Berlina Register Newsletter No. 19 (November 2004)
Notes and Comment
Welcome to Berlina Register newsletter 19. In the new Forum section I raise some issues about international differences among Berlinas. Maybe others can shed some light on this topic. The feature this issue is Part Two of Damian Magista's story on driving his Berlina home from Albany, CA, to Seattle in June 2003.
I sold my Berlina to a good home in Massachusetts, the money from it going to repaint my Giulia Super in its original green. It took four months in the body shop, but it looks great. It’s all back together now, and as far as I’m concerned, it’s the world’s best car. Berlinas are a close second. I [probably foolishly] bought a 1967 2.0 Fiat Dino coupe that’s been sitting for 20 years, whose engine needs rebuilding. I’m proceeding very slowly. Yes, I know it’s the worst of all worlds: Ferarri parts and labor costs coupled with Fiat resale value. My wife and I also bought a 1985 Jeep Grand Wagoneer for a fun 3500-mile trip to Montana last summer.
Not many Berlina for sale recently. Prices have generally remained the same for a few decent cars and a few beaters. In October 2004, a 2000 Berlina offered by Bobcor in Florida got bid to $9,750 on ebay, but didn’t meet reserve. That must be some kind of record in the US. Even Giulias have trouble bringing that kind of money, but this was a very nice-looking car.
The keeper of the Berlina Register is Andrew Watry. Phone (510) 526-0391. Email:email@example.com. 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.
I have long wondered how many different variations of Berlinas were made for different international markets. For example, Berlinas sold in most countries were probably based on the Italian market model, with slight variations such as headlight (yellow lights in France) and instrument differences; almost share the same serial number series (US and SA excepted). Of course, UK cars were right-hand drive, and also possibly were Japanese markets cars, if any. But I’m not sure. Here in the US, we got US-specific cars with their own serial number range, SPICA injection, brake differences, and light and interior differences to meet US safety and emissions standards. 1974 US Berlinas came with door impact beams, heavy internal trunk structures, and rubber bumpers. I heard from one Register member that Canada received US-market cars, in effect subcontracted from ARI in the US, rather than coming from Alfa in Italy. This was because of the relatively small market in Canada, and because Canada’s safety standards were based US standards. True? I’ve also heard of carbed period GTVs and Spiders in Canada. Were both types available?
There are other aspects to this I know even less about. For example, Damian Magista’s 1970 1750 Berlina was sold new in Germany. While apparently functionally identical to Italian market cars, it has a builder’s plate in German riveted to the inner front fender well. Was this true of all countries, or just Germany? US cars got a plastic VIN plate riveted to the driver’s door jamb, which I doubt other countries got. The two South African Berlinas I know of are numbered in their own series. Did SA have its own factory, for either full manufacture, or to assemble “knocked down” kits shipped from Italy? They did this for MGs and other cars in SA. Or was it a simple case of a different number series from the factory, as in the case of US cars? Does someone want to research this and write it up?
Quest for a Berlina, Part Two
by Damian Magista
[Ed’s Note: This is Part Two of Damian’s piece about buying, picking up, and driving home a Berlina he bought in the Bay Area in June 2003. Part One of this story appeared in Newsletter No. 17 (November 2003). It’s on the Berlina Register website at www.berlinaregister.com/ BERLET17.htm. When we last left Damian, he had flown to the Bay Area, picked up the Berlina from the seller, and had just crossed the Golden Gate Bridge, headed home to Seattle ....]
The course I had plotted would take us from San Francisco up the Pacific Coast Highway (Calif. 1, AKA PCH) to 101 all the way to Crescent City, where we would cut over to Grants Pass and take 1-5 to Portland, then to our final destination of Seattle. It would be a trip of 927.9 miles; two days, one hour, and two minutes. The time was calculated at eight hours of driving per day.
The first thing I noticed about the Berlina on the open road was how incredibly responsive it was. When you stepped on the gas it snapped your head back. The power was immediate. The second thing I noticed was that it was not happy until you hit 80 mph. That’s when it settled in and hummed along. It wanted to cruise at high speeds for long distances. The two-liter engine combined with Weber carbs and Euro cams made for a high-speed touring sedan. I was impressed, very impressed. It was very different from my old Berlina. This thing was infinitely quicker and more tossable. The Konis helped as well, although being an old track car the rear shocks were set a bit stiff.
Just after crossing the Golden Gate Bridge and passing Sausalito, we started our winding trip to the coast. The road was perfect. I was born in the Bay Area (Fairfield). My parent lived in Sausalito at the time, 1970. They’ve got some crazy stories. I do have some very vague memories about living around there. Driving past so many years later was a bit dreamlike. It’s hard to explain but it was pleasant.
