Berlina Register Newsletter No. 48 (January 2021)
Notes and Comment
Less going on than usual due to COVID. No tours, no cars n’ coffees. I sold the Junior Z, found I just didn’t really like it in spite of the great shape and color. I fit better in my Super and GTV, and the tii. So it went to a new home in Palo Alto in December. I’ve been working on stuff but not many sedans. I did rebuild the engine in my 2002tii and put carpets in it. I also put new carpets in my Super, got them from OKP in Germany. Very happy. See below.
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.
A 1973 Berlina Adventure
By Burt and Matthew Staniar
It was Father's Day as I sat with my cup of coffee enjoying my morning ritual of looking what cars were available on Craigslist, BringaTrailer, and Hemmings. I've done this for years, and simply enjoy seeing the diversity of interesting cars that catch my eye. My sister-in-law once said about me, "He wants a lot of things…" referring to the fact that I certainly don't need said things and usually can't afford them either. I happen to come across an ad for a really cool looking recreational road rally for pre-80's European cars. I thought it looked like something I would really enjoy doing with one of my kids, if only we had a car. I showed it to my 15-year-old son. His response, "Dad, you need to get serious about getting a car, and stop just looking at this stuff." Mistake/Success #1 - Taking advice from your 15-year-old about whether to buy a car. OK… so I started looking.
I like too many things. It had to be a manual. It probably needed to be a sports or performance car of some sort (although I did look at some older Jeeps, G-wagons, Land Rovers, etc. but these were not quite right). It had to be something with some history, some personality. It had to make noises, engine, exhaust, doors opening and closing. It had to smell of gas and oil. It should require engagement from drivers and passengers. It should be unique. I'd like to be able to learn to work on it myself and involve my kids. I like to do things with them, to all learn together by doing. Other influences included; close friends who have owned or do own Alfas, and BMWs; a number of drives in 60's/70's 911s, and a father and brother who are both into cars. So this all led to me looking at every Alfa, BMW, Porsche, Peugeot, Saab, MG, Triumph, Mercedes, and a few other oddities. The top of my price range was $15-20k. I looked (online) at way too many cars, but I kept coming back to the Alfa Romeos based on what I thought I liked and had experienced in the past. The Giulias and Berlinas from the late 60's and early 70's seemed to check a lot of my required boxes, and I narrowed my searches to these cars, while keeping an eye on everything else that was coming available as well. By monitoring the online sites I've mentioned I tried to get a feel for the "market."
So, I am going to skip the part of this story that relates to all the saved searches on Craigslist and Hemmings; the daily market summary between my son and me; the slow approach with my wife to get to the point where this investment made any sort of sense. Here are a few other obvious mistakes we made in the search phase. Mistake/Success #2 - We are not patient. We wanted to pull the trigger on Father's Day. A good friend told me to spend the next six months looking and driving cars. 11 days later we made a deal on a 1973 Alfa Romeo Berlina. Mistake #3 - The best European car mechanic in town told us not to buy an Alfa Romeo. He basically told us he wouldn't touch it. His only explanation was that they have all kinds of problems and we'd be better off with a BMW, Mercedes, or Porsche. Sounds like a German bias, but I am still out a mechanic. I tried find other possible mechanics; most said "What is an Alfa Romeo?" We were going to be alone. Mistake/Success #4 - I made a fair/slightly low offer, but when rejected, came back with a higher offer in three hours. This one comes back to the patience mistake above. The owner said he would take my second offer! Mistake/Success #5 - I did not have an independent mechanic look inspect the car prior to purchase. I think that this is my most egregious error, but I'll own it. Let's get to the fun part of the story… The car was located 1200 miles and five states away. My son and I decided it would be fun to fly down, inspect the car ourselves (we know next to nothing), and drive the car home, on what are probably the hottest days of the summer, during COVID-19; so many mistakes!
