The name and racing pedigree. The unique and beautiful Italian design in so many different models. The incredible engineering, aluminum alloys and metallurgy…attention to performance using light but sturdy components. The handling, acceleration and braking. The sound of the exhaust. The looks, questions and respect for the marque. The sheer joy and exhilaration of the drive that dares you to go for more; the release of tensions of the day that brings out the demons from within….then the smooth subtle behavior of the vehicle when you calm down and regain your senses; like a Tom Cat from the wild then back in the comfy confines of his masters home.
Long time AROC member Doug Zaitz was due to pick up Stan Deller’s completed Berlina so I was driving it every chance I got.
The very first Alfa I ever drove was a 1971 4 door Berlina. I really wanted a good used GTV but they don’t have room in the back seat for adults. The Alfa dealer located near the University district in Seattle let me take one of their used Berlinas for a test drive. That was 1976. I have shared this story before since it was my first impression of how Alfas drive and handle. There were nice gentle hills to climb with sweeping curves. It felt like I was riding a tiger, gripping the road and my mind flashed back to a vivid ad many years ago by Uniroyal advertising their new “Tiger Paw”Tires. It was a great ad showing a front view of the tiger clawing through turns. Many of today’s cars are as good or better but that was in the 70’s. Most memorable was the rather soft ride where the Berlina would lean just enough in the turns but was so sure footed and in control even with power-on.
Stan found a Berlina with the original “Faggio” paint. There was rust in several areas but 80 % of the paint was in very good condition. Stan wanted Ingram Enterprises to restore all the mechanical components of the car including upgrading the engine if needed to our standard 1880 high performance engine. He also had Breezy Enterprises detail the paint in spite of the blemishes and rust spots. He has another Berlina and
several other Alfas and favors the Berlina.
12 months later I’m test driving Stan’s vintage Berlina that is mechanically brand new. The suspension is soft by today’s standards but the car is so comfortable and easy to drive. With factory size tires and the original large steering wheel the car is a breeze to steer. The vertical doors remind me of our Honda CRV that is easy in and out of the car. Even after 25 years of storage the Berlina was driveable when we received it. The engine ran well but smoked terribly and the stench of
oil permeated the interior of the car while driving. The growl of the rear end was deafening. Now, when climbing into the car it takes a moment to realize how new everything is. The original 1750 engine was rated at about 129 HP and 120 foot lbs of torque. Our new engine engine makes 160 HP with 140 ft lbs of torque.
Walking up to the drivers door the elegant vertical door frame gets your attention. I never realized how precise the Berlina doors fit the body. Press the square chrome door button and as you slide into the drivers seat the pleasant aroma of the original vinyl seats is still present after 52 years. Countless times I would climb into a Berlina that smelled like a swamp….not Stan’s Berlina.
Next, I turn the ignition key and look for the flash of the low fuel pressure light…you have to look for it to be sure it is working. Oddly, many owners think fuel pressure is good with the light on.
Next, you expect starting to be a bit trying. but not this Berlina, It starts nicely and purrs like a kitten. Even the fast idle works. This unexpected treat reminds me that this is a brand new engine. There’s more…I’m warming up the engine on the back roads near the Skagit Regional Airport, being kind to the second gear synchro to allow it to also warm up. I glance at the gauges: 80 lbs oil pressure, coolant temperature approaching 175 degrees and 1/2 full on the gas gauge.
During the warmup I marvel at the quiet and smoothness, and the comfort. It is at first a deceiving driving experience until you squeeze the
throttle in any gear even 5th gear at 3000 rpm. Surprise; this is one powerful little buggy that at once reminds me that this Family Alfa sedan has no respect for speed limits. I prefer the back roads but on the freeways I can pass a lot of cars. Stan opted for a nice 4:11 rear end rather than the standard 4:56 which spins the engine faster but has more low speed torque. Another reminder that this is originally a 1750 engine not a 2L. You would never know it; has torque everywhere and begs to be driven.
I’m somewhat self conscious in traffic because this Egg plant looking beauty grabs attention and some drivers will try to catch up just see what the hell is in front of them. I think back again about how this Alfa must have been in those days. How could the engineers have designed a Mechanical Fuel Injection system without computers. And who would have guessed that that same system could be easily adapted to a 30 HP increase and still have silky smooth acceleration at any speed.
I am not a young man by any means and driving comfort is finally a desirable feature, but there’s still a little devil in me and when I want performance and comfort and if I have a choice I’m asking Stan if I can borrow his Berlina.