Spider Wheels

The wheels go around and around and we really don’t pay much attention to them unless they fail, dirty or putting new tires on them. The wheel functions quite well if we treat it right.

On the Alfa’s for the period of our cars, there were 4 styles…Borrani, Fergat, Campagnolo  and Amadori. These wheels are very rare and if you come across a set they are worth having for nothing else than nostalgia.

The Amadori were used on the very early 750 cars and were prone to cracking.  That is probably why you hardly ever see a Amadori wheel.

Later Fergats were switched in and followed up by Borrani. However the Fergats were prone to cracking the center hubs where the lug nuts were attached and people started to switch them out for Borrani’s. The cracks radiated from the lug nut holes, and there were cracks in the weld that held the spider to the rim. I knew of some people rewelding the spider to the rims as the cracks were that obvious.

The Borrani’s would bend and at least you could drive on wobbly rims.

Greig Smith says, ‘my reference books & every period picture of an SZ shows the cars wore the Borrani “Records” with the steel centre & aluminium rim, riveted together.” These cars also had the magnesium sand cast wheels which were light and strong for the torsional loads imposed on them. New Campagnolo rims are available that are just like the originals in cast aluminum, but with a smoother finish and built to the new wheel standards.

Real magnesium rims are exceptionally light but if they ever catch on fire you can not put them out. Water just adds to the problems. As far as I know they cannot be repaired. (?)

There is a myth floating around that certain cars came with Fergats and some with Borrani. The myth is just that…a myth. Cars came off the assembly line with both. Just like engines, depending upon what was in the bin for the next car is what was put on.

How do you tell them apart? The Fergats were more elliptically round and the Borrani’s had a bit of a wide spot in the middle of the arc. The later 105 wheels had round holes if you need a reference.

The early Fergats had studs on the inside of the rim that were threaded. This was the poor mans way of balancing a wheel with weights. You found a flat weight with a hole in the middle. You put it on and screwed it down with a nut and lock washer.

The Veloce rims also had a special fixture that went over the top of the valve stem that held it in place so it wouldn’t come away from the rim at speed. This little item  was a metal cap, cut so it sat on the rim ridge, and had a special fixing nut that went over the stem. This compressed the cap to the rim and secured the stem. Then a valve stem cap went over that. I haven’t seen any of these in decades. Most were tossed when the first set of tires were put on the car.

My 1600 Veloce came with Fergats and they were cracked. My mentor had a good set of “chromed” Borrani’s that we put on the car. It went well with the black lacquer paint on the car. Now they are rusty and pitted. I wonder where I can get them rechromed here in California? Chromed rims were an option at the dealers as I have seen several sets over the years. “The chrome wheels seem to have been a Hoffman embellishment, along with chromed cam cover nuts and hammer-tone painted cam covers on the Giulia’s. The reason the hub cap clips seem different is because they are tempered spring steel & if put through the chroming process, the heat causes them to loose their temper & the hubcaps fall off, hence they need to be removed & replaced when chroming wheels.”  

The clips are held on to the rim with rivets. You have to drill them out, get new clips if you can, and have someone rivet the new ones back on. Pop rivets are not strong enough to hold the clip so that the hub cap stays on. You pay a fortune for hub caps you might as well be sure they stay on when you go around a corner.

The sizes of the rims came in 4.5″, 5″, 5.5″ and 6″ widths. A post on the AlfaBB is, “Parts book doesn’t mention the special construction of the SZ wheels, only that they are 4 1/2 and made by Borrani rather than 4 1/4 made by either Fergat or Borrani.” 

Most of the tires were 155×15 that sat on a 5.5″ rim. You can still get the 15″ tires from Vederstein or from Volkswagen specialty houses that cater to restorations that want that period correct tire. Places like Cooker make reproduction tires with a modern carcass that fit well. Pirelli makes about 2500 vintage tires a year and if you are not on the waiting list you just are that much further down the waiting period to get them.

There seems to be an on going debate about the color of the steel rim used on Giulietta’s and Giulia’s. I have a great article on my Veloce Register website under paint codes that settles the question I feel in a good lengthy discussion. Rim Paint

I know some powder coat their wheels. It looks good and lasts a long time.