The flight south went well. When we walked into the seller's garage containing three Alfas (one of which was his race car), a Ferrari, and Studebaker, I had a small boost of confidence that we were at least buying from a car guy. We spent the next two hours doing a thorough inspection of the Berlina. We'd brought an extensive checklist. The car was not a show car, but that is not what we were looking for. It was in very good condition. Very little visible rust, a good cold start, and a great test drive. However, during the inspection we found that one of the low beam headlights was not working. The seller was sure this was the first he'd ever seen the problem… he and I pulled the light and tightened wires to no avail (one malfunctioning headlight). Finally, we agreed to a slightly lower price, went to the bank and signed over the title! The seller and his wife were wonderful and talked with us about the route home that we planned over the next two days. We all agreed it was going to be an adventur, one that we all knew was full of unknowns.
My son during the inspection.
After spending the night in a Microtel, the buyer picked us up and we took some pictures in the driveway before beginning our journey. My son and I pulled onto the road with big grins on our faces looking forward to the open road! The engine, the Webers, the exhaust all just sounded beautiful … for 200 miles along some beautiful back roads of Arkansas. I should note here, this car has no radio, no air conditioning, and we are driving 1200 miles on what are likely the two hottest days of the summer. Oh, and the last "big" trip this car had made was three years ago, a 1000-mile rally over five days. It had been prepped just prior to that rally, but only driven around the neighborhood infrequently since. We might have been asking a bit much to expect 1200 miles in two days, but that's hindsight.
The storm clouds gathered around 250 miles, the rain came down hard, and the wipers made two or three sweeps of the window before simply stopping. Thank God for RainX (one malfunctioning headlight, wipers that don't work). We did amazingly well without wipers, although it was a bit stressful, and we missed a few turns, but that was the adventure! At around 300 miles, my son turned to me with a foreboding look and said, "Dad, are you ready to want to kill yourself?". He pointed at the passenger side of the windshield. A rock had been kicked up and created 2 spider cracks (1 malfunctioning headlight, wipers that don't work, a cracked windshield). In the back of my head I remembered reading how hard windshields are to find for the Berlina. I'll admit, I was a bit bummed now, but I had to be a good example for my son. "No worries, let's enjoy the journey and we'll get it fixed when we get home."
Me, enjoying the drive north!
Fifty miles later the alternator light came on. It's now about 4:30 pm on Friday, we're on backroads of Tennessee. We pulled over in a small town, opened the hood, wiggled some wires, stared at the alternator, willing it to work, hopped back in the car and prayed we could just make it to Lexington (one malfunctioning headlight, wipers that don't work, a cracked windshield, a broken alternator). Every mile was a blessing now as we expected the car to simply stop and leave us on the side of the road. That red warning light kept getting brighter…damn it! We were both quiet now cruising along the highway about 100 miles from Lexington at about 70 mph, just praying nothing else would. I see a flash out of the corner of my eye and in slow motion see one of the chrome headlight bezels going bouncing across the highway (one malfunctioning headlight, wipers that don't work, a cracked windshield, a broken alternator, a wrecked chrome headlight bezel). There was no shoulder and we ended up driving 30 minutes out of our way to go back and pick up that bezel. I'm glad we did, but at this point we just wanted to get to Lexington. I needed a beer and we both needed sleep. We pulled into the hotel just as dusk was settling in, glad to have made it before we had to turn on the headlights with a broken low beam and nonfunctioning alternator. We were just hoping the Berlina would start tomorrow.
