False Positive (00118 engine blocks)

Time passes quickly, and before you know it a year has gone by.

I titled my blog spot to dispell a point that recently came up on BringATrailer.com There was a Giulia Spider Veloce for sale with all the correct numbers etc. One of the comments below the advertisement was how come the car doesn’t have the correct engine and instead have the Sprint Speciale engine?

Alfa Romeo in their infinite wisdom created a series of cars each with their own type number (10107, 10120, 10118 etc). With each type, the car was to have a special block numbering system to go with the car. In the case of the 10118 Giulia Spider Veloce, the block was to have been 00118.xxxxx series. Luigi Fusi’s book Alfa Romeo dal 1910 lists the Veloce as to having a 00118 block. We know there are errors in the listings as they have been found over the years. Even when I spoke to Cav Fusi about the book, he admitted there were mistakes. At least we had something to go on for history as there were no books until then. Imagine the monumental task of putting a book of Alfa Romeo cars from 1910 to the present in the 1960’s? In the compendium in the back it shows the models, type number, how many were made and production for each year in numbers as well as the chassis and engine number range.

Before I continue and give you the answer, we have to digress back to 1963. At that time the last of the 101 1300 spiders were coming to the end. The Sprint Speciale was also coming to an end. Max Hoffman who was the importer of Alfa Romeo’s to the US, based in NYC was wondering how he was going to sell cars. There was a network of dealers who sold cars and provided service/warranty to those cars and Max wanted to keep that going. Alfa Romeo was in the very early stages of creating the new 105 series cars with new bodies and suspensions. Those cars were not to be imported until 1966. So what was Max Hoffman going to do?  There are no actual accounts of how all of this went down with Alfa Romeo, so this is pure conjecture on my part. Max must have contacted Alfa Romeo and probably said until you can get those 105 cars over here, I need something I can sell. Alfa Romeo said we can help you with the new 1600 cc engine dropped into the Sprint Speciale, Sprint, and Spider. They would offer a Normale (single Solex) and a Veloce model (twin Webers). The new 105 was to get a 1600 block so it made sense for Alfa Romeo to just cast more 1600 blocks.

So the Sprint Speciale got the 10121.xxxxx block. The Giulia normale got its own and the Giulia Veloce “was” to have had the 00118. However, there must have been a change in plans at the factory as to why these blocks were never built. Instead, they made more of the 10121 blocks and installed those into the Giulia Veloce’s. It made sense to just make more and warehouse them until they were needed instead of creating a new series of blocks and storing those separately. Since the SS and the Giulia Veloce were going down the same assembly line, it made sense to just pick the next engine in the cue to install. The SS 1600 was built in 1963-1964. The Giulia Veloce was built in 1964-1965. These were the last of the 101 bodies from Pininfarina. They were never to be built but as I made conjecture above, it was a stop gap to sell cars.

I will say this once more, there never was a 00118 engine block made. Someone has tried to fake one but it was discovered to have been a modified stamping. Sure, someone could buy a new replacement block without a number, stamp a 00118 engine number on to it, and call it good. However, if you look at the Giulia Veloce register and the SS register you would soon be found out as those cars all have 10121 blocks.

There you have it, the facts as I know them.

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It is not often that I have been posting on here as the website has enough traffic that I do not need to do any new posts. That must be a good sign when you have enough traffic that your stats remain steady.

Recently I up-dated the Veloce Registers with an annual search for cars that are for sale, or recently posted to the web. Using my search strings on various search engines I have added several new cars that were previously unseen.

This Sprint Speciale for sale in Brescia, Italy is a very nice example that anyone would want to put into their garage. The dealership is reducing its inventory and will eventually be closing its doors.

This is some information about the car:

  • 1961
  • Chassis 10120 00357
  • Engine AR00120 00414
  • Bertone Chassis 00359
  • 105,000 Euro

Here is a link to the car on the Sprint Speciale Register: Sprint Speciale 00357

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Another Website Added

There is another website that I added that documents the restoration of my 1965 Giulia Spider Veloce. You might want to jump over there and take a look at my project.


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Alfa Romeo Production Randomness

Like so many companies, you get so large and the demand to match, that you have to find ways of meeting production demands.

