SCM Legal Files author John Draneas and his wife Carlyn hosted a Super Bowl party on Sunday at their home, about 20 miles away in Wilsonville, OR. The weather was glorious, and it was the perfect opportunity to exercise SCM’s 1967 Alfa Romeo Giulia Super.
I pulled the Super out of long-term storage and went through my routine. I checked the tires and pumped them all up to 36 psi. If I were planning a 1,000-mile road trip I might just go to 32, but for the little day trips I have in mind, the extra pressure won’t result in noticeable wear to the center of the tires, and it makes the steering much easier.
I also checked the water (completely full, coolant visible in the neck of the radiator), the oil (about half-way down the 2-quart range on the dipstick, so I left it alone) and the brake reservoir (down a little; I topped it off and will keep an eye on it).
The last time I had the car out was in May of last year, and I reviewed my notes from that drive. I’ve learned that when I drive certain cars infrequently, I have to take notes for anything I want to address. If I don’t write them down, I rediscover things like a tach that sticks at 2,000 rpm and get frustrated all over again.
Good friend Brad Miller joined my son Bradley and me for the drive. Brad has owned a variety of interesting cars and just bought a new Mazda MX-5. We serve together on the Board of Trustees for the Oregon Ballet Theater. At board meetings, if we get distracted, we push little notes back and forth to each other that say things like, “Would you rather be driving a 328 or a 911 right now?” No, maturity is never close when two car guys get together.
The Super ran great. It fired right up, and after a little hissing and sputtering and some “running on three” drama, it smoothed out as the water temperature got to 170 degrees.
This is a very solid car. I bought it a couple of years ago from Dr. Tim Rodgers, an enthusiast in Santa Barbara with two Supers. This one had been his, and he had another for his wife.
Tim had already put on stiffer, lower springs, Bilstein shocks, a rear sway-bar and a stiffer front one. The car came with 14-inch wheels (instead of the stock 15s) and 185/65/R14 tires. It also had a 4.1 limited-slip rear end rather than the stock 4.56. This makes for easier cruising on the freeway, although the reduction in tire size negates that somewhat.
I had adjustable upper A-arms installed and replaced any suspect suspension bushings.
The 1,750-cc replacement engine was tired (the car had a 1,600-cc originally), so Dan Sommers of Veloce Motors built me a 2-liter engine in a mild state of tune. The Dell’Orto carburetors on the 1,750-cc engine had unsightly “bumblebee” air-cleaners installed, so I asked Dan to put on the proper Webers, along with a European-style canister air-cleaner.
It’s obviously not “correct,” and the intake system changes are immediately apparent when you lift the hood. But I like the way it looks, and I enjoy the way the car performs. I feel justified going with the improper engine, as the original was long gone when I got the car, and there is no way to determine the production number of the engine that it was built with. (Supers don’t have the specific data plates under the hood that the 750- and 101-series cars have.)
Plus, the Super will never be a top-tier collectible. I don’t feel I am negatively affecting the value of the car with the changes I’ve made.
I was pleasantly surprised by the raspy exhaust note and the burbling intake sound from the Webers. Carbureted Alfa engines, especially those with dual carburetors, have a distinctive sound and feel to them. I’m sure that modern fuel-injection would be better, smoother and more powerful. But it surely wouldn’t sound as good, and isn’t listening to your engine half the fun of owning an old sports car?
We accelerated onto Interstate 5 going south and had no problem keeping up with the flow of traffic. In the chill of the morning, I was glad I’d had Alfa guru Nasko replace the heater core and hot water valve. The valve had been stuck shut — a problematic situation for what is supposed to be my winter Alfa. (Conversely, the heater valve on my 1967 Duetto was stuck open for a while, which meant your legs and feet felt like they were in a convection oven on a hot day. And aren’t hot days the best days to drive a vintage convertible?)
Bradley had plenty of space in the back seat, one of the great virtues of this sporty four-door sedan. He picked out a Spongebob Squarepants ice-cream bar for his backseat treat, which worked well since I haven’t yet figured out a rear cup-holder solution.
Matt Jones of Re-Originals found an NOS radio block-off plate. I’ll have Guy Recordon at Guy’s Interior Restorations install it at the same time I have him renew the rubber weatherstripping around the rear doors.
Seventy miles later, we were back home. The oil pressure stayed above 55 pounds, and the water temperature held steady at 170 indicated. All of the lights and blinkers worked. The car shifted easily with no crunching into second gear. The brake pedal was firm, and the steering felt precise. The addition of the rear swaybar, along with the upgraded shocks and springs, kept the car very flat through turns.
Having the Super back in service reminds me why I’ve always liked these “family cars that raced.” They provide practical transportation and a sporty adventure at the same time. What could be better than that?
(Watching the defense of the Denver Broncos neatly dissect the offense of the Carolina Panthers was fun as well. It was an exercise in clinical efficiency, and I even won $10 on a bet!)