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Discussion Starter #1 (Edited)
I was in the process of rebuilding a Burman box and during the rebuild I noticed very small cracks at the end plate face. These cracks are almost undetectable without magnification.

The box that I was replacing also had similiar cracks.

My question is, can these cracks be welded and provide enough strength to prevent further cracking? Can a weld be done without distorting the race and end plate interfaces?

I'd buy another used box but I am concerned I will find the same cracks all over again.

Thanks
 

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I had a box blow apart a few years back so I got my "good" spare out of storage and found exactly what your photos show . I got one from a friend ... Same thing . So he found me a 2nd one and it was good.

I think they fail there because the wholes are just too close together.

You can get new ones from Afra s.a.s. - Alfa Romeo Vintage spare parts

To get the cracks welded up the oil that is in there would have to be removed somehow . Maybe it could be washed out ? Aluminum has to be super clean before it can be welded . I think you would have to cut through the crack and then weld the fresh aluminium together .

The box would need to be heated before the welding started or it would warp for sure.
 

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The problem is that the box is a machined casting. With stress, it may develop new cracks at the edges of any weld. I wonder if it would be possible to drill out the holes to an oversize that would allow a steel tube of the correct diameter to replace the drilled hole. The casting could be welded, the holes sleeved, the sleeves epoxy glued in the oversize holes, hopefully transferring the load that cracked the casting away from the weak area.
Just a thought.
 

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Discussion Starter #4
David,

Did I understand correctly, you found three boxes with the same failures? It makes me wonder how many boxes have these fractures around the end plate bolt holes?

Michael
 

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The Burman boxes have a wonderful "feel" to them, but you have just uncovered one of the great dark secrets of Alfa history...these boxes all crack and are potentially deadly. I did some research on the Burmans and uncovered many horror stories about them failing. Luckily, none of our drivers have lost a life or limb to a failure, but there were a few very close calls. It is just a matter of time until a serious accident occurs. See the attached pic for one that completely failed.

These boxes were used on cars with skinny tires and soft suspensions. Modern, wide tires and upgraded suspensions - together with age-related weakness - cause 90 % of these to develop the hairline cracks you pointed out. My '67 Giulia Super had them too. It is clearly an under-designed part, which could have incorporated much larger bosses at the ends.

There is a fix. Jim Steck of Autocomponenti has reinforced Burman boxes for race cars. Since I consider my life worthy of race-car level safety, I hired Jim to reinforce my box per the attached photo. It was not cheap, but the potential failure had no price tag in human life or limb. Jim could have welded up my old box, but preferred to work with a fresh casting and did so. He also rebuilt the inner components, as there are items that often wear out. I feel very secure that my box can no longer experience a catastrophic failure.
 

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My original box looked like the red one in the photo .
So it was number 1 then my spare had cracks 2 and the first use one
I bought had cracks also 3.

I don't think it's has much to do with tires but more with cranking the wheel when the car is not moving . Also could be loose bolts. If the bolts get even a little loose it's all over .

The symptom of a box coming apart is looseness in the steering in only one direction .That is the end of the box moving . If you have this happen with an Alfa pull over carefully and call for a tow.

I was out on a club drive the day the box broke . I noticed slack on way ???
Thought that was strange but I had never heard of a box failing so I drove back to the garage . It was pouring rain and when I got to the garage a *&$^%#$#% had parked half in front of the garage door.

I was trying to get around evil mini-van when the box blew apart .

The guy came back just as I got the car into the garage with two floor jacks.

He saw me more angry than I have ever been :mad:X10000000000

But after I relized he may have saved me from a crash.

Montreals had a problem braking boxes back in the day. The fix was just like what Jim does . Very nice part how much ?

Someone had made a run of steel boxes but they are long gone .
Also a guy in France was making them out of aircraft quality Aluminum .
More BB info here Victor-parts-burman-casing-replica.html

Lots of good info at The Alfa Romeo Montreal Website
Under Steering .
 

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I wonder if a cheaper and/or better option might be swap over to a ZF steering box? (Assuming of course that a ZF box does not suffer from the same design flaws).
 

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I dont know if Jim is still in business. He built my box over two years ago.

I agree that turning the wheel while the car is stationary is very tough on the box...but this is a normal part of driving, and Burman's design is flawed if parking can damage the steering box! Fatter, stickier modern tires DO contribute to box failuire, both when the car is stationary and also during hard cornering. Jim Steck believes so, and his word is good enough for me.

ZF boxes are an option, but I was unable to find one with a proper column that fit my Giulia Super. Apparently a few of them were fitted to 105s, but they are fairly rare. One can take a mid-1970s Spider ZF box and have a competent machine shop modify the column to fit a 105. By the time you are done, you could probably buy a new Burman casting for less. And that new casting will likely crack in short order too...regardless of whatever aluminum it is made out of.

This box has a serious design flaw, pure and simple. They are not robust enough.

Safety first...
 

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I wonder if a cheaper and/or better option might be swap over to a ZF steering box? (Assuming of course that a ZF box does not suffer from the same design flaws).
That is what I did, and I've never heard of ZF box developing cracks.
 