We turned off 101 to head to the PCH. There was a detour due to roadwork. That was fine. It just meant we have to cruise through the moutains a bit. The Berlina performed like a champ and ate up the winding roads. There is nothing you could not throw at it that it would not take and want more. It felt light, nimble, and fast. It handled like it was on rails. I was in love. We made it past the detour and finally hit the PCH. This is where the trip back officially began.
In the interest of brevity I will not ramble on about most of our high-speed run up the PCH. I mean, really, what can I say other than it was beautiful. If the road and safety permitted I would floor it and was able to hit 100–110 on some straightaways (it had more in it). The engine howled and begged for more. I was able to pass slower vehicles with ease, and shocked modern cars with the quickness of the Berlina.
At one point, I was cruising about 80 with an older Acura ride up on my butt. We had a bit of a straightaway and a nice series of twisties coming up. I figured I’d see if he could keep up so I accelerated and went like a bat out of hell for the corners. Zip, zap, zoom through the corners. I checked my rearview and the Acura was waaaay back there …see ya, wouldn’t wanna be ya. I assume he lost his nerve through the corners as I know the Acura has enough handling and power to keep up. I am also sure he was a bit dumbfounded to see a 34-year old sedan go rip-shits through some corners like that. It was a bit macho I admit, but it was sure satisfying.
We spent the day driving up the coast, enjoying the view, smells, and sounds. The sun was out, there was very little traffic, and the Berlina was exceeding all my expectations. We stopped in Bodega Bay for breakfast. While there a younger guy stopped and checked out the Berlina. We talked a bit and he said that he had a nice little Fiat sedan. He asked if he could take some photos of the Berlina (of course I said yes). We shot the shit some more and he took off. We jumped in the car and headed out again. Somewhere after Bodega Bay the glass popped out of the speedometer. Eh, no biggee. I just handed it to my co-pilot, Josh, who wrapped it up in a sock and stuck it in the glove box. I’d fix it later.
Shortly after the glass popped out I began to notice that my exhaust note seemed to have gotten louder. I wasn’t sure though. Hours on the road will play tricks on you. I stopped after a bit and checked the rear exhaust. I was correct: the rear muffler had blown out. The Berlina now sounded like a 1960s LeMans racer. It was loud and growled like a Siberian tiger. It was kind of cool for a while, but heading through the smaller towns made me a bit paranoid, as I didn’t want to get pulled over.
As we entered a small town, some kids were walking along the side of the road. They were pointing at my car so, I double-clutched and dropped it down a gear just to make it sound nice and mean as I went past. As I passed they stood there with their mouths open, then gave me the thumbs up. Once again, silly but satisfying. One of the things I noticed as well was the power band had dropped off slightly sooner than normal with the exhaust blown out. I did want to try to get it fixed as soon as possible.
We eventually pulled into Fort Bragg. I looked around for a muffler shop but couldn’t find one. The only place I did find said they wouldn’t be able to get to it until next week. Yeah, OK, whatever Mr. Toothless Meth-Head. I was not impressed with Fort Bragg; in fact I wanted to leave immediately. We did, and as it was getting dark we started to think about where we were going to sleep. Josh wanted to sleep on the beach. I was hesistant as I didn’t want to leave my car parked on the side of the road. Probably it would have been just fine but you never know. Cracky McCrackerson could decide to mess with it or whatever. We opted for staying at a campground just north of Fort Bragg.
In the morning we packed up the tent, the Maker’s Mark, and leftover food and hit the road. Portland was the next stop. I still wanted to get the muffler fixed though. We started inland towards the redwoods. It was a nice hard climb up through the mountains. The car of course performed well. I did get a bit worried about our fuel though. Luckily we got to a gas station and had no problems. We headed down into Fortuna then Eureka. In Eureka I wanted to find a muffler shop. Bingo! I found one.
I pulled into the muffler shop and went to talk to them. It was a family-owned place and everyone was very nice. The woman behind the counter actually knew what an Alfa was and said that her family had also owned the Alfa dealership in Eureka until it closed many years ago. Long story short, within an hour they had a new muffler and we were back on the road.
Once again the Berlina was running fine; it continued to eat up the road. The next stop was Grants Pass, then to Portland. Coming into Grants Pass, we said “goodbye” to the good roads and “hello” to good old 1-5. While the PCH and 101 were amazing, I was happy to see 1-5, and the mindless driving it held in store was somewhat welcome.
