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Hi everyone! It took me a while to actually post here, but I figured I'd share what I've been posting on my blog, mikesfirstalfa.blogspot.com, with the group that I've been learning so much from!

I bought this 1981 Spider from board member Fibonacci and couldn't be happier, as it's the culmination of many years of dreaming while wrenching on other cars. He gave me a few really handy manuals including the Dellorto Superformance guide as well as a huge parts catalogue. Overall, the car is what I call a diamond in the rough, needing some body work and a few little fixing ups here and there, but otherwise it's exactly what I've wanted for years (as I'll explain below): A relatively rust-free, carbed, rag-top blast to drive Alfa that will be used quite regularly.

The following is written chronologically, so some things I log in the beginning are fixed by week 2, so hopefully as you read through you'll be as pleased with the progress as I have been.

Project: No Frills Fun Day 1
Oh, where, oh where to start this little bit of insanity I call the acquisition and light restoration of an Alfa.

Overview:

Ever since I can remember being even remotely close to having a driver's license, when it came time to write letters to Mr. Claus, the first big ticket item (because we all had at least one unachievable dream gift each year, right?) was always, invariably, an Alfa Romeo Spider. Now, most kids on the block wanted the Lamborghini Diablo, or Ferrari F40, and so did I, but even more so than that I wanted an Alfa; This, being the result of the one insatiably dogmatic brand loyalty that my Dad ever fostered in me (shunning most everything else that had any kind of label), a loyalty that started with a sleek, silver Alfa residing deep in the dusty barn on the property where I grew up. Something about it was wicked. And I do mean pissah. It might have been the mismatched trunk or the jeweled warning lights, but something about it, even after sitting dormant for years, became etched in my feeble little brain. When it did start, the best thing that possibly could have happened to affirm my total passion and dedication to the brand: it scared the daylights out of me. Mind you, a lot of things will scare you when you are 4 or so, but this was loud and raucus in a way that growing up around sedate mini vans could never prepare you for. Somehow, being scared witless was cool.

And that is ultimately the point of an Alfa -- it eradicates any ability to reason, destroys your wits, and instead introduces passion with an insatiable desire to see the lines drawn in sand for every warning light, dented panel, or rumbling exhaust and take a running leap right across into the other side. I've actually tried to explain this before and it's almost impossible to put into words... it's the sort of thing you have to fall into, where a series of life's experiences culminate into one large realization based purely on impulse, letting those prior moments facilitate the justification for something that you must have at all costs based on no qualification greater than the feeling of life, of being alive.

I think, 'Alfa qua vitae' is probably an appropriate summary of that.

Fast-forward to many years later, and, even knowing full-well that he probably could be spending time doing other things, Dad still has an Alfa, a green Veloce Spider model, and I constantly bug him about getting it on the road and up to shape; The kind of persistent pestering that he's actually taken to avoiding by heeding it -- for a few months now he's actually been working quite a lot on it fixing an intermittent starting problem that was simply a bad ignition tumber, a faulty clutch slave-cylinder, and as we speak is repairing a leaky radiator. As the process goes, he finds something that is broken, I go online and find some helpful information or the part to fix it, and then he goes from there, and all of this is a great way for us to keep in touch while I'm 400 miles away. Anyway, one day, while digging for information trying to figure out the starting problem, I happened upon an ad for a 1981 Spider, 2 liter with a twin 40mm Dellorto carburetor conversion, low mileage, very local, and just the right price. After contacting the owner I went to look at it, and sure enough it looked, drove, and ran exactly as well as I needed it to, and maybe a bit better, so the inevitable happened: that little idiot inside my brain clicked and forced me into 'strike while the iron's hot' mode. I immediately listed my extremely reliable BMW, a car that was quite difficult to part with as everything had been so right with it from day one, onto the web-classifieds. A few weeks later, it sold, and I again contacted the owner of the Alfa, Tom the Alfisti, to see if it was still available. This actually made me quite nervous, as since we'd been out of contact there existed the large possibility of the car already being sold to another person. Luckily, my fears were put to rest when he assured me that it was still available, and that I could pick it up that weekend, which is exactly what I did:


The new (to me) red Alfa the day I picked it up, sitting next to it's younger sibling that's still owned by Tom.


Practical Justification:

OK, so being that we're in an age where personal fiscal and environmental responsibility are emphasized without pause, it really is only fair that I make a case for why, apart from a passion for something, the purchase of a nearly 30 year old, carburetted, paint dulled vehicle can be explained.

