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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Global Sales

If you know where to look or you just happen to stumble across a website that has some Alfa’s for sale, it is amazing what you will find out there.
A case in point, there are probably that I can think of as of today, ten (10) Sprint Speciale’s for sale on the web. Considering how rare these cars are to begin with being that now that 50-60 years have passed, there are still a lot of these cars on the market.
The oldest car is a Gold ASI Sprint Speciale that was converted into a race car. (chassis 00215) You can stand on either side of the proverbial fence on this one and toss stones to the other side, about whether this conversion is a good thing or not.

Another case in point was a Sprint Speciale (380888)  that came in a basket almost literally (on a trailer) no suspension and totally stripped down to the bare metal. The restorer had some photos that I put with the register and just last night I came across the restored car for sale at a dealer in Europe. The transformation was like a caterpillar into a butterfly, it was that beautiful.

The question comes up, how do you sort out the cars that are for sale. They are all in remarkable restoration condition, so what makes a good car great? Any suggestions on how to separate out the “men from the boys”?

The only real way would be to see the cars in person, which means you would travel from England to Italy and back through Germany to look at all of them. I don’t see price as a sorting factor unless you are limited on how much money you are going to spend. This factor alone will determine how much you are willing to accept as not being “perfect” or fixable to your terms. If there are incorrect parts installed or “holes” missing some item, how hard will it be to find the correct parts and bring the car up to a higher standard.

However, if price isn’t a factor, you really have to know your cars, know what was done to the car to bring it to this level you are seeing, and then start to pick the car apart doing a nut and bolt inspection.

Then if you are a US citizen then you have to figure in shipping back to the USA with container costs, and customs to navigate before you even get to turn the key and drive it home.

I might suggest you dig back through some of my archives on this website and read about the ASI standard in Italy that will help you sort out the cars. There are 3 levels and each one is very particular about what is the accepted standard. If you want perfection, you should go find a Veloce or SS in Gold standard. It means  in short that the car is exactly the way it came out of the factory, and has a paper trail all the way to present.

Documentation is essential from ownership, restoration, to receipts for all the work and parts. If the restorer is a “check book mechanic” and has paid for everything out of pocket there should be a fat file of photos and receipts for everything. Then you can go down hill from there to where you stand back and question what is under that paint. We call it the 20-20 rule. From 20 feet away it looks perfect.

What I am seeing over the last 20 years is a resurgence of parts being produced to 100 point show car restorations. What we used to throw away we now resurrect from the grave yard and make them look like perfect China dolls. This has in effect driven the market of value far beyond many of our dreams. However when compared to other marques, some models of Alfa Romeo’s still pale in value.

So it comes down to what is it that you really want and what can you live with. The old line from “Kung Fu” was a TV show starring David Carradine in the 70s. As a pupil at a monastery learning the art of Kung Fu, the lead character was referred to by his master as grasshopper. The master would say to the pupil, “Choose carefully Grasshopper.”

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Connecting Rod Bolt Corrosion

I am building up a performance 2 liter street engine to go into my G. Super, which has nothing to do with a Veloce. However, the information presented is worth reading as it applies to Veloce engines.  This article  has to do with corrosion on the rod bolts themselves. I have a small box of used rod bolts and some of them have corrosion on them. I am thinking they are useless as the corrosive spots might be a place where cracks start. So I did some research on the subject.

Corrosion cracks are called “fretting”. This can be caused by moisture, caustic chemicals or other environmental issues. This corrosion etches the metal surface which allows micro cracks to start. When the bolt is put under a stress of being torqued or high rpm, the cracks have a tendency to grow. This will eventually lead to the bolt stretching enough to spin a rod bearing or bolt failure altogether.
On the BME website that builds rods, this is what they say about assembly of rod bolts:

[B][I]During assembly of a BME rod, proper rod bolt lubrication is absolutely critical. Use only high-quality racing engine oil for for this purpose. Do not use moly-based assembly lubricants. Do not use antiseize. Do not use any lubricant other than racing oil or rod damage may occur.

Bill Miller Engineering recommends Red Line SAE30 Race Oil or Red Line Liquid Assembly Lube for rod bolt lubrication. BME is not responsible for damage due to use of improper lubricants.


