BerlinaRegister Newsletter No. 35 (May 2013)

Notes and Comment

Welcome again. In this issue Roger Dilts gives an action-packed followup on his Canadian Berlina adventure. Your Editor takes to the track in anger in the #46 CSRG Super. And a pretty lively market report this time.

Around the home menagerie, my 1972 Berlina sold to a good home in Seattle, the seller and I both happy. My Supers soldier on. My street car had brake booster failure last week while stopping for a jaywalker in Berkeley. Luckily you don’t lose the brakes, it just increases the pressure needed; very unsettling during a panic stop. The race Super is featured in this issue at Sears Point/Infineon/Sonoma Raceway. The two Giulietta Spiders have been joined by a third, so I now have a 60 Veloce, 58 transition Normale, and 58 normal Normale. I didn’t even know about this third car, it found me, as they will. See accounts of both Normales on the Alfa BB, Giulietta forum. My 85 Spider Veloce is just a honey, works great as a kick-around car I don’t have to worry about. Its value is about 1/20th what a Giulietta’s value is. Finally, the white TI I resurrected five years ago, then sold to a friend, is back for various fixes and upgrades including 1750, interior, ATE rear brakes. Nice to have it back, if only for a visit.

The keeper of the Berlina Register, North American Giulia Sedan Register, and Giulietta Sedan Register is Andrew Watry, email 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

Benvenuto a Portland, Bianca! (Part 1.01)

By Roger Dilts

If anyone remembers, I went on a wild expedition to purchase a 1972 Italian-market Berlina outside Toronto in October 2011 (see Berlina Register Newsletter No. 33 (May 2012)). Andrew asked for Part II of the story so the berlinisti of the world can be apprised of my progress. Lacking enough forward movement for Part II, this is instead Part 1.01 (switching from Roman numerals, which lack decimal points).

I have the feeling from knowing lots of “car guys” that my experience is not unique. Articles about over-the-weekend engine swaps, overnight brake jobs, and clutch replacements between heats at the racetrack are news because they are unusual; dog bites man is not news. Instead this is an un-newsworthy regular guy report of what I did on the Berlina in the intervening year.

I made a to-do list. Just me, the owner’s manual, an imagination, and the Centerline catalog. The short version was “go over everything and fix what you find.” Beyond that first flush of enthusiasm, I haven’t gotten very far. Most of the year the car sat in Neil’s warehouse/garage, my Spider taking the single space at the house. Neil lost the lease on the “man cavern” (this place was HUGE) so the Berlina came home on the back of a flat tow courtesy of Hagerty and the Spider went to another friend’s warehouse. The first order was to get the hood open. One side popped open, but not the other. After rejecting the idea of taking a sawzall to the hood, I was able to use a length of coat hanger wire to grab the other latch and pop it open. Success! I made a new cable and a functional “emergency” cable to replace the factory fishing line version.

I spent a couple of afternoons that turned into evenings just going over the exhaust side of the engine compartment cleaning off crap. I fabricated a battery hold-down out of threaded rod and angle aluminum, covering the aluminum with electrical tape, since it’s frightening to turn a wrench on the battery terminal with that wonderfully conductive material just millimeters away. So there is an upgrade! I remade most of the electrical terminations in that area, polishing connections and adding new ends to frayed wires. I fixed the air horns (the one prior Italian owner installed a pair of FIAMM air horns) and with some convincing and cleaning they now work. I bought a quart of compressor oil when I only need a few drops. I polished the bejezus out of the cam cover. I measured the valve clearances and found all the exhaust side in spec, but all the intake valves set at .013” or thereabouts. Enlisting a friend with a digital mic and a set of shims, we brought them all in spec. Installed new plugs. Figured out the distributor is a Marelli with a model number that shows it was original equipment in Europe, but does not match the tune up parts list in any catalog. But the cap looked pretty new as do the points, so I figure it should at least start. Once I fixed the loose connections at the coil, it did start. Woo Hoo! Idled and ran, although a bit rough.