*Reusable resource: while many newer cars operate with far greater efficiency, producing very few hydrocarbons at the tailpipe, etc, the amount of resources required throughout the production life-cycle when assembling a new car is astonishing when you consider that the development and machining of all the tooling equipment, the refining of raw resources, and sheer volume of oil required to fuel that process before any gasoline ever even enters a tank. Yes, getting a new car will generally produce fewer emissions and consume less fuel than an older one (even though these Alfas are more than capable of achieving 30+MPG when fitted with fuel injection, a figure that many car manufacturers still strive to achieve), but I just simply can't justify supporting the idea that next year's model is the best one yet, and that we need to keep disposing, trading, our cars in for new ones to be 'responsible'. If I can reasonably maintain a car so that it is at peak efficiency and already using relatively little fuel, what justification is there for spending more money to use more resources to purchase something that will probably perform around as well as the old model did? OK, ok, this isn't perfectly justified by this particular purchase, since it's currently running on carbs, however it would be very easy to convert it to its original fuel-injected format, and not much harder to modify it in such a way as to accept modern electronic fuel injection. But, even still, the car runs, drives, and handles well many long years after its original toolings wore out, and still gets very acceptable fuel mileage. Moreover, for those who forgot to pay attention to recent history, during the fuel crisis embargo of the 70's many car manufacturers were forced to reinvent their product line to meet the demand of consumers wanting fuel-frugal cars and who were beginning to change their auto-loyalties from American to Japanese brands that had only a few years before begun importing, and originally strugling to sell from their lots, affordable gas sipping models. During all of this, Alfa only had to make minor adjustments to their fuel and emissions equipment. Other than that, an engine and platorm that was designed in the 1950s was still matching many modern contemporaries when it went out of production in 1994.

*Cheap: Because it's over 25 years old, I have the option of registering it as an antique and receive a drastic reduction in registration, insurance, and inspection fees. Even when registering it as a normal vehicle, there will be nearly no annual taxes on it, the sales tax will be very cheap, and it will be reasonable to insure. Seriously, $24/annually is a lot better than the ~$500/annually the county will drain from you when buying a new car. That money will go directly to keeping it maintained, efficient, and reliable.

*Good Investment: Right now, Spider values are on the rise, and have been increasing over the last decade or so at a rate of about ~10% present value/year regardless of condition. These were not produced in incredibly large numbers, so ones that are running and in good condition command attention and money from enthusiasts and investors alike, and will only continue to do so as the number of vehicles available inevitably becomes lower.

*Practicality: It actually has a large trunk! And heat, and a radio, seat belts, disc brakes, 5 speeds, and other features that are still considered the standard today. It's perfectly usable in a daily environment with some care and attention, and certainly stands out from the crowd.


Goals (rough summary):

Light restoration involving (description, followed by estimated time to completion after start):

*Strip down of body, remove and replace any damaged panels, make general repairs to body as necessary and repaint. Convert bumpers to pre-75 stainless type. 2 years

*Replace current torn vinyl top that has fixed, cloudy window with cloth top that has a clear window that can be zippered down (for when the top absolutely must be up, but needs some extra ventilation) . = ~6 months

*Clean up engine bay, tuck away loose wires, etc, paint valve cover, replace fan, clean, balance, and tune carbs, etc. etc. = ~ 7-10 months

*Remove and replace (as necessary) all driveline and suspension components. = ~ 2 years

*Drive at least 10k miles a year, all four seasons

*Meet Mrs. Robinson


Day 1:

After driving the car home with no problems I've spent the day going through the general basics to make sure it will pass inspection. A few things came up during this, and while for the most part it should pass everything just fine, I'm going to need to figure out why the window washer pump isn't working (why is this a problem on every single used car I buy?!), why the blower fan isn't operating under power (spins when it's pushed, so I'm hoping it's an electrical issue, and is probably just a relay), and where to get adapters for the Bosch wiper blades that came with the car in the trunk.

Progress (good):

-cleaned all glass, and 30 years worth of gunk out of rear view mirror
-lubed contact points, especially seat sliders & roof mechanism
-started working on getting paint to at least shine a bit

Other things (badish):

-Car came with map light built into mirror, sweet! Map light doesn't work. Bugger.
-Will need to fine tune the carbs a bit to see if I can get rid of the intermittent off-throttle, or mid-throttle spitting that's occurring around 3k RPM.
-Rear end could be a little tighter, will check that out later
-Catalytic converter heat shield (or other) rattling at low RPM, will need to get under to repair properly
-Paint extremely oxidized, I'm going to buy a buffer (tried doing it by hand, and wow is that a good workout) this week and hopefully will have most of that ironed out. There are sections of the car, which has clearly been repainted before, that also have a bit of bondo that's cracking out. Not huge, but I want to make note and see exactly how thick the stuff was layered on. Hoping that I don't have to do anything drastic, but given the nature of the car I'd like to know exactly how much will need to be cut out and replaced when the time comes.
-Trunk alignment required
-Driver's side door panel gap out on the lower rear corner
-Previous repair to nose was completed, but chrome grille never reinstalled. Will replace when upgrade to 71-74 model year bumpers take residence where the old, rusted, plastic ones currently are.
-Has parking lot bumper strips, and while they might be an original option, I'm going to remove them since one of the goals of this project is to make sure that the car retains as many clean, original lines to the body as possible
-Sun visors deteriorated, flop around, will need to come up with a solution for this.

