March 25, 2008

Bleeding green.

One afternoon I noticed a pool of coolant under my 300D. Further inspection revealed it was coming from the water pump. This car had all of the service records since new (it was a 1979 with 195,000 miles) and the words "water pump" didn't appear once so I believe it was original to the car.

The process is pretty straightforward, you don't even have to mess with the timing like you do in other cars (I'm looking at V6 Alfas here.)

1) Drain the coolant and remove the upper radiator hose.

2) Remove the bolts that hold the fan to the fan clutch. Use a box-end wrench but make sure it's a six point, NOT a twelve point. A twelve point sometimes won't get them off, I know-- I tried. Remove the fan, the fan clutch and the alternator belt. Removing the fan shroud isn't necessary the it gives you more access, I recommend it.

3) Remove the water pump bolts. Coolant will undoubtedly spew out so have something under the car ready to catch it unless you fancy having green snow on your driveway. Once the bolts are off, use a mallet to pound the water pump out of its housing.

4) Scrape off the old gasket material with a razor and dry it off. Spread gasket maker material around the pump and make sure not to go around the bolt holes. Put the new pump in its housing and tighten the bolts. Put the fan and its clutch back on (with a new alternator belt) and tighten those bolts. Put the radiator hose back on and fill the coolant. Check for leaks when it's all together.

While you're doing the water pump, change the thermostat as well. It's cheap, easy and a good precaution.


For as long as I've been going to visit my aunt's family in Toulon (an hour east of here) this Mercedes 190D has been parked down the street from their house. It's in decent shape especially when one considers that it never gets garaged. While I've never seen it move it's always parked in a different spot so I assume it still runs.

March 24, 2008

Saab vattenpump avhjälper

For about the last 5000 miles I've suspected the water pump on my 1993 Saab 900 was going to fail. The obvious thing to do would, of course, be replace it. But since I'm a poor college student and also generally pressed for time when it comes to doing more than topping off the perpetually dripping coolant, I didn't. This all came to a head on Easter Sunday when the original factory water pump with over 179,000 miles on it finally said "to hell with it" (in it's own metallic chirping sort of way) and released copious amounts of coolant all over a parking lot. In anticipation of the pump's immanent demise, I did get a replacement earlier in the week, which was conveniently sitting in a box behind the passenger's seat. And so, that day, I used my cheap Wal*Mart sourced emergency kit tools to replace the pump in the parking lot by my building. In my wisdom, I opted to leave my nice Craftsman toolbox with all the nice Craftsman tools in it at home - over 200 miles from my aging, high mileage car.
A long time ago I went through a spree of removing non-functional, heavy parts from my engine bay. Basically, my entire air conditioning system. This made the water pump job much easier since the AC compressor was not sitting right on top of everything I needed to get to. 

The process was more or less as follows:

-Gently push aside old, brittle, and very expensive rubber cooling hoses that are rubbing against alternator, and loosen rounded off alternator adjusting bolts. Also loosen power steering belt.

-Remove belts from pulleys, swear at car as you smack knuckles into firewall (Saab 900s have a backwards mounted engine remember)

-Remove water pump pulley, then remove water pump bolts.

-Whack water pump with tire iron so that it breaks free from housing and dumps gallons of coolant all over parking lot and your feet.

-Realize that you don't have a razor blade to scrape old gasket material off of the housing. Go up to your room (on the top floor of your building) and find that you have left your keys in the car and your door is locked. Then, go across hall and ask for a razor blade.

-Using the X-Acto blade, spend the next hour or so leaning into the fuse box and scrape all the old baked on and wet gasket material off the edge of housing. 

-If you're lucky you still have some gasket maker stuff from a previous project still sitting in your trunk. (and you never thought of getting any before committing to doing the pump job anyway) Use this to stick new paper gasket to new water pump, and install. 

-Since it's Easter Sunday and everywhere is closed, re-use one of the ancient 15 year old belts for the time being since the auto parts store only stocked two of the three required new belts at the time you purchased the pump a few days ago.

-Top off windshield washer fluid tank and use the now empty jug. Fill with water from a drinking fountain and pour it into the coolant tank. You don't have any new coolant since you never thought to get any on the way back to your building. Then, drive car very carefully, while keeping eye on temp gauge, to Wal*Mart (only place open on Easter) and buy coolant and top off tank. 

