Berlina/Giulia/Giulietta Register Newsletter No. 28 (April 2009)
Notes and Comment
Welcome to 2009; hope things are not going too badly for you. The upside of a downturn is that cars are cheaper to buy if you can afford them. In that vein, I sold my Cortina after enjoying it for a few months. Fun to drive and work on, but no Alfa in performance. My Super continues to require little attention but receive lots of attention as they all do, though I did have to swap in a starter and alternator a few months ago. The GTV took me around Willow Springs at an AROSC time trial in January; a really stable, enjoyable track car. The Giulietta Berlina, after a total of maybe 15 road miles, is back in the garage with its engine apart (see thread on AlfaBB). In spite of running reasonably well, its oil pressure was always too low. I reluctantly pulled off the oil pan to examine the bearings. They were just trashed, plus all the connecting rods were backwards, wearing out the pistons. It’s a miracle it ran as well as it did. Out came the engine, now midway through a rebuild. Norman Racing did the head and oil pump, pistons and liners arrived, and crank and internal pieces are out for machining.
As if I didn’t have enough to do, an unmolested Giulia TI found me a couple months ago (honest, I wasn’t looking), needing an engine and brake rebuild (see thread on AlfaBB). It’s a car from Berkeley 20 years ago; it was stashed inside since with a dead engine. It came with a 1300 Jr. engine installed and three extra 1600s, a ground crank, a rebuilt head, and new pistons and liners; from all that I should be able to build a good engine. It’s in the queue after the 750 Berlina. Finally, I’ve always been a fan of BMWs. It seemed wrong that I’d never owned a 2002, though my wife and I have had four other BMWs. I bought a Riveria blue 1974 2002 from (where else) Craigslist a couple months ago and have got its ills sorted out. Ran on three cylinders when I looked at it but had good compression, so I figured it had to be a minor problem. It was, a vacuum leak on the distributor advance hose, readily fixed. My son (who has a learner’s permit) is currently wearing out its clutch and synchros rather than one of the Alfa’s, though he says he wants the TI when it’s running. He drove my Super last week and didn’t like it. Good.
See excellent article below by Gary Schommer and George Meikrantz on a Berlina in the 1972 Cannonball race, which I’d heard about but didn’t know the details. Also, appended is a beautifully done piece on Ulrich Lanius’s 2008 drive in the Carrera Panamericana in a Giulia TI built by Vintage Customs (see thread on AlfaBB) for the event. Thanks to Ulrich, Fred Russell, Dave Hammond, Wes Ingram, and Northwest AROC for the article, pictures, and layout.
After a computer death in the family, I have not gotten my act together to update the Berlina Register website (www.berlinaregister.com), though it still exists and will continue to. The three sedan Registers, updated, are now on the google Vintage Alfa Romeo Registry (http://spreadsheets.google.com/pub?key=pjoDW_rGJdVJFhrKkgIRxSA&gid=5), which I can more easily update.
The keeper of the Berlina Register, North American Giulia Sedan Register, and Giulietta Sedan Register is Andrew Watry, email email@example.com. Send corrections to your information or any other Giulia- and Berlina-related facts, rumors, tips, or needs. Always seeking articles for the newsletter. The keeper of the international Giulia Sedan Register is Barry Edmunds in Australia, email Giulia105@optusnet.com.au
An Alfa in the 1972 Cannonball!
By Gary Schommer and George Meikrantz
I recently had the pleasure of a 35-minute phone conversation with Robert Rost, who along with
Richard Jenkins, drove a red 1971 Alfa Romeo Berlina to a fifth-place finish in the second running (1972) of the Cannonball—The World's Greatest Outlaw Road Race! Although he was vacationing in Florida when we spoke, Bob was enthusiastic in sharing some of the highlights. Time did not allow a complete version of their adventure. Bob noted that a rundown on the post-event party alone would take two or more hours.
Bob Rost was a principal with Sewickley Sales & Service in the Pittsburgh area, who sold
Lotus, Alfa Romeo and AMC cars. When Bob heard about the Cannonball rally and decided that he'd like to enter, he contacted his friend Dick Jenkins as both had experience in SCCA racing. Bob chose a used car off the lot—a 1971 Berlina that had been traded in on a 1972 model. Preparation was minimal. The car was equipped with an aircraft landing light in the place of a fog lamp. For extra fuel capacity, a 16-gallon fuel cell was added, which fed into the standard gas tank. A new set of Semperit 301 radial tires was fitted. The car was tuned up and further checked over at the Alfa importer in Englewood Cliffs, NJ. (If they won, Alfa wouldn't mind if the word got out. If disaster struck, the car had never been seen in Englewood Cliffs!) A rudimentary radar detector was onboard that later would prove to provide false signals when close to airports or about anything else electrical. Just before arriving at the Red Ball Garage in NYC, they stopped at a wonderful NY deli and loaded up on great road food. As for minimizing potty breaks, an "aircraft relief tube" was fitted courtesy of the U.S. Air Force.
Rost and Jenkins were one of the last of 32 cars to start. Police were expected everywhere as word had gotten out about the race. Competitive juices kicked in and speed went unpunished although red lights before the Lincoln Tunnel were loosely observed. Not long after starting, it began to rain! All across Pennsylvania, the heavy driving wet weather continued, but the Semperits were better than first-rate. For 300 miles Bob drove at speeds that lifted the wiper blades, rendering them useless. Bob knew the Pennsylvania Turnpike very well, so in spite of co-driver Dick's nervousness about not seeing where they were going, Bob made great time, again thanks in part to the Semperits. Their first gas stop was in Columbus, Ohio.
Across the Midwest, I-70 to I-44 (old Route 66) was chosen. Approaching St. Louis they were ahead of the lead car. But, this would not last. As luck would have it, construction activity caused some confusion and they made a wrong turn—they wanted I-44 but followed a road sign that indicated “to 40.” This took them through St. Louis where they got caught up in a funeral procession going 25 mph. They lost precious time with the mistake—thus Bob and Dick, trying to make up the lost 20 minutes, drove pretty much “flat out” across Missouri at 115 mph! (Most of the trip driving was 85/90 mph.) In spite of concerns about the Missouri State Patrol, they saw no squad cars. Driving in Oklahoma/Texas on the two-lane roads, they appreciated the value of the auxiliary landing light.
Alas, the pair got a speeding ticket in New Mexico and lost five minutes. The head gasket blew while idling as the ticket was being written, so they added Bar’s StopLeak to the radiator. This worked well as there was obviously no time for a proper repair. There were two 10-minute stops after Albuquerque to top off the radiator. (A styrofoam cup with water from a roadside drainage ditch did the trick.) In spite of the NM glitches, they were thoughtful, confident, and very determined to win.
Across the mountains of Arizona near Flagstaff, Bob was driving swiftly over a crest; in the blink of an eye road conditions changed from dry pavement to heavy snow. Dick, having more winter driving experience, took over. He navigated the slick roads deftly, and they emerged unscathed. A 401-engined Hornet was less fortunate, however, crashing into a snowbank.
Heading into California, Bob and Dick discussed the concern about whether the CHP would be waiting for race participants. Bob said they shouldn't worry because in a flat desert, they would be able to spot any radar traps from a great distance. Sounded logical, so they went flat out at 115 mph. Oops, somehow they got another speeding ticket just after crossing into California. The patrolman was hidden behind a fruit and vegetable stand. Besides the time lost with the ticket, they were given a 65-mph police escort for the next 20 minutes
Due to the heat, congested city traffic, and red lights, they limped into town on three cylinders and crossed the finish line on two! The head gasket had really let loose, with the temp gauge pegged at the very end. Had they not had two speeding tickets, made a wrong turn in St Louis and had a CHP escort on the last leg, they should have come in first.
This would have allowed them to average close to 80 mph—the winning car averaged 78 mph.
Bob considered running again in 1973 but the Berlina was sold off the lot after being repaired, and no one jumped up to be co-driver. He tracked down the Berlina a while ago. It was in a field and a tree had fallen onto the roof. He thought better of trying to buy and repair it.
Bob continues to be an Alfa enthusiast. He has a GTV, which he drives in IT racing. He also has a Verde, a Duetto, a GTV6, and others. Dick Jenkins owns a 1969 Spider and is enjoying retirement at age 71. If you are interested in reading about the experiences of others, check out Brock Yates's book Cannonball—The World's Greatest Outlaw Road Race. Unfortunately, Bob and Dick's experience were not chronicled—only their names and finishing position.
Thanks for the memories Bob and Dick!
[Bob's supplemental comments: “The pre-race party was a true highlight for us. The Red Ball was a typical old city garage: very steep ramps with levels lit by bare bulbs hanging at the end of cords. For the event, caterers set up tables with white tablecloths and china, and non-race guests were in black tie and gowns! Drink flowed freely, and with the slightly illicit atmosphere, made everyone highly convivial. It was hard not to join in, but I guess common sense prevailed. The party moved to the street as cars went off at two- or three-minute intervals. Police were present, but either didn't know what was going on or didn't care. I think everyone made it out of NYC OK. We thought the Alfa a perfect car for such a race. Comfort, fuel mileage, and 100-mph speed were the ideal combination. We may have messed up, but the Berlina did all we could have asked!”]
Berlina/Giulia Market Report
1968 Giulia TI 1300. White and black. Fairly serious street-legal rally car. Originally from Panama, modified by a US owner for Carrera-type races and used by a number of owners for that purpose. Full cage interior, 128 HP 1600 engine, usual rally/race mods and paint. Built a little roughly, even for a race car. Carrera graphics. Capable performer. $19,000, AlfaBB. Seattle, WA. If you wanted a road-rally car, buying this proven performer was a lot quicker and cheaper than building your own. Car is relatively rough and a long way from stock, but that’s how it is with race and rally cars; they aren’t built to look pretty. Basically seems a fair deal for everyone. 11/08
1967 Giulia Super. White, grey interior. Driveable Super with jaw-dropping 70s paint scheme (white with brown roof and orange stripes, to match the owner’s Cessna) that needed a little refreshing to get back on the road after 20 years of light activity. Very minor rust. Giulia TI seats, otherwise stock; came with boxes of spare parts and factory tools. $6500, AlfaBB. Sequim, WA. Listed at $10,000, eventually sold for $6500, which is more like it. Car suffered from sitting but had no major problems, and a tuneup and sort-out saw it on the road pretty quickly. The paint scheme has to be seen to be believed (pics on the AlfaBB classifieds) and if you could live with the colors, not a bad deal. The parts and tools add a lot of value. 11/08
1966 Giulia Super. Blue, tan interior. Complete car that sat outside in California’s Santa Cruz Mountains and Central Valley for 20 years. Mostly there and surprisingly rust-free, but moldy and dirty all over, the ugly repaint was shot, and a few dents. Pretty much every part of the car needs attention, and various items are missing. 2000 engine included; condition unknown. Carbs have turned to aluminum oxide; radiator, trans, driveshaft, etc. in the trunk. Interior and glass not bad, all things considered. $2000, AlfaBB. Lodi, CA. Remote seller posted this car to the AlfaBB and Craigslist repeatedly with little info or action but generating a lot of discussion. I looked at the car and it would have been a big challenge even to move it. Good starting point for a race car or total restoration; the seller held out long enough for a good price for him. 11/08
1974 Nuova Super. Abergine, grey/tan. Excellent condition car brought to NY from Portugal some years ago, good to start with and fully restored. Some excessive badging, and interior is not to original spec, but is well done. Recently rebuilt 1600 engine and trans, and stock drivetrain. Daytona wheels. $23,600, Fantasy Junction, Emeryville, CA. This car was on the FJ site a couple different times, and I’m unclear what the deal was. A solid, well-done car, with some stickers that are a bit over the top, but should be easy enough to remove. $20,000-25,000 seems to be the going rate for fully sorted Supers now, so this car seems right in line. Nuovas can bring slightly less than earlier Supers due to cosmetic downgrades, but in trade you get newer suspension design and better brake and clutch system. Fair enough deal all around. 12/08
1965 Giulia TI. White/tan. Totally solid car that’s been off the road for 20 years after scary engine noises convinced the owner to stop driving til he diagnosed it, which never happened. Straight, rust-free, overall good condition with dingy interior and a few dings and scrapes. 1300 Jr engine installed with floor-shift five-speed. Mechanicals will need sorting, including Dunlop brakes and engine. Car came with three extra engines, a rebuilt head, rebuilt crank, and other new parts. $3500, private sale. Alameda, CA. A totally solid, patinaed (in a good way) car that will need some going through to put back on the road. For a checkbook mechanic not a reasonable buy (could quickly become a $12,000 car after all the work), but for a home mechanic only minimal money will need to be spent (some engine and brake parts and a lot of hours) to make this probably the only rust-free unrestored TI in the Bay Area. Pretty good deal for the buyer, but the seller was mainly interested in an easy deal to a good home. 1/09
1965 Giulia TI. Blue/black. Cobbled car that ran til a couple years ago, then bought by someone who intended to restore but didn’t get very far. Incorrectly badged and billed as a 1300 TI, it has a 1300 engine, Nuova bumpers, all kinds of oddball stuff tacked on. Belonged for years to a Giulia nut in Atlanta with stores of mix-and-match parts. Rusty, scratched areas have had paint ground off, engine is inop, and lots of wiring and other goodies fill the trunk. No dash or seats. A long way from being roadworthy. $4500, Craigslist. Alameda, CA. Second TI out of Alameda in a month. This car has been in the Bay Area a few years, and was not a beauty before, but at least was a functional reliable car. Sold in this transaction back to the previous owner, who (1) is sentimental because he used this car at his wedding, and (2) had been Jonesing for a Giulia. PO “restorer” bodged it up, but buyer has the inventory, time, space, and skill to make a good car. As with TI above, makes no sense for a checkbook mechanic but for a DIY guy, an OK project. I’d say the price is a high for condition, but the new owner really wanted it back, and the Craigslist Alfa hounds were baying at the door, so it was pony up the asking price or miss out. Sometimes you just have to jump before you can really think; this is how it is with Giulias right now, especially in the Bay Area. 2/09
1974 US 2000 Berlina. Red with black interior. Excellent all-around rubber-bumper car with good mechanicals and recent paint. Very straight, minor rust removed during painting. Drivetrain stock and all in good condition. Interior good, not stellar. Car was sound, but had sat for a couple years and got resurrected mechanically and cosmetically throughout. Turbinas and slightly lower Spider springs. $6500, Craigslist, Berkeley, CA. 2/09. A solid car that had sat a couple years behind an Alfa shop til it got all cleaned up for sale. Red is not everyone’s favorite color on a Berlina, but it can be stunning when fresh. Talented Alfa mechanic owner went through the whole car; it was totally dialed in. Excellent daily driver for the real world. Sold for the asking price almost immediately, meaning asking price was a bit low. 2/09