Car is AWESOME under power. Never had anything sound like this before, even the twin cam VW GTI, it's just a completely raw experience.

A few photos, just kind of getting an overall picture of it:


















All in all, a great day. I hope to keep this updated regularly, but for now I have a few projects at work to deal with as well as actually getting this registered and inspected, so all of that is going to have to take priority before I do anything more comprehensive.

-Mike
 

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Ownership, Day 5
Wow, what an incredible week it has been. Work has been, well, work. There are a number of projects that I have been involved with lately that often keep me in the office later than I would normally like, so by the time I get home I'm often too tired to actually get any work done. An exception to this was on Thursday, when I was able to repair the broken passenger's side power window motor switch! It was actually a really simple repair, but more on that later.

Really, I should have not whined so much and taken advantage of the great weather we had all week, because Friday spelled disaster for nearly all antique convertibles in the trailing end of a tropical storm. Walking home from work quickly turned into a mad-dash to find a store that actually sells tarps (a lot more difficult to acquire than I would've imagined in this area!) as the skies turned quickly from blue to gray, and I realized that the 30 year old vinyl roof that was missing some sections of gasket would probably not be the most weather tight setup in the world, and that I wanted to preserve the still rather clean looking interior. Really, I only was able to beat the heavy rain by finally finding a tarp and securing it within the first 45 minutes of light precipitation, which was fortunate because Saturday proved to be a real test of the makeshift cover and its precious protected goods. Heavy rain soaked the area from dawn until around 5PM, but luckily we were not pummeled with high winds as originally predicted, so there wasn't any major collateral damage. Unfortunately, the tarp I bought appears to have been semi-permeable so some water did leak by and confirmed my suspicions that the rag-top was not really cut out to protect the interior on its own, but did a good enough job that the amount of water pooled on the floor was easily soaked up with a few paper towels. *Whew* So, big note to self, the Alfa's getting a canvas replacement top before the fall (I can already see what my Christmas bonus is going to be paying off!).

Some good news! The map light built into the mirror started working! Unfortunately, I have no idea as to why; I simply had re-removed the glass and silver and reinstalled it to make the night time vision selector work (a piece that inadvertently become disconnected when I was cleaning the pieces previously) and put everything back together, and, voila! It worked. Normally, I would really want to know what happened to get it shining again, but from the way the mechanism is assembled by press fit electrics and rivets, I'm going to just go ahead and leave this one alone, hoping it stays working.

Oh, and the windshield wipers actually work fairly well. It's seriously weird not having an intermittent selection (ed. figured out that the relay for this was sticking, a quick rap and suddenly I have this again. Had no idea, Wahoo!), nor a 'blip' on the lever to just momentarily sweep the windshield: the lack of both these amenities remind you that this car was still from an 'old school' of thought in design and function. That's ok, because on a few cars I've had before, both functions were either broken or only worked when they wanted to. I remember this in depth with my very first car, a blue Volvo 245 wagon which, at only a year older than the Alfa, had many more luxuries such as central locks and the wiper settings, but all were still susceptible to rust and corrosion, so, as I eventually figured out, none of these actually worked because on further inspection several of the wagon's relay boxes were filled with rust powder instead of circuitry. So, you have to give it to the Alfa on this one, there's one thing that won't turn to rust, because it was never there!

Some bad news. Heater motor fan is definitely toast. Got it moving and running on high speed, but must be 'hand started' and still has a lot of resistence on the fan itself, as when you flick its blades, they do not travel as far and as freely as they should. We'll see if a few days of this treatment doesn't free things up at all, but if worse comes to worse I'll remove it and see if it's repairable, else I'll replace it.

Things I'm noticing:

*Steering play might be from worn u-joint, as front end seems tight on the ground. Will have to look into further with the aid of a helper so I can watch it move while someone else turns the wheel.

*Speedometer cable and speedometer are driving me crazy, it sounds like a string trimmer when you're at speed and having driven many cars with cable operated speedos before, I'm convinced that this can be corrected with a better path for the cable and some lubrication, or replacement of the cable.

*Intermittent rattling under car also driving me crazy, will have to fix ASAP.

*Car has an on/off acceleration personality; When you're off the throttle, almost entirely, it will run fine. If you're full on the throttle, it runs great. Anywhere inbetween and you're in pop mode, and the carbs will spit a little. There are two things I want to try to work with on this, and first is richening the mixture a bit. Before I go messing with any of the carb settings I'm going to have to get a synchrometer so I can properly balance all four barrels and not make things worse. Next option is to, as the Jenson Healey people seem to have figured out, add spacers before the head and after the intakes. Might also try a variation on this, using velocity stacks instead of normal air cleaners, as I'm wondering if the decreased air turbulence from longer tubes would work better with the Dell'ortos.

So, onto the switch repair:



Here you can see the disassembled switch and its internal components. On the top is the actual rocker that you push, on the left is the left armature assembly with ground contact, in the center is the connection point, and on the right is the exposed right armature assembly. This little setup is actually quite well designed: Both armatures retain a plate on a spring that can pivot either up, or down, and these plates have small magnets on the end. When in the rest position, the springs pull on the plates and the magnets keep them secured on the ground point. When you depress the switch to operate the window, either up or down, the armature places force on the plate which breaks the magnetic connection, giving you a comfortable feel on the switch, and ultimately strikes a center contact that completes the circuit and powers the window. This switch had two problems, a corroded center contact, and a slightly worn armature set. So, I simply bent the armature plates a little bit, and cleaned the contact surface, reassembled, tested, and it's worked faithfully since.

That's it for now, hopefully by the time I post next I'll have fixed a few of those high priority items, but we'll see!
 

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What another incredibly busy week that was, so I'll cut right to the chase!

The Bad:

A few more test runs have revealed a weak/weeping clutch slave cylinder, so that's going to have to be replaced along with its flex hose ASAP. This will be an easy fix, but just have to wait for the part to come in. Note to self: Invest in a jack and jackstands or at least a pair of ramps, because even I'm not small enough to fit under this thing as it sits. Also found that a new, neatly welded exhaust had been installed, but probably before new motor mounts were fitted. Basically, this means that at one point the exhaust hung perfectly, but when the motor mounts were replaced a bit of height was restored to the engine, thus bringing the exhaust up as well. So, the center section of the exhaust piping is actually rubbing against the chassis - not a great situation and this means that that section will have to be cut down re-aligned, and re-welded or fit with clamps. Not a huge job, but I hate hate hate hate hate exhaust work. This may be one area where I pay someone else to do the labor for me because I can't explain just how much I hate working on exhausts, which are difficult to cut, get lots of soot in your eyes, and never ever seem to wind up correct no matter how you put it back together. Still, all-in-all I was glad to find the exhaust being a nearly new unit, and the rest of the underchassis looked great.

I keep finding dings every where I look. And as I work more on it, I see more dings. I'm wondering if this is a subconscious projection of my perception towards the body, or if someone is taking a mallet to it at night. Probably a little bit of both. But at least nothing is huge, and it should all be manageable once it's stripped down to bare metal.

Before I go crazy with the Dellorto's I'm going to take one step back and look at the distributor. Not sure if it's an earlier points setup, where the contacts for the ignition trigger need to be periodically cleaned, adjusted, and replaced, or if it's a more modern electronic version. If it's the points setup, that's going to have to go ASAP, because that could be half of the mid-off throttle popping through the carbs that I'm getting. And there's no point in going crazy re-jetting this and ripping the Dell's apart unless I'm 100% confident that the ignition system is 150% up to snuff. Also found a hairline crack in one of the cast-iron headers, so I have to look into whether or not that's leaking. Hopefully not, otherwise it's off to the junkyard to source a new RH bank header, or I'll have to get in touch with one of the few people who actually can weld cast-iron.

Either way, it's probably going to be a few bucks. Not a huge deal, but I'm glad I'm finding these things earlier than later.

The rear-end feels a little twisty on uneven pavement, especially when you go over a speed bump. Not sure if that's normal, or if it's a sure sign that the springs have seen better days (well, yea OK they most definitely have, but want to be sure that they're the only bit that needs replacing). Luckily the front end's rock solid, so I should be good for that.


The Good:

Passenger's side window still goes up and down!

Got the heater fan working on high speed, took a bit of oil and a brave hand to spin it while switched on to get it free from it's gunk. Works every time now, and the heat's actually pretty good, but we'll see how that all holds up on the highway. Not sure why lo-speed's not working, as I don't think it's a problem with the motor so I'm going to pull the switch and make sure that the wiring's all intact. Also found a few loose connections all over that I cleaned and tightened up, especially at the windshield washer pump which was not working at all. Fixed that, and while testing it had the hose pop off of it, so I secured it with a zip tie for now until I get motivated enough to replace the entire section.

Here you can see the lousy picture of a happy working heater fan light:



Actually, this all means that the car's ready for inspection! Keep your fingers crossed!

One thing that's been bothering me for some time about the car's passenger's side was its door - the panel gap was off, the door would rattle a little, and it was sometimes difficult to open/close the door. So, I adjusted the latch with a hammer and an allen wrench and everything seems honkey dorey now.


Lousy night time photo showing the now decent fit


The Ugly:

Actually the ugly is making progress! While the car is still going to need a strip, straightening, and paint to look really good, the paint's at least starting to look shiny. I really really really need a buffer, but about 10 hours of working by hand over one of the hotter weekends this summer have really brought some life to the formerly oxidized coat. Honestly, I'm pleased, and of course wish that I'd just been less cheap and bought the buffer because it would have:

A) Taken a LOT less time
B) Looked a LOT better

But still, it just feels so good to see it starting to look like a shiny machine again. I want to removed the parking-lot bumper strips on the lower part of the scallops, but they look like a factory option because they've been screwed in. This will be just one more thing that will have to wait until it's body work time. But until then, I guess they'll keep it from getting dinged on the side too much.

I apologize for the dark pictures, I could only get home so fast, and yesterday was meant for work and not taking pictures!


The dark definitely makes it look better than it is, but it's still great in my eyes!





Other than that, it's also getting a new insurance policy because I'd rather pay less for full coverage than more with my current company for liability only.

That's it for now, I'm sure there's more somewhere in here but it will have to wait until I remember!
 

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Wow, Mike - this is quite a story! It's a great read, and your determination and progress are admirable. I'll be looking forward to future updates, and best of luck with the inspection phase!

Best regards,
 

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I'm really enjoying your blog, I look forward to hearing more on your Spider resto.:D
 

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Before I go crazy with the Dellorto's I'm going to take one step back and look at the distributor. Not sure if it's an earlier points setup, where the contacts for the ignition trigger need to be periodically cleaned, adjusted, and replaced, or if it's a more modern electronic version.
An '81 would have had a Marelliplex dual point electronic dizzy originally and the coil would have had a large aluminum heat sink around it. I don't see that coil in your engine compartment pictures so I expect it disappeared when the Dellortos arrived. I'm just a bit west of you in Hagerstown, Md and have quite a few spares if you need anything or just want to drop by for a brew! Good luck with the car.
 

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Wow, Mike - this is quite a story! It's a great read, and your determination and progress are admirable. I'll be looking forward to future updates, and best of luck with the inspection phase!

Best regards,
Thanks! I'm pushing really hard because I know that winter's coming up really soon, and it won't be so fun working on this when it's cold out. Also, because when I sit around I can tend to be lazy. Years back when I was attempting my first restoration on a 71 Volvo P1800 I just kind of took it apart and it stayed that way for quite some time until I sold the parts off. Granted, my work ethic has changed quite a bit since then, but I still kick myself for doing that and so it continually gives me motivation to not repeat my mistakes.

I'm really enjoying your blog, I look forward to hearing more on your Spider resto.:D
Thanks! I'm really glad that everyone's enjoying it so far, as it's been a revitalized my writing hand as much as the hand that wrenches.

An '81 would have had a Marelliplex dual point electronic dizzy originally and the coil would have had a large aluminum heat sink around it. I don't see that coil in your engine compartment pictures so I expect it disappeared when the Dellortos arrived. I'm just a bit west of you in Hagerstown, Md and have quite a few spares if you need anything or just want to drop by for a brew! Good luck with the car.
That's great to know, thanks! The coil actually is there, tucked away right next to the hood hinge. I'll have to take you up on that brew and maybe save you from having too many parts around once this thing's officially (legally) on the road :cool:
 

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OK, been a while since an update!

Well, seems as if I've shot my goal of updating at least once every few days out the window. Unfortunately there is only so much time in the day that I can't have eating, sleeping, working for money, working on the Alfa, and then writing a synopsis all in 24 hours. So, when push comes to shove, I'd rather shove this aside for a few days rather than winding up having to push the Spider. Been there with Volvos and VWs, ...would rather not repeat history here. Of course, this all means that I've been spending a ton of time on the Alfa.

OK then, where to start. Well, a few weeks ago, after finally getting the paint to shine a bit, I took the Alfa for a good long drive to make sure that everything that could be shook was shaken, and this ultimately remdinded me that sometimes when you go looking for trouble, you just might find it. After driving about a bit and coming down an off ramp I realized that the clutch didn't feel great, and when I stopped there was a little puff of grey smoke with that ever-so-pleasant spmell of clutch lining in the air. (And isn't it a sure sign that you've been spending way too much time with cars in your life when you can tell the difference between the smell of clutch lining and brake lining?) Anyway, drove very carefully back to the homestead and did a quick run down to see what the problem was. Basically everything looked fine, the car had driven back great, but the clutch fluid was somewhat low. So, with the engine off I stepped on the pedal for a while, got out, looked at the fluid, and sure enough it had gone down some more. Lovely. Eventually got underneath the thing to find that the slave cylinder was slowly acquiring fluid in its dust boot, a sure sign that these seals had been clubbed. Unfortunately, there's not a lot you can do at this point but decide whether or not you're going to rebuild, or replace, and that you should just be lucky that it happened close to home, rather than somewhere in the wrong region of the 1000+ mile trip the car's about to take. Grateful for being reminded of the latter, I promptly stepped into action, flipping back and forth between whether or not the slave would get rebuilt and just risk the master until I get to New England and my Dad's heated(ish) garage [Cheapest option], replace the slave outright and still risk it [2nd cheapest], rebuild the slave and master [3rd option, still affordable, reasonable], or go all the way and just replace both with new OEM units [somewhat on the expensive side of things]. I mean, really, honestly I debated all of these combinations for the better part of two weeks as I started shopping online for parts, tools, and general knowledge on how to do this as it is my first time working on a car with a hydraulic clutch system. It's somewhat intimidating compared to the GTI, where you could have the cable replaced in under 15-30 minutes, depending on how much you were cursing at the thing. Luckily, I have rebuilt a few hydraulic cylinders before, albeit on a larger scale, but the principle seemed to be about the same idea, so I went ahead and ordered the rebuild kits for my Benditalia master cylinder and the ATE slave that my Dad so generously donated to me (which, after a bit of hindsight, would have made more sense if I'd asked for his old master cylinder, an ATE, as well... oops...)

