Wednesday, December 13, 2006

What things go wrong with 116 Alfas?

What doesn't go wrong with any mechanical device? Anyway, here are some tips on what I have found to be true for me... speaking only of Tipo 116 Alfettas, and especially 2.0 GTVs...
  1. Rust - all steel cars will rust, but especially check near the wheelwells, lifting plastic bits, mudguards and what-not to see inside, where water, mud and gunk will accumulate.
  2. Rust again - look under all plastic bits, especially under the doors, and along the firewall (pull off that long strip of plastic that protects the edge - yes, that bit, under the bonnet)
  3. Rust never sleeps - if your have aircon your battery is in the boot - so look for rust around the battery box as acid can spill given the way you drive...
  4. Rust in the tailgate - yes, it can happen here too
  5. Rust under the rubber seals around all windows
  6. And the floorpan, just in case, as a water leak can mean a rusty pan under the carpet
  7. Now that we have rust out of the way, check the oil level. Phew.
  8. Now all other fluids - those hydraulic brake and clutch seals can leak, so look for leaks, drips, stains, low levels in reservoirs...
  9. And the brakes themselves... look for wear and tear, warped rotors (especially the inboard rears) and - again - leaks
  10. And the "doughnuts" or "guibos". Chock it safely and get under and look for cracks in these rubber couplings in the drivetrain, or drive it and feel the vibration from an out-of-balance propshaft (it's turning at engine speed so vibration is a balance issue)
  11. And at the front we have the engine... nice... but keep watching for oil leaks
  12. And rattly chains in the 4 cylinder, or old belts and worn tensioners in the 6
  13. And frayed wires - I had one shorting out in the rev sensor in the distributor (which took a while to figure out)
  14. And blown fuses
  15. And worn switchgear - clean the contacts in the multi-purpose wand if your lights are misbehaving (like your parkers disappear or come and go on a whim)
  16. And of course the old "my hazard switch stuck on" trick - clean it or swap it for a new one, they just stick on and flatten the battery
  17. And the gearbox is up the back, so look for fluid leaks there too. Yes, 2nd gear always crunches, that's why we double declutch.
  18. And anything else that looks wrong, like ride height because someone has rotated the torsion bars too far...
  19. And if you are keen the endless winding window winders (if you have 'em) will one day stop winding and the window will drop into the door... take the inside door handle off, then the trim panel...

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Stop whinging, start driving

Well I try to stop whinging about carbon emissions but it does stare me in the face. Every time I start the 116 GTV I can smell the hydrocarbons... it's a sorry reminder of what all of these cars are doing to our planet. Even if you disbelieve that "we" are the cause, climate change is real and anything that we can do to slow it down will help. If you lived on a Pacific atoll (and I don't, but I'm on the coast) you'd get pretty passionate about it!

Anyway, on the plus side I don't drive much. I work from home most of the time (OK, so it's mostly coal-fired power stations that are powering my computers, but I do have some big trees in the backyard that have soaked up some carbon!) and try to keep my environmental footprint "small". So I can drive the damned Alfa occasionally.

Friday, November 17, 2006

What can I say about Alfas that I haven't already said?

OK, cars are great. They get us, our passengers and our cargo around more easily and further, in less time, than either shank's pony or the bicycle (and I love both walking and cycling). It's not just time saved but a real economic benefit that cars bring to us and our society. We can get around, shop, have things delivered, get to work in a far more flexible way - and within a greater range - than we could, say, 100 years ago.

But we don't factor the "externalities" into our thinking, or take them away from the sum of the economic benefits. That's to say the costs are hidden - or simply subsidised by the community. We think we pay too much when in fact we pay too little for the convenience and apparent low cost of driving.