Borrani stickers for your wheels are available but they come in different colors depending upon the period you are putting them on. See this page on Borrani history and then you will either know it all or be that much more confused. Borrani History page.

You can also find CMR on a wheel. This is the company that bought out Borrani some years ago. Here is a pictorial of decals for wheels and other decals for your Alfa remade by Bill Gillham of Oregon. These decals you will find on most restorations today as replacements for the silk screening. Decals

Lastly lets talk lug nuts. There are left and right hand lug nuts on your Alfa if it is made before 1972. That is the year they switched to having all one twist on the car. You can tell a reverse left hand pitch nut as it has a mark in the center of the ridge between the flat lands on the nut. The early cars had brass nuts. You can polish them up on a buffing wheel and them clear coat them to keep that finish. Torque…no more than 80 lbs. Otherwise you will bend the rim! I have seen ruined wheels when some jockey on the air gun ran the nuts down tight flatting the holes. Just remember, left goes on the left and right goes on the right. If you have the front hubs mixed up now you know why.

I think I just ran out of air and feeling a bit run down. *wobble wobble wobble*




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Somewhere in Italy

For those of you that follow my blog on a regular basis  you know that my wife and I are on a one month vacation in Italy. It was time to decompress from work, college and the daily grind of the classroom. My wife planned the whole trip so long as I got in some of the things I wanted to do. That part included going to Colorno for the hydroplane boat races. That is a forthcoming post.

We overnighted in a town on the way to Venice. My wife and I went out this afternoon to discover the town for dinner. Sometimes you get lost and discover things you didn’t know about by accident. That happened to us in Rome where we found he Leonardo Di Vinci Museum. Worth seeing! Some artisans created his inventions from his notes that are working models for some of them. Did you know he invented the ball bearing!

Here I go off on a tangent. There is an Alfa dealer ahead of us and I suggest we stroll in and look at the new Giulietta’s and MiTo’s. I give my best Italian pleasantries and find out there is someone that speaks pretty good English. Sitting on the floor is a new Giulietta sedan with the 4C 1750 turbo in flat silver paint. This is a new release car just in the last month by Alfa Romeo and this car has the introductory paint color. I partake of the car checking out all of the features. All over Italy we have been seeing MiTo’s ( 2 door) and the Giulietta (4 door) as they are very popular. I have ridden in both and was impressed with the fit and finish. The MiTo rides nice and comfortable. We can’t get these cars and it is a shame as they are that good of a car I know it would sell well.


Roberto and I both owners of 1600 Spider Veloce's

Roberto and I both owners of 1600 Spider Veloce’s next to his MiTo

After talking for a while to the person in English I mention that I have 4 Alfa’s including a 1600 Spider Veloce. My wife and I were escorted to a warehouse near the dealership where the owner proceeded to show us the private collection of cars. There was an original Giulietta sedan, a beautiful Duetto but just around the corner was an all original Sprint Speciale in red. I wanted to open the hood but the cable wasn’t cooperating so I had to forego getting the numbers for the register.

We talk for a few minutes and then head back upstairs where I collected a couple of brochures, and bid ourselves a goodbye that I really wanted to last longer. I made a contact and will be emailing in the future to secure those valuable numbers.

All afternoon I kept thinking of the chance encounter of mentioning that I have a 1600 Veloce Spider and we were shown a private collection of cars that was amazing. You never know who you will run in to when you talk cars.

The next blog will be about the Veloce powered boat engines at Colorno and the uniqueness of just how impressive they are on water. Stay tuned!!

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Why Do We Save the Impossible

This is one of those questions that only the person that is working on a project can answer. I have been around Alfa Romeo cars since 1970. My car was only 5 years old at the time and had already been through 4 owners. On top of that, it had been wrecked at some point in time. What is amazing is who ever did the body work was a master craftman. On the right rear panel only discovered when the paint and primer had been removed, was discovered a panel that had a hole in it. The hole is still there in the middle, and around the hole the metal is very thin like it had been worked out on a planishing table. Around the panel is a weld mark that was finished so well that it almost looks like it was factory. The metal is so smooth it is almost impossible o find any hammer marks.

