I came across an article that I down loaded about what makes a car “historic” and thought I would use it as an outline for my next blog spot.
The inevitable question comes up about original condition or restored to like new. Of course we can play a game of semantics and cut the proverbial thread in to a thousand pieces as this is one of those arguments that could not be easily resolved. Just recently a Giulietta Spider Veloce came up for sale in Georgia as a barn find. The original owner drove the car for 30,000+ miles, blew a head gasket and parked it. There it has sat for 40+ years as an original car. The parts were not exchanged other than oil changes and tune ups. So could the car be qualified as being “like it left the factory”? Or like it was delivered? All original? Certainly the car has a patina that strikes at being an “original” barn find due to the deteriorated paint, upholstery, and working mechanisms.
Let us consider the outside of the car as one of the main elements starting with paint. Paint has come a long way since our cars were built. Glasurit was the preferred paint for our cars, but we know there was Dupont, Italver, Max Meyer, and several others. Remember these names: “Duco” for nitrocellulose lacquer and “Lucite” for acrylic lacquer. The paint was nitrocellulose, temperamental, dried fast, easily sanded, buffed and glossed out beautiful. The problem with nitrocellulose was that not everyone liked using it as it wasn’t as easy to shoot as enamels and didn’t last as long and eventually cracked. You put on 6 coats, sanding each coat in between layers, and after several coats you could create a depth in the color that was in my opinion amazing. After a final buffing with compounds just Carnuba wax could maintain the gloss.
Then next thing to come along was two stage paints where it was enamel based, required a catalyzer or hardener and gave a long lasting paint that stood up hard against the elements. These new paints require proper breathing apparatus and proper covering of the body as the materials in the paint can be detrimental to your health and are not to be breathed.
Todays paints are usually water based and topped with clear coat that gives them an incredible shine, a barrier to the paint, easily maintained, and a long life with proper care. The problems with clear were they would craze when exposed to ultraviolet rays from the sun. Modern chemistry has resolved those issues as paints can go a couple of decades without deterioration.
If you are restoring your car, do you spray it with nitrocellulose which seems to be near to impossible to find and used in the painting of guitars. The sources I looked up were Sherman Williams, McFaddens, and Behlins. Whether or not this will work on a car, why wouldn’t it? The bigger question is can you get it California which seems to have a restricted list of paints and VOC’s a mile long. Think of something and it is probably on the list or soon will be.
Consider metal working as the next topic. Let me say that I have seen some metal working in the last couple of years that are truly works of art in replicating pieces. Some cars have been brought back from the brink of death from extensive rust. Cars we would have thrown away are now in various stages of restoration. As much as the metal work is labor intensive, the values of the cars are now warranting the expense. A car that is resurrected from the rust pile to being back on the road, is it historic? We don’t have the factory molds for stamping out parts like we need, so we are not hand forming parts and patches to fit. When panels are put on, does anyone use lead anymore to fill in the gaps? That is a lost art of being able to paddle lead and file. If it isn’t done right, the acid primer will work its way up from the metal into the paint and show up as bubbles. Proper neutralizing is required and a good sealer over the top of the lead.
Body filler…the kiss of death? Some cars have been sculpted with Bondo body filler. A case in example is a Sprint Speciale that is being restored. The shop on one fender removed two 5 gallon buckets of body filler! When I first started to learn about body filler, it was just supposed to be a thin skim coat, sanded smooth and then topped with a thin blue or red filler if necessary. The base coat would fill up the imperfections and sanded smooth. So how much is too much? After all who is going to know you even used it? So again, is this correct? Is lead correct?
The engine…uh oh! New parts or NOS parts? When you look at rebuilding the engine you have to ask yourself, what is the ultimate goal with this engine?
• An engine that can easily hit red line and not destroy itself?
• Maximum horsepower?
• Everyday driving?
When that is decided do I choose to use all original components from NOS, or update with modern parts?
At the time our cars were built they used quality components that could stand the test of time if driven normally. Of course normal to an Alfa Romeo driver was to rev the engine through 4-6,000 rpm with every shift. Pistons didn’t last as the ring lands would only go about 40 – 50,000 miles before the rings shattered. Valves burnt out at 20,000 mile intervals due to the gasoline deposits and valve guides without seals. I could almost tell what brand of gasoline you burned when I took off a head. Anyone remember the “yellow valve crud” from Shell gasoline? It matched the yellow in their signs.
