rallymodeller Reader
March 22, 2015 8:25 p.m.

Well, after 20 years of hemming and hawing I finally pulled the trigger on an Alfa. Actually, 20 years and 6 months since I technically bought the car last fall right before the first big snowstorm and it had been trapped in the previous owner's backyard until this past weekend.

So what did I get for my $2000? A silver-over-blue '83 (built 1/83) with remarkably low rust for a Canadian Alfa. I should be able to patch all the rust in a weekend; this is startling to me as every other project car of mine has arrived to me as a car-shaped pile of iron oxide held together with paint and willpower. I am of course under few illusions since this is an Alfa, and I am certain surprises are in store aplenty.

In fact, the first one hit me today: all the external trim had been removed for some reason and since I am waiting for the shop manual CD to arrive I figured some light tinkering was in order. Bolting on the external door handles, what could go wrong?

Stupid pot metal. Broke right off the first time I tried it.

Add one more item to the list of things needed...

March 23, 2015 8:38 a.m.

The door handles do break easily, but on the bright side you got the good wheels on yours.

March 23, 2015 10:39 a.m.

Man those things are so cool. Good luck!

Acme Lab Rat New Reader
March 23, 2015 10:40 a.m.

As a sadist, I am very much looking forward to this build!

NOHOME UltraDork
March 23, 2015 10:57 a.m.

I have been working on rust repair for so long I actually have "categories" of rust that I relate to. This picture is of a type that scares me because It rarely comes without friends. I hope I am wrong and it is a rust free car cause it looks like a nice project.

I notice you are just up the road from me, good to see another GRM project in the Hood.

What is the goal with this car? Classic track rat?, Alfa Club field gatherings? or just a fun car to berkeley with?

Beware of entering the "rust free car" world. Ever since I started getting my hands on rust free cars, I cant help but cut them up into little pieces!

xflowgolf Dork
March 23, 2015 11:49 a.m.

nice! keep us posted on the build.

rallymodeller Reader
March 26, 2015 7:35 p.m.

The plan for this car is basically fun street with occasional Solo2 action with WOSCA and TSDs with KWRC. It is more to the latter that I will be building; the car will be getting skidplates and rally-style suspension (also makes sense given the condition of the roads locally). Over the last week or so I have been going through everything I can think of without getting into anything serious -- still waiting on the manuals. So I got the car in the air and started the survey.

What I found:

All four wheels have some ugly corrosion. One will be usable as a spare tire, but they are all pitted around the rim. The ones on the rear were particularly bad: I am not sure if there was something in the rear bearings that eats aluminum but both wheels were corroded quite badly in the hub area. The driver's side hub looked like a battery leaked all over it.

Lots of perished bushing rubber. Given that the car is more than thirty years old, not much of a shock. Oddly, the Guibos are in reasonable shape (phew!)

Some strange electrical issues. With me being a Lucas and late-70s Bosch veteran Marelli holds no surprises. Just seem to be little things, like the wipers not turning off. They will speed up, but not shut off completely. Calling that one a relay issue for now. However, the headlights and turn signals seem to work, the warning lights all light up properly and the windows go up and down nicely, if somewhat slowly. All the terminals and whatnot will be redone as a matter of course.

The engine runs. Well, five of the cylinders run. It also has a pretty massive exhaust leak on the passenger side where the cat should be, and it smokes quite a bit. Since I am planning on changing the timing belt anyway, it would probably be a decent idea to pull the heads and see what I am dealing with cylinder and valve-wise. That is, of course assuming that just letting it warm up and burn off any oil residue doesn't mostly fix the issue. I was running the engine out of an external gas can since the fuel tank needs to be cleaned and resealed.

Needs a new driver's side forward transaxle mount.

Could probably use new shocks, since the ones in the car are likely the original ones (marked Alfa Romeo and everything)

Definitely going to need rotors and pads. Brembo front calipers, though -- just like a Ferrari! (heh heh)

When I mentioned it was surprisingly rust free, I meant it. The sum total of the existing rust that I could find: Passenger side lower fender aft of the wheel well right at the rocker; passenger side footwell has a hole about the size of a hockey puck right next to the above mentioned rust; a matching (but smaller) hole behind the dead pedal, some rust on the passenger side upper fender behind the bracing (but replaceable, the entire rust area is 6" long); some rust bubbles around the windshield; small holes along the aft part of the spare tire well; small hole under the bumper trim,and the oddly-located hole above the passenger-side door handle.

That's it. Considering what I have dealt with before (replacing the entire floor front-to-back and side-to-side on my 242GT, for example) this is peanuts. The rest of it is solid as a rock, standing up to even mallet hits (trying to shake things loose).