From Eugene to Portland it’s one long boring straightaway. We averaged between 90 and 100 mph on this portion. There was nothing particularly interesting about this portion of the trip. We landed in Portland at about 9 pm and headed to our friend’s place. We then proceeded to go out and get completely snockered. Next morning we had breakfast and headed out to Longview, the town I pretty much grew up in. We made Longview in about 45 minutes. Stopped to see my stepdad, who was impressed with the Berlina. He said it reminded him of our old BMW 2002. After showers and BBQ’d steaks I handed the keys to Josh and let him drive the last bit to Olympia. He loved it. He of course now wants an Alfa. We rolled into Olympia and I dropped off Josh at his house. Stopped at my mom’s house, then I hit the road for Seattle. It was late afternoon when I arrived home. I was tired, road-weary, and happy as a clam. I had made one of the best purchases of my life.
The next day was “Ferraris on 15th,” an annual event where Ferrari of Seattle invites Italian car owners to show their cars. I brought my new Berlina, parked it between a Lamborghini and a nice GTV6, and was completely content. It still had all the road grime for the trip on it and you know what? … it was the best damn looking car there.
I want to thank Andrew Watry for turning me on to this particular Berlina, John Elrod for selling me the car and being a great host, Hans Quennet for coming through in a pinch with a trunk lock, and Thomas Moll for chuckling at me when he asked me if I had even seen the car before buying it, and I responded by saying, “I don’t need to see the car, I mean, it’s a cream Berlina with black interior, I know what it looks like.” It’s nice to know that good people such as these exist in the world. Cheers!
Berlina Market Report
1969 US 1750 Berlina. Decent black car with Turbinas, apparently in good condition, though seller listed various things that didn't work, cracked dash, worn interior, rusty driver's floor. Ad description was not real helpful. Various mods including 2000 engine, wrong steering wheel, and rubber side moldings. $4,999 ebay. Los Angeles. Although good 1750s are hard to find, this strikes me as an unusually high price for what appeared to be just an average Berlina. I would have figured more like $3,000, but a bidding war ensued at the close. If the price offered was real, the seller did quite well. (Turns out the high bid was not real; car was "sold" again on ebay by same seller following week for $3,500, which didn't actually come to pass either. Later sold for unknown amount to Bay Area owner.) (6/04)
1973 US 2000 Berlina. Piper yellow/black interior car with hot engine and suspension setup. Some rust and dents, needed a door replaced, and average interior. Many electrical issues. $2,500 craigslist. San Jose, CA. Not a very nice car, with a fair amount of jury-rigging and gremlins. Presentable looking, though, and strong performance potential if it will stay running long enough to drive. Asking price fluctuated from $3,500 to $6,000 and back based on email response, which is a good way to deter buyers. Ultimate price was probably about right, but there's a lot of work to be done here. (7/04)
1969 US 1750 Berlina. Beige cava with tan interior. Overall excellent condition car with great cosmetics, no rust, solid mechanicals with recent valve job, and nice interior. Included rare spare parts such as perfect dash. $4,500 private sale. Portland, OR. This appeared to be a very solid and clean 1750 in excellent cosmetic and mechanical shape, and no issues to speak of. Price might have been a tad low, but in the right ballpark. Fair deal for both parties. (8/04)
1974 US 2000 Berlina. White with black interior. Generally below-average condition with OK paint, some rust, a few dents, some missing items. A few mechanical items to sort, including clutch hydraulics, exhaust, and e-brake. Formerly a pampered example, gone to seed. $600 craigslist. Castro Valley, CA. A complete but tired, used-up car that suffered from lack of maintenance for several years. Could be an OK daily driver with a weekend's work. Price correct if buyer could do own repairs; paying a mechanic to fix it probably didn’t make economic sense. (8/04)
1969 1750 Berlina. Fully restored, mint condition with FIVA certificate of authenticity and complete maintenance history. Grey with maroon interior. Pictures and price on request. Located in Cyprus. Email firstname.lastname@example.org.
1971 1750 Berlina. Originally from Italy. 60,000 kilo, current MOT, worked on by Ian Ellis at Sussex Alfa. New sills, recent respray. Excellent running, solid car, open to any inspection. 2995 pounds. Julian Slade, West Sussex. Phone 0790 150004. Email email@example.com.
For sale: NOS upper nose piece for 1750 or 2000 Berlina. This is the horizontal piece in front of hood above headlights. $25. NOS right rear door skin for Giulia sedan. $100. Andrew Watry; firstname.lastname@example.org or (510) 526-0391.
Wanted: Good tan door panels with armrests for 1967 Giulia Super. Other colors considered if full set. Andrew Watry; email@example.com or (510) 526-0391.