My suspicions are that sometime in Germany where the car was taken delivery, the first or second owner might have over driven the car at some point, hit something to
dent that panel. Why Germany? Old world skills are demonstrated in this panel of cutting out the part and working out the metal to prefection.

Currently on the AlfaBB is a master metal worker restoring a Sprint Speciale that we would have thrown away years ago. Bernard is what I would consider to be one of
but a handful of people that I know of that can recreate metal like it was new. The car is in pieces and all of the rust from the “tin worm” has been removed. There are
about a handful of people who can recreate a car by remaking panels.

Years ago we never thought about saving cars. We just stripped out a wreck, rusty peice of junk and saved the parts for a future project. I tossed away a rusty Super in the
late 1970s and usd the shell for a retaining wall on the river back on the back of a property. Now look at where Super values are headed. The rust was so bad in the rockers and
floorboards the car wasn’t worth messing with.

When you think of the mindset of the factoy in the times that the cars were built, they were making a car that could go 10, 15, or even 20 years down the proverbial “road”.
Here we are 50 and 60 years later restoring cars to like new standards. Some of the projects that have come across various websites have been astoundingly recreated.

Why not just toss the car into the metal recycler? Why go to the expense and labor intensive effort to put the car back on the road. Some of us do it for the love and
labor of recreating a “work of art” and appreciate the final effort. Some spend the money to have someone else do the work, because the car is valuable. The value of a Sprint
Speciale is going up so high that you can make some profit on a car at auction. We couldn’t do that until about 5 or 10 years ago. Spider Veloce’s, Sprint Veloce’s are not
far behind.

Race cars have always had value to restore becasue of th documentation it was raced in some famous race or that some driver had their hands on the wheel. Those cars are
rare to begin with and worth he effort to put back to new conditon. Street cars never enjoyed this luxury until about a decade or more ago.

Part of all this circles around people who remake panels and stampings of metal that the metal worker can cut out and weld back in. There is one company that makes repro
parts that some say isn’t worth bothering with becasue it takes to much effort to make the part fit. Thre are a couple of sources in Europe that are turning out metal that loks
to be factory stampings. The supply of NOS metal is drying up, and rarely do we see NOS panels availale. I have only recently seen a couple of NOS nose panels come to the market
for spiders. There is sources in Ital/Germany where panels are being remade of excellent quality.

Some parts are have been available for some time like rubber, windshields, and upholstery as these are those wear and tear items that need replacing.

Step back with me to around 1991. I was working in southern California at a car dealer as a line mechanic. Someone came to my bay and said thre was a guy out front with a Alfa
Romeo converible. Naurally, I was curious about what the guy was talking about. Someone had a red Giulietta spider that was in great condition after having been restored.
What caught my attention was the floormats. Now, that doesn’t seem to be a big deal now, but back at that time the mats had been not available. We say they were made
of “unobtainium” I asked where he got them. His reply was a company caled “ReOriginals” out of Houston Texas. ( a future blog). Upon further investigation ReOriginals was
tapping into a source of NOS (new old stock) of parts that were in Italy and helping people restore cars. This was like the trickle that started the stream of what we
have today in restoration parts. There was also Alfa Ricambi in San Fernando, as well as Centerline that were selling NOS parts from sources in Italy. ( a couple more
blogs) Some things were just dreams that people needed to make complete cars.

My close friend Dan had been stripping cars for pars and had the vision to save them for the future. Now he has a treasure chest of parts for the cars he is restoring. I
was forturate enough to get from Alfa Romeo ARI El Segundow a pile of NOS parts before they were gone. There is in my stash of parts som NOS in paper factory wrapping stainless eyebrows for my
Veloce as well as other parts. Why? Becasue I knew one day that they would not be available and to restore my Velose would require those parts.