It did, and we headed to the closest auto parts store to get the battery and alternator checked. They confirmed that the alternator was toast and our battery nearly dead (one malfunctioning headlight, wipers that don't work, a cracked windshield, a broken alternator, a wrecked chrome headlight bezel, a dead battery). The store clerk suggested we buy two batteries to ensure we would make it home to Pennsylvania from Lexington but I decided to risk it and buy just one. The previous owner suggested we might make it only 250 miles on a battery with no alternator, and this definitely had me worried. He also emphasized that in our somewhat crippled state, we should stick to highways and the straight route home on day 2. That would have been the smart thing to do, but driving at 75 mph in a 73 Berlina for hours on the highway is just not the best, so we swung towards valor and ignored discretion! I also was given a boost of confidence when I called Robert Rodgers at Shade Tree Enginetrics, who had serviced this car for many years. He was confident that the Berlina could probably go 8-10 hours with a bad alternator and a new battery. He pointed out how little electronics there was, so away we went! We did a brief stint on the highway and found the two-laner that runs up along the Ohio River. What a drive!!! This was the best thing that we did, and I think the Berlina might have enjoyed it, because she gave us not a bit of trouble during most of the day. Later we both admitted that this early lack of trouble was a clear forewarning of what lay in store.
I will reiterate, the drive along the Ohio River was great! Barges on the river, small towns, and a nicely winding two-lane road made for a wonderful drive. We stopped for gas several times and realized at the end of the day that we had subsided on a diet of water and gummi bears. Healthy food would have to wait until we made it home. We were still surviving on the original battery, but the alternator light was on continuously … always keeping us a bit nervous about when the trip would be over. We crossed the Ohio River and had a good buzz through Pittsburgh. Crossing the bridges and driving along the river at the edge of Pittsburgh was memorable. We really started to think we would make it home! We were both smiling and enjoying ourselves.
The last leg of our trip is along Route 22, a four-lane quasi-highway. We were about 100 miles from home and I knew we would have to stop and get gas one more time. I pulled into what I knew was the last Sheetz gas station. As I filled the car with gas, I told my son to clean her up a bit with a chamois we had. She was a dirty from 1100 miles, and even though she was a bit banged up from the trip, I wanted her to look her best when we pulled in the driveway for the rest of the family. Filled and shined up, we were ready to get home. We hopped in, buckled up, and turned the key….. NOTHING!. No click, no noise, nothing. OK, so clearly the battery was finally completely dead, disappointing this close to home, but no big surprise. We had that new battery just for this reason! We hopped out and went to install the new battery.
Our car has the battery installed in the trunk, and the terminals and connectors for the old battery were the side-mounted bolt on type. In our rush to leave Lexington in the morning, we had not taken this into account when we purchased the new battery with top posts only. No clear way to connect the new battery. (For those that have read this whole saga, I wonder whether you can imagine what was going on in my head at this point. Maybe I was not meant to have this car? Does the car hate me for some reason? How do I maintain my cool and try to be a good example for my son? I just want to be home). We talked about trying to duct tape the battery to the battery cables, and then my son noticed an AutoZone (the chain we bought the new battery from in Lexington) about 400 yards down the road on the opposite side of the highway! We picked up both batteries and started to walk.
Out of the corner of my eye, I saw a guy at one of the pumps waving to us and approaching. Without hesitating he offered to drive my son and me to the AutoZone and drive us back. I want to note that we are in central Pennsylvania at a busy gas station with many customers, yet this guy that went out of his way to help us. He was driving a very nice BMW SUV and he and his wife cleared up the back seat so we could ride. I am still struck by this person's willingness to help us without us even asking. We will be sure to pass this favor along whenever we can in the future!
We got the new battery, installed it, hopped in and turned the key … NOTHING, AGAIN! I'm surprised I didn't lose it at this point. (The likely reason for no start was the fact that we had not really cleaned up the batter terminals on the new battery with a wire brush before connecting; rookie mistake!). Then a little light bulb turned on in my head. We could try the old "pop the clutch" trick! I explained to my son that he had to push the car and give us just a bit of momentum, I would pop the clutch in second gear, and it might start. IT DID! My son jumped in the air in celebration and leapt in the car, looking at me as if I was some sort of automotive wizard! Hey, I'll take what I can get. We said a little prayer that we would not stall on the way home and started the last 100 miles.