That was two weeks ago. Now it won’t start and it looks like a fuel problem. I have fuel to the Solex carbs, but no squirt when I pump the accelerator. Could both needle valves have gummed up simultaneously in the past two weeks? I’m afraid that will have to wait for another edition, since Andrew says today is my deadline for this article. Since the weather is getting sunny, the yard needs attention, so getting past this point may take some time (see Alfa BB thread on this for current status,, in the Carburetors and Fuel Injection forum).

That’s been pretty much the story of the year—fits of progress and long diversions. But just so you know, I did finish refacing a fireplace with slate, laid a slate floor on upper and lower stair landings (looks great, by the way), and hung molding in the basement project (now there is a story of delays). I also continued as president of AROO, was series director of the AROO Cup Rally Series, volunteer coordinator of the Monte Shelton Northwest Classic Rally, put on the Second Annual AROO President’s Tour, and a Hare and Hounds rally for another club. I kept the house from falling down (pretty much) and the yard looks OK. The bicycles are in good repair and the tropical fish are not dead. And of course I work 8-5. Wish I had more time to spend on the Berlina, but if I did, I’d really rather spend it with our new granddaughter, coming up on a year old.

First Race, Not First Place

I ran my 1974 GTV in AROSC timetrials and schools for 15 years, then in 2009 bought and brought back to racing life a 1971 Giulia Super built in NC for vintage racing. The car had originally come from Milan in 2000 in a container with various other Supers, raced for a few years, then it sat. I bought it in Reno in late 2009, drove it home, barely making it over Donner Summit due to poor power. After a mini-engine rebuild and sorting a bunch of issues, I ran the car in AROSC TT for a couple years (Buttonwillow, Willow Springs, one aborted Laguna Seca school when I had brake failure), but my plan all along was to make it eligible for Bay Area CSRG vintage racing, running in my own backyard, with other Alfas, in a collegial environment. It’s street-legal and I drive it to the track. As with Roger’s Berlina story, not everything goes as planned, and it took me a year longer than expected to back-date the car, removing its 2000 and building and installing a 1600, the required vintage displacement. I had a variety of engine issues, some dumb mistakes on my part, some “just one of those things” issues. Long story short, and several engine removals later, it’s running and working well.

This car was built as a mild track car with minimal performance upgrades and maximum safety equipment, which approach I have continued. Short stiff springs, Koni shocks, yellow Bosch Spider wheels, full, as in full, rollcage, Sparco racing seats, fuel cell in the spare tire well, battery in trunk, no bumpers. It’s reasonable to drive on the street but loud with no insulation, carpets, or headliner. The interior includes door panels and the original dash, plus the console. CSRG likes that. I pulled out the 2000 and built a moderate track 1600 with Spruell 79mm pistons, Jemison and IAP cams, Norman Racing head and block mods, Sammy Hale crank, Carrillo rods (out of a GTA!), light flywheel and aluminum clutch, tube headers, oil cooler (with GTA/TI Super adapter plate!), donut cage. Hasn’t been dynoed; I run on pump gas and it isn’t a crazy engine, might have 130 HP if I’m optimistic.

I signed up with CSRG and ran my first event with them the first weekend of April at Sears Point (Sonoma Raceway). I have an AROSC timetrial license, but that doesn’t meet CSRG’s requirements so I spent a weekend with Hooked on Driving at Sears, being evaluated in my wife’s BMW 328i by instructors, who would pass their comments on to CSRG. I seemed to pass that test, so with a probationary license, I showed up at Sears Point Friday, April 5, for tech inspection and whatever would befall me. I had all the driver safety gear, having stepped “up” to LeMons racing last year, which requires a full driving suit, Nomex undies, boots, etc.

CSRG had just recently adopted a B Sedan SCCA class, eligible up to 1972, after decades of 1967 as a cutoff. My originally plan was to get the Super in as a “1967” model, grandfathered because it was essentially no different from a 1967 model in terms of performance. However, my car is also eligible under B Sedan rules, and I snuck in with 14” wheels. Still have to back-date the Milano Brembo front brakes. A few minor issues to sort, but I was relieved to pass tech, “OK to race” stamped in the car’s VDCA logbook. Woohoo!