In Italy since the inception of making cars, there have always been a large number of small shops that would or could make “one off” body concepts from a hand drawn design. These craftsmen were skilled at working metal, using leather or mohair and hot rodding engines. I am sure that if you were to conjure up some names of some of the most beautiful cars ever built you can think of any number of styling salons. Some of them do not exist today as they never really made the “big splash” that would lead to large scale production. There are others that however churned out any number of bodies that lead to small scale runs or even more.

Alfa Romeo being a car manufacturer consigned many of their cars out to sub contract for bodies. I used to own a 1949 6c2500 Super Sport with a Touring 3 window aluminum body. I will surmise that the owner of the hotel in Bellagio went to Alfa Romeo to see about getting a car that was worth of his stature in the community. As the story of my car was told to me by Sr. Luigi Fusi, the hotel had a questionable reputation. That being said, it was a front for a brothel. Now having the means to buy a custom made car it made sense that you could go to just about anyone in Milan or Turin to get a custom built car.

To continue the story…the customer went to Alfa Romeo and asked to have a car built. Alfa Romeo said that they could build him a car, all he had to do was choose a chassis. At that time it was the 6 cylinder 2.5 liter engine mated to a 4 speed gear box with a swing axle in the rear. The new owner chose to have a Super Sport chassis. This was the 3 Weber carbureted engine. Then the owner would look at drawings or photographs (I am making an assumption) to choose which body he wanted built.  . The chassis then would be taken to the body shop and a new body would be custom built for the client. In the case of my car it was Touring which was a very large body maker.

Again going on the assumption of what could have transpired, Touring sat down with the client to work out the colors for the exterior and interior. Once that was decided including instrument placement etc, the body shop was given the go ahead to start. Large panels of aluminum would be pulled and locked into place on a large wooden buck that would form the sections of the body. Once they were hand beaten over the wood buck they would be given to another set of craftsmen to weld together on the chassis.

Now how does this fit with the theme of my website? In the 1950’s Alfa Romeo started to make unibody cars with the 1900. Some of the bodies were farmed out if requested for custom bodies. The company was taking a new direction by making cars in large numbers for the for the citizens. Then the Giulietta came in to existence in the 1950’s. The companies that Alfa Romeo chose to build their bodies were Pininfarina and Bertone.

Pininfarina built the Spider and Bertone built the sprint and Sprint Speciale bodies. These companies were small production, but the demand to move from small teams that hand pounded out bodies were out stripped by demand. To meet demand the companies had to buy large metal stamps to increase production.

The reason for this blog came from the current owner of a Giulia Spider Veloce. If you have read through my blog spos you know hat there were two numbers put on the body of the car. One was the chassis number for Alfa Romeo and the other was the body number stamped in the floor of the trunk from Pininfarina. Neither were in consecutive order. It was most likely pulled from the pile and put on the assembly line. In the case of the Sprint Speciale we know that the cars were built in order “for the most part” as the chassis numbers and the Bertone body number are off by two, accounting for the two prototypes. There are a few anomalies with the numbers off by 3. How that happened is anyone’s.  guess.

The bodies were stamped and assembled in the factory across town from Alfa Romeo on carts. The bare painted chassis (run in groups of the same color) were then loaded on to a truck and shipped over to Alfa Romeo to be assembled in to complete cars. Once the truck arrived, the bodies were stored in warehouses awaiting their turn to  be put on the assembly line.

The engines, transmissions and interiors were made in house at Alfa Romeo and stock piled. One can go on this assumption that chassis were pushed from the ware house to the assembly line and started down the line. Here is where “randomness” comes into play. Since the bodies were off loaded into the warehouse, they were just pushed in to any where they could sit. The bodies were then pulled at random. “Today we are building all white cars”, could be a scenario. As the cars made their way down the assembly line, the engines were pulled from the warehouse where they were stored at random.

Here is where the story concludes…the owner of the Giulia is a very late chassis number, 391xxx about 80 cars from the end of production. My car was built in May of 1965. This Giulia Spider Veloce 391xxx car was built in June of 1965 only a week apart, but different colors. This shows that all of the bodies were built before the middle of 1965 by Pininfarina. This is new information to me as I have been tracking these cars since the early 1970’s.

The next part of this story will be to compare the in house body numbers from Pininfarina to see where these cars are in sequence. I guess one has to ask, “Why only 1091 bodies?” It would seem logical to build an even number. Could Alfa Romeo said that the contract would only extend to the end of June 1965 and after that date no more bodies were to be built?

