Berlina Register Newsletter No. 18 (May 2004)

 

 

Notes and Comment

†††††††††††††††††††††††

††††††††††† Welcome to Berlina Register newsletter number 18.In this issue, I include an article about a Berlina I brought back to Berkeley from Phoenix in 2003.Part II of Damian's article on driving his Berlina from Berkeley to Seattle should appear in the next issue. In this issue I'm starting a new feature, called "Berlina Forum," intended to be a clearinghouse of information from members, letters from you all of general interest, and any Berlina tips I can think of to print, or that you all send in.Please submit stuff!

††††††††††† In Alfa activity around my house, I stripped down my Giulia Super this spring and took it to the body shop in late April, to get its bodywork and paint done after seven years of ugliness.I also attended to a few suspension clunks and groans on both the Super and the Berlina.Sadly, the cost of getting the Super's bodywork done was selling the Berlina to fund it, which took up a new home in Massachusetts in late April.It was a tough decision, because it was a really nice, dialed-in car, and great on the track.But the Super won out.I'm sure another Berlina will show up on my doorstep at some point.In case you're worried, I will continue to run the Register without change.Also, we replaced my wife's 1985 BMW 535i (230,000 miles) with a silver 1997 BMW 328i four-door.Altogether a sportier car, though maybe with less character.

††††††††††† In market activity, there have been very few Berlinas sold in the US that I know of during the most recent period, compared to 2003.Slow economy?I don't know.I haven't even seen many cars offered for sale, though there were three in a recent Alfa Owner, but I don't know if they sold.In the parts world, Centerline Alfa (www.centerlinealfa.com) continues to offer exhausts, taillights, and other Berlina-specific items, which is nice to see.I've found them very accommodating in my dealings with them.As always, Re-Originals (www.reoriginals.com) comes up with amazing stuff, and they provided some hard-to-find pieces for my Giulia Super restoration.

††††††††††† The keeper of the Berlina Register is Andrew Watry.Phone (510) 526-0391.Email watry@prodigy.net.Send me corrections to your register information or any other Berlina-related facts, rumors, tips, or needs.Always seeking articles and ads for the newsletter.Free Berlinas and parts gladly accepted.

 

 

Berlina Forum

 

††††††††††† Please send letters, tech advice, complaints, whatever, to print in this new "forum" section in future issues.Here is a starter piece from me for this section about removing the stainless trim around the door windows on Berlinas and Giulia sedans in preparation for removing the window, or to get the trim out of the way for painting the car or replacing the window seals.The bottom "wiper" window seals, and U-shaped window channel material, are available from Ranier Hurtienne (www.alfahurtienne.de/) in Germany.

††††††††††† 1. Begin at the door pillar end of each window.That is, start at the rear of the front doors; start at the front of the rear doors.

††††††††††† 2. With a suitable tool, begin tapping the bottom of the U-shaped "vertical" piece off its flange on the door. Work very slowly and carefully.

††††††††††† 3. Work your way up the vertical side, then across the top.There is a fair amount of back and forth and wiggling to get it to come away easily, without bending.

††††††††††† 4. Finally, when it's free enough, you can pull the rear/front corner of the U-shaped piece away, freeing up the whole piece to come off.

††††††††††† 5. Last, remove the separate base piece.I used a screwdriver to gently pry up, but if you have nice paint you won't want to do that.

††††††††††† 6. Installation is the reverse of removal, with similar care and wiggling, especially if you have new paint. Some protective plastic or other guard over the paint below the window opening would be a good idea, as the sharp edges of the stainless trim can scrape the paint easily.

 

The interior trim comes out in exactly the same way as the outer trim.Mark each piece to ensure you know where to put them back in.

 

Notes:

††††††††††† * My trim was stainless and pretty strong and resilient (I think all Berlinas have stainless, not aluminum).If you have aluminum trim, you'd have to proceed like it was eggshells.I think it would be very hard not to bend.

††††††††††† * The tool I used was a Michelin bicycle tire removal tool, a plastic piece kind of like a bondo spreader, about 1" wide and 4" long.It has an S-shaped end that is perfect for getting in and catching the edge of the trim without mangling it, and without scratching the body edge.I tapped it with a big plastic mallet.

††††††††††† * The trim has a noticeable spring curve to it across the top, especially on the rear doors.This is true on some cars even when installed.I think this spring helps press the U-shaped piece down, locking the bottom piece in. So once you get the piece off, don't be alarmed if it has a gentle curve across the top.Kinks are bad though.

††††††††††† * When first starting, the pillar-end vertical part of the U-shaped piece can be fouled against the base piece.Tap gently up in the corner directly above, which can move the U-shaped piece up just enough so it is freed.

††††††††††† * At least on my 67 Giulia Super, the retention device at the pillar end of the bottom of the U-shaped piece is a tiny slot built into the door flange, with a corresponding dimple stamped into the back side of the stainless trim.