-Have a drink, then go finish some graphic design project due tomorrow morning.
EDIT: photo changed to more appropriate one of all-swedish products


Two Alfa Romeos in one day is quite rare in North America - aside from perhaps in Northern California. Naturally, I was quite pleased to see a blue on tan 86-90 Alfa Rome Spider Veloce (identical to my own) and then, later in the day, a slightly rough black 86-90 Spider Graduate. Unfortunately, I wasn't able to snap a photo of the blue Veloce since it was going the opposite direction in traffic. But I did get a few shots of the black Graduate - sitting still makes it just a wee bit easier to capture on film.

The Graduate was introduced in 1985 - following up on the 1982 "Special Edition," a bare-bones price-leader designed to boost sales. By the 1980s, Alfa Spiders were considered more luxury tourers than outright sports cars, despite their sporty DNA. Fine leather seats and power windows had become expected luxury features - and the Alfas delivered. But Alfa reckoned that some buyers would prefer a more pure experience, so the Graduate was born. It dropped the top-end (in 1985) Veloce's leather seats, power windows, alloy wheels, premium cloth soft top and even its clock. The only factory option on the Graduate was air conditioning, though a radio, a separate digital clock and alloy wheels could all be fitted by dealers. The Graduate badge, of course, comes from the 1968 movie of the same name... the movie in which Dustin Hoffman wooed both Mrs. and Miss Robinson in his bright red Alfa Romeo Spider "Duetto."

The bottom line is that the graduate was highly successful and it helped Alfa Romeo Distributors of North America see their highest sales year ever in 1986. The model shown above was spotted on a sleepy residential street in Addison, Texas. I didn't get a close enough look at it to see its specific year, but the monopod gauge cluster and CHSML on the hard spoiler say that it's a post-September 1985 production (1986 model year) through 1990 model year variant. It has an ill-fitting aftermarket tan roof (a black vinyl roof was standard), very '80s gold wheels and the spoiler appears to have been painted to match the body - a hard black plastic was fitted from the factory. It also has been fitted with an aftermarket whip antenna; the dealer-install antennas were power or manual retractable masts typically fitted to the passenger side fender. Model year 1986 Graduates had the antenna built into the windshield, though those tend to fail and fender antennas are often added. Its tan interior is a little unusual - most Graduates had black interiors. I don't believe that tan interiors were offered in 1986, though I'm not certain. More than likely, this is a 1987-1990 model year Spider.

March 22, 2008

Citroen 2CV.

Despite being produced in large quantities, early 2CVs are becoming scarce. I saw the car pictured above at a small Peugeot dealership in Puyricard last summer. It unfortunately wasn't for sale and is now gone, hopefully off to a good home.

Some notable differences between this early model, from the 1950s, and later models like mine, pictured in these pages, include the suicide doors, the lack of a rear quarter window and the rippled hood. Mechanically speaking this has a 435cc 2-cylinder as opposed to the 475cc found in mine and the 602cc found in the 2CV6 and many other 2CV based cars. It's also worth noting that until the early 1960s, gray was the only color one could order a 2CV in. And, those taillights aren't original to it, they belong to a later one. It should have much skinnier taillights.

Lancia Beta.

The Lancia Betas were available in six different versions and none are especially common today but the Berlinas seem to have disappeared the quickest. This one is a couple of towns over on the side of a gas station.

Lancia Flavia.

One of the largest Italian (mostly Alfa) shops in southern France is in Toulon. Their parts lot is a museum of Italian cars from the last forty or fifty years. Everything is there, from Giuliettas and 105 GTVs to 164s and 155s, Fiat 126s, Fiat 500s, Autobianchis, Lancias, etc. This is a particularly interesting one-- a Lancia Flavia. The Flavia was introduced in 1961 with many interesting features, including four wheel disc brakes. These are a rare sight today.

Lancia Fulvia.

This early 1970s Lancia Fulvia is currently parked at a local Italian car repair shop along with many other Italian cars but unlike most of them, this one will be undergoing a restauration fairly soon. Last registered in 1988, the rollcage indicates it could have been used as a track car in its day. Being in the south of France the body is fairly solid so that's a plus.

GTV 2000.