As I dig deeper I am getting the feeling that this is a pretty low mileage car that has been laid up for a long time. Things that would normally be worn out on a car of this vintage are not worn at all. It still has all the original glass, the ignition coil and fuel pump are original Bosch, and so on.

More pictures to come.

rallymodeller Reader
March 26, 2015 7:39 p.m.

Oh yeah, I also need all new weatherstripping on both doors and the hatch. Ouch, that hurts the wallet.

NOHOME UltraDork
March 26, 2015 8:43 p.m.

Don't pull the heads, just do a leakdown test to see what is going on.

The WOSCA guys are a great bunch and with the Centralia airport venue their slaloms rock.

rallymodeller Reader
March 26, 2015 9:06 p.m.
NOHOME wrote: Don't pull the heads, just do a leakdown test to see what is going on.

That's an even better idea. And a new tool to buy. Cool.

The WOSCA guys are a great bunch and with the Centralia airport venue their slaloms rock.

Yes indeed they are, and yes indeed it is. I count several of the longtime members as personal friends.

ssswitch Reader
March 26, 2015 11:07 p.m.

It is truly impressive at just how incompetent Alfa was at rust-proofing. How does the TOP of a door rust? How bad must it look under the window rubber?

Did nobody at the factory say, hey, maybe we should finish welding panels and maybe paint them occasionally?

Is everyone else in this thread laughing derisively at my naïveté while drinking espresso out of conspicuously tiny cups?

March 27, 2015 10:00 a.m.

The rear rotors are a pain to do. I ended up having to cut off the bolt heads, 8 per side I think, that hold the disk to the axle, Not fun. Those wheels may be magnesium by the way.

rallymodeller Reader
March 28, 2015 2:01 a.m.
ssswitch wrote: Is everyone else in this thread laughing derisively at my naïveté while drinking espresso out of conspicuously tiny cups?

I don't know about you, but I drink espresso out of a mug.

The randomness of the rust is actually kind of amusing, given that it's not structural. I did pull up the weatherstripping on the door: it's clean. I really don't understand it. Of course, the last one I almost bought looked like it had been hit with rusty birdshot so I'm getting off lucky, methinks.

rallymodeller Reader
April 8, 2015 4:25 p.m.

All right! Shop manuals arrived from CarDisc International and the weather is starting to warm up. Time to get to work!

ssswitch Reader
May 1, 2015 12:28 p.m.

How's the work proceeding? I need a thread to reassure me that a GTV is a good idea that will fill the yawning boot-shaped chasm in my life.

alfadriver UltimaDork
May 1, 2015 4:58 p.m.

In reply to ssswitch:

Alfetta GTV or one like mine?

They are very different cars

ssswitch Reader
May 1, 2015 6:04 p.m.

I'll try one and then the other, if that's what it takes to fill the gap. Anything with an Alfa badge.

I prefer the looks of one like yours though.

alfadriver UltimaDork
May 1, 2015 7:53 p.m.

The Alfetta is the predecessor to the GTV6- same other than the V6 change. The I4 in the Alfetta is basically the same one in my GTV and the Spiders.

IMHO, the Alfetta/GTV6 (116 chassis) is a better track car, but I prefer the GTV (115 chassis) autocrossing.

At the moment, it's pretty easy to get a good Alfetta for less than $5k. Really good.

Finding a GTV for that price probably is a mess. If you can find one- it's very worthy of a project.

rallymodeller Reader
May 11, 2015 7:53 p.m.

There's a pair of '79 Alfettas for sale in Toronto for $4K the pair, if anyone's interested.

Okay, here's where we sit as of today:

Sharp-eyed Alfisti will note that I collapsed the bumper shocks. Looks 100% better, IMO. I'm not brave enough to go without some sort of bump protection. Also note the can of San Pellegrino Aranciata. Just trying to get into the spirit of the thing.

Started on the floor rust repair. Looks like I am going to need less than half a sheet of 22ga to do all the fixing. I'll have pics of it up presently. Wolf Steel Restorations out of Montreal (website: http://alfaparts.net/) has replacement Alfetta sheet metal including the lower front fender that I need (as can also be seen in the picture).

At the same time I pulled my cracked-to-hell-and-gone dash for refinishing. I'll likely cover it in fabric, since it is in really bad shape.

