Berlina project 4: the dreaded waterpump replacement

Usually my bad karma manifests itself as a star chip in a windshield or a slipping clutch but lately it’s been all about the waterpump.  When I had the engine out of the Berlina I noticed a lot of play in the waterpump pulley but I thought that since the engine had worked so good for so long in the Sprint, I’d just roll with it. These things can take decades to tear themselves apart I thought.

Last week when I went to the local Mexican market a few blocks from my shop for some Tecate, chips and salsa and pineapple Fanta to restock the shop ‘fridge, I came out of the store and there was a puddle of pretty green antifreeze under my car. So much for a slow decline for the water pump.

part-1Is it just me or is coolant more viscous than it used to be? All this was apart a few weeks ago so since it’s fresh in my mind I suspect I can get through it pretty quick. I popped the hood at 5:30pm after picking up a set of sparkplugs, some carb cleaner and some ultra gray from my neighborhood chain auto parts store.  I had a date to keep at 7:30pm so I had to hurry.

Continue reading


Berlina Project part 5: Road report and teething

When I started this project I had one goal: to make an economical, mechanically simple yet comfortable commuter to try and keep my BMW 3 series wagon from reaching the end of its warranty miles (100K) a year before the warranty termination date (3/10).  I think I have achieved my goal but I have had some small teething problems in addition to the long list of perceived problems I made before I started driving the Berlina daily.

At 83961 miles I put in 10.7 gallons in to fill it up.  This morning at 84,300 miles I put 10.17 gallons in.  339 miles on 10.17 gallons of gas equals 33.3 mpg.  Amazing for a 1750 with dual Dellortos and 10548 cams being driven ‘spiritedly’ as the Brit’s like to say!  Even if my odometer is off by 10% I’m doing good.  I guess the economical part of my goal is currently exceeding expectations.  It can also be said that when the fuel gauge starts looking low I still have about 5 gallons of gas.  I will take a few more MPG readings over the next few weeks and report.  I will also try and check how many miles my car thinks a mile is.

Leaky Axle seal?  Probably.  Squeek from a loose sway bar mount?  Maybe.  Worn out trunion bushes?  I hope not.  In addition to the obvious leak I get a little more wiggle in the rear end in cornering than I am used to in an Alfa and some squeeks.  I’ll probably have to stick my head under here this weekend.

Continue reading

Berlina project part 3: success!

My dad was in town and to keep him busy I brought him to the shop with me on Saturday afternoon a couple of weeks ago. We spent most of the time talking about the best approach and after one false start got the engine and transmission to mate up. Not an easy job when you leave the transmission in the car. Dropping the front swaybar turned out to be the trick to make two faces parallel. Once it was in I probably spent more time trying to find the correct bolts to bolt the motor mounts down than I did installing the engine.

Two successive afternoons the following week I put all the pieces together and to my amazement it fired right up. I didn’t want to try and retrofit the early 60’s 1600 Veloce airbox (though it probably would have looked very cool) so I traded it for the Euro airbox seen here. I spent $11 more than I paid for the car on a bag of parts from a local dealer including a new oil pressure send unit to put the finishing touches on the assembly part of the project.

Here it is in all its glory. I traded a late ‘scalloped with tabs’ valve cover for the smooth unit seen here with the 90 degree breather to match the airbox. Note the high out-put alternator from a late 80’s spider.

Continue reading

72 Berlina revival part 2

I don’t know if I should start this by saying I’m ahead or behind. I thought it would take me a few weeks to get the 1750 out of the Sprint and into the Berlina, but I guess I thought wrong. I will admit that taking a full time job, hosting my dad for a week, going out of town for most of the weekends between buying this car and my birthday a few weeks ago and other everyday life interruptions have played a part in retarding my progress, but I’ll also say hey, it is coming along. I’m in no danger of selling this thing on eBay in 20 years after cowering in the corner of procrastination.

To the point. Once I got the engine out of the Sprint it required a bunch of parts change over to prepare it for its new life in the Berlina. The biggest job was swapping the oil pan and pump. The second biggest job was cleaning it up after leaking around the rear main seal and valve cover gasket heavily over the last 20,000 miles in the Sprint.

I had never replaced an Alfa oil pump before this. The bull-nose or whatever you want to call it oil pan requires a specific oil pump. That’s the 1300 in the background that is going in the Sprint when all this Berlina hootenany is done.

Continue reading

Sprint to Berlina engine swap advances: Part 1 of Sprint engine rebuild and Berlina revival.

After I picked up the new windshield for the Berlina in Berkeley I headed down to the shop to finish the pulling portion of the job.

I am new to pulling and dropping in engines so I probably spent way too much time thinking about it compared to just doing it. I decided to pull the transmission from below due to the tight fit of the 1750 in the Sprint, which turned out to be a good idea, though difficult. To pull the transmission the tunnel opening cover has to be removed along with both shift boots (and a whole bunch of stuff on the underside). It took about an hour to get the right angle and grip on it but eventually the trans slid free of the main shaft. I put a tire under it so if it got loose unexpectedly it wouldn’t hurt itself crashing on the cement floor.

I hated pulling up the nicely glued in carpet but there was no getting around it. The cover had two Philips and two slotted screws, nice touch. The boot you see here is what keeps you from smelling gear oil when you drive. Stinky stuff.

Continue reading

Berlina recommission becomes Sprint originalization plan

I’ve been thinking about what I want out of the Berlina and how best to achieve it. I want a daily commuter that gets as close to 30mpg as possible with plenty of torque and top end. I have been pondering the quickest, cheapest and easiest approach to getting this out of the Berlina and I think I figured it out yesterday after an hour long session going back and forth between a catalog and an Excel spreadsheet followed by a call to my local used Alfa parts supplier. I’m going to pull the carburetted 1750 that is in my 1959 Sprint out and put it in the Berlina then put the original 1300 back in the Sprint.

What a mess! You can see from this picture why I was keen to freshen up the engine bay on the Sprint. An hour of work and I’m ready to crawl under the car to disconnect the transmission.

Continue reading

New member of the family: 1972 Berlina

I did a quick calculation and found that at my current usage, I would reach the end of the warranty on my daily driver at 100,000 miles 13 months before the term of the warranty is up in March or 2010.  Time to get a cheap commuter!

My commute is 30 miles each way and I travel both ways at the early edge of the 880 traffic, so unless there is an accident I get to do 35 – 60 mph the whole way. A beater pre-smog sedan with a 5 speed and an economical engine would be a perfect commuter for me.  I didn’t have much to spend initially so I had low expectations about what I would find, but I figured I could drive the 1959 Sprint until something turned up.

Last Saturday I went by a friends Alfa repair shop to buy some Sprint interior trim I needed for the Sprint Veloce and this car was parked on the street out front.  I asked what was going on with it and I was told the engine was coming out then it was going to the local Alfa pick-n-pull, unless of course I wanted it.  I asked how much and for the same price as the hand full of Sprint interior trim I bought it.

1972 Berlina 11500*3000189, California Blue plate 564 GQB.  Originally Silver with black interior.  Doesn’t look too bad.

Continue reading