Disassemble each rod. Blow the parts clean of contaminants with shop air. Pay special attention to the serrated mating surfaces and rod bolt holes. If the connecting rod or bolts must be cleaned, use only a solvent bath. DO NOT use any aqueous cleaning process, aerosol “brake clean” products, MEK, acetone, lacquer thinner or any caustic cleaning process, such as “hot tanking”, as all of these will cause the connecting rod bolts to corrode which may lead to stress-corrosion cracking and bolt failure.[/I][/B]

Next is a text paper related to connecting bolt corrosion for compressors with varying duty cycles. The paper presents some interesting points in the first few paragraphs worth reading.

If your rod bolts show any surface corrosion you might want to seriously consider getting some new ones.

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Bertone Numbers As Related to the Sprint Specaile

Before you delve into this article you might want to consider reading my other article called the “Hidden Number.” (click to link) This will explain why there is another number stamped into the shell of the cars that were produced outside of Alfa Romeo. These second numbers were for “in-house” tracking of what parts went with which cars as some parts were specifically created for that car to fit as exacting as possible. There were many small companies in Turin with in blocks of each other that were “sub” shops to do small work runs, other body makers, and large body companies like Bertone/Farina. If you were a small company it would be easy to keep track of a handful of cars, but the larger companies had to have a in house system to keep track of parts that were subbed out to the small shops in town. So when the parts came back they knew which part went with which car.

We do not have the Bertone numbers from the company to know what day each body was made, or any other details (unless someone knows of a source I do not have). We can only go on the facts in front of us to work with. Just know that some of the Bertone numbers went on other companies bodies like Ferrari, Maserati, etc.

To see if you have the correct parts that came with your car or a donor car, just look for the number stamping on the bumpers or other trim parts as it will have the 3 numbers of the last numbers from the Bertone number (ie. 003 0r 082).  This not only applied to the SS, but the Sprint/Sprint Veloce cars as well since they were also a Bertone number.

I am not going to write a complete history or story of the Sprint Speciale car in this article, reserving that idea for a series of future articles that I will be pulling from a large number of sources. What I am going to concentrate on is the Bertone numbers as applied to the Sprint Speciale and in-house numbering.

The Sprint Speciale (Sprint Special) was a design concept to see how low of a coefficient of drag (CD) could be produced in a car. The well known B.A.T 1900 cc cars were the prototypes along with several other design concepts like the Superflow helped develop the idea for the Sprint Speciale. The concept was so good it got the CD down to .30 giving the car a top speed of 125 mph compared to the spider veloce of only 112 mph using the same running gear.  From personal experience, the car is so efficient through the wind that even with the windows rolled down you get very little to no wind inside the car. To quote Luigi Fusi from Alfa Romeo tutte le vetture dal 1910 page 550, “The Sprint Speciale. the perfect streamlined car resulted from the cooperation of Alfa Romeo and Carrozzeria Bertone, gathered in itself the features of the various Giulietta models (i.e., road holding, maneuverability, effective brakes, excellent pickup, comfort of the ride). The high output of the engine at low rpm granted the car an easy driving in the town traffic and difficult roads, favored also by the five gear transmission.

The car was produced from 1957 to 1965 with records showing that 1366 1300 cc Giulietta and 1400 Giulia Sprint Speciale cars were made for a total of 2766 chassis. There were two prototypes created.

Accounting for the two prototypes these would be Bertone *87 001* and *87 002*. Henceforth all  of the remaining Sprint Speciales would be off by 2 numbers. Alfa Romeo chassis AR00001 would have Bertone number *87 003* etc. What I would love to know is if the two prototypes (prototipo) have a AR chassis number. Anyone know the answer to this question? More importantly, where are the two prototypes ? AR10120.00001 was sold in San Diego a couple years back and has since disappeared.

Now if we run the numbers up through the last of the first run of cars…10120.01729 Then this car should have a Bertone number of *87 731* using the formula I mentioned previously. I have no way to know this until someone provides me with this number confirmation.

Here is where  the numbers get interesting, right after .01729 the chassis numbers change to 177001. This should have a chassis number of *87 732*. It doesn’t…it is chassis number *87 753*. Anyone care to venture a guess what the other 29 cars were that got these numbers? Could they be Ferrari, Maserati or some other exotic car?  Again, referring to my first paragraph, these numbers were “in-house” tracking numbers for not only chassis, but for chrome parts and other various specialty items for the cars as they went through the factory.

There is at least one SS that has a 3 number gap in sequence, so to venture a guess, some thing got slipped in from another company that wanted a chassis built by Bertone. I just received an email to a recent SS that has a 5 number gap. I am going to see if I can get a photo of this number. To see if the numbering system was kept in sequence or it managed to “catch up” in the system is to find as many of the Bertone numbers as we can collect and list them in the SS register. Then we will know if there are gaps or not.

So are  you with me so far? Have you been pondering the question, “How do they keep track of all these chassis and in-house numbers?” It must have been very interesting to say the least.

Lets see if we can see if the 2766 cars lines up with the last car built as far as Bertone numbers go. Now all we have to go on is the last Bertone number I have listed and project that to the last car known from the AR archives (Thank you Marco). The last SS chassis known is AR10120.381401. Where this car is is any ones guess. The last Bertone number I have listed is for AR10120.381377 with Bertone $ *872536*. Do the math and you should come up with *872560* as the last Bertone number for the last SS built. Ok, now figure this out…2766 cars built but only 2560 Bertone numbers.

Think of a Gordian Knot when trying to decipher these numbers.

I have left a comment box below that if anyone can make sense of any of this, I will post the answers. You can also submit your chassis number and Bertone number as well. 




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Changes are in the Wind

The time of the year when fall comes signals some changes in the weather, the trees and behavior of animals. We are not any different, as we have our seasons of our lives. I am entering the fall of my life as I am retiring out of teaching of special education after putting in 18 years with kids of special needs. It has its rewards and it has its difficult times.

I write here and no one seems to acknowledge if this is of any benefit to them or not. I get 40-60 hits a day for various articles and some days up to 100 +. Someone is obviously getting something out of all of this. I write on the wall it seems like it is just a guy rambling on as people walk by.

Most likely there won’t be many posts to this blog spot for a while until I can settle in on what I am going to do with the “fall season” of my life. I am considering selling off some cars and parts to settle some debts like student loans that have been around like forever.

This will mean some cut backs financially. The blog costs me nothing, but on the other hand the Veloce Register costs me out of pocket for something that has been a personal crusade to track the cars since 1970. Since there hasn’t been anyone one say they have used the Veloce Registers for any useful purpose, on September 1, I am going to put it into hibernation. I will most likely keep the register going on my own and at some point pass it over to someone younger than me to keep it going forward.

Hmm, anyone see the trees turning color already?


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Sprint Speciale for Sale

This car is in Utah and comes out of an estate. It is listed on EBay with 2 days to go. Current owner has great communication and answers all questions. It is now listed in the SS register as a new listing. Here is the EBay link: Sprint Speciale

If you buy this be sure to help me update the register with the new owner!

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Compression Impressions

Sick engine or a good engine? How do you tell? Does it run good? Smoke on deceleration? Blow oil smoke on acceleration? Leak like a sieve? Drip all over the driveway? Yeah.. it does all that? Then you might want to either run like the devil is after you or embrace the block like a long lost buddy.

Either way you need to consider doing a compression test before you even go further. This is going to tell you just how good or bad an engine is. For an Alfa Romeo engine there is one sure way to know and a right way to do it as there is a wrong way to do a compression check.

First off you need a good quality compression tester. My choice is the kind that screws into the spark plug hole. You can’t always hold a rubber plug style compression tester in the spark plug hole while trying to figure out how to turn the engine, especially if the key is in the ignition and that is the only way to make the engine go around. A remote starter button solves some of that issue. Most automotive parts stores have compression gauges that will do the work you need to find out the compression.

Here are the steps to doing a quality compression test to test:

  • Remove the spark plug wires from the spark plugs. Number them with masking tape to make sure they go back on the one you took it from. Sometimes people have put in the oil pump wierd and the cap is off from where it should be. Number 1 is usually the front plug hole closest to the radiator on the distributor. Some times it is 180 deg. out and it could be in the back hole closest to the starter. Lay them down away from anything that can catch fire or cause a fire. Usually I lay them on top of the radiator or remove the whole cap as one assembly. If you leave the cap on, pull the main wire from the coil so it doesn’t spark or remove one of the leads like the one that goes to the distributor.
  • Make sure the engine is up to operating temperature BEFORE you start the test. If you have just driven the car, wait a while for it to cool down some. Cold engines do not always give good results.
  • Get some compressed air and blow out the dirt and crud that accumulated around the base of the spark plug. Put a towel over the top so you don’t blow crud all over your nice car or in your face. You do not want any of that to fall down in the cylinder and screw up a good reading.
  • Turn the spark plugs a 1/4 turn and tighten. Turn the engine over a few times to blow out the loosened carbon build up that might have fallen on the valve face or piston.
  • Remove the spark plugs noting color (should be a light grey/brown/white). Anything black is oil or heavy carbon build up from oil or leaking guides. Keep them in order unless you plan on putting new ones in. NOTE OF CAUTION!  Removing spark plugs from an engine at operating temperature can cause the aluminum threads to strip out.   This can ruin the cylinder head.   Do not remove any spark plug that continues to offer resistance after turning it more than one half a turn.   If this happens allow the engine to fully cool down.   If it is still difficult to remove the spark plug it is best to remove the cylinder head and will cost $$$$$$. If you take out the plug and it is stripped you will have to have a Helicoil kit installed in that hole. This means aluminum chips down the cylinder, drilling and installing the Helicoils.
  • Install the compression gauge until it seats.
  • Open the throttle all the way open and keep it open for the next step.
  • Turn the engine over 7-10 times until you get a maximum reading.
  • Write it down #1 ____ #2_____ #3______ #4______
  • There should not be a difference of more than 10-15% between the cylinders. If there is you should rerun the compression test to see if you get the same results.
  • There are some variables that affect the readings obtained from compression testing. They are cranking speed, altitude, temperature, worn camshaft lobes, and high performance long duration profile camshafts. The cranking speed needs to be maintained the same for each cylinder. This may mean jumping your battery to maintain the speed. The effect of the two camshafts above is the same, one of lower readings. Compression data is usually based on 14.7 atmospheric pressure and 59F at sea level. There are factors to compensate for the different altitudes and the corresponding temperature differences.
  • Normal should be about 160-180 lbs per cylinder. Depending upon the compression ratio of the pistons you can have as high as 200 lbs per cylinder.
  • Anything below 150 would indicate some wear of the rings or valve lash is out of tolerance. Should you see 125 or less on a cylinder you have a potential problem.
  • You say you got a very low reading on one cylinder but all the rest are good? Take some compressed air and inject it in to the cylinder while the engine is turned over. This will blow off carbon that might be stuck on the face of the valve. Rerun and see what results you get. Still the same? Not good.
  • Turn the engine over to where the piston is at top dead center (TDC). How do you know it is TDC? When looking down in the spark plug hole you see no valves open and the top of the piston is as high as it can go. Put in some moderate (50 psi) air into the cylinder with the low compression and see if you can hear air coming out of the intake ports or out the exhaust. This is a burnt valve if you hear escaping air.
  • Low compression of 150 or less…put a table spoon of motor oil down the spark plug hole and rerun the compression test. The oil seals the top ring. The compression goes up, you have worn rings. If the compression stays the same you have bad valves.
  • If two adjacent cylinders have low compression it is often caused by a head gasket that is leaking between these two cylinders.
  • If you are fortunate you have a leak down tester. I don’t have one and haven’t used one but they are used in the aviation industry to measure the differential of pressures. You can read more about it here – Leak Down Tester
  • If you notice smoke on deceleration, you are pulling oil down the intake guides past the seal. Time to consider a valve job.
  • Blowing oil smoke and increased oil consumption? This with low compression across all cylinders means your rings are worn past their life. Sometimes the ring land (the space where the ring sits) gets to wide from all the up and down motion, creating a space where the ring can float and bind, causing the rings to break.
  • Sometimes out of adjustment valves can cause a wide variance in compression readings. Hopefully when you run the test your valves are within a reasonable tolerance to factory specs. This isn’t usually a big deal because if the valves are sealing tight, then there is no leakage of air unless it is down past the rings.
  • Reinstall the spark plugs with either the old ones cleaned up, or new ones. I usually rotate the plugs in reverse order when re installing. Put just a bit of anti-seize on the threads and tighten until the plugs seal. Some torque to 25 ft/lbs. If you have weak threads I wouldn’t go that high. Then reconnect everything and you should be good to go.

These are just some of the basics of running a compression test on an Alfa engine. Just remember to open the throttle WIDE open when running the test and 7-10 revolutions.

Any questions? Be sure to post them below and I will attempt to answer them.

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