Brake job supplies arrived today from Rock Auto. Of course I picked the wrong front pads, but everything else checked out. I'm rather surprised at the thickness of the front discs -- the vented fronts on my '87 CRX were half as thick. Proper Brembo-caliper pads are on the way from NAPA and should be here in the morning. Still don't have proper wheels but since I am not planning to have the car on the road until the first of August I am not terribly concerned. The corroded Campagnolos will do for now.

And amongst all this I was gifted by the Pick-N-Pull gods: a yard about an hour from me has a white '87 Milano Gold that seems to be completely intact. It appeared to have had a major service before whatever misfortune saw it end up in a junkyard, so I started stripping bits: plug wires, (new) Bosch coil, (new) cap and rotor, rad fan, all the relays, and so forth. Next time I am up there I'm going to ask what they want for the whole car, and barring that I am going to have them tip it on its side so I can grab all the useable mechanical goodies from underneath including the clutch pack and all three Guibos.

All that is left is doing something about the door handles (I have the units but the handle portions on both are broken; this is not surprising given the crap metal they're made out of), fixing the fuel tank bungs and getting the electrical sorted out -- for some reason my tail lights aren't working. I have a feeling that last part will take up most of July.

rallymodeller Reader
May 11, 2015 7:58 p.m.

I also have a short list of things I need that weren't included when I bought the car; any help on this would be appreciated:

Hatch cover -- I can make one but it'd be nice if I had one that matched;

Bonnet "tea tray" plastic thingy -- again, I can fab one up but an original one would be nicer

Passenger side inner upper door trim -- I have the driver's side, but not the pax side. Don't even know where to get one of these.

Windshield rear view mirror -- Just like it says. I don't even have the metal puck that is glued to the windshield itself.

Anything else I can do without or make.

fujioko HalfDork
May 12, 2015 9:23 a.m.

The bumper tuck looks awesome! The GTV6 is one of the best looking Alfa's in my opinion.

Hungary Bill SuperDork
May 12, 2015 8:59 p.m.

Aw man. Your project list is starting out very much like mine.

I may be able to help in the "spares department" but shipping would be from the US.

You mentioned your wheels are suffering corrosion, I have one wheel that looks like yours in my basement. If you want it PM me.

I can look downstairs for the door trim you speak of. I know I had extras when I bought my car, but the bad news on that front is when I moved from Hungary the movers thought that the bundle of trim was trash and may have left it in the garage when I left. By the time I realized their mistake the truck was gone. I'll check though.

I also know a guy who has been a great parts supplier for me on the East Coast of the US. If you want his info PM me. He's on AlfaBB as well. He's got a couple Alfas that he's picking at so guys like us can keep ours going.

Cheers man, and good luck! I'll be watching with interest

Travis_K UberDork
May 12, 2015 10:03 p.m.

If you are going to start/drive it much change all the fuel lines and put good clamps (like aba stainless ones) on them. The fuel line needs to be metric to fit right too. Those have tons of fuel line and places to leak, and if it leaks enough to start a fire, there will be no way to put it out because the fuel tank will drain by gravity being up so high. Other than the rust issues the rear suspension and brakes should be pretty easy though. And the timing belt isn't too bad of a job, except that if you do the front seal the engine is supposed to come out to do it according to the factory procedure. Andy at performatek sells a lot of suspension and other parts for alfas, if you call him I am sure he would be happy to help with most things you might need.

rallymodeller Reader
May 13, 2015 12:50 a.m.

Well, I have lost cars to fires before so fire extinguishers are de rigeur. I normally have at least one, usually two. All the fuel lines underneath have already been replaced with the proper metric hose (holy crap, is the feed line ever big!); the only job left for me on that front is to replace the bungs for the banjo fittings.

rallymodeller Reader
May 13, 2015 8:20 p.m.

So, I thought I might try an air-cooled Alfa. Who knows, it might work...

Pulled the rad out for repair of a pinhole leak on the front side, and while I was at it I de-air conditioned the car. All the freon had long become a hole in the ozone, and there wasn't a belt connected to the compressor anyway. No big loss, since I'm not a fan of AC anyway, so I saved me some money and weight: the York piston-style compressor alone was about 20 lbs. I might turn it into an air compressor.

And while I was at it I killed two birds with one stone by dropping the heater box. Since I had to get the AC coil out anyway, I took the opportunity to clean 30+ years of crud out of the ventilation system. Turns out most of that was the former foam gasketing material, which had turned to a fine powder since it was installed in Milan lo those three decades ago. Looks like I will be doing some arts and crafts before I reinstall the heater. Given how simple and centralized the whole HVAC system is, if I were a more ambitious man I would re-engineer the whole thing to be more compact.

But I'm not, so I won't. Not this year, anyway.

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