††††††††††† * On the front doors, I found two additional things were required:

††††††††††† ††††††††††† 1. To get past the vent window hinge, you must undo the two sheet-metal screws on the top side under the door seal, allowing the vent window hinge to come free.You don't have to move it much, and the screws are accessible by pulling up on the door seal.

††††††††††† ††††††††††† 2. At the front corner, the U-shaped piece wants to move down and get stuck on the base piece.So on these doors, after I freed the rear side completely, I pulled the base piece up and back just a bit to free up the front corner of the U-shaped piece.

††††††††††† * The "wiper" window seals inside and out are fastened to the bottom trim, inside and out, with metric steel staples.Remove the old staples, cut the seal to length, and fasten with suitable size new staples, or perhaps .040" or .080" safety wire.I haven't tackled the windowchannel material yet, which would involve removing the windows.

 

 

By the Time I Get to Phoenix (Iíll Own Another Berlina)

 

††††††††††† Early in 2003 I received a classified ad from a Berlina owner in Phoenix, wanting to sell his Berlina on the Register classifieds.The description and pictures seemed intriguing enough that I became interested in the car myself, a cream 1973 2000 US-market model. The car appeared to be non-rusty, straight, well-kept, and have no major cosmetic or mechanical issues.I contacted the owner, agreed to his price, and made plans to fly to Phoenix from Oakland that weekend to purchase it, assuming the condition was as described.My plan was to drive the car 900 miles home that weekend if it seemed capable of the trip.

††††††††††† I packed a bag of tools and spare parts such as a fuel pump, spark plugs, coil, fuses, hoses, and the like, and Saturday morning went to catch a 9:00 AM Southwest flight to Phoenix.If I didnít buy the car, Iíd be home on the next flight; otherwise, Iíd be home Sunday evening if the car made it.At Oakland Airport, I was chosen at random to have my bags checked for bombs.Not wanting the baggage screeners to be surprised at the contents of my bag, I told them that I had car parts and tools, and that there might be residual gasoline or oil traces.They didnít seem to care.They wiped the bag down and checked it in their bomb checker; it passed with flying colors, and I was on my way to Phoenix.

††††††††††† On arriving in Phoenix, the owner met me at the airport as promised and we walked to the car in the airport parking structure.On first seeing it, I pretty much knew Iíd buy it, given that the asking price was relatively low for what appeared to be a clean, straight, unmolested car. The owner operated a chain of car washes, and accordingly the car was really clean.Originally Giallo Piper (pale yellow), the Berlina had been repainted a more subdued cream some time well in the past.But living its whole life in New Mexico and Arizona, the carís paint was solid and shiny.There was no rust at all in the structure, again reflecting its Southwest history, and the exterior was very straight, with only one dent in the left front corner.All the trim was present and good, and it even had new Michelin tires.The beige interior was very clean, with sheepskins over good seats, and new carpets.One detraction was an aftermarket AC unit, which filled up the area under the dash. This had also required moving the Optima battery to the trunk to make room for the compressor, in the engine compartment where the battery normally sits.It appeared to be a quality system, probably installed in the late 70s, and it worked, so I guess that was all a positive thing (AC isnít really a necessity in coastal California, unlike Phoenix).The owner and I went for a test drive around the airport.The car ran decently, with only minor problems, including some rear axle whine, slightly heavy steering, and sluggish response from the fuel injection.It basically drove OK, but just didnít have quite the snappiness and power it should have.Regardless, the car still seemed like a good deal for the asking price, and so I handed over the cashierís check Iíd brought along.It took us an hour to find a notary public open on Saturday afternoon to get the title transfer notarized, a requirement in Arizona.Then I dropped the owner off at his garage, getting a glimpse of his GTV, Montreal, and Giulietta, and gassed up, and with a Quiznoís sandwich falling to pieces in my lap, hit I-10 west for home.

††††††††††† Driving west on I-10 from Phoenix gives you a lot of time to contemplate the desert, the utterly straight freeway, the endless sky, your navel, impulsive car purchases, or whatever else interests you.The weather was quite clear, and traffic was very light.Visibility was unlimited.The Berlina found a comfortable groove about 65 MPH, which seemed prudent for a car whose history I didnít know intimately.But the car steered, rode, and tracked well, and oil pressure and water temperature were proper and stable, and no problems or worries seemed to arise.The miles just came and went, with only a few towns along the way to break the tedium, such as Tonopah, and then just before the Colorado River, sun-baked Quartzite, full of RVs, hippies, river folks, and liquor stores.I gassed up once or twice, got an ice cream bar, and prayed the car would make it the long distance home.Coming into Blythe, California, it began to look like civilization again, with trees, grass, agriculture, shopping malls, and lots of CHP.I continued to press on through Desert Center, dropping down to Indio in the Coachella Valley in the late afternoon, with a beautiful sunset over the San Jacinto Mountains behind Palm Springs. As darkness arrived, I telephoned former Berlina owner and Register member Will Owen in Pasadena, who had kindly invited me to stop and spend the night to break the trip up.I made it to Willís house just off I-210 by 8:00 PM, having traveled about 425 miles.Will has a beautiful old Pasadena house, plus a Milano and Citroen DS-19.He, his wife Tania, and I took his Milano with its on-the-fritz blinking-juke-box stereo to a great Mexican restaurant on Colorado Blvd., and then talked cars, politics, and other nonsense way too long.I hit the hay late but awoke early, raring to go.

