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I have a 1978 spider with the SPICA system. The PO got the pump rebuilt by Wes Ingram and replaced the TA. In my 3 years of ownership, the car almost always takes a lot of cranking to start. I want to call it 10 seconds, but before I accidentally exaggerate I will measure a few times over the next few days and report back. Anyway, it's a bit faster when the engine is warm, but still not quick. My mechanic tells me this is ordinary for a SPICA car and showed me one of his spiders with a carburetor conversion, which started up without hesitation. I have all the parts for a Weber conversion, so I've started lulling this over. Before I go to that extreme, my question is - is it true that this is normal to have such a long crank time to start up the car, or should I begin investigation of the cold start solenoid, checking proper pump gap on the SPICA, etc?

Just to throw around all the variables at play, the PO had replaced the mechanical points with an electronic advance - it's not the 123 system, it's something else I think from IAP, I can't find any further information on it. I have a 123 ignition system sitting around, I will advise in the evening the part number of the current electronic distributor. I tried putting the 123 ignition distributor in and could not get it set up properly, that will be my next task.
 

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AFAIK the 123 is the only distributor with an electronic advance. IAP sold them at one time.
 

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Whatever this mystery box is, it's for sure not a 123 and I am 99% confident it has no points - I don't think it's pertronix, but may be - case in point, I believe it has a fixed advance curve that might be ineffective.
 

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A correctly set up Spica tends to start quickly, and idle beautifully, hot or cold. It is common for people to address problems by making adjustments that make it worse.

I recall a Pertronix distributor that, I think, was based upon a VW dizzy. I never tried one, but was told that the advance curve was a poor choice for an Alfa. I routinely replace the points in my Alfas with a Pertronix pickup, but this approach retains the OE advance.

There’s a lot of variables in the Spica system. None can be glossed over. I prefer Spica over carbs for daily driving. For older Alfas, Webers.
 

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My mechanic tells me this is ordinary for a SPICA car
I tend to side with your mechanic. Carburetors, with accelerating pumps, can deliver a bit of gas to the intake manifold when you first start the car. That's why you pump the pedal a couple of times before turning the key to "start", particularly when cold. Spica doesn't have an accelerating pump, so it takes more cranking before fuel starts reaching the cylinders.

That factor alone - how long the engine takes to start - probably isn't enough to justify a Spica --> Weber conversion. Spicanistas boast of higher fuel economy, smoother running and a better love life. While a Weber guy myself, I have no doubt that all these claims are true.

the PO had replaced the mechanical points with an electronic advance - it's not the 123 system
As others have said, what you have is a distributor that switches the coil electronically. But if it isn't a 123, it still relies on mechanical weights to handle the advance.
 

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Discussion Starter #6
I found some more info, the dizzy bears an RML logo on the side, and I have some paperwork from the PO indicating it is RML part 401MT. Alfajay, I must not have taken it apart enough when I had the dizzy out of the car - I did a little more investigating based on what you said and found here where someone from RML states the advance is set by weights and springs - though the company calls this unit maintenance-less so I don't know if I should call the distributor a suspect in slow starting conditions. I did manage to pull out the data I collected in September of 2018 on the advance curve. Later this week, I'll take some videos of the engine starting - I'm sure some of you far more experienced Alfa owners out there will quickly know if my car is "normal" or not - of course it's 25 degrees F here this week so the weather may be a confounding variable.

1611344
 

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Once again, Alfajay is technically incorrect.

A Weber is essentially a turkey baster at startup. You can squirt in enough, too little, or too much fuel at some random point in the starting sequence.

A Spica system, when correctly adjusted, squirts in precisely the correct amount of fuel at exactly the right time.

I’ve had three Spica cars. With all three, I could reach through the open window, twist the key, and have the engine start on the first cylinder and drop immediately into a smooth idle, at any outside temp. Won’t happen with Webers.
 

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I have owned too many "olde" cars, mostly Alfas, to count. NONE of them started the same way to each other. To lump all SPICAS and carb cars into a box that says they should start all the same way is a little bit of a panacea IMHO. Every car I have owned had it's own starting signature based on ambient temp; cranking power of each battery; condition of the plugs, coil; overall ignition system settings; valve timing; and compression. I would never expect all my cars to start the same way you would expect a row of new cars to start at a dealership. That said, If your SPICA car takes on a slight amount of coaxing in no more than a few cranks without stressing the starter or the battery, consider it part of the car's personality. It's 20F here and my car has sat for 2 weeks. I have no delusions it will start on the first twist of the key that it does after it is warmed up on a balmy summer day. PS My SPICA was rebuilt by Wes, less than 100 miles ago and it performs as expected on a 75000 mile engine, which is flawlessly..
 