We made it! When we pulled up the driveway, my son threw our bags out on the ground. The rest of the family (wife, other son and daughter … only in an Alfa Berlina!) all jumped in for a ride around the block, and then it was into the garage. The beer has never tasted so good!!! As I finish this first chapter as an Alfa owner, I know how truly blessed I already am to have had such a memorable experience! It's everything I could have imagined and more. It's a trip that my son and I will never forget! Through the trip and in the ensuing weeks, I have already begun to make new Alfa acquaintances. I'm looking forward to the rest of my Alfa story!
1967 Giulia Super. Track/street car set up for touring car class. Rust-free body, no accidents, bare metal red paint in 2008, still looks nice. No bumpers, stock lighting and chrome in place. Interior gutted, plexiglass rear windows, lightweight seats, rollcage, mechanical gauges. Strong prepped 1600 from GTV with oil cooler. Aluminum flywheel, GTA clutch, rebuilt 2000 running gear, 4.56 LS diff. Campagnolo 14x6 Daytona wheels machined to clear rear fenders. Battery, fuel cell, fire system in trunk. Needs minor work to be street legal. $12,000 Alfa club newsletter, New Hampshire. Screamin’ deal. Track cars, street legal or not, are not for everyone, but this build, especially the body aspect, probably cost twice the selling price. If it’s just what you’re looking for, such a car can be way cheaper than a normal street car. Good for the buyer. 9/20
1973 US 2000 Berlina. Red/black car that was one of the first to join the Berlina Register. In the seller’s eyes an excellent car, in the buyer’s more accurate vision an acceptable car. All there, largely stock, but all kind of tired. Lowered a bit, Webers. $18,750 Hemmings. A basically solid car gone to seed a bit. Had a loving owner for decades but the amount of care can taper off over time with little use. Many of us are guilty of seeing our car as it was when we got it or as we imagine it, not as it actually is. A buyer’s eye can be sharper in this regard. Maybe a tad high but the fixes needed were minor so no harm, no foul. 8/20.
1970 1750 Berlina. Red car with tan interior. Sold new in Germany, spent time in Austria, came to US years ago, never got finished. Moderately rusty, not run in decades. Had a Spica 2000 resting comfortably in the engine compartment, not plumbed. $500. Entirely fair price for a project. The seller was an older guy with a lot of projects, was never going to get to them. Car was already on a trailer, ready to go! This is the 21st century equivalent of the fabled Free Berlina. Buyer is already well into bringing it back. 9/20
1970 Giulia Super. Really nice blue/red European car, brought to the US by a dealer. Repainted at some point, reupholstered, tuned and ready to go. Appeared to be 100% stock. $30,000 BringaTrailer, Salt Lake City. A really nice Biscione, a car a lot of folks want. Aggressively priced for a couple years by classic car dealer in the boondocks, folks probably got tired of seeing it flogged. Eventually put it on BaT and accepted this price. His original asking price was 75% higher; I was surprised his reserve wasn’t higher. Good deal by at least $5000 for the buyer. 9/20
1975 Nuova 1300 Super. White car with grey velour interior, backdated to earlier 1300 Super look with Giulia grille, hood, trunk lid. Originally blue, car was built in Spain, came to the US in 2013. 2000 engine, steel wheels, generally “stock” appearance given the gender change. $26,000 BringaTrailer, Healdsburg CA. As solid and fun a Giulia as you could hope for, the 2000 should make it a real mover. Nothing to sniff at on the car itself, but my guess is bidders were held back by the change from Nuova to Giulia, the color change, and the fact that it’s a 1300 Super. The value standard on Giulias is a first series 1600 Super, that’s what everyone wants. 1300s are typically 20-30% cheaper for a comparable car. Excellent value for the buyer, he/she/it should be happy. 9/20
1972 2000 Berlina. Pino verde car with tan interior. Non-US variant with carburetors, no side markers, etc. Looked nice in ebay presentation, stock condition, interior had home fixes to the veneer and seats were baggy. Little info on mechanical condition but car seemed to be of a piece. $10,000 ebay, Champlain NY. Precious few sedans have sold on ebay recently, all the action is on BringaTrailer. This was not the best listing, lacking info on mechanical condition and poor underside pictures. Nonetheless, if the car was as good in the flesh as in the pictures, this seems like half price compared to what it would have brought on BaT. So super deal for the buyer. [Same car as last issue, seems it didn’t actually sell first time] 9/20.