I found this 1973/4 GTV in a small village close to here. It doesn't appear to have moved recently but it's not in bad shape and has very minimal rust. Being a 2000(cc) it has the SPICA fuel injection, hopefully that's not what caused its demise.

March 18, 2008

Simca 1500 Familial.

This mid 1960s Simca 1500 Familial is sitting at a Fiat/Alfa/Lancia dealer not too far from here. It doesn't appear to have been registered recently but it's all there waiting for a new lease on life.

March 13, 2008

Another one bites the dust.

This is the third RWP post about a black Alfa Milano being junked but this is a slightly happier one.

The car here is a 1987 autobox Milano Gold that a guy I know drove every to work every day for several years, accumulating over 200,000 miles on the body. The engine was replaced at some point or time in the car's life due to the timing chain skipping a couple of teeth. However, several Utah winters were not kind to it and it was very rusty. Around the same time he bought a 1985 GTV6 sitting at a local shop without an engine and put the Milano's engine in the GTV6. Worth mentioning that some of the parts from my old 1987 went to the GTV6 as well.

So why is this happier than the others? Well, this car gave its life to save at least two other Alfas: the GTV6 now runs and the brake lines from this one went to my Milano, completing the ABS swap (save for bleeding the system).

When gold isn't worth anything.

Sometime in summer 2005 I was driving down State Street in my 1988 Alfa Milano Verde and a guy in a Grand Cherokee pulled up to me and yelled out "hey! you wouldn't want a parts car, would you?" I got his phone number but I wrote it down wrong and was never able to get ahold of him.

Fast forward to August 2006, I saw an ad online for a 1987 Alfa Milano Gold. I went to check it out and turns out it was the same car the Grand Cherokee driver had told me about.

But wow, what a car. The odometer was a witness to the 164,000 miles that had been imposed on it. It had been slightly rear ended, the paint was badly faded and the rear wheel arches were rusted. The fellow I bought it from brought it from LA and was planning on turning it into a semi track car but he never got it running. He decided to sell it, a prospective buyer showed up, tried to get it started and it caught fire.. "the fire department came and everything!" He seemed excited about it. After the fire it sat for several months before he listed it for sale again.

I bought the car initially as a parts car but I gave serious thought to fixing it up. The fire was very small and only the fuel injection was burnt. However, once it was in my driveway, I looked at it and looked at my Verde, garaged due to ABS issues. It was at the time undergoing an ABS to non ABS conversion and it needed brake components (pedal box, master cylinder, brake lines) which this car all had.

Another thing is, fuel injection components are quite expensive. Milanos are sadly not worth very much and the Gold models are worth next to nothing, especially not in this shape, even if it ran. If I got it running and resold it, I would have lost money. My 1988 was my daily driver for a while and I didn't particularly care for another Milano daily driver so I did what had to be done: I parted it out and junked it. Various bits and pieces were sold on Ebay and elsewhere, others are in my garage along with the 2.5 V6 I pulled from it. The front seats are temporarily going in my GTV, the roof was cut out for sheet metal, the clutch and I believe the transaxle went to a local GTV6 and the rest went to scrap.

Who knows, maybe in 20 years when Milano supplies are dry, I'll regret parting it out. On the bright side though, I got the parts I needed for my Verde and in the process I got to know these cars inside and out, for better or worse.

March 12, 2008

Giulia Sprint GT Veloce.

When one thinks of 60s Italian cars, one generally thinks of fast, beautiful red cars driving down a windy road in Tuscany. This is an exception.

It was first sold on July 19th 1966 in Aquileia in Italy. When the car was new, it was medium grey with a red leather interior.

Almost 42 years later, this car is in Salt Lake City, Utah and it's half faded red, half POR-15 black and has no interior. So, what happened?

Well, the history of it is a little spotty but sometime in its life, it embarked on a journey across the Atlantic and ended up in the United States. Stickers on the car indicate it's been in La Jolla, California, and Oregon. It was last registered in California in August 1991 with plate number 2GCP759 (anybody know it?)

A guy brought it over to Utah in 1992 and didn't do anything with it. He got tired of it and sold it to another guy in SLC. This new owner also didn't do anything with it and ended up selling it to a guy I know who owns a shop in Salt Lake City. He kept it for a while but didn't do anything to it. But, up until this point, the car was still a complete car. It had been repainted red (a very good repaint, you only see the original gray behind the driver's door panel) and the seats had either been reupholstered in black or new black seats were put in at some point or time.