How so? Add it up. They spew fumes (try riding a bike around lots of cars, or open a window in a car tunnel - it's foul, chokingly foul). Who pays for that? The elderly, the asthmatic; and us - via the public hospital system. Now to make a car takes energy and iron, plastics and other materials. To distribute the resources to the car plant takes energy and resources, and to deliver it to you takes... you guessed it. Who picks up most of the tab for the energy infrastructure, the loss of environment and diversity, and the holes left in the ground after the miners move on? Mostly it's the community, or the environment itself. And who actually replaces the resources we rip out of the ground? Well no-one. They just get used and maybe a proportion gets recycled (which by the way takes more energy!). So do we factor in leaving some for later generations? Do we as a community charge a reasonable fee to the miners who take these resources and make a profit? Well, no. They pay a pittance.

So when we begin to clean up the mess, we find we have as a community subsidised the hell out of it in order to encourage companies to churn 'em out in vast numbers. Ever-increasingly so. The carbon is spewed into the atmosphere but no-one remediates that or pays a decent cleanup levy. You can look at every aspect - from the roads built and rebuilt to accommodate the volume of car traffic, to the garages that "park" a car overnight - and there are hidden costs. Often it's simply a loss of land to other uses (like parks, gardens, farming or simply left for the other living critters on our planet) but it's also in societal costs like increasing health care because people don't walk as much as they used to, or for accident victims.

Cars are wonderful, and wonderfully cheap to boot. But turn that stone over and a host of nasty critters scurry away from the light. Which leads me back to why I take more than usual interest in Alfa Romeos. They too are merely cars but in recompense they have a history and a style that helps me get over the wanton destruction that is mass production and mass consumption. Now mass production and consumption have brought us wonderful economic growth, jobs and sheer convenience - but as I say - we haven't paid the bill yet, either.

Now if Alfas were Fords, or Toyotas or Hyundais in terms of their history, character or style - or if they didn't have what I think they have - then I reckon I'd lose all of my interest and just treat driving as another chore in life.
As it is I've scaled back my driving (and car-buying) habits as I have realised the harm I have - in sheer, stupid ignorance - been doing. And ignorance is no excuse.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Drove the GTV - again!

It's getting warmer outside and the GTV needed a run. So, the usual pre-flight check. Wheels, tyres: no wobble from the bearings (push/pull at top of wheel), air in tyres adequate (about 30psi). Underneath: exhaust still attached, no drips from anywhere. Under bonnet: No leaks, no wires dangling, reservoirs full or nearly so. Engine: oil OK, need to change it soon (and brake and hydraulic fluid, too).

I charged the battery the day before, so it started after a couple of turns. No choke to start but a little to help it idle as I closed the garage door. Eased it out down the driveway and revved it to 3,000 as we hit the road. All went well, no wobbles, clunks or odd noises. It hit operating temperature after about 10mins and the oil thinned out after about 20mins of steady driving. Revved it out to 5,000 a few times, nothing more and brought it back home. No problems, although it still runs a bit rich. I'll deal with that soon.

Now this is motoring. It does the job, does it without wasteful excess - and with some passion to boot.

Friday, October 20, 2006

Alfa GT police vehicle in NSW

It's a training and transport tool, not a pursuit vehicle, folks. At least it's an Alfa!

The original article is here (thanks Alfa Australia)

Monday, October 16, 2006

Brera vs GT... why?

Have you ever wondered exactly where Alfa is heading these days? Other than up market? We have a top-end: the luxo GT, 166 and Brera, but the bottom is wearing thin. Does the 147 still cut it? The GTA probably does, but the base 147 is neither here nor there. It's more a Type 33 than an Alfasud in a market relentlessly moving up.

Look at the Brera - clearly a GTV - and then look at the sedan-like GT. Hmmm. Trying to be all things to all people, at least at these higher altitudes, and losing the overall target? I'd imagine the the Brera is for the sports crowd (you and me, natch) and the GT is for those anxious Alfisti who don't wish to look too sporty. (It's worth checking out for their comparo between these 2 Alfas.) Personally - since you asked - the GT is a bit, ummm, dull to look at for my taste; and the Brera that has arrived here is Oz is sadly watered down from the original show car. And both are a bit too pricey. (Or is that just me? I find it hard to justify that level of investment in a car.) I'll wait for a real GTV to come along, thanks - not quite practical but close enough, a sporty GT, low-slung with great style and enough ooomph to get by - at a price that's attractive. Sadly that's not likely to be an Alfa, unless the forthcoming "MINI-killer" has a Sprint derivative?

