Keith’s Blog: It’s The Little Stuff That Makes You Crazy — Fettling Two Alfas

I made two round trips to Jefferson, Oregon last week.

That’s where “Hooligan Racing,” Bill Gillham’s restoration shop, is located — 63 miles south of Portland.

I’ve been taking Alfas to Gillham for over 30 years, my first being the ex-Ivan Zaremba 1967 Duetto owned by my college friend Arthur Levy.

When Arthur was deciding on a car to drive from San Francisco to law school on the East Coast, we looked at the Duetto and at a Lancia Aurelia convertible. They were both priced the same, around $2,000. Arthur decided on the Alfa. That was about a $700,000 mistake. I hope he has made better decisions with his law practice.

I delivered my 1965 Giulia Spider to Gillham 22 months ago, and he completely dismantled, restored and reassembled the car.

I went down two weeks ago and drove the Spider home to Portland.

Like any car that has been blown apart and put back together, it had a few needs. The steering seemed tight, the headlight flasher was stuck on, the door fit wasn’t to the standard I wanted and the top fit was not good.

So I had the car trucked back to Gillham, as I didn’t want to drive it with the stiff steering.

On Tuesday of last week, I drove our 1967 GTV down and tested the Spider Veloce. The door fit as to factory specs, and the top fit properly. The steering was still a little stiff — but better.

However, on my test drive I noticed a vibration. Gillham swapped in a freshly balanced driveshaft and that problem was solved. The Spider Veloce is back in the SCM garage — and ready for some miles to be put on it. The 39th Annual Old Spider Tour, sponsored by the Alfa Romeo Owners of Oregon is this coming weekend. Bradley will be my navigator, and we are headed across Mount Hood to the Ka-Nee-Tah Resort on the Warm Springs Indian Reservation. A few hundred miles on fun roads is an opportunity to let the restoration settle in.

The ex-Dave Rugh GTV is a sound car, but it has presented me with a slew of small problems over the past year — which have caused me to fall out of love with it. That’s frustrating, as in some ways it is the sweetest driving of all my cars. On last year’s Northwest Passage, Miles Collier declared it to be his favorite.

My list was not long, but it is full of fiddly items. The driver’s door has never shut easily. The window glass is about 3/8 of an inch too high, so it hits the rubber when it is closed. Consequently, you give an extra hard tug on the armrest to shut the door, which means that sooner or later the armrest will pull off. Adjusting the window should cure that.

Gillham also noticed the door was sagging slightly and proposed shimming it to get a proper fit.

The GTV developed a noticeable vibration last year, and our mechanic Nasko, as he was rebuilding the transmission, found that the front motor mounts and the transmission mount had collapsed with age, causing a misalignment of the (recently balanced) driveshaft and hence a vibration.

With the mounts replaced, one set of vibrations disappeared — but there was still a low-level harmonic pulsing to the car.

Gillham suspected the fan was out of balance. When he checked it, he found the fan installed was a part used for GTVs with air conditioning, and further, the blades varied in length by up to 5mm. A new fan is on order.

Other small things included getting the driver’s side rear ashtray (Alfas of that era had three ashtrays, one in front and two in the back) to shut properly, and getting the pop-out mechanisms for the rear windows to stop auto-shutting.

I asked him to source and replace the “Giulia Sprint GT” script missing from the trunk, make sure the window squirters were working properly and perform a light cleaning and detailing to the engine bay.

The radiator shroud is missing, so he will source, paint and install one. While a shroud is not really necessary for the mild weather we have in the Pacific Northwest, it’s just one more thing that makes the underhood look proper and complete.

While these are all small things, they will add up to a more-fettled car that will reward me with a better driving experience.

There’s no sense in having vintage cars if they aren’t properly set up and a joy to drive. It’s important to chase down the small things and get them put right, so that you and your old car can enjoy each other on the road.

Keith Martin

Keith Martin has been involved with the collector car hobby for more than 30 years. As a writer, publisher, television commentator and enthusiast, he is constantly on the go, meeting collectors and getting involved in their activities throughout the world. He is the founder and publisher of the monthly Sports Car Market and bi-monthly American Car Collector magazines, has written for the New York Times, Automobile, AutoWeek, Road & Track and other publications, is an emcee for numerous concours, and has his own show, “What’s My Car Worth,” shown on Velocity.

Posted in Blogs, Keith Martin

1 comments

  1. Hi Keith. Enjoyed reading all about your recent 65 spider restoration. I have a 63 and AMD beginning to think of where to take it. Unfortunately, Oregon is not an option. I live in the Bay Area. Any recommendations? The recent SCM restoration guide doesn’t seem to showcase a solid, local Alfa option for me. Thanks. Guido

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