This was in the early 2000s. A guy bought it from the shop owner, took it home.. and took it completely apart. Down to every last bolt, he took everything apart and lost a lot of the parts along the way. Initially he was going to repair the rust in the rockers and passenger's side floors but that never got done. The car sat in his driveway (and the rest of it in pieces) until January 2006 when I got it. I also got some of the parts he took off the car but it was still missing some, including some key pieces like, ohh, I don't know, the original 1600cc motor.

I stored it at a shop downtown for almost two years. Before I left Utah I finally made room in my driveway and brought it up to my house there. Since I've had it I've gathered most of the pieces to put it back together. In lieu of the missing 1600cc, I bought a 2000cc out of 1975 Spider that will go into it next summer/fall, hopefully with carbs.

It's not exactly what most people would call beautiful, it's not fast and it's half red. Not your typical 60s Italian car but being an early 105 coupe, it's worth saving and it will be a fun driver when it's finally done.


For reasons that Andrew might be able to explain better than I, the Dutch like to keep their old cars on the road.. for a long time. Citroen DSs seemed to be a favorite but this GT Junior was parked in downtown Amsterdam. Looks to be a late 1960s model in beautiful (perhaps original?) shape. As the badge on the trunk indicates, it's powered by the 1300cc variant of Alfa's twin cam four cylinder, the same engine found in the Giuliettas a couple of years prior to this car being built. If only my 105 coupe looked like this..

March 11, 2008

Road Test: 2000 Volkswagen Golf GLS 1.8T

How many fourth generation Volkswagens do you see every day? Probably a lot right? How many 1.8T Jettas? A lot. How many 1.8T Golfs that are NOT a GTI?... Ah. Not many. Volkswagen made very few of these. The 1.8T GLS. It's not just a four door Golf with a turbo engine, and it's not just a four door GTI either. It's a rarity in the VW line up that only lasted about one year. The 1.8T GLS has the brakes of a GTI, the suspension of a Golf and the engine of a GTI. Inside of the car, everything is there that you would expect in a top of the line GLS (save for the optional leather). My father purchased the car shown here in 2000 not realizing that it would end up being the slight oddity that it is today. Interesting to note this isn't the first oddball VW product he's had. His 1980 Audi 4000 was a two door, and I don't mean a fastback. Try finding one of those. So here it is, eight years later with 160,000 miles on it... but I must say, not necessarily trouble free miles.
I've been driving this car since it was new, and I know it quite well. The most noticable thing about the performance of it first off is that it's pretty damned fast. The 1.8T in these models is the 150 horsepower variant, as with the early IV generation GTIs. Later the GTI would get the 180 hp version, but production on the GLS 1.8T had ceased before then. 

The turbo spools up quickly with some barely noticable lag. It's all too easy to get some significant wheel spin if you're not used to it, especially with the traction controll disengaged. From then on out it's a pretty constant power band. The mid range torque is great and it's very easy to just punch the throttle in 5th and move from 65 mph to 100 quite effortlesly. At speed on the highway you can tell this car was designed with high-speed autobahn driving in mind. At 100 you feel like you're doing maybe 80 in anything else. 65 just seems down right slow. The steering is pretty tight at speed and you feel pretty confident with it. The brakes are very good as well. Having the GTI calipers and rotors most likely makes this a big more confidence inspiring than a typical Golf. My only complaint here is that the pedal feel is very light. While the ride is smooth - as smooth as German cars get - this comes at the expense of a very light suspension which isn't quite ideal for performance oriented driving. A stiffer set of springs would do wonders for long constant-radius turns and interstate ramps. Back road driving will certainly make you wish that the car didn't have so much body roll. The transmission is smooth, though almost too smooth. The shift linkage lacks as much feel as I'd prefer and the clutch is extremely light and grabs a bit higher than I'd like as well. Though much of this is personal preference. 

Fit and Finish:
Inside, this car sets an industry benchmark for interior quality... well... let me re-phrase that. INITIAL quality. After a few years of use, you may start to notice your glovebox door and center console lid falling off. Aside from that, the materials are all of very fine quality. There is great attention to detail paid to textures and pannel fit.
Build Quality:
I've mentioned some of the issues in the interior already. The body on this car is still solid as the day it was