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Tech QuestionsJanuary 2002 Tech Q & A

Answer by Technical Editor Rex Chalmers

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January Topics:

Motronic Spider Ticking | Milano Verde ABS | 1300 to 2000 Swap | Spica Throttles
Auto vs. Manual Milano | Performance Chips | GTjr Headers | Engine Blow Back

Motronic Spider Valve Ticking : question by Tony | ’91 Spider

The valve ticking noise I'm hearing is still a mystery to me. Others have said it is normal. I've checked the clearances and they are all within spec.When the car warms up the ticking is louder.Can you give me a specific flow chart of procedures to try to quiet down this engine. The car runs great.
Answer : So many of the '91 and later Spiders make this ticking noise that you might think it is normal, but it is not.

Here's a flow chart you can use to diagnose this problem:

>Check for correct valve clearance

> if out of specification, adjust

>if OK - surface cam followers on flat plate with crocus cloth to check for uneven surface or surface cracks

>if depressions, cracks or uneven surfaces are apparent, replace follower

>if OK- check cam lobes for correct profile (deteriorating cam lobes will appear more pointed than rounded and profile will visually vary from lobe to lobe)if lobes are worn, replace camshaft

>if OK- check valve springs for breakage if broken, replace

>if OK-replace valve guides

For whatever reason, '91 and later Spiders eat valve guides. To alleviate this problem, replace valve guides with silicone aluminum bronze or manganese-bronze guides and have a high performance valve job performed. A word of caution, DO NOT entrust your Alfa head to an average machine shop, they can do more damage than good. I suggest that you contact Stuart at
Sperry Valve Works, or International Auto Parts, you will not be disappointed.

Milano Verde ABS Problems : question by Dorian Valenzuela | ’88 Milano Verde

I have a question about the brake system on my 88 Verde. I noticed that under hard braking, the car easily locks one of the front wheels, which from my understanding is what ABS is supposed to prevent. Recently, I was driving and upon attempting to stop for a sign, noticed the car needed about ten times more effort to stop. I had a similar problem with my bimmer once, and replaced to accumulator to fix it. Is it the same case for the Milano most likely?, I know the Milano's brake system is known by some as the Absurd Braking System, what is involved in switching the car back to non ABS system?
Answer : Most 70K+ Mile 164s could use, at a minimum, new shock absorbers. The question of type of shock and/or spring and/or sway bar to use is very subjective. What one driver prefers another may hate. As far as 164s are concerned, you can make a 164 suspension very stiff and the car's handling will become quite sharp and responsive. However, in my opinion, you loose much of the smooth, supple nature that the Alfa engineers built into the 164’s character. If that is what you are going for, go with the Koni sport shocks, stiff springs, low ride height and stiff sway bars.

There are a number of spring and shock combinations available in the aftermarket. I have done many shock and spring combinations at my shop, and here are two of my favorite setups for springs and shocks:

International Auto Parts: 164 Performance Spring set with OE Sachs shocks. If you would like it a bit stiffer go with their Sachs performance shocks.

Centerline Products: Performance Springs for 164, these lower the front of the chassis about an inch more than International’s springs with Koni adjustable Sport shocks. Be advised that the Konis, unlike the Sachs, are inserts in the front and require some modification to the front strut to install the insert.

Both also sell KYB shocks, which are adequate but, in my humble opinion, are not at the same quality level as Sachs or Koni. As far as
AR Ricambi is concerned, they used to supply some very nice springs, shocks and sway bars. They have assured me that when they get settled down from their move, they will again have bars and springs available

Generally, one sets up the suspension with springs and shocks and does the fine-tuning with sway bars. I would suggest that you replace the springs and shocks, drive the combination and see if it warrants further tuning with stiffer sway bars. As I said, it is virtually impossible to tell a specific driver what he or she will like in a chassis. At my shop, I will give the customer the options and my best advice and let them make the final decision on rates, stiffness and ride heights. I will listen to their preferences for a car’s handling characteristics, what level of stiffness they like in their suspension and how they intend to use the car and try to point them in the direction that I believe will be best suit that individual driver. . There are many other aftermarket sources out there, if you take the time to search the web, I’m sure that you will find enough options to make your choice even more confusing.

1300 to 2000 engine swap : question by Bart De Kool | Giulia Super 1.3

I want to replace the standard 1300 engine with a 2000 engine (taken from Berlina or GTV) Do I have to replace other parts as well? (gearbox?) and can a Giulia handle such power?