Why do we save the impossible? You could say that we have a vision for the future. These cars are now valuable monetarily, but also valueable that they only built but a
few thousand cars ( less than 6000 for all Veloces) Look at the Veloce Regiters to get a sense of just haow many are left. All total I would guess about 20%. There are alot of
cars out there that have been found, I just can’t get the documentation to verify the car for the registers. (my biggest frustration is not getting chassis and engine numbers)

Parts and metal are now moe available than they have ever been. Some of the suppliers were the original source for the parts when Alfa Romeo contracted with back
when the car was built. It doesn’t get any better than that. The incentiv is that there is a market for recreations. Cars we tossed years ago are being resurrected and put
on the road and opening a new market for people willing to sell them at auction. This can only drive up the value of what we currently have and insure that more cars will b
be saved for posterity.

Have I answered the question posed at the beginning? Probably not, but it does make for interesting ponderings and lively discussions.

The next questions are: Do we save them as museum peices (trailer queens) or just get them out and drive them like there is no tomorrow? One way to answer that isto look at
what the Alfa Romeo Museo Storico does with their cars. :)

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ARI El Segundo…what ever happened to them?

Alfa Romeo Incorporated (ARI) in El Segundo California used to be where cars, parts and factory service were performed for the west coast. The address used to be 215 S. El Segundo Boulevard, El Segundo CA. (street view).

For those of us that lived even remotely close (100 miles) it was worth it for us to make the drive down to ARI to do our parts business. You could go in the back door which was the opening to the shop area. You went up to the parts counter, and Tom (Bonser?) would show up and ask for your order. He would write it all down and disappear. A short time later he would show up with the parts in hand if they were in stock. Now that is what we called “factory direct” service. Over time the dealers were crying “foul” as they were losing business because it was convenient to drive over to ARI and get parts, rather than order them through the dealer. Then you had to wait a week for the order to get sent in on a certain order day and then wait a week for the parts to show up. The last item I bought there in 1971 was a new 1600 original foam dash board for my freshly repainted spider veloce. (It has since disappeared into dust.)

A story circulated around that Tom was found out in the desert dead. It was said the death was suspicious. You couldn’t have met a better person.

DPeterson said, “I remember that I was required to submit written orders for our dealership.  Calling in an order incurred a 16% handling fee.  No idea why I remember that, or how they came to that number, but it compares in an interesting way to the modern automotive idiom of giving brilliant service to their car owners, particularly for “car-broken-down” orders, in order to earn a future car sale.”

ARI had a full service shop where if you wanted  you could take your car in for service. They generally did work on the car that was strictly warranty work. I took my 71 GTV into them as my injection pump went bad. They removed the pump, took it into their clean room and did some work on it. Inside the clean room was a place where they had a fuel injection station where they could tune your injection pump back to factory specifications. I was in and out the same day.

JohnW said, “I purchased parts from ARI, Inc. for my 1957 Spider and 1961 Sprint Veloce until they quit selling to the public. I have all of my receipts from ARI. I used to buy parts from Tom at ARI. I had them rebuild my SV front suspension and differential. The differential housing and ring and pinion were replaced… I truly miss buying from ARI, Inc. The people were just great and now we cannot purchased any new Alfas. I hope that Alfa Romeo returns to the US car market.” 

The man in charge of the shop I think was Kurt Heineman (?). I found him a few years later working for I believe BMW. I had owned for a while one of the original AR service vans, a Romeo 2 front wheel drive. There was a rumor going around in certain circles that Kurt had some spare parts for the van. When I met up with him I was two weeks to late as he had cleaned out his garage of all the spare parts to the dump.

Mario Silvi (?) I believe was the man in the PR dept. I remember going in to his office in 1971 to receive a gift from him, which I still have, of a copy of Luigi Fusi’s Alfa Romeo dal 1910. It was and has been one of the best books I have owned. I will write another story in the future of how this book took me to Italy to meet Cav. Luigi Fusi. Mario later went to work for the Italian consulate in Los Angeles.

When word that ARI was closing we were all wondering what we were going to do for parts as now they would be coming from the east coast and taking longer to get them. JohnW says, “I was told that when ARI, Inc. closed its doors in El Segundo many of the parts went to the salvage yard. The parts had been depreciated and could not be sold according to what I heard. I heard that new 6C2500 engine was sent to the salvage yard. I do not think that all of the parts were scrapped because I bought parts from Willy Mueller in Huntington Park that were from ARI, Inc. He had 1900, 2000 (102) and 2600 parts that came from ARI, Inc. I wanted to know if other parts went to other people, but he did not say anything. I think that some of the ARI, Inc. parts were sold to other parties, but that is pure speculation.