Veloce rods were forged rods for strength, as was the crankshaft and pistons. This gave an improved strength. Today is it is easy to slip in some Carillo rods that are H beam and can withstand forces higher than our engines can rev. Is that original? Custom made slipper pistons, different compression ratios, ceramic coatings, 3 piece oil rings, TRW bearings or other brands, extra large valves, heavy duty valve springs, reground cam shafts, Dellorto or Solex vs. Weber carburetors, ceramic clutch disc or original fabric clutch materials? The list goes on…in the end you probably have an engine that is more reliable, turns higher, more horse power than stock, and a blast to drive. But are you holding to the course of “like factory original” or restored to like new? My 1600 Veloce engine has all NOS components: Vandervell bearings, Borgo 9.7:1 veloce pistons, new set of 10121 cams , original Veloce high pressure clutch, stock valves and springs from the factory, original 11 tooth factory oil pump, factory guides with seals as this was a factory upgrade in 1966 for all Alfa’s. You could say the engine is close to original as it left the factory using NOS parts.
Wheels, now it gets interesting. The cars came with Borrani or Fergats steel wheels. The racing cars came with Campagnolo magnesium wheels. Do you put on what is correct for your car or do you hold towards safety of using modern Techno magnesium wheels because they are of the period? Do you power coat or paint your rims? Should they be chromed rims?
The proper way is to paint the rims with BMW Silver mist ( Polaris Silver) as this is an almost as correct color match as can be found in a stock paint. Chrome was a USA option as the show cars had them installed. Why not powders coat the wheels, it will hold up longer and it looks just like paint. The question, does it have the correct patina of being like factory original?
Tires, it seems there is little selection in what is available that is in a stock 155×15 series tire. It comes down to Vredestein, Pirelli reproduction tires (Pirelli Cinturato, 155 x 15, modern manufacture on old dies. New production in 2002, only 80 to 100 tires made by Pirelli each year.) or Coker tire reproductions. If you go the expense of putting on Pirelli reproduction tires you are looking at $513 a tire and you hope you can get a set. Vredestein are $75-$95 a tire, modern production and accepted as an excellent tire for our cars. Coker has a Firestone poly/steel 155×15 for $75 a tire. Also Coker has Michelin XAS HR series tire for $295 each. The best course here is to get rid of old tires so you don’t have a blow out at high speed and do serious damage, and go with modern tire construction and hold to the course of factory original. Tires have a life-span, generally between 5 & 8 years on a steel-belted radial due to deterioration of the rubber compound and potential separation of the tread-backed steel belting from the fabric side-walled casing – makes a BIG mess when it comes loose as that 4′ steel belted tread whups around inside the wheel arch a few times before exiting the arch and the car drops & drags to that side while you try fight to keep it on the road.
Carburetors are next. Our Veloce’s came with Weber 40DCO3’s or 40DCOE2’s. The 40DCO3’s are very hard to find and very expensive when you do find them, in the neighborhood of $2500 and up. Be lucky if you get the manifold and linkage to go with them. Most likely the shafts will have to have new bushings installed to make them usable as they wear out the body and leak air. The 40DCOE2’s are easier to find parts for as they were the forerunner for the modern DCOE carbs of various models. I have seen 40DCOE27’s on the earlier cars but these came from the early 105 cars (Duetto/GTV). The single solex’s wore out and a Weber carb was a simple bolt on affair, and with an adaptor you could use the original air cleaner, without the phenolic base plate to clear the hood. Oh…if you didn’t know there are 3 versions of the 40DCOE2.
Brakes are easy to fix. You can go with riveted lining from Ferodo, and bonded from any number of sources. Just recently I read of an owner going with Porterfield bonded linings in an improved compound that improves the braking. So what is correct? This is one of those things that only a few would know about because who pulls brake drums to check for originality? In a concours tie maybe? What about braided steel brake lines in place of original rubber hoses? Is that original? It is effective and won’t wear out. Do you go towards originality or safety enhanced? How about a brake booster in a Spider or Sprint Speciale like I have recently seen? Nice workmanship, but far from original.
In closing this brings up any number of arguments, comments and conversations. It is after all said and done, it is your car and you can do anything you want to it. Maybe you want to turn it into a Chia Alfa? Anyone see the custom Sprint Speciale out of Pasadena? Nice work, but original? No, and it would take some work to bring it back to its original body.
Which cars fetch the highest prices or win the biggest awards?
“One also has to examine the ethical position: is it better to restore the car with some incorrect parts and have it running or to leave the uncompleted car in an inoperable state because of the unavailability of a single original component?” Alan Putt 9th August 2006, FIVA website, “How Historic is Historic?”