Answer : Bart, you are in luck, it is one of the easiest engine swaps known to man. If the transmission is in good shape, it should not have a problem with the 2.0’s power.

If your Super has mechanical clutch, you will need:
1. A front exhaust section from a 1750 or 2.0 Berlina to clear the pedal box due to the increased height of the 2.0 engine.
2. A machinist to turn down your 2.0 flywheel to accept your 1.3 starter ring gear.
3. A throw out bearing adapter that will accept the 2.0 throw out bearing. (This is readily available from most Alfa aftermarket parts sources)
4. A gasket set so you can replace all the leaky gaskets and seals on the 2.0 because they are leaking and need replacing and it’s much easier to do now while the engine is on the bench.

If your Super has a hydraulically actuated clutch you will need:
1. A front exhaust section from a 1750 or 2.0 Berlina to clear the pedal box due to the increased height of the 2.0 engine.
2. A gasket set so you can replace all the leaky gaskets and seals on the 2.0 because they are leaking and need replacing and it’s much easier to do now while the engine is on the bench.

You will need a block off plate for the Spica pump mount if your 2.0 was injected. If you are using the manifold and Webers from the 1.3 you will have to re-jet and port the manifold to match the 2.0’s intake port size. If you use your 1.3 water pump you won’t have to change the lower radiator hose. Also be sure to use the distributor from the 2.0 as the 1.3’s distributor has more max. advance than the 2.0 needs. The motor mounts are interchangeable, if they are worn, replace them. I believe that covers all the major concerns, Enjoy, and I will be looking forward to helping you with the suspension modifications you will want to perform now that you have enough power to make the Super genuinely Super!

Spica Throttle Set-Up : question by Paul Irvine | '72 Spider

I am reassembling my '72 Spider after a complete restoration and I'm having a problem getting the throttle set up properly. The bellcrank stops are set correctly per the SPICA manual with the idle stop -10 degrees from horizontal and a total of 86.5 degrees of rotation to the full throttle stop but I cannot get this much travel from the pedal linkage even with the floor stop screwed all the way down and the cable bracket stop screwed all the way out (giving maximum pedal travel). I'm assuming full throttle should take it all the way to the bellcrank stop but haven't been able to find any documentation on doing this setup.

Am I doing something wrong or do you know where I can find some info on this setup procedure?
Answer : First, Paul, let me say that in my 30+ years of working on Spica injected Alfas, I have always been able to achieve full throttle after performing the set-up procedure. Yes, full throttle should take the bell crank to the throttle stop. Assuming that you have the bell crank set-up correctly, that your pedal rod assembly is not bent, and that the bell crank rods are adjusted correctly, I can only think of a few things that could be causing your problem. First, and most likely, you have the set-bolt at the firewall set out to far. The arm that the cable bolts to needs to return as far back as possible, on some cars it is necessary to remove the set nut and screw the bolt all the way in. If the return spring on the exhaust side for the pedal rod is weak, the rod will not return fully and therefore will not have enough stroke to achieve full throttle. Once you are certain that the pedal rod has full stroke, adjust the cable at the securing bolt so that there is minimal play in the cable. Too much play and full throttle will not be achieved, not enough play and the engine will race on heavy braking. Second, if all else fails, remove the pedal stop completely. As a footnote to your concern, when I was working at Knauz in Lake Forest, Ill in the early 70s, every Spica injected Alfa that was delivered to us, fresh off the boat, had generally 2/3 to 3/4 throttle. To this day, I see first time customers with 25-30 year old Alfas that had never had full throttle! After much thought, the only reason I could come up with for Alfa doing this was to ensure that their engines were not run at full throttle until the first service when full throttle was supposed to be checked.