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As I mentioned in the previous post about taping the oil galleys with pipe plugs brought up an interesting experience from my past.

As I mentioned AR started hardening their crankshafts with the 2 liter Nord engines. Even after 100,000 miles rarely would you see a crankshaft that needed to be turned. That is unless the owner of said engine treated it badly by not changing the oil often.

I had an Alfetta at the time, and the crank plugs fell out. Even after installing new plugs, the plugs fell out again. I pulled the engine, and removed the crank. Putting the crank in a suitable fixture to hold it, I started to tap the oil galley holes for the pipe plugs.

The tap only needed to go in about 3 full turns (est) to get the plug in far enough to be flush. Most of the holes went along just fine, then I had one that I was turning and the tap just snapped off flush with the crank. Being that the tap has cutting threads you can’t just leave it there as the oil would flow out through that hole. Knowing that the tap was super hard, removing it would prove futile. It was then I called a local machine shop that turned my crankshafts and asked them what to do. They said to take it a firm in Los Angeles called TapEx. They have an EDM machines.

I headed off to Los Angeles about an hour drive away to the company called TapEx. They have several EDM machines that remove problems like mine.

Here is a quick primer. Ever go to the movie theater before the 1990s? There was a guy in the projection booth that ran a carbon arc projector. They were also used for search lights in the war and afterwards for advertising. Those carbon arc projectors used a carbon rod electrode and high voltage to create a flame as bright as the sun. They used a positive and a negative carbon rod that moved slowly to keep the flame burning.

So, now you asking yourself, what in the heck is a EDM machine. Hey! I am glad you asked. For starters the machine is an Electrical Discharge Machine. The part is submerged in a non conductive fluid and a penetrating probe is inserted into the hole to remove the metal. There are 3 kinds of machines used in the EDM process: wire EDM, hole EDM and Sinker EDM. Using a spark at 100,000 times a second with the metal being melted or vaporized the metal is removed with the help of the fluid. The fluid also keeps the metal from being distorted. The electrode and the metal to be removed is never touched so as to create an arc. The gap is as small as the diameter of a hair. One part is negative and the other is positive which creates the spark or flame.

A tap extractor is known by many names including an  EDM machine, tap burner, metal disintegrator, and spark eroder. These metal disintegration machines are used to remove broken bolts, taps, and drills without doing any damage to the surrounding part. Cheap systems often make the situation worse or are not even necessary. With an electric discharge machine (EDM) you get the precision, speed, and value without the cost of replacing parts on expensive equipment.

So, why use an EDM machine? Here is from a source I copied from*:

The main advantage of electrical discharge machining is that it can be used on any material as long as it is conductive. It is therefore possible to machine workpieces made from tungsten carbide or titanium that are hard to machine with traditional cutting methods. Another advantage of electrical discharge machining is the lack of mechanical force put into the workpiece. Fragile outlines are easier to produce because there is no high cutting force needed to remove the material.

EDM also allows for shapes and depths that are impossible to reach with a cutting tool. Especially deep processing where the tool length to diameter ration would be very high, is a usual application for EDM. Sharp internal corners, deep ribs and narrow slots are other specialities of electrical discharge machining. Another argument for using EDM is that the surface finish is usually better than with traditional methods. Electrical discharge machining produces surfaces with a fine finish and high precision.

A Sinker EDM is used to create parts by burning away the metal that are made from carbon or copper. This is the negative side of the electrode and used to create complex shapes.

The Wire EDM uses the principle as the carbon arc projector using a wire feed to create the arc. The wire EDM can cut a hole down through the metal. The wire is usually copper or brass using de-ionized water and with the wire held in place by diamond tips.

The last is the Hole EDM, which actually makes holes in parts using a round tip with holes for pushing water through next to the arc.

This is a slow process that can take up to several hours depending upon the part to be removed.

As it turns out I had to leave the crank there for several days and then do a turn around to go get the part. My wallet was a lot lighter, the hole was perfectly clean and ready for a new special hardened tap to finish the job.

The places that have an EDM machine do a fair amount of work for people and companies and rescue guys like me.

Want to see how they work, go to YouTube and look up EDM machines.


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