Author Archives: 74alfa

And we have ignition…

After a little archeological work to locate and identify the timing marks (jacked up one side and crawled under so I could lick the crank pulley clean and see the marks – okay, steel wool, no licking).  I realized I had used the TDC mark yesterday, not the static timing mark.

So, one more pass through the static timing procedure and it was time to turn the key.  FIRST CRANK IT FIRES!  Starts right up and sounds pretty good.  I let it run for a minute and shut it down to check for oil, etc.  No signs of trouble, so the top goes down and out I go for my first test ride.

I immediately notice that even cold, it has much, much more power than on the drive home.  I keep the revs down until it warms up a bit, then try running it up to 5000 rpm.  I wish I had recorded the sounds, true Italian.  Plus, very smooth, no misses, no backfire on deceleration – pretty much like I remember my ’69 Duetto.

I feel great!  Not only do I have a pure bred Italian spider, I had a great time proving to myself that I still know how to tune a car.

Getting there…

I’m no newbie when it comes to wrenching.  Back in the day I did everything myself, including engine rebuilds.  Recently, however, I’ve done less and less.  Today I spent the entire day rearranging my shop for auto repair and installing the tune up parts in the Alfa.  Any day wrenching is better than sitting in a conference room, but my back hurts!  My hands are covered in the kind of grime that has to wear off, it won’t wash off.  I’m cross-eyed from trying to see what the heck I’m doing under the hood.  And, I can’t wait to get back to it!

Everything went back in as expected, no major hitches.  I even took a shot at cleaning the cam cover, but it still needs more work.  Still, it looks nice with the new wires and coil.  The distributor cap is a replacement, not Marelli unfortunately.  I like the old school Marelli red caps.

So, it’s time to set the timing and fire it up!  All the manuals say set the static timing to 8 degrees ATDC.  I had already positioned the crank so the number one cylinder was at TDC, so I figured it would be simple to see the timing marks on the crank pully.  Can you see any marks there? 

Neither could I.  I threaded my arm down there and tried to clean off as much grime as I could.  I found the pointer and could see a couple of colored lines in the pulley that I assumed were the TDC and Static timing marks.  I did my best to lock down the distributor at the static mark and took a deep breath.  It was time to try firing it up.

I gently turned the key and fed in a little throttle.  Cough, sputter, cough.  Hey!  It fired once or twice!  That’s more than it had done since I parked after driving home.  Unfortunately, that’s all I was able to do, get it to fire once or twice.  I’m assuming it’s a simple matter of the timing being off and I can address that tomorrow.  Stay tuned.



Getting down to business

Have you ever noticed how projects multiply?  When you’re retired, that’s actually a good thing 🙂

Now that I have the tune-up parts, it’s time to get going.  Well, almost.  I decided that this was the time to get the RX-7 out of the garage, clean everything up, and move the Alfa in so I have a nice place to work on it.  The Maxda is another story, but I’m happy to report that the Alfa is now housed in a clean and well lighted garage.

Not only do I have the appropriate parts, I have the Owner’s Manual, and several repair manuals to consult.  Regardless, with my past ’69 Duetto experience, I figured I already knew how to change out the points, plugs, rotor, cap, wires, coil, and condenser.  It’s amazing how much you can forget in 20 years!

After some remedial learning about how to turn the crank to TDC, I got the distributor out.  I already knew that it is much easier to replace the points with the distributor out than in.  Here’s a picture of the engine with the cam cover off and the distributor out,

So far, so good.

Window Regulators – Part 2

I thought some more about the driver’s window alignment problem and decided to take another look at it. While I was there I took some pictures. Here’s the inside of the door with the wire rope that controls the window position.

When I realized that one problem was that the top of the window needed to move forward when fully closed, I loosened the rear rope attachment point, pushed the window into position and re-tightened the attachment screw. Voila! The window now stays in the channel and closes reasonably well.

Mystery Switches

In looking in the driver’s footwell I noticed first one, then two switches mounted under the dash.  One had no wires attached and I removed it.  The other was a SPST switch with two blue wires attached.  The wires led off towards the center console.  I assumed it might have something to do with the radio and left it alone.  (I haven’t even tried the radio yet.  Who wants to listen to radio when you can listen to the car?  It’ll be gone as soon as I find something to fill the hole).

Later I was reading up on the Spica injection system and discovered that there is a cold start solenoid that richens the mixture for starting.  It’s powered off the starter solenoid.  To check it, one disconnects the starter solenoid and applies 12V directly to the cold start solenoid.  There should be an audible click.  Fine.  When I looked at mine, I saw two blue wires interrupting the connection from the starter to the Spica and running back into the firewall.  AhHa!  Secret cold start solenoid cut-off switch!

