Duetto nel Texas - Fix-up thread!
A couple of weeks ago I went to the Hill Country Alfa club “coffee and cars” at Mozart’s in Austin and somebody (who shall remain nameless in case these postings prove to be incredibly boring) said “you should do a restoration thread on the Alfa BB”. Well....let’s give it a shot. Though for now this is more of a “light fix-up” thread.
Here’s the story so far.
The car; a 1966 Duetto, white. It’s a Euro car (speedometer in km/hr, gauges in Italian the way they should be, covered headlights, etc.) From previous ABB posts and the Duetto register I’ve been able to trace a bit of history. The car was purchased by an American expat in England and restored over there. He brought it back to the West coast but it had made its way to Virginia before I bought it and hauled it down to Austin, TX.
This was an eBay buy.
Yes, eBay. I can’t believe that I bought a car over eBay. But I worked up to it...cameras, electronics, lenses. Hmm, I like the proverbial frog in warming water I didn’t really notice that my threshold for eBay purchases was getting higher.
So, I was browsing on eBay after a Friday night martini and saw a Duetto with a bid that was not at all unreasonable. With the Mini back on the road, another project was a possibility and an Alfa was always on the short list. (I owned a 1980 Spider back in the mid-eighties and I’ve got fond memories of it.) My wife said “It’s cute. You should bid on it!”
Spousal approval? Say no more. Nanoseconds later the bid was in. A few days of suspense (and a last minute increase or two that took it up from “not at all unreasonable” to “the going rate”) and I actually won it.
Arranging transport took a few weeks, but in the fall the Alfa arrived in the belly of an enormous Passport Transport truck. The driver backed it out (talk about a white-knuckle job) and after a quick spin around the neighborhood it was in my garage. So....what did I get here?
It turned out to be better than I’d expected though maybe a little worse than described. First, the as-described good points. The car has been upgraded with a 1750 engine and transmission (hydraulic clutch). The rear axle seems to be 1750 as well (at least it has ATE brakes instead of the rather complex Dunlop arrangement). That was a plus for me since my end goal is a very nice weekend driver instead of a by-the-book 1600 restoration.
The body is pretty good (though with a few bodged areas as I’ve found out). The top is newish. The seats have been re-upholstered. The rubber mats, curtains, etc. are there - worn a bit but not too bad. The engine sings at speed and there are no bad noises from the transmission or axle. The brakes pull up straight and there are no surprising puddles under the car.
OK, no big surprising puddles.
Of course, there’s a punch list.
It’s rare that somebody sells a car that’s perfect. Fixing up a car is a long trek in steep terrain. It’s the false peaks that get you. You think you’re at the top but then the new alternator turns out to whine like a 737 spooling up for takeoff. Or the jet in your rebuilt carb decides that that a joint between plastic and brass was never meant to be and separates on the steep hill a mile from home (yes, that’s from personal experience). That’s the way it goes.
So I was expecting an Alfa “To Do” list. The previous owner has a couple of other cars (including a Sunbeam Tiger) so I suspect that he just needed to consolidate and simplify; maybe the Duetto just needed a bit too much attention.
If it had been perfect it would have been another $10k, it wouldn’t be a project and I wouldn’t have bought it.
So, on first inspection here’s what needs doing.
-Second gear synchro is pretty shot. Crunches on both upshifts and downshifts even with the ritual pause through the gate. I’m shocked, SHOCKED, I tell you, to find this on an Alfa.
-Starting is hard. One out of three times the starter solenoid will click but the starter doesn’t spin. And starting seems to require a lot of cranking and a mystical combination of choke and hand throttle.
-After this hard start, idle is a little uneven. One cylinder down on compression? Well, I hope not.
The other things on the punch list is mostly “this is a 45 year old car....stuff wears out” kind of stuff.
-The driver’s window won’t go up and down (this happened right after delivery - it did work a couple of times).
-The driver’s door won’t open from the inside
-The passenger door occasionally won’t unlock
-Headlights and other lights are dim
-Interior light doesn’t work
-Wipers don’t self-park
-Trip odometer can’t be reset (well, you can wind mile by mile but that would take a while)
-Horn doesn’t work (needed for the state’s safety inspection)
-The steering wheel is on upside down (also disclosed in the eBay ad)
-Washer bag has a hole in it
-The Dell’Orto carbs seem to be leaking a bit from the diaphragms
-Slight water leak from the lower radiator hose
-A few misc oil leaks
-Under hood light is disconnected
-The door check straps are missing their plastic covering and the doors “swing free” until they get to the end of the stops
-Top elastic straps to the “floating” bow are shot
-??? I’m sure there’s more that I’ll discover in good time
So....the plan is to get take care of the small stuff first and get the car running well, registered and drivable. Next step is to get the transmission overhauled. Then drive it for a few years until I’m ready to do a full body, interior (and suspension) restoration.
Here’s a picture of the Duetto fresh off of the truck: