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Discussion Starter #1
i have no history with alfas. i have owned datsun 510s that i built for tight canyon driving. i have owned live axle rear chevy novas which i mistakenly thought i could make handle tight canyon driving. i have driven a few other live axle cars including 24o turbo volvos. the benchmark for great handling cars for me has been my experience driving mazda miatas which are like go karts, albeit gutless gokarts unless forced induction is applied. the datsun 510s have been similar to the miatas except that the ball joint steering on the 510s always felt sloppy even when recently rebuilt.

i want a real driver's car with enough old school charm that it must still be "driven" to get performance out of. what should i expect from a gulia?
 

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He may be right about the moneypit, but it'll be a fun money pit! The Alfas should fit your bill of fun with old style charm. The sound of an Alfa running through a canyon? Oh yeah...

HOP
 

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what should i expect from a gulia?
italian driving position. works best if you are short legged/long torso. hold the steering wheel at 7 & 5, instead of the usual 10 & 2, and have the seat a little closer to the pedals than you are used to, with your knees splayed out slightly. i now drive all my cars like this - seems natural now !

light, sensitive steering at speed. steer with your fingertips ! heavy at a standstill, though.

lovely mechanical noise from engine compartment. throaty exhaust note.

stock, about the same power/weight ratio as a 1st generation Miata. don't expect more than 160hp from an expensive, highly modified streetable motor.

buttery smooth and light shift action, but with a LONG throw. notoriously weak synchros, especially the overstressed 2nd gear. you will want to upshift casually, and double-clutch/match-revs downshifting, always. this is not only good for the gearbox, but makes the experience more old-fashioned, interactive, and charming.

stock, there is A LOT of body roll when cornering. Alfas are known for it. but don't think that gives it a lack of grip. there are easily obtainable stiff setups available if you want a slot car.

strong 4 wheel disc brakes. as good as a modern car, if working properly.

the ever present rust issues. rocker panels, fenders, doors, and window frames. but most especially, the electrical grounds !

unlike a british car or italian exotic, you will not have overheating problems, unless something is very wrong. like :

weak headgasket. always wait until the engine is fully warmed up before you drive with enthusiasm.

most used cars, unless restored or lovingly maintained, will have worn out suspension bushings/joints. while not super expensive to fix, it does take a lot of effort to replace it all.

LOTS of replacement parts, especially mechanical items. a reasonable aftermarket for go fast stuff, but not like for a modern performance car.


you're in SoCal. many used cars available. by all means, get out there and experience one for yourself !

buy the best you can get within your budget, unless you really want a garage project. budget extra cash to fix things right away ! like suspension bushings, master cylinder, rusted out exhaust, etc . . .

buy the books, "Illustrated Alfa Romeo Buyers Guide," to get a good look at the different models and variations, and "Alfa Romeo Owner's Bible" for good overall ownership advice.
 

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An old Alfa in decent shape should be a reliable, robust car. Once they're sorted, they are strong and don't fall apart or readily break. I've used 105/115 Alfas as daily cars for 30 years.

The Alfa axle is well-located and works reasonably well in stock form, assuming bushings etc. are in good condition. For serious track use they work better with mods, but for street use they're fine.

Andrew
 

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warmseth:

It sounds as if you are familiar with the performance of 4 cylinder, 60's-70's cars, so maybe what I am about to write is something that you already know.

But...

From the other postings of people new to Alfas, I get the sense that many car enthusiasts expect every "sports" car to behave like a Corvette. Nail the throttle as soon as the light goes green, and expect to be pinned to the seatback. Alfas won't do this. It's funny to read the postings of people who ask if high lift/duration cams, or bigger carbs will make their Alfas into muscle cars. No, they won't.

I find it even funnier when I read about people putting Honda engines, turbochargers, or (God forbid) small block Chevys into their Alfas.

So the first thing is that an Alfa isn't a "hot off the line car". I know, someone is going to reply that their 2L Alfa measured 170hp on a dyno last week - well great, but that's at 7,000 rpm - it still isn't going to beat their neighbor's Cobra.

The beauty of owning an Alfa is that it takes some driver finesse to make it go fast. You need to anticipate the terrain, you need to understand where the engine develops power, and you need to accept that this is 60's technology that isn't going to beat even a 21th century econobox that is well-driven. If you find this stuff interesting & challenging, you'll love your Alfa.
 

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Discussion Starter #8
thank you all (especially darth dino) for your responses. and yeah, jay, the stint with chevy nova's is the only time i've ever owned cars with more than 4 cylinders...i am not looking for a stop light racer. as i mentioned, i want a very tight road canyon carver. maintaining corner speed is all part of the fun right? in a car as light as the 105 i would expect that 140hp would move it fairly well. (of course all things are relative and i also club race motorcycles...no car i can afford can match a $3000 motorcycle's acceleration. )

the body roll is something i would not care for. so i guess that is one aspect i'd like to figure out. and i still am concerned about the precision of steering input. again, the 510 was always a little vague even with new urethane all around as the ball steering never felt crisp especially when driving straight and then initiating a turn. are the 105s rack and pinion? is this something i can expect to not be an issue?
 

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You can limit the body roll with aftermarket sway bars and springs, but one of the pleasures of a stock four-cylinder Alfa is its light, precise, tossable nature. The more you make it a cornering monster, the more it loses its easy nature. But sure, track 105/115 cars don't sway much.

The steering can be good if you find one that's not too worn. You can adjust the wear to some extent out of both the Burman and ZF steering boxes, but at the same time they're all 30-40 years old now, and no one's making new ones. My 74 GTV has incredibly precise steering, and I feel lucky; I don't know why it's not more worn. I've had other comparable Alfas that steered like pigs. It depends on their use, maintenance history, and somewhat the luck of the draw.

Andrwe
 

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Warmseth:

As Andrew's message above indicates, 105 series Alfas do NOT use R&P steering - they use Burman or ZF boxes. The Burman boxes are ball bearing drive, and use shims to adjust the freeplay (eg, you need to disassemble them to make adjustments), while the ZF's have the screw-n-locknut that adjusts the sector axially to adjust play. I believe that most later 105's came with the Burman boxes.

Note that alignment, wheel offset, and tires will have a big influence on steering feel. There are a lot of things to play with and trade off when setting up ANY car, be it an Alfa or a Datsun.

Bodyroll? Yea, most cars of this era exhibit roll. You can go with stiffer/shorter springs, bigger anti-roll bars, crank up the damping on the Konis, install poly bushings, etc. to reduce suspension travel and roll. I'm not sure you will be happy with the result (eg, you Alfa will roll less, but all of your fillings will be shaken out), but people do make these modifications all the time.
 

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Hi,

I'm no expert on the issue but have had a 105 for a little while and have dabbled with a bit of track work.

As standard the Alfas have big steering wheels to counter the heavy weight for parking. Mine has now got a small thick suede wheel and it feels fantastic. Not vague at all and great feedback, turns in really well. I've also put in a spacer to bring the wheel closer to me to avoid the "ape" driving position of knees around your ears and arms stretched - think of the standard position as riding a chopper more than a Ducati. I'm 6'3" and now find it comfortable where before I couldn't change gear without hitting my knee on either the wheel or gear stick or usually both at once.

One thing that would worry me in tight canyons is the tendency to oversteer. I wouldn't mind more opinions from others that are more experienced but I've been spat out backwards more than a few times. I think mine had a really bad set-up and I've since stiffened the front and actually softened the back spring and removed the rear roll bar. Now it feels really good and predictable.

But on the track I didn't mind a few spins to learn the best way to go through a corner. In a tight canyon with either a wall or fall I would be a bit uncomfortable. I've heard the style should be like a 911 - brake straight, slow in, early throttle, point it with the wheel but steer with your right foot, fast out. Don't back off mid-corner.

A few of the drivers I've spoken to have swapped to later Alfas and they are now faster but they say they've never had as much fun as in their earlier 105's.

Try before you buy. Go to some club meetings in your area and speak to the drivers. You might even pick up someone's car they were thinking of getting around to selling one day, or even better their old track car if they've upgraded. Modifying a standard car to handle what you want might be expensive.

Just a late addition - The standard set-up on standard thin tyres of the day was very predictable but with lower ultimate limits but once you get fatter and stickier tyres you begin to reach the limits of the suspension then you start the upgrade path. Where you end up depends on how you like to drive.

Andrew
 

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thank you all (especially darth dino) for your responses. and yeah, jay, the stint with chevy nova's is the only time i've ever owned cars with more than 4 cylinders...i am not looking for a stop light racer. as i mentioned, i want a very tight road canyon carver. maintaining corner speed is all part of the fun right? in a car as light as the 105 i would expect that 140hp would move it fairly well. (of course all things are relative and i also club race motorcycles...no car i can afford can match a $3000 motorcycle's acceleration. )

the body roll is something i would not care for. so i guess that is one aspect i'd like to figure out. and i still am concerned about the precision of steering input. again, the 510 was always a little vague even with new urethane all around as the ball steering never felt crisp especially when driving straight and then initiating a turn. are the 105s rack and pinion? is this something i can expect to not be an issue?

Being both a Datsun fan and an Alfa fan I can say that the steering on both is about equal. My roadster will up and run away from the Alfa, anytime and anyplace. The Alfa is a much more comfortable ride however (there is something to be said about suspension travel). I think the body roll can be controled with a set of sport springs, a bigger front swaybar, and a set of bilstein shocks (at least on the front.) I have a set of Centerline springs on my car and they made a world of difference. The brake dive that I had before is now much better controled, and the car is better poised. I still have the original SPICA dampers (that are really too soft for the front spring rate), and the stock sway bar and honestly its not that bad. I think with the Bilsteins and a larger front swaybar, the car will clean its self up pretty well. The newer dampers should control the brake dive even better, and the bigger anti swaybar should keep it level through the corner. Unlike a 510 with a long rod L20B, there isn't the power on tap to throttle steer the car, its very much a momentum machine. As long as you keep the speed up, goes pretty well, but you loose momentum, and it will take a little while to get it back up to speed. Basicly you drive it like you stole it to really have fun. I don't like doing that. Its like driving a 1st gen Miata, at high rpm, it makes more noise, but doesnt really go any faster. The ride is very similar.

Will
 

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the body roll is something i would not care for.
it is easy & common to get stiffer springs and swaybars. Alfas are quite soft & compliant from the factory. designed for narrow, bumpy, and old European back roads.

i still am concerned about the precision of steering input. again, the 510 was always a little vague even with new urethane all around as the ball steering never felt crisp especially when driving straight and then initiating a turn. are the 105s rack and pinion?
Giulias do not use rack & pinion. but you would never know it from the driving experience. depending on the year and model they are worm & roller or recirculating ball. if everything is in order, the steering is light and precise with wonderful feedback. the steering ratio is a bit slow, but you can always install a smaller steering wheel. they are among the best feeling steering systems i have experienced, which includes very many classic and modern sports and GT cars. Alfa Romeo has built a reputation on making very entertaining driver's cars.

Once again, you should go out there and test drive some ! more than one ! that will tell you more than a bunch of words about if you like the way it feels. are you thinking about a sedan, a GT, or a Spider ? they all use the same drivetrain and suspension.
 

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Discussion Starter #14
looking for a gtv with a 2liter block....twin spark if i can find one. i want the car to "look" fairly stock but mechanically be a bit more updated.

ps- for you LA local folks in the know, the road i grew up on, Latigo cyn., is where my lust for canyons comes from.
 
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