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ALFAcentro T E C H Q & A
Tech QuestionsDecember 2001 Tech Q & A

Answer by Technical Editor Rex Chalmers

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December Topics:

Berlina Suspension Set-Up | 164 Suspension Upgrades| Spider Top Replacement
2 Liter Power Increases | Race Cams

Berlina Suspension Set-Up : question by Scott | ’73 Berlina

I recently bought a '73 Berlina which has been modified with Koni's, adjustable upper arms, and shorter/stiffer springs (spring colors are red in the front and blue in the back). I've no idea what the spring rates are and the car is so low it will hardly clear a pack of Marlboros. This is with 195/70-14 tires. The steering wheel is off center and I need to straighten the steering wheel and adjust toe. What do you recommend as a starting point for alignment specs for 'con brio' driving on smooth tarmac?
Answer : First of all, let me say that I am envious. 2.0L Berlinas are wonderful machines. I have owned many Berlinas, Giulia Supers, and TI’s and I must say that they will always be some of my favorite Alfas. I once had a '73 Berlina that set a class lap record with AROSC at Willow Springs in 1993, that record still stands! I also vintage raced a '65 TI with VARA for 4 or 5 seasons. That TI won over 80% of races entered beating, BMWs, Minis, Sprites, Ginettas, MGs and Porsches! Man I wish I had that TI back, if any one knows where it is, please let me know……but enough, I digress. As to your Berlina’s alignment specifications, For street driving, I would recommend the following specifications:

Toe-in 1/16”
Castor 3 1/2 degrees positive
Camber 3/4-1.0 degrees negative

You probably should raise the chassis an inch or two if it is that low. The front suspension was never intended to work at that ride height and you would probably have the suspension on the bump stops during heavy cornering. You don’t want to have the suspension on the bump stops; the result can be very ugly. I’m certain that the bump steer and camber gain are no where near optimal and will have deleterious affects on your Berlina’s handling characteristics. Keep in mind that raising the ride height by shimming the springs will raise the spring rates and since you don’t know what you have anyway, you might consider purchasing a new set.
International Auto Parts, Centerline Products, and most other Alfa parts vendors have aftermarket springs available. You should find out what rates are available, compare the rates and get information from the vendors about their springs characteristics. You might also consider installing new sway bars as well.

As long as we are taking the springs out it’s time to check all the suspension bushings and ball joints. Check the lower ball joints for play before you remove the springs, as a rule of thumb anything more than 1/16th of an inch of play can cause an annoying rattle in the front end. With the springs out of the chassis, it’s easy to check the condition of the lower arm bushings, upper ball joints and bushings, and the castor rod ball joints. At the rear of the chassis, check the trailing arm bushings, sway bar bushings and end links, trunion end and cone bushings.

Whenever you buy a used vehicle, especially one that is pushing thirty years old, for everyone’s safety, it’s a good idea to thoroughly check the chassis and suspension for wear, condition, and signs of fatigue. Hope this answers your question. Please let us know what decisions you make and how the project turns out.

164 Supension Upgrades : question by Ted | ’91 164L

I am interested in upgrading the suspension of my 164L. My car has about 70K miles on it and the performance of the stock suspension has definitely deteriorated. I want to put on Koni sport shocks and Sparco springs but someone suggested that a better option is to install up-rated anti roll bars. My question is: Where can I find such anti roll bars? I called AR Ricambi but they don't seem to carry these anymore. Do I need the springs, shocks and the anti-roll bars or would this be overkill?

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.

Spider Top Replacement Choices : question by Lee Thierry | '76 Spider

This is a decidedly low-tech question. I inherited my Alfa with a rotted top. I need to replace it, and find many different prices online - some vinyl and some canvas. I live in Houston and want it to last a long time. What should I get? I also want to know if this is a job I should try to tackle myself with no prior experience.
Answer : You didn’t mention if the car lives in a garage or is exposed to the elements. If it is parked outside, as much as I like the look, feel and insulation characteristics of a cloth top, I would have to recommend vinyl if longevity is a prime concern. A word of caution: there are a number of different quality cloth and vinyl tops out there, this is an item where you don’t want to make price the main part of your purchase decision. Without knowing your abilities and patience levels it is impossible for me to determine whether or not you should tackle this job yourself. I have installed many tops on Alfas over the years and I can tell you that it is a tricky procedure that requires much patience and not a small amount of mechanical and artistic saavy.

2 Liter Power Increases : question by Ron Norwood | '74 Spider

Car is a 74 Spider 2000 with 204,000 miles (rebuilt @ 175,000). My question is: How much HP can I get from this engine?? The car has two Weber Carbs. Also...would electronic ignition help make more power??
Answer : Speaking as a business owner and engine builder, how fast do you want to go? How deep are your pockets?

You didn’t say if this was for the street, but I assume from the tone of you question that it is. Depending on how important low-end torque is to you, you can safely have 140-160 HP in a daily driver. In order to get this HP, along with other modifications, you will have to raise compression to 10 or 10.5 to one, and since you will probably be running on unleaded premium rather than race fuel, it is essential that you use some type of electronic ignition.

See the June Tech Q & A Column for a discussion of electronic ignition options.

Without it, your engine will have a problem with pre-ignition, i.e. detonation or pinging. Hell, I’d even recommend electronic ignition if you were running race fuel. You will also need to obtain higher lift and longer duration cams, a big valve head, headers and make some modifications to your Webers. I have built hundreds of these engines and many are still running in daily use with upwards of 100,000 miles on them. Properly maintained, performance-modified motors will give many years of loyal service.

Race Cams : question by Lew Baker | ’62 Race F1

My Alfa engine is fitted to an old race car. The specs are as follows:

CRANK: 1300 101 series
BLOCK: 1300 skimed 2mm off the top. Block bored to suit sleeves
CONRODS: 1300 pin bored to suit lagger diam gudgeon pins
SLEEVES: 1600 shortened and bored to suit pistons
PISTONS: 80 mm bore (1750) decked and clearanced for valves
HEAD: 1600 big port fitted 43 mm inlets and 36 mm exhausts with 8 mm stems dural retainers. head skimmed .060 thou.12.5 c.r. carbs: 45 mm Webers with 50mm manifold extensions
CAMS: timing off seat inlet 80/52 with .018" clearance. Lift of CAM 11mm. exhaust 73/45 clearance .016" Lift of CAM 11mm. Dry sump oiling.

Now my question is I am looking for an inlet cam of similar timing but having a lift of 11.5mm (cam lift). Could you possibly suggest some places I could try to find such a jewel???

Answer : What kind of snake oil are you drinking? Three concerns:

1. Changing pin diameter to 22mm on a 1300-rod is not a recommended procedure.
2. A 1600 head will not fit on a 1300 block, period.
3. You can get 80mm liners in a 1300 block, but you must bore the block first.

If you really are looking for an 11.5mm race cam, contact Stuart at
Sperry Valve Works. His grind is my favorite for a full tilt boogie race motor. Good Luck!

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