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Once again, Alfajay is technically incorrect.
Well, it certainly wouldn't be the first time. But upon re-reading my post, and reading your reply, it isn't clear where you feel I am technically incorrect.

Was it the bit about "Spica doesn't have an accelerating pump, so it takes more cranking before fuel starts reaching the cylinders"? I think you'd agree that a Spica has nothing so crude as a "turkey baster". And doesn't it take some spinning to get the Spica pump to, well pump some fuel into the cylinders?
 

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That distributor advance curve should not cause hard starting. What type of coil are you using with it?
 

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Yes, yes, yes . . . . please don't tell me Alfajay was incorrect about the " . . . better love life . . . " part. When I read that, I thought he was about the smartest, most righteous dude around. :)
 

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The Spica has a cold start solenoid that introduces extra high pressure fuel directly through the injectors near the intake valves. Given the pressure and location, the designed amount of sprayed fuel will reach the combustion chamber much more quickly, and accurately, than with Webers. No need to pump the pedal and hope you got it right.

As for all Alfas of one type behaving the same...

I worked at an Alfa dealer in the 70s. New Spica cars did exhibit the same starting and running behavior. Generally, so did dealer-maintained Weber cars.

Once they’ve become well worn, inexpertly adjusted, modified, etc.... well, things change.
 

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Spica, and any mechanical system, takes a few rotations to get everything pumped up. The fuel has to run to the FI pump, then up the pipes, through the injector, etc. So it takes a couple turns. On a carbed system, as soon as the carb sees a pressure differential, which as soon as a piston moves, it starts sucking in fuel So carbed cars that are well tuned can be running within a partial revolution.
Andrew
 

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In addition to wisdom shared already, effecting startup on any SPICA system is ability to maintain pressure in lines present from last running. New systems hold the some 400 psi in lines for extended time, and as such start on first touch - while lesser more worn systems may not - and as such need some revs to get the line pressures up.

This can also account for rough running on startup if the system maintains pressure on some, but not all lines.
 

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Later cars have check valves in the delivery lines to and from the pump, and the pump itself has check valves at the base of the hard lines, right?
A well set up Spica system should not take long to start, hot or cold. Usually longer cold just because the CS solenoid has to kick in and there's more monkey motion going on in the logic section. But each injection of fuel into the throat is a sort of "step on the gas" like with a carb's acceleration pump circuit. If you break the hard lines loose while it's turning over you can see each pulse, highly atomized.
Andrew
 

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and the pump itself has check valves at the base of the hard lines, right?

Exactly. But, performance of the check valves at the base of the hard lines is not always perfect. If they are, and all else set-up properly, then start-up is bliss. From my experience, even rebuilt pumps from most reliable sources can leak down - and obviously, none will hold 400 psi forever...
 

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Recall: 90% of fuel problems are in fact ignition. Less true with Spica than with carbs, but still. Start with what's objective and easy.
90% of the start problems I've had have been dead TA or poorly set TA and resulting mixture issues at the FCS. Once in a while the CS solenoid isn't right, or dead. But that's been rare for me.
Andrew
 

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Assuming everyone follows instructions, you don't crank a Spica car until the low pressure light goes out. That doesn't happen until the entire body of the pump is pressurized. The lines from the pistons to the nozzle outlets is up, so they don't bleed down between starts, unless there's other problems in the main pump. The cold start doesn't come online separately. The instant the starter is engaged, the CSS increases the flow through the nozzles from what it would have been during running.

Thus, the very instant you start cranking a healthy Spica system, high-pressure, largely atomized fuel is spraying directly at the back of the inlet valves. Having the CSS adjusted carefully is the key to getting reliable starts when either hot or cold. AND, the FCS needs to be adjusted for the correct mixture. If either or both are out, you'll get long starts.

My 77 Spider, which I think sat for most of 20 years, generally starts on the first piston stroke, unless the starter fails to engage, but that's a separate problem. It's rather astonishing, actually. Just bump the key and I've got a motor running.

This car was dealer maintained until the owner stopped driving in his late 80s, then it sat.
 

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My 1976 Alfetta GT with Spica always stumbles after the first start. It gets going after the second start and idles smooth after that. Still running the original Bosch fuel pump and is working well. Replaced points with Pertronics ignition last year and made a big difference. Also easily passed the cruel but compulsory California smog test..
 

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The "low pressure light" only indicates fuel "supply" pressure to the FI pump (not the "injection pressure") and the light should extinguish between 10-20 psi (with a little over 1/2 gal per minute of fuel flow). Injection pressure is 300-400 psi and not indicated in any way by this light. Fuel will not be delivered at 10-20 psi to the combustion chamber for start-up.

"The lines from the pistons to the nozzle outlets is up, so they don't bleed down between starts"

Ummmm?

"unless there's other problems in the main pump"

OIC
 
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