††††††††††† I was in the Berlina by 6:00 AM, and after a lot of cranking and gas pedal manipulation (the Berlinaís cold start setup was very poor, and probably not needed in Arizona), got the car fired up and running on all four, and hit I-210 west to I-5 north.There was no traffic at this hour, even in LA, on a Sunday morning, and I just breezed along, making a coffee, donut, and gas stop in Castaic.Then motored over the Grapevine, and down into the dense winter valley fog of the San Joaquin Valley, something I had failed to consider.I chose to take California Route 99 rather than I-5, because it has a lot more places to stop for help in case the Berlina had problems.So far Iíd had no problems, and was getting about 20 MPG, but I still thought Iíd play it safe and go the more populated route.The fog was intense though.Just south of Bakersfield it got impenetrable, to the point where prudent drivers were going not more than 20 MPH, because you really could not see, and there were no references to tell you how far you were or were not seeing.It was like a snow-storm whiteout.When possible, Iíd tuck in behind a truck and stay just far enough back to follow its taillights, planning to hit my brakes if its brake lights went on.But some folks breezed by in the fast lane at 60 MPH, which seemed just insane.They could not possibly have seen far enough ahead to stop if needed. Multi-car pileups are common in the winter valley fog.I had not tested the Berlinaís windshield wipers in Phoenix, though when needed they worked, barely.But they were the slowest wipers Iíve ever used, which is saying something, considering how many old Alfas Iíve owned.The fog persisted to just north of Merced, and then cleared up for the remainder of the trip.I followed 99 north to I-205 west, across to I-580 west and home to Berkeley on I-80 east, arriving home about 1:00 PM, showing about 920 miles for the trip.The only interesting car I saw on the road on the entire two-day trip was a Cobra replica going about 45 MPH in the slow lane just west of Dublin, CA, on I-580.I hoped heíd blast by me, but he didnít.

††††††††††† So the Berlina made the 900-mile trip in two days without a hitch.It used two quarts of oil, and continued to get about 20 MPH the whole way.The next week, I drove to the Oakland DMV to get my new California plates.As I pulled in the DMV parking lot, I saw clouds of steam in the rear-view mirror coming out the back of the car.I got my California plates without a hitch, but it was clear the car now had a blown head gasket.Oh, well.(Did the owner know it was about to happen? Is that why the price was so good?)At least it happened at home, and not in the middle of the desert.Diagnosing the problem by turning the engine over with the spark plugs out, caused little geysers of sweet-smelling antifreeze to shoot out two spark plug holes.I spent the next couple weeks fixing the head gasket and finding a new head, due to extreme corrosion on the Berlinaís head, probably from mineral-rich Arizona water and a complete lack of antifreeze.The head gasket itself was very old, and had turned to lace, crumbling to dust as I removed it.Luckily, only the head was corroded, not the block.I also changed motor mounts and fitted a new thermostatic actuator; the old one would not extend at all.The upper timing chain was missing a number of rollers, so I replaced it too.Thankfully the chain didnít break en route.The car now ran much better and had the power and responsiveness it should have all along.

††††††††††† My plan had been to replace my other beige Berlina with this one, but on comparison, I decided the car I already had was the better of the two.So I sold this car to a local Alfa guy.He toyed with it awhile, but already had another Berlina plus a Milano and was kind of overextended, so he ended up selling it to another local guy who had been looking for a Berlina for some time.So it went to a good home.

 

 

Berlina Market Report

 

†††††††††† 1971 US 1750 Berlina. Complete, straight-looking beige/tan Arizona car with bad engine and trashed interior.Appears non-rusty with all exterior trim and components intact.Not run for years. $678 ebay. Scottsdale, AZ.Price seems a bit high considering engine and interior will need to be replaced. However, 1971 is a favored year Berlina, and shell and trim looked excellent; a nonrusty Berlina is a rare thing.A major but good project. (2/04)

†††††††††† 1973 US 2000 Berlina.Beige/tan.Very good condition with recent de-rusting, paint, and interior work and solid mechanicals.No real problems. Turbinas, Konis, Marelliplex, good Spica system. $3800 Alfa Digest. Berkeley, CA.Relatively pricey for a Berlina, but a dialed-in, solid everyday-use car with no issues to speak of.$400 break on asking price due to buyer's expense of cross-country shipping.(4/04)

 

 

Berlina Classifieds

 

2000 Berlina and Giulia misc. parts.Trunk lid, hood, NOS upper nose piece, glued-type windshield, steering box, two 2000 dashboards, others. Giulia Super dash.andrew.watry@lexisnexis.com.