I tested the cold start solenoid directly off the battery and, sure enough, heard a click.  I check the continuity between the wires and it was open regardless which way the hidden switch was flipped.  I opted for the simple solution of removing the switch and connecting the cold start solenoid directly to the starter solenoid.

Feeling pretty smart and anticipating the engine to now fire right up, I got in and turned the key.  It cranks fine, but there is not even a hint of combustion.  So, while it couldn’t hurt to get rid of the hidden switch, there is more to getting it tuned up than this.

Window Regulators

Since I’m waiting for the tuneup parts to arrive and I can’t keep my hands off the car, I decided to find out why the driver’s side window doesn’t close properly.  As it rises, the leading edge comes out of the channel along the vent window.

I pulled the inside door panel off to see if I could find the problem.  The first thing I noticed is that all the rubber molding is fried and/or missing.  This isn’t what is causing the alignment problem, but will have to be addressed at some time.  A quick check in the IAP catalog and it appears much of it is available for a reasonable price.

The window mechanism is fairly simple.  A couple of pulleys and a wire rope attached to the bottom of the window.  The channel on the back of the vent window extends down inside the door to where it is attached at the base.  There is some adjustment possible on the pulley mount as well as the vent channel base, but nothing that would make up for the ~1/2″ gap at the top.

I closed both doors and took a look from the front.  From there I can see that the driver’s side vent sticks out more than the passenger side.  Closer examination of the reveals on both sides confirmed this.

At this point I think I’ll let it rest for now.  It’s clear that some time and money needs to be spent on the rubber trim.  That will be the right time to fix the vent window alignment.

Parts are parts

I knew going into this that the car would need work, especially a tune up.  After taking a quick look at the ignition system I decided I should just order a complete set of everything I might need for a decent tuneup.  Fortunately, the seller had given me a catalog from International Auto Parts in Virginia.  IAP has everything one could need in the way of parts for old Alfa, Fiat, and Lancia.  Here’s a copy of my order.

Since the car doesn’t really want to start with the current ignition parts, I settled in to wait for the new ones (why kill the battery on bad parts?).  By the next day, however, I really wanted to get it running and decided to try to source as much as I could locally.  I called around and sure, several stores said they had points, plugs. rotor, and cap.  I drove into town and picked them up, eager to get going.

When I got back home I compared the new, local, parts to the original – not even close!  Hell, the new distributor cap fit inside the original!  So, I have no choice but to wait for the parts from IAP (which according to UPS won’t be here for a week).  Never order parts from the east coast over a three day weekend.


Taking a closer look

OK, the trip home was fun, but there were times when the lack of power and hesitation were hard to miss.  I knew that a tune-up was in store, but I wasn’t prepared for what I found.

I pulled the plugs first.  They were Bosch Platinum, but completely worn out.  The only good news was that the color was decent.  No soot or oil.  Next I pulled the distributor cap and rotor.  Again, complete junk.  I’m amazed it ran.  I tried to clean up the cap and rotor as best as I could, but it just didn’t want to start.

I’ve already ordered parts for a complete tune-up, so I decided to save the battery and just wait until they arrive.

The Drive Home

I’m a little apprehensive but trying to keep my cool.  I’ve just purchased a 1974 Alfa Spider and am about to drive it home.  She is Italian Rosso and has been lovingly cared for, but is starting to show her age.  And while she carries her age well, there are already signs that problems lurk beneath her beautiful skin.

The seller has graciously made sure she was well warmed up and ready to start, but warned that stubbornness is an Italian trait.  With that in mind I eased out of the driveway onto the typical Sonoma County roadway full of potholes.  CLUNK  A rather ominous sound from the right rear.  The engine is boggy at low rpm so I try to slip the clutch a little and build some speed.  More CLUNKs.

Regardless, the top is down, the sounds are delightful, and life is good as I find my way onto Highway 12 for the trip to Santa Rosa.  Once on the highway, she rides like a dream. I keep the transmission in 4th to keep the revs around 3500 and she settles in at 50-55 MPH all the way home.  Even on the gentle curves I begin to feel that oneness with the car and the road.  Hey, I’m smiling!

Going up the hill to the house I can tell that power is low, but what the hell, just downshift and let it rip.  Second gear synchro is toast, so I have to double clutch – haven’t done that in years and another smile comes to my face.

OK, the car needs some work.  On the plus side, it is a car that can be worked on.  My goal is to get it back to top driver condition and enjoy the hell out of it.  Fell free to follow my exploits.