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Bob:

What car did you put the ZF into, and what was the donor car? Did you need to make any modifications to the box or shaft to fit?

BTW, I live in CA since '88 but originally from Bristol. I get home a few times per year and always find myself in the Litchfield Hills...Height and Sunset Meadows are draws, as is White Memorial. Would love to drop by and say hello sometime.

-Dennis
 

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Dennis,

The car it went into was a '69 1750 Spider, and I think the car it came from was a Duetto. The replacement was done by the Alfa Import Center on Long Island (where we used to live), and I believe it was a direct bolt on.

The next time you are in CT, let me know. My phone number is 860-567-5905.
 

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Bob:

I know that Spider ZFs are relatively plentiful. The Giulia Super has a different length steering column, complicating things greatly...or I would have used the ZF myself. I've since learned that here in the USA, the Super is an even more "exotic" car than 101s are (I have a '62 Abnormale Spider). Finding model-specific parts is very difficult, as few of them were sold. The steering box issue is just one of many I've encountered.

Next time I'm in CT I'll give you a call. I look forward to meeting you.

-Dennis
 

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The Burman boxes have a wonderful "feel" to them, but you have just uncovered one of the great dark secrets of Alfa history...these boxes all crack and are potentially deadly. I did some research on the Burmans and uncovered many horror stories about them failing. Luckily, none of our drivers have lost a life or limb to a failure, but there were a few very close calls. It is just a matter of time until a serious accident occurs. See the attached pic for one that completely failed.

These boxes were used on cars with skinny tires and soft suspensions. Modern, wide tires and upgraded suspensions - together with age-related weakness - cause 90 % of these to develop the hairline cracks you pointed out. My '67 Giulia Super had them too. It is clearly an under-designed part, which could have incorporated much larger bosses at the ends.

There is a fix. Jim Steck of Autocomponenti has reinforced Burman boxes for race cars. Since I consider my life worthy of race-car level safety, I hired Jim to reinforce my box per the attached photo. It was not cheap, but the potential failure had no price tag in human life or limb. Jim could have welded up my old box, but preferred to work with a fresh casting and did so. He also rebuilt the inner components, as there are items that often wear out. I feel very secure that my box can no longer experience a catastrophic failure.
Hi, do you have any more pictures of the reinforced box from other angles?

Thanks

Ken
 

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Here is another angle from Jim's web site .

View attachment 199617

And one of a similar repair.

View attachment 199616
Thanks Dave. So something the home handy man can do by the looks of it. Or have his favorite machinist and welder collaborate on.

Welded one likely needs to have a slightly thicker cover made so it can be milled or turned flat on sealing side after welding. Second example just uses a thicker cover that can accept threads to attach the end reinforcements.

My experience with a broken one was on a 71 GTV and was finalized by tight maneuvering on the Pelee Island Fairy. In hind sight I may have had warning signs, indicated by an oily box high up rather than only at bottom as if from the bottom seal.

I have found other boxes in cracked condition. All that I have found cracked to date have been the long shaft type as opposed to the short splined type you show in first pic.

Ciao

Ken
 

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I have found other boxes in cracked condition. All that I have found cracked to date have been the long shaft type as opposed to the short splined type you show in first pic.
Ken:

That's an interesting observation. I have disassembled both types of boxes, and don't recall any structural differences between them. But, the short/splined shaft type did appear later, so perhaps Burman made some design change to the box casting at the same time. Even a different aluminum alloy might have made a difference.

Others have reported that ZF boxes out of late spiders do not have the right steering column length. Can anyone provide more detail? Too long, too short, and by how much? Also, do the ZV boxes on the late cars use the same taper & keyway as the Burmans to secure the steering wheel?
 

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Ken:

That's an interesting observation. I have disassembled both types of boxes, and don't recall any structural differences between them. But, the short/splined shaft type did appear later, so perhaps Burman made some design change to the box casting at the same time. Even a different aluminum alloy might have made a difference.

Others have reported that ZF boxes out of late spiders do not have the right steering column length. Can anyone provide more detail? Too long, too short, and by how much? Also, do the ZV boxes on the late cars use the same taper & keyway as the Burmans to secure the steering wheel?
Hi Jay, I've wondered if the long integrated shaft of the earlier box transmitted more force and /or vibration to the aluminum box casting, speeding its demise.

Anyone who has see a failure of a short splined shaft box should chime in, please.

FWIW

Ken
 

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Discussion Starter #20 (Edited)
There has been terrific input on this topic...thanks!

While several options have been presented for replacement or reinforcement of the Burman box, I think I might try the ZF route.

Fortunately, I have a ZF box that came from a '66 Super. It appears that the steering column length is the same as the Burman box that I am replacing. Also the taper of the shaft at the steering wheel is the same. The mounting points on the ZF box also mirror that of the Burman.

Before using the box I would like to rebuild it. I have diagrams of the parts from CarDisc. Are there any other sources for ZF rebuild info...could not find any with the BB search function.

Thanks,

Mike
 

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