The weather in Oregon has turned, so it’s time to get the old cars out and give them some exercise.
But before we talk about the driving experience, let me give you an update on the fleet.
According to Alfa Romeo, our 1958 Sprint was born on April 3, 1958. Last Friday we celebrated the Sprint’s 56th birthday by presenting it with a cake. The little Alfa seemed appreciative, even if it did complain that the frosting gummed up its Webers.
The same day, I pulled the 1965 Giulia Spider Veloce out of storage in preparation for the local Alfa Romeo Club’s “Old Spider Tour” coming up in late April. The car fired right up, and it was good to be behind the wheel of it again.
Our recently purchased Duetto is at Nasko’s Imports, where he is rebuilding the entire front suspension. He just reported to me that the bushings in the A-arms — lubricated “for life” at the factory (i.e. without Zerk fittings) — were original and totally frozen. He’s got the A-arms soaking in solvent now.
We’re also putting on adjustable upper control arms. All parts are coming from Jon Norman’s Alfa Parts in Berkeley, who has kept my Alfas on the road since he was the parts manager at Griswold’s in the 1970s.
A previous owner already fitted the Duetto with front brakes from a later car, with ATE calipers in place of the troublesome and expensive Dunlops. The rear end is still original, with a 4.55 ratio, non-limited-slip differential and the outdated Dunlops.
Musical Rear Ends
So hang on while I describe what we are doing here: My 1967 GTV with upgraded 1,750-cc engine has a later-model 4.55 limited-slip differential (with ATE brakes). A 4.1 rear axle is a better fit for that engine than a 4.55.
But a 4.55 works perfectly in the Duetto with its stock 1,600-cc engine.
So Jon Norman sourced a late-model, limited-slip, ATE-brake, 4.1 rear axle from the Alfa Parts Exchange (APE) in the Bay Area. He is taking the rear end apart to inspect it and putting on rebuilt ATE calipers.
He will ship the 4.1 to Nasko. Nasko will drop the 4.55 out of the GTV and put it into the Duetto — giving me ATE brakes all the way around and a slightly larger swept area. We are upgrading the master cylinder to one with a slightly larger bore as well, although still without any boosters.
Then, the 4.1 from APE will go into the GTV. In theory, I will then have the right rear axle ratios for the engines in the cars.
Sell Me Your Duetto Ashtray
After the mechanicals are done, the Duetto goes to Guy’s Interior Restorations. I am replacing the door panels, the rubber drape behind the rear seats and the current incorrect center console carpet and hand-brake boot.
The panels and rubber drape were simply worn out, and I saw no value in keeping the original parts. While the Duetto is extremely original, it has already been repainted, so we are not talking about a “preservation” car here. My rule of thumb on a non-preservation car is to replace or renew anything that is worn enough to catch your eye and detracts from the overall presentation.
The original Duetto ashtray assembly is missing, if anyone has one for sale please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org. It doesn’t have to be functional, as no one ever uses the funky “insert the cigarette into the lighter” setup anyway. But it does need to be complete and in presentable condition — it completes the look of the interior.
After the interior is done, it’s off to Tom Black to remove the riveted-on door-ding protectors and freshen the paint as much as possible. And then onto the road.
The BMW – A Finished Car, More or Less
I know where I want to get with the Duetto — to the same place we have wrestled our 1972 BMW tii “clone.” After two years, the car fires right up, idles properly and simply does what you want it to: All the gauges and switches work, the heater heats, the defroster defrosts and the turn-signals blink.
For those of you who don’t spent a lot of time around old cars, that may not seem like much of an accomplishment. But ask any collector what he has gone through to get the heater fan to work properly on a 40-plus year old car, and be prepared for a story resembling Hillary’s conquest of Everest.
We put the car to the test this weekend with a drive up to Hood River — about 70 miles. When I have time, as I did last Saturday, I prefer to take Washington Highway 14, a picturesque two-lane road that winds along the Columbia Gorge.
The more direct route is up I-84 on the Oregon side, but it is four lanes all the way, and being buffeted by mini-vans and 18-wheelers just isn’t my idea of fun in an old car.
The next day, we visited Bonneville Dam and took a tour of the generators — a marvel of technology even today, as it celebrates its 75th anniversary.
And then it was home, with the BMW nearly sitting up on its rear tires begging for more.
It is complicated and frustrating to turn an old car back into a car. But the reward — going back in time and experiencing the world from behind the wheel of what was a very special car in its era — is well worth it.