Auto vs. Manual Milanos : question by Homayoun Nejat

I'm going to purchase a Milano and have two choices before me: an '87 Silver edition, 5 spd with 120,000 miles, and an '88 Gold edition, automatic with 80,000 miles. I prefer the '88 because it has lower mileage but most people familiar with Alfas advise me to get the 5 spd because they say repairs on auto transmissions are going to be very costly. Is that true? (others say auto transmissions are very durable) If it is true, how much more expensive are auto transmissions to fix than 5 spds (on average)?
Answer : Good choice of vehicles Homayoun, Milano’s are wonderful vehicles and are a pleasure to drive. That said, I would not purchase an automatic Milano for several reasons, some personal and some practical. First and foremost, the automatic Milano is a dog. It is several seconds slower to 60 than a stick Milano and has a lower top speed. Much of the “Alfa driving experience” is lost when an automatic is inserted into the equation. In general, automatic transmissions are more durable than stick shift transmissions, however, that statement doesn’t necessarily apply to the fine one-off ZF unit that the Milano uses. I have been working on Alfa’s for over 30 years and have never heard of anyone who has successfully repaired a Milano automatic transmission. I do not believe that repair parts are even available (at least easily) at this point in time. I have performed several Auto to Standard transmission conversions because it was much cheaper than purchasing and installing the exchange replacement from Alfa.

I know that the lower mileage is tempting, but my best advice is to steer clear of the automatic.

Motronic 4-cylinder Performance Chips : question by David Toof | '91 Spider

How many performance chips can you recommend from different manufacturers that work well for a 1991 Alfa spider. It has low mileage, and runs extremely strong. People who have had them installed, (my mechanics have installed a few) say the cars perform extremely well. Only trade off is lower fuel mileage. Can a shankle 7L cam work in unison with the computer chip and a K&N air filter?
Answer : I would ask your mechanic which chip he prefers, I have installed chips from several different sources and have been pleased with all. I have not seen a dyno comparison so I couldn’t really say which chip is the absolute best.

I don’t see any problem with using the 7L cam and K&N filter in conjunction with a modified chip. I have used those cams and K&N filters with and without a modified chip with good results.

Let me know which chip you end up using and if you feel it was worth the investment.

GTjr Headers : question by Jared Baldwin | ’68 GTjr

I am restoring a 68 Jr. for personal driving. Car has 46k miles and came with 15 x 7 Panasports, sport springs, Koni shocks, etc. I have upgraded bushings to polyurethane. Original 1300cc engine was sick and I am swapping in a 1750 block. Everything else is original in the engine bay. Engine is rebuilt with 10:1 compression and slightly hotter cam. Question: What would you recommend for exhaust headers? Are the cast headers satisfactory for the street? If so do I need 1750 or 2000 units to accomodate the taller block and increased flow? Or, are the cast headers a major constraint on performance. If so, what headers would be best for my street application?

Answer : The stock 1300 headers have very good flow characteristics for a stock header and will work well with the engine you describe. Due to the increased height of the 1750 you will need a front exhaust section from a 1750 or 2000 GTV to clear the chassis. If you would like some bolt on horsepower, try a set of tube headers. Most Alfa aftermarket parts suppliers can supply headers. I am partial to the street headers from International Auto Parts and Centerline Alfa Products. If you go with tube headers, you won’t need a new front exhaust section. The only downside to tube headers is that they are a bit louder and can, depending on design and installation, have a propensity to minor leakage. I personally would go with the headers. You already have hotter cams and increased compression, the headers will help maximize the horsepower that you already have built into your engine.

Rebuilt Engine Blow Back : question by Harden Ervin | ’72 Spider

Hi, I'm not new to Alfas, I have built a few Alfa engines in the past. I'm building an engine that that was given to me in a thousand pieces. Almost everything (internal) has been replaced with new, bearings, oil pump, shims,10:1 pistons and euro cams. It has the original spica pump and externals. On my first startup i turned it over so that I could get oil pressure and then tried to get some life out of it. After a few times I got a pop or two and was happy. But what spooked me was that when the engine was turning over, I noticed that I have blow back through the intake on number 4. I haven't done a compression test yet,and I know I set the engine up right. What could be the problem and what can I check. Could it be that the valve is not seated or could have it gotten bent. If you could give me something to go by that would be great.

Answer : I would suggest that you do a compression and leak down test. If the results show good compression and leak down, I would file the blow back @ #4 as insignificant. It is not uncommon to get some blowback and popping when starting a new motor for the first time. This is generally caused by excess fuel in the combustion chamber.

If the engine is not running smoothly, I would imagine that the results of your leak down and compression tests would exhibit lower compression and higher leak down on #4. If this is the case, I would bet on a valve that is not seating properly or is bent on #4.

You didn’t mention whether or not you got the engine running. If this symptom continues and you can’t get the engine running, I would suggest that you have the firing order out 180 deg. It’s easy to do if you’re not careful.

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