Back to the paddock with five Giulia sedans, a few GTVs, and many Giuliettas. CSRG has always had a good Alfa presence, as does the Bay Area generally. We all pitted together, sharing tools, lunch, awnings, chairs, especially during the wind and rain, which was on and off all weekend. The Giulia sedans belonged to me (green), Gary Highland (red), Dan Farmer (white), Ed Lauber (white), and the Katchee brothers (blue), a really fast car with a 2000, advanced suspension, much original thinking and execution, and capable driving. This is a car that can hold its own with Jon Norman’s Trans Am GTV. Remarkable in a bright blue four-door box.

I hadn’t expected any track time Friday, but the race director indicated I should go out and practice with two mentor drivers, Scott and Ed, in Huffaker MGAs. So I did a couple practice sessions Friday afternoon, gridding up with GTVs, MGs, faster Giuliettas, Austin Healeys, you name it. The MGAs and I played lead/follow, they watched me, I watched them, followed the line, learned how to deal with passing, getting passed (this happened a lot), multi-car-wide groups in corners, track stuff that comes up in racing but not in the tamer timetrals I was used to. After each session we debriefed, they told me where I was lacking, how to be more smooth, how to keep eyes up and scanning, all that. Once they waved me by I was on my own, getting the feel. The day went well other than a Giulietta’s spin in from of me in hairpin Turn 11. Luckily he gathered it up on the inside, I was outside, not even close. But still a lesson, for sure. By the end of the day Friday my terrified-stomach-feeling had subsided and I was starting to get comfortable, or at least less uncomfortable. Saturday would bring more practice, qualifying, and a race!!, with no MGAs riding herd to watch out for me. They’d be out to kick my ass!

I’d driven Sears a number of times before, including the previous weekend in my wife’s BMW, many ARA lunchtime tours at CSRG events, and a Russell school years before. All that familiarity goes out the window, pretty much, when the green flag flies on a race event with fast cars and adrenalized drivers. In morning practice and qualifying I concentrated on finding and sticking to the line, spotting my turn-ins, apexes, track-outs, useful landmarks, etc. The morning session was damp with light mist, so I tiptoed. Kept the car on the track, didn’t hit anyone, didn’t get hit. My first session Saturday returned a damp 2:31. Midday saw 2:18, by the end of the day I had a 2:16, good enough to put me about 2/3 back on the grid. I was neck-in-neck with a Porsche 356 coupe, I was faster through the corners, on his butt, but he could easily pull away on the straights, and as a newbie I wasn’t about to try some hairy brake-and-pass that would jeopardize us both. So I sat back and enjoyed watching him corner on three wheels. By the end of the day, I’d relaxed a little, re-learned the line, but in a whole different car from the previous weekend with different power, weight, traction, everything. And all those fast cars around me!

Sunday dawned bright and clear, much better track conditions. More practice and onto the grid, about the same place for the final race. All in all, much the same experience. The 356 and I pulled ahead of a couple Sprites and an Elva, were otherwise by ourselves til the fast guys lapped us. Dan Farmer hung back in his Super and tracked us, having replaced his master cylinder Sunday morning. He wanted to feel all was well before he picked it up; on the last lap, he blasted by both of us. Same story as Saturday; if I’d been in kamikaze mode I maybe could have taken the 356, but my Hooked on Driving’s instructor’s words had stayed in my head: “Before you do something, ask yourself, why?” Good question. Why take the risk to outbrake the Porsche, with weaker brakes than the Super and a whole different cornering line, to move from 28th to 27th in an amateur race with nothing to gain or lose? So I laid back, took it easy, had the same Giulietta spin inside me at Turn Four (again, we both managed it well), and tracked cleanly to the finish. TaDa, checkered flag! The Super ran like a champ all weekend, I added maybe a pint of oil, did nothing beyond checking tire pressure and lugnut torque. Next race in the fall, I’ll be ready!