1969 US 1750 Berlina. Dark red car with maroon interior. Stock US market car still with Spica injection, steel wheels and hubcaps, Nardi wheel. Looked fine in the ebay listing although no underside pics. Engine is later than 1969, car was originally white, visible in engine compartment. Former ice racer in upstate NY so it’s likely there are rust issues underneath. $10,000 ebay, Arlington VT. This car has been around as long as I’ve been tracking Berlinas. With a history as an ice racer I’d expect a variety of underside issues, none resolved by the ebay listing and no usable pictures. If the chassis and running gear were OK, this was a pretty fair deal for the buyer. But one needs more info. 9/20
1964 Giulietta TI. Light blue car with blue/grey interior, utterly typical for a 101 sedan. Looked completely stock, painted and upholstered a few years ago, engine serviced and brakes checked, appeared to be a really good example. $19,555 BringaTrailer, Rome. Super charming and clean final iteration of the Giulietta sedan, made well into the 105 era. About as nice as you could expect, these are fun light cars to toss around but are a little challenged in real-world traffic. Unsure if buyer was in US and will incur shipping costs. Price seems right in there as to FMV. 9/20
1967 Giulia Super. Green car with tan interior, in California from new til about 2010, then sold to Oregon. Largely stock and original, very good condition. Had some mechanical freshening but was still essentially stock $37,500 private sale, Portland OR. This car was a twin to mine, built same day, one VIN apart, had its original black Calif plates until it moved to Oregon. About as good a car as you could hope to find. Price is strong in current market but I feel is right for an original first-series Super that has had few owners and good car. 9/20
1970 Giulia 1300 TI. Generally stock white car with black interior. Repainted, reupholstered, engine rebuilt at some point. New CN36 tires, steel wheels and hubcaps. Refreshingly stock looking other than tricolor racing stripe. Custom fold-out picnic table and frig in the trunk. Recently serviced, appeared to be on the button. $23,500 BringaTrailer, Los Angeles. Nice to see a 1300 TI left alone, not made into a hotrod. Another BaT frequent flyer, sold on BaT in Sicily in 2019. The picnic table and frig took up the entire trunk, whether a bonus or debit is up to the buyer; perhaps a wash. Unclear if the racing stripes were paint or vinyl. Either way, on-the-nose market value. 10/20
1966 Giulia Super. Red car with black interior. Upgraded in some areas but largely stock looking. 1750 engine, Konis and adjustable upper arms but stock springs, sits nice and high. Looked to be fully restored top and bottom, perfect body. Some alterations including black headliner, carpeted trunk, 1750 brakes. Seller a known BaT quantity. $30,250 BringaTrailer, Netherlands. Very nice car, total restoration done in The Netherlands. Changes from stock are pretty much all improvements and mostly invisible other than headliner and trunk. Should be a great driver. You can’t anywhere near restore one for this money. Coming to the US, add a few thousand for shipping. Fair price, about right. Probably better condition that any Super in the US. 12/20
1966 Giulia 1300 Berlina. Grey car with black interior. Almost completely nonstock. Billed as a 1970 1300 Super, in fact the VIN translates to a bottom-of-the-line 1300 Berlina, which came with a Giulietta-spec engine and a four-speed. Now has 1750, five-speed, Super dash, interior, and trim, mag wheels, fat tires, lowered suspension; a quality hotrod. Dutch car, built to a high standard as is typical in that country. $32,000 BringaTrailer, Netherlands. High price for 1300 Berlina, highish even for a boy-racer Super. Very nice work, all a long way from stock. BaT, as is often the case, didn’t vet what model it actually was, though with a car this modified it doesn’t matter much. If coming to US add some thousands for shipping and customs. A lot of car for the money if that’s your bag. 12/20