Having access to a few parts catalogues, a shop manual, and the awsomely vast webternet, I started looking at the master and slave, trying to figure out how everything went together. Boy was I overanalyzing things when I finally took the bits apart (pictures to come, need batteries for the camera!) as the whole setup was a lot more simple to understand once it was apart and in your hand. The slave's seals were sloppy enough to allow fluid by, but luckily not so much so that the barrel was scored by the plunger. A quick bit of clean up, the new seals, and it was ready to re-install. The master was a bit more difficult to disassemble, but a lot of brake cleaner, PB Blaster, and patience got it apart and back together with just a bit of time. This unit, too, was on its way out, but was quite salvageable. All in all, I would definitely do it again as the overall cost of parts for the two kits was around $90 from International Auto Parts (The Benditalia kit is phenomenally more expensive than the ATE; I can only assume that it's starting to become an item that's disappearing off the shelves for good), as compared to around $175 to replace the parts with new items. Next time, I'll spend a bit more time cleaning the items and painting them now that I've learned a bit more from this experience.

So, with a bit of fighting from the master cylinder and losing a cotter pin to the clevis pin at the actuator, I reinstalled that, tightened the line, fought to install the slave for a bit, and then patiently waited for my slave cylinder flex hose to arrive, a line that I had conveniently neglected to order with the seal kits and was supposed to be delivered that day, but thanks to good old UPS my package was delivered to some porch on the neighborhood and not my front steps. Lovely. Inspected the old hose, decided it was still pliable, and not cracked to the point where I was nervous about it, that it should go back on temporarily until the right part arrived and then it could go in while under the roof of a nicer garage. This is the sort of risk that I'm willing to live with, as luckily the hose is farily accessible when the car's jacked up, and I've honestly done more difficult repairs on the road before. But, at least the cylinders are good to go for now. Stupid UPS.

Onto other matters.

Now for the longest while I've been writing about how the car has a distinct pop to it at off-acceleration, and that it was something that needed to be fixed. After learning a bit more about the ignition system on AlfaBB, I pulled every bit apart to make sure that all was in working order. Cap and rotor first, they looked OK, but a new set is on order because the cap's contact points look ever so slightly burnt up. Plugs next, and lo-and-behold cylinder 1's Golden Lodge 4 prong was fouled to all oblivion (pictures to come soon). One prong's gap was almost bridged and there was a halo of carbon around the plug. Come around to cylinder #2 and the same story, all the way with all four plugs. At least I know the carbs are somewhat balanced that all are fouled in the same way! Installed a new set of NGK B7Es @ 0.28in gap and she now runs a lot better, albeit with a slightly rougher idle when it's cold. I'm still not convinced that everything's perfect, and I think the carb's still need a little work, but so far the initial progress has me quite pleased. Power is WAY up, and so is driveablility. I'll pull them again after inspection and a few more miles to see if they foul as well, but the exhaust and the way it runs makes me think that the old plugs just might have seen their better days some time long ago.

Speaking of the carbs, pulled the 1/2 set to inspect for proper play, and to kind of just play with them, as well as get a better idea of what's going on with the starter wiring that has me concerned since it's turning way too slowly. The Dell's are amazing, they retain so much fuel in their bowls that I could watch them do their magic spraying fine jets of fuel into the barrels during throttle operation even while long separated from the fuel lines. At some point, they're coming apart and getting polished, though. They're just way too cool looking.

Yes, I'm a 12 year old who can't help but giggle at carburetors

OK, back to the work part (OK, I did spend a solid hour watching those things work and just seeing how everything funcitoned at what point!), at some point the starter was re-wired to accept an external solenoid, while the original was left in place. Think this is weird? Me too. But for the moment it has been working, so I'll leave it as is for now. However, the wiring was royally hacked into at some parts, so I cut out anything that looked funky and made new lengths to replace those, or simply soldered and heat-wrapped bad sections that just needed a bit of TLC. This will all come apart again eventually anyway when I install a relay setup over the weekend, but that's for later. Honestly, I actually think that the original solenoid on the starter is probably good, but I can't remove the starter to bench test it because the bolts are so incredibly stuck! It's going to take a few days of PB Blaster treatment to get them freed up, I think, as I'd rather not risk breaking them and then having to buy new pieces for the moment, not when everything's actually working. The ignition switch had been replaced at one point, and I have the feeling that when the old unit was on its last legs, the starter solenoid was blamed. It just doesn't make enough sense that an external solenoid, wired to the original, is actually doing any work. I'll get around to proving/disproving this little theory eventually, and I've ben very wrong about things before, but until that time I'm going to leave things as is. Starter now spins up much faster... still a bit too slow, but it's at least I'm less worried about it now, and I think it really does have some hope.

One thing that I've been especially pleased with is the speedometer cable, which spins freely and quietly with a fresh coat of white-lithium grease (quite possibly my all-time favorite stuff in the universe, only next to Murphy's Stout and/or a good bottle of the Glenlivet), so the speedometer doesn't dance all over the place at low speeds anymore. Wahoo! What was a really interesting discovery, however, was that even though there is a mechanical tachometer drive cable coming off of my water pump into the firewall, the tach is in fact electronic with no cable driving it. Going to have to figure this one out. I'm assuming that it was a parts availabillity thing, but it's not like it's hurting anything, but now I'm going to try to find some sort of fun use for it later.

Heater still only works on one speed, checked all wiring and actually got the heater light to glow properly on the speedo, but still only get one speed out of the thing. Seems like there's a wire missing so that's also an ongoing mystery as to what's supposed to be where/why (even with a schematic, it's tough to tell if anyting's been cut out, and if so where and why). Took the switch apart. Recommendation: Don't ever, EVER take this switch apart. Just buy a new one. There are two rocker arms with contact surfaces retained by tiny, itty bitty springs that, if you look the wrong way, will jump off way across your workspace into the gruddiest part of the basement. PS, for anyone looking for a hint on how to put these back together if you've taken them apart, I recommend first, after making sure the two arms are retained in their respective grooves on the rocker and that the four springs are in the middle four holes of the switch body, place the rocker switch into the middle most position, and then using duct-tape to keep this position, as the springs will want to move the switch back and forth to either left or right extreme. Then, using two sections of coat hanger wire, insert into the switch body retainer clip and allow the rockers to rest with these inbetween, but not on the body walls. Then, replace the connetor end cap slowly, and gently, and when it's finally touching the coat hanger segments, pull those out and snap the switch shut. Remove duct-tape, check for proper operation, and then hope to everything that you didn't install the connector cap on backwards. Did I mention, to mark its orientation against the switch body before disassembling? No? Oh, that's right, because I said to buy a new one instead, because you'll honestly be doing yourself the biggest favor ever.

Also, started repairing the sun visors. After removing them and their retainer pins, I used a punch to tighten the pivot that they're on and then reinstalled the pins. Much better, they won't flop about now. However, they were still really flimsy felling, and you could tell that there was garbage foam floating around in them. So, using the fine surgical skills of someone who's been fueled by nothing but caffeine and hot pockets for 36 hours, I cut legthwise on the seam of the visors to removed the old foam, and have begun making cardboard replacement/reinforcement panels. I was actually going to put foam on these, but they actually feel pretty good on their own, and are actually somewhat lighter than the original foam that was locked in those 27 year old visors. Pictures to come soon, but this should be a huge improvement.

Alright, I know I've done more than this, but that's going to be it for now, as I can't remember.

There'll be more later, when there are pictures. Where I'll also admit to making a big boo boo and tearing the stitching on one of my seats :eek: :mad:

Oh, and a few quick questions to you board members, who I've been secretly, but gratefully!, stealing knowledge from via the search function:

1) Any thoughts on the one speed heater fan? Seems that the black 2 wire ground is missing on the switch, but swapping in other ground sources to that post didn't seem to make much of a difference. And even then, I can't find a ground wire that looks original anywhere near the length that it needs to be to meet the switch.

2) Clutch pedal is kind of stiff, actuator rod is adjusted to 134mm according to spec, and the slave has ~12mm of travel in and out, could this just be the seals getting used to their new homes? Is is possible that the hose I installed is swelled and constricting things?

3) There's a definite light clunk when you just barely turn the wheel left and then right when not moving, I think this has a bit to do with the free play but after poking around with things a bit I don't think it's any of the tie-rods, does this sound like the ZF box just needs adjustment?

Can't wait to get this thing on the road and up to NE to enjoy a bit of home again. Planning to take as many non-highway roads as possible, so I guess that leads to question 4)

Any recommendations for a cool road route from Arlington, VA to Rhode Island?

Thanks much! Mike
 

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****, I hope you're not a 2 fingered typist:D.
 

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Any thoughts on the one speed heater fan? Seems that the black 2 wire ground is missing on the switch, but swapping in other ground sources to that post didn't seem to make much of a difference. And even then, I can't find a ground wire that looks original anywhere near the length that it needs to be to meet the switch.

(my replies are based solely on my knowledge of our '84 Spider. Likely the same as your model but possibly different)

The ground wire at the switch itself is for the switch's internal light bulb. It has nothing to do with a ground for the fan motor. The fan's ground wire is behind the heater unit and goes up to attach to the underside of the dash. IMO it is not a great grounding point - it depends on the dash being grounded properly.

In our '84 there are two wires leading to a terminal on the left side of the heater unit - up above the throttle pedal. One wire for low speed, one for high speed. The low speed operation is made by a resister in the circuit between that terminal and the fan motor. The high speed gets full power, the resister causes the fan to run at a lower speed.

For chasing electrons you should scroll down to the "electrical" section and avail yourself of Papajam's excellent color-coded wire diagrams. They are vastly superior to the cryptic Alfa schematics. I attached a snip below.

2) Clutch pedal is kind of stiff, actuator rod is adjusted to 134mm according to spec, and the slave has ~12mm of travel in and out, could this just be the seals getting used to their new homes? Is is possible that the hose I installed is swelled and constricting things?
It is possible the new hose is faulty but not highly likely. More likely is the clutch is now acting normally and you are comparing it to your previous faulty operation. Hopefully it is not a failing (seizing?) clutch pedal pivot. Where does the clutch pedal sit when at rest compared to the brake pedal? It should be slightly higher/equal to the brake pedal.

See if any info in these threads is helpful.
clutch pedal height

heavy clutch pedal

...does this sound like the ZF box just needs adjustment?
Maybe, being that it is adjustable also means it can be mis-adjusted... Snip from Alfa Shop Manual below. Note that it states to remove the actuating arm. Most don't go to that trouble but instead jack up the front end to unload the wheels.

(note - this reply typed with two fingers. I'm tired...)
 

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One of the worst case of Alfaitis I've ever seen. Dormant for years, then sudden onset. Just think of the suffering of his poor family. :D
 

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(my replies are based solely on my knowledge of our '84 Spider. Likely the same as your model but possibly different)

The ground wire at the switch itself is for the switch's internal light bulb. It has nothing to do with a ground for the fan motor. The fan's ground wire is behind the heater unit and goes up to attach to the underside of the dash. IMO it is not a great grounding point - it depends on the dash being grounded properly.

In our '84 there are two wires leading to a terminal on the left side of the heater unit - up above the throttle pedal. One wire for low speed, one for high speed. The low speed operation is made by a resister in the circuit between that terminal and the fan motor. The high speed gets full power, the resister causes the fan to run at a lower speed.

For chasing electrons you should scroll down to the "electrical" section and avail yourself of Papajam's excellent color-coded wire diagrams. They are vastly superior to the cryptic Alfa schematics. I attached a snip below.

It is possible the new hose is faulty but not highly likely. More likely is the clutch is now acting normally and you are comparing it to your previous faulty operation. Hopefully it is not a failing (seizing?) clutch pedal pivot. Where does the clutch pedal sit when at rest compared to the brake pedal? It should be slightly higher/equal to the brake pedal.

See if any info in these threads is helpful.
clutch pedal height

heavy clutch pedal

Maybe, being that it is adjustable also means it can be mis-adjusted... Snip from Alfa Shop Manual below. Note that it states to remove the actuating arm. Most don't go to that trouble but instead jack up the front end to unload the wheels.

(note - this reply typed with two fingers. I'm tired...)
Ahhh so there is a resistor! I knew the load had to be switched down somehow, but haven't been able to figure out exactly where it is yet. Any thoughts if it's like the Milanos as a coil mounted with a thermal fuse?

Absolutely will be getting in touch with Papajam sooner than later, seems like he does excellent work!

Good to know about the pivot shaft, I don't think that this is the problem, but it's possible that it could be slowly developing. Either way, it's definitely something that I'm going to want to look at as preventative maintenance.

Will have to try adjusting the steering this weekend. Seems straightforward enough, but we'll see what I can't go ahead and break or royally screw up.

Thanks for the tidbits, I'm hoping that the stiff pedal is just me being a bit wussy, but we'll see!


One of the worst case of Alfaitis I've ever seen. Dormant for years, then sudden onset. Just think of the suffering of his poor family. :D
And he did that all with 2 fingers! Oh, if only we all could be so afflicted with Alfistisitis! :cool:

****, I hope you're not a 2 fingered typist:D.
Hah! Nope, thankfully all 10 are still there. Somehow. :D
 

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Breaking news: IT PASSED VA STATE INSPECTION! Wahoo! Next step is off to the registry, but that should go OK, with any luck.

To reward it, I'm going to give it some goodies this weekend... but more on that to come :D
 
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