Berlina/Giulia Market Report

1974 US 2000 Berlina. Blue car with whiteish pigskin interior. Backyard project that is complete but sat, out of registration, for 20+ years, four flat tires, tired paint, patches of rust and primer, tolerable interior. $1775 ebay, Sacramento CA. As with many beater ebay transactions, I don’t know if this one actually sold (got 39 bids!). I viewed this as at most a $1200 car, but what the heck. Big project to get this baby back on the road. To end up with a nice car, you’re looking at full mechanical and cosmetic restoration, easily into five digits, and at the end you still have a rubber-bumper car. A good candidate for a beater/driver if the buyer can do it. Fix the brakes, change the clutch, get a running 2000, off you go for $500. 12/12

1967 Giulia Super. Red/grey car with mild performance upgrades, long in the Northwest, not used much recently. Basically sound, moderate rust in floors and rockers as you might expect. Paint faded to orange, interior tatty but complete. Euro cams, Marelliplex ignition, Rugh springs, adjustable suspension, 1750 brakes. Engine rebuilt 20+ years ago, few miles since then. Interior looked reasonable, if worn and dirty. Cracked windshield. $6200 BringaTrailer, Portland OR. This car falls in the difficult project/not project range where it’s hard to judge the value, which in many cases will depend on the intent and abilities of the buyer. This is not a lot of money for a running Giulia Super, but rocker, quarter panel, and floor rust (the whole passenger floor is now cut out), and the consequences and fixes needed from 20 years of nonuse, are not to be taken lightly. If you have to pay for such repairs, they quickly run into many thousands before you even think about paint, and even for free such a car could make no economic sense. This buyer is handy and has done much of the work himself, brought the interior up with small fixes and a good cleaning (which many folks overlook). As such, I’d call this a reasonable purchase for him, perhaps a slight deal. For a checkbook mechanic, you’d be in the car $15,000 before you even began to think about seats and paint, and it wouldn’t make financial sense. This first-time Alfa owner loves it; another Super brought back to life. 12/12

1969 US 1750 Berlina. Storied maroon/tan “Powell” Bay Area car that 15 years ago was the best Berlina I’d ever seen, totally original in all respects. Repainted a few years ago, interior redone, all good though not to the perfect standard it had been under Powell’s ownership. Solid, looked good, everything worked. A few knicks, a couple missing items, Spica replaced with carbs. Euro cams, car ran strong and drove well. Nothing really to be done, just a point or two down (due to real-world use) from its original condition. $13,500 Alfa BB, Berkeley CA. The current high-water mark for Berlina prices. This was the asking price on the BB, and someone from out of town pushed the button. I think market price, makes perfect sense. A lot of folks like 1750s better than 2000s, and this one would be hard to beat without finding a fresh restoration or a perfect time-warp. 1/13

1975 Nuova Super. White/black late Giulia sedan with 2000 engine replacing original 1600, brought from Europe to Canada about 2010. Looked great in beyond-minimal ebay listing, said to be perfect, never out in winter, 88,000 miles. $10,100 ebay, Toronto. Nuovas have their own following, but in essence they’re a Giulia sedan with most of the [visual] character removed. This looked like a great condition car, at a very attractive price, but some things to consider: (1) It’s in Canada, and US buyers can be wary of importing a car that was never sold in the US. (2) The listing had essentially no information; are you going to part with $10,000+ on the strength of two sentences of info? (3) Most folks want the style of an early Giulia with all its character. (4) It came from Europe, which can be a red flag that it may be nasty underneath and/or a quickie job to prep for sale, not unheard of. All in all, a bargain price by some thousands if the car was solid; a pay-the-body-man disaster if it wasn’t. 2/13

1968 1750 Berlina. Early red/black car from Canada, same as the Euro cars of the time, as there weren’t any US-market cars yet. Really seems like a new Giulia Super, with 1600-style air filter setup, low-back seats, wool carpets, still an old-world “Portello” Alfa, not a modern “Arese” car. Stunning original condition, some local body repairs and paint, but largely original and organically maintained. Paint nicely faded, interior used but original, perfect dash, everything works, drives wonderfully. As nice a Berlina as you could hope for. $13,500 AlfaBB, Seattle. This is the going rate for good Berlinas now, the second 1750 at $13.5K. I loved this car (it came to Berkeley) and its condition, both cosmetic and mechanical. Everything is smoothly worn together, functions well. Drives just like you’d expect with proper care. Five years ago I could see this car going for over $20,000, but Berlina prices don’t seem to be there at the moment. I’d say fair to both parties, would not have been shocked at all by another thousand or two. 2/13

1972 US 2000 Berlina. Muschio Verde Chiaro with tan interior, closer to Verde Pino than dark green. This is my car, the one I bought to put a turbo in, then after some hemming and hawing decided not to go that route, due to race car and other ongoing projects. It was very original (literally almost no paint left, polished to the primer) with bad interior when I bought it. Drove great, strong 2000, mild performance upgrades (Koni shocks, drilled brakes, tube headers, BWA wheels, Marelliplex) and had finished three California Melees with the previous owner. So I did windshield, paint, upholstery, sorted its issues, had a really nice car, not perfect, when finished. One owner from new til 2005, alleged to have done 350,000 miles. $12,500 AlfaBB, Berkeley CA. With the two cars above at $13,500, I figured the car would go in that ballpark. Better mechanically than the maroon car, but a less-desirable 2000 model. Again, I think this is the ballpark for a no-questions Berlina right now, give or take a small amount. 3/13

1969 US 1750 Berlina. Maroon car with light tan interior. A nice driving daily-use car with 2000 Spica engine from a Spider. Extensive documented suspension, brake, clutch, trans, engine work, dialed in by an Alfa specialist. Body had rocker repair done to address rust, still needed paint. Interior worn, not awful but not great. $3750 AlfaBB, Marin CA. I looked at this car when it was a rolling shell in LA a few years ago. This seller bought it at that time and turned it into a solid daily driver. This price seems ballpark right, on the bargain side considering the work done, for a driver that doesn’t have mechanical needs and could be brought up cosmetically without a lot of trouble. That would result in a car worth about what you had in it. My guess is this seller had far, far more in the car than he sold it for; a savvy purchase for the new owner, who has a number of sedans and buys smart. Cars that need paint and/or upholstery generally take a big hit on price, regardless of mechanical condition, mods, anything else. Buyers are wary of the cost and heartache of cosmetic upgrades. 1750s are more in demand than ever, though prices haven’t risen a lot. 3/13

1967 Giulia Super race car. This car was built up over time as a timetrial, then race car, for Alfa club and other track events. Built by an Alfa/Mazda racer, sold to an LA racer 5+ years ago, who took it a few steps further. Stripped interior, race seats, full roll cage, serious suspension mods including a “rear mount” front sway bar, hot 1600 engine, fire system, etc. Cosmetics iffy even for a race car, white with charismatic graphics, matching the racer’s personality. Reasonably fast and dialed in, could run with any group of vintage-legal Giulia racers. $15,000 AlfaBB, Santa Clarita CA. I ran against this car for several years with my track cars in AROSC and watched it and the driver steadily pull away from me in times and abilities. I now run CSRG, he moved on to Spec Miatas. Yet the car showed up at my first CSRG event! Its cosmetics need bringing up a bit for vintage racing, some of the chassis and engine development is good, some could be improved. The buyer intends to put work into it, always the case with a race car. Price seems on the cheap side of fair, but it’s tough to price and sell built race cars, especially ones that won’t be killer fast no matter what you do if you intend to remain vintage-legal. Certainly the seller had much more money, perhaps five digits’ worth, in the car that this. That’s how it is with used race cars. 4/13

1967 Giulia Super. A blue/tan car that came from NC to CA a few years ago, with good intentions of getting pulled up a few notches. Basically a sound car, had some local body work done, new window seals, various suspension and other improvements. Mostly sat around, the owner finally moved it on to concentrate on other things. Operable, basically good looking with SZ mags, a bit low, still some issues to sort including wrinkling in the hood and perhaps some future engine work. Driveable and usable, but still needing some upgrading over time. $12,500 private sale, Novato CA. I looked at this car a few years ago, it spent time in a warehouse with a couple of my cars. It needed a fair amount of mechanical work at the time, much of which has been carried out, but possible needed engine work is still an unknown, and some work is needed to at least the hood. That said, if it doesn’t need an engine rebuild (and maybe even if it does), the price seems on the cheap side of fair, perhaps by a couple thousand. A running 1967 1600 Super is what most folks are looking for in a Giulia sedan, and this had plenty of work done and was a good color. 4/13