Now a true 147 Sprint - a pretty coupe with the 4 cylinder tweaked for an edge - that I could buy.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

More images of Alfas and other cars

I have many more automotive images here, but here are a couple of my favourites...

My Giulietta - circa 1981

Before the GTV and the 33ti I had a marvellous time in the Giulietta. Effortless cruising, amazing ride and soft but reliable handling. Not as twitchy as the GTV, but then the GTV has been 'Bilsteined' and that changed its character somewhat!

My current Alfa

GTV 840, up on stands. No particular reason - I was just admiring its engineering!

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

A racing Alfetta GTV, circa 1979

It's a racing Alfetta GTV at Amaroo Park in Sydney, circa 1979. It was a touring car race. The track's gone, but where's the car now? Comment below if you know!

Friday, September 08, 2006

The Guaranteed Rust-free Alfa Romeo Page!

Please remain seated, restraint adjusted. Vehicle likely to accelerate (if the throttle linkage hasn't snapped). Thank you for visiting.

The Rust-free Hot-links Selection

  1. My main Alfa, bike racing and general interest site. Why not visit anyway?
  2. Big-bored? Try the small-bored Alfa Romeo Owner's Club Home Page: Just rev here!
  3. No engine at all? The bicycle racing pages.. how did I slip this one in?
  4. Car Stuff - philosophy and technical info: A Personal Re-collection of info on modifying, driving and understanding your car! (It may speak Italiano, after all.)
  5. Or, speaking of engines, this is an engine... the GTV6!
  6. You may like to check out the portal where all manner of stuff happens.

Ahhhh, this was my Giulietta. As shown here, lap-dashing with the Alfa Club in 1981. This is a reasonably high-speed corner, as you can see from the body roll! Possibly my favourite Alfa, if only because it was my first. Sometimes it understeered, sometimes it gripped, often it rolled and it managed to survive a lot of high performance driving. But that's what Alfa is all about! Only broke the throttle linkage twice, before I found better quality plastic bits. Had some electrical troubles, resolved with a new alternator at 60,000km. Replaced the rear muffler at 40,000km. (Misfire, backfire, a coincidental bolt of lightning and whammo! a very dramatic hole in the muffler. Sounded like a flat 6 after that!). No doughnut (or guibo, if you prefer) trouble in 80,000km.

No, the GTV was (and is) my favourite. (Clutch replaced at 90,000km, hydraulic clutch booster seal twice, doughnuts (guibos) far too often, oil seals, electrical bits and window winder. Oh, and rust, rear, caused by a leaking battery.)

I've still got the GTV. Still no major rust (touch wood). Recent problems have included the steering (a knock, fixed by a new replacement rack) at about 140,000km (I wonder if that isn't really 240,000km?) and new rear rotors about the same time. The biggest pain was when the lead to the pickup inside the dizzy frayed and failed. It kept cutting out (it was grounding to the dizzy case) or running rough and of course it was the last place I looked!

The parking light switch failed, too, but was fixed by contact cleaner.

Then again, maybe the 33ti? (No problems bar wearing out the front brake rotors really quickly, and the theft of a radio/cassette - slashed seats and all.) It was certainly a nice, burbly little thing...

What is this obsession with Alfa Romeos? The New South Wales Division of the Alfa Romeo Owners Club of Australia may be contacted by snail mail:

PO Box R23
Royal Exchange
NSW 2000

This is a highly recommended club, with a superb magazine, a great social calendar and plenty of CAMS-affiliated motor sports to pick from. Worth joining, I assure you!

Thanks for browsing! Feel free to E-mail if you have any comments or questions.

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