusted out, the interior was torn and there was no back seat. It vibrated, smoked and groaned. The brakes were bad and the steering was loose. The previous owner had cut the center section out of the front bumper and removed the front grill (he had also planned on cutting a sunroof into it). As battered at this car was, I instantly fell in love with it.
This Berlina was intended to be my project car. I was going to slowly get it into safe running condition, nursing it back to health and learning as much as I could about the 105/115 series along the way. In a freak accident my daily driver (an ’87 Milano) was hit on my way to work. This left me with only my Berlina to drive back and forth to work every day, a 44-mile roundtrip. I kicked the repairs into high gear and got her running nicely. She performed well for being through such hardships.
The Search for a Second
Alas, the Berlina bug bit me again. While surfing the Intrawebdotnet I had stumbled across another one in the LA area. It looked decent and the price was almost right. I emailed the seller to see if it was still available. I received a response and it was still up for sale. At this point I recruited another Berlina fanatic to inspect the car for me. I still owe him many a beer for his services.
After all was said and done the result was that the car was solid but had some issues that needed to be addressed. I consulted Jeff Thraen and Andrew Watry about the pros and cons of this Berlina. Good points were raised by both. When it came down to it I decided to pass on it for a few reasons. These included the fact that I already have a Berlina that I know intimately and the new one would be a whole other can of worms. Also, it’s difficult to purchase something that you have not inspected first hand although Jeff’s evaluation was great it was still a hard call.
I finally just flat-out posed the question to my fellow Berlinistas, “Would you purchase this car for that price?” The answer was a gentle “no.” I decided to follow the advice of my consultants and not buy the car. By this time my Berlinism was now in full bloom. I had to have another one.
I continued to speak with Andrew about Berlinas in general and I asked about the ’73 Berlina 2000 he was then selling. It was a bit out of my price range but I was curious. He gave me the lowdown on it and also mentioned that I should contact a neighbor of his, John Elrod, about a ’71 Berlina 1750 he was selling. The Elrod Berlina was right in my ballpark and came with glowing reviews from Andrew, who had actually driven the car. I emailed John.
John replied saying the car was still available and that he would answer any questions about the car I had. Of course I promptly sent him a barrage of questions about it, which he answered. As I learned more about the car from both Andrew and John I became more and more obsessed with it. This was the Berlina for me.
Here it was, a 1971 cream with black interior Berlina 1750. It was imported from Europe (Germany) and as such has the 4.3 axle (compared to 4.5 for US cars). The 1750 was replaced with a Weber carbed 2.0L w/ 10548 cams. The combination of the latter, make it a very quick 105. In the words of Andrew it was “scary fast.” Also, it’s a 1750 which to me is aesthetically superior to the 2000. Nicer dash, nicer grill and it has low-back seats. All and all, a very fine example of a Berlina. John and I agreed on a price and it was mine.
Getting It All Together
I had over a month to go before I would be able to head to Berkeley to pick it up. A full agonizing month! I began to solidify my plans the last weekend in May. I recruited a friend of mine to make the trip with me. Josh was to be my co-pilot/partner in crime. He is an old friend from Olympia, a film student, up for anything and an incredible intellect. He was the perfect choice.
My plan was to fly down to Berkeley on Sunday June 15th, meet John and Andrew, pick up the car, shoot the shit and take off all in one day. I had taken the 16th – 20th off from work to allow for plenty of time to get back to Seattle. It was also my plan to be back in time to bring the new Berlina to Ferraris on 12th and then to NWARCs Bremerton Lapping Day. As I was speaking to Andrew about my plans he told me that on the 15th there was an ARA swap meet at Alfa Parts Exchange. He would be there as would many other Alfa folk. I couldn’t, in my right mind, miss this event. I would try to fly down on the 14th so I could make the swap meet.
Unfortunately we could not make it down on the 14th, so the 15th would have to do. I booked the tickets and we were set to go. I told Josh of the plans and he responded with, “Whatever we do, the date is rock solid like my liver.” Ah yes, it was going to be a fantastic journey.
The night before we were to leave I received a call from John. He was in a panic because the Berlina's trunk lock had broken and he couldn’t get it open. He had taken it to a couple Alfa shops and a locksmith, none of which could get it open. John was worried that I wouldn’t want the car because of this. I told him that it was no big deal and I still wanted the car. We would deal with it, no problem. A little broken lock was not going to stop me.