The rumor mill was alive and well with stories of what happened to the parts. The parts were a total write off for Alfa Romeo. Rather than sell them to the public, collectors or returned to Italy, the parts were thrown away. Several large roll off containers were said to have been dropped at the back door and the parts department was cleared of all parts. It still staggers my imagination to speculate what was thrown away into the land fill. Maybe someone can fill in the blanks as to what really happened. 

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1600 Spider Veloce For Sale – Portugal

I don’t have an exact count of just how many of the original 1091 units are still around, but my register shows just a few hundred. Here is #390637 for sale in Portugal. Nice car, needs some detailing. There is a German plaque on the fire wall, so it gives a hit of where it has been. The email wasn’t working when I tried it. Find it here on Car and Classic UK. (click to link) Let me know if you buy it.

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Sprint Speciale Article

Ever wonder what happened to your car after you sold it? We sign papers, exchange  money then see it drive off down the road with a lingering sense of loss and wonder if you did the right thing.

Here is a great story from Pete Vack of VeloceToday and his Sprint Speciale that he sold some time back. I have included his photos of the car to see if anyone knows of its whereabouts. If you know, please contact me!

Alfa-SS-2-1978 Alfa-SS-1978-1

July 27th, 2005Something SpecialeAn Alfa at odds with itselfBy Pete Vack


The Alfa Romeo Sprint Speciale, or SS was produced with both the 1300 and 1600 engines. Photo by Alessandro Gerelli.

To some eyes, the Alfa Romeo Sprint Speciale (1957-1966) was a great looking piece of automotive art. Yet, so radical, so sweeping was the scope of the design, to this day there may not be a consensus. Is it a work of rolling art or is it a bloated caricature of a space age nightmare? What was the original intent? Did the SS live up to expectations?

The best laid plans…

Derived from the experimental B.A.T. prototype of 1953-55, Alfa’s Sprint Speciale was designed by Bertone as a counterpoint to Zagato’s brutally efficient and lightweight coupes. A counterweight might be closer to the truth, for what it gained in beauty over the soapbar SZ, it lost in weight. This was not the original intent; Alfa Romeo was looking toward Bertone to create a faster version of the Guilietta, favoring Bertone over Zagato as a co-producer of their cars. It is one of the more fascinating ironies that beset the Sprint Spinta.

To continue reading the story…VeloceToday Sprint Speciale article (click to link)


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Need History on an SS

Question of the day…who owns this SS? I found this SS while surfing and was wondering who might have it and be able to provide me with some numbers for my Sprint Speciale Register. (click to link) Here is what the EBay ad said: “

On Dec-01-12 at 07:40:40 PST, seller added the following information:

This is a 1 owner car from new. The car was sold new in May of 1965 in NYC. The purchaser was a military officer that shipped the car to Italy where he was stationed. Upon arrival to Italy the owner had the car resprayed in red from its original white. The owner also replaced his MPH speedometer with a Kilometer speedometer. ( 37000 original kilometers) The mileage on the car was 13 when this was performed. The original U.S. version speedometer will be a part of the sale. The car was shipped back to US after the military tour was completed.The Alfa was shipped from Antwerp back to the USA in 1969. Several more years of use and the car went into a barn to be stored. This car has been sitting dormant for over 25years. This car is very complete. This car has its matching number engine 1600cc 129HP twin cam 4 cylinder. The interior is original, the paint is a repaint from white to red. The car has rust in the passenger door and the fender bottoms. The floor is in tact. the trunk has rust in the bottom from water settling in thru the trunk seal. The windshield was broken by a farm animal as the story goes …so in 1990 the owner ordered from Italy, a new windshield for this car, and that part will be included with the sale. This car comes with the documentation to support all claims for the rare 1600cc Giulia SS. Pictures of the car from 76 and 86 will also support the history of this automobile.”

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