I made a few calls and contacted Hans Quennet who has a couple old Berlinas in his yard. Of course he had a lock and key for me. I was in Olympia at the time, so my father was kind enough to drive to Issaquah and pick up the lock from Hans. I called John back and told him I came up with a 1750 lock and key. He was amazed that I could track one down. That evening I packed the lock, my bags and my maps.
Finally Sunday June 15th arrived. My father took Josh and me to the airport where we promptly got stuck in the quagmire that is SeaTac International Airport. The security lines were obscenely long. We arrived within the suggested two hours before flight time but we barely made it through the disorganized security checks in time for the flight. We had five minutes to run to the terminal. When we got there we found that our flight had been delayed for two hours. Josh and I looked and each other and headed straight for the nearest airport bar. We spent the next two hours getting drunk and using the free jukebox to torture other travelers.
We finally boarded our flight and took off for Oakland. I get very bored on planes, having traveled extensively. After reading the SkyMall catalogue I promptly fell asleep. Josh was seated in the back of the plane right in front of the head. He pretty much crashed out as well.
I woke up as the plane was making its descent into Oakland. The weather was perfect. Nice and sunny … perfect for driving. We touched down, got off the plane and headed over to pick up our baggage. This is where John was going to meet us. As I was standing waiting for our luggage to come down the chute I was also looking for John. I noticed this guy in a fIREHOSE (an 80s post-punk band) t-shirt and shorts and for some reason I knew it was him. I decided to call him on my cell phone and yup, it was him.
After introductions we left the airport in John’s well-sorted LeMans blue ’74 Berlina. We chatted about the demise of the tech bubble, Berlinas and our trip plans. Once we got to John’s house I was able to see the Berlina in the flesh for the first time. John had represented it perfectly.
The Berlina's paint is pretty good. There are a few small rust bubbles coming through but nothing terrible. The front grill is a little cattywampus, the dash is cracked but has a dash cover. The headliner is new (not the stock snakebite but it was done well). The engine is in great shape. It’s pretty dry, no oil leaks for the most part. The seats, both front and back, are in good shape. Because it’s a European market car all the gauges are in Italian (except the speedo is in mph). All and all I was very pleased with the car. After looking it over for a bit we went just up the road to visit Andrew Watry.
Andrew had gone to the ARA swap meet earlier in the day and still had boxes of parts yet to be unpacked from his VW van. We toured Andew’s lair. Out front was his Giulia Super and the VW. In the driveway were two Berlinas, a maroon GTV and an MGA Twin Cam (if memory serves me correctly) that he got from his father, who was the original owner. We shot the shit with Andrew for a while and decided it was time to leave. As we were heading out Andrew handed me a nice front grill for my new Berlina.
We left Andrew’s and went out for dinner. John, being the gracious host that he is, bought us dinner. We drank good beer and ate your basic pub food. It was a nice way to round out a long day.
After dinner we went back to John’s and hung out for a bit. Josh and I packed up the Berlina. Everything had to go into the back seat because the truck would not open. John and I signed the papers, I handed over the money order and John handed me the keys. The Berlina was mine. I fired up the Berlina and took off for San Francisco. The car ran perfectly. It sounded great, handled great and had tons of power. That 2 liter engine put out an amazing amount of go. Both Josh and I had big smiles on our faces. This was a great beginning to a fun trip up the coast.
Since it was getting late we opted to get a hotel in San Francisco for the night. That evening we walked around looking for a good bar but it was Sunday night and we completely struck out. We were up on Lombard and the way to the Golden Gate Bridge. There wasn’t really much around that neighborhood. We finally stopped at a totally bizarre little bar and had a couple drinks. After that we went back to the hotel and crashed out.
On the Road
In the morning we checked out of the hotel and went across the street to a Denny’s. We powered up on bacon, eggs and hashbrowns. All of which had a rather greasy taste to them. I also discovered that at Denny’s you cannot say, “I’d like two eggs over medium, bacon and hash browns.” This will confuse the waiter. You must look at the menu and order under the special Denny’s breakfast code name like, “Double Fantastic Egg-O-Rama” or whatever. When I ordered, the waiter actually looked at me funny and said, “Uhh…mm…well…I don’t…well if you order the <insert ridiculous name here> it will be cheaper than ordering sides.” Of course the thing he told me to order was in fact exactly what I had ordered in the first place (this is funny to me because I spent two years cooking in a greasy spoon). Go figure.
We powered up and went out to the car. Of course some total jackass had decided to run their bumper across my door. I was let with no damage to the paint, thank God, but a nice black stripe of bumper meat was left on my door. I was not really happy about this but I knew I could buff it out.
I fired up the Berlina and we took off for the Golden Gate Bridge. It was a glorious drive to the bridge. The sun was out, windows down and the engine was purring. The Berlina zipped in and out of traffic with ease. It makes defensive driving very easy. We crossed the bridge and passed Sausalito. I thought about how my parents had lived there when I was a small child (I was born in Fairfield). A part of me wanted to stop and check it out but this trip wasn’t about indulging nostalgia, it was about driving.
End of Part One (to be continued next issue)
1973 US 2000 Berlina. Maroon/tan. Decent condition daily-driver car that was tired cosmetically and ran so-so. Nice 1750 seats; apparently little rust. $850 drive-by ad. San Francisco, CA (4/03). Typical, somewhat low, price for a high-quality daily-use beater. Shined up very nicely in a couple hours' work. Needed new actuator to run well. (Car sold again two months later, with new actuator and new light switch, for $750.)
1974 US 2000 Berlina. Green/tan. Below-average condition rubber-bumper car with admitted rust, some dents, pop-up sunroof, and rough interior. Highlights include good engine with dell'Orto carbs and Turbinas. $1278 ebay. Stamford, CT (5/03). High price for what looked like a rough, complete car, perhaps a result of ebay fever or lack of drivable Berlinas in New England to choose from. Car had issues in every department.
1973 US 2000 Berlina. Beige/tan. Solid, unmolested, rust-free car with good cosmetics, interior, and mechanicals. New valve job, head gasket, actuator. Detractions include aftermarket AC and worn rear axle. $2950 ebay. Berkeley, CA (5/03). Price about right, perhaps a bit low for condition, due to poor timing, poor ebay presentation, or needed mechanical fixes; also AC robbed interior space. (Car resold almost immediately for $2850.)
1971 1750 Berlina. Beige/black. Overall decent cosmetic condition with very solid mechanicals. German-market car with 2000 engine with Euro cams and Webers, and 4.3 axle. Very fast. Not the best body or interior work, but passable. $2350 Berlina Register ad. Albany, CA (5/03). Good ballpark price for both parties for a very solid, fast car to use as everyday driver or track car.
1971 1750 Berlina. Silver/black. Generally good condition Italian-market carbureted car with solid mechanicals and slightly tatty cosmetics. Cracked windshield, so-so interior, just started to show a bit of rust after restoration some years ago. $1925 ebay. Salt Lake City, UT (8/03). Formerly a very nice car, gone to seed. If mechanicals hold up and body doesn't rot, probably a reasonably good buy for a desirable version. Fixing up to a better overall cosmetic standard will get pricey.
1972 US 2000 Berlina. Maroon/tan. Sad-looking parts car that externally appeared complete, but extent and conditon of drivetrain and interior unkown. $153 ebay. Landsdale, PA (8/03). Good price for buyer needing parts if mechanicals were present and glass was good. Bumpers alone are nearly worth price paid.
1969 US 1750 Berlina. Maroon/tan. Complete but decrepit. $147.50 ebay. Oshkosh, WI (9/03). Probably not a car to bring back to life, but a lot of good parts for the money.
Berlina Classified Ads
For sale: Front clip from 1971 1750 Berlina; essentially front valances, grills and 6 inches of front fenders, plus engine and suspension mounting subframe. In Vancouver BC, possibly can be shipped, or picked up; will fit in back of pickup or SUV. Nominal fee for keeping and prepping item appreciated. email@example.com
Berlina parts for sale: Doors, trunk lid, hood (offers/trades?), glue-in windshield for 1971 and later US Berlina, one 1/2" star not in line of sight, with extra trim ($125), rear glass with gasket and trim ($50) from 1974 US Berlina. Local pickup in Berkeley, CA. Andrew Watry (510) 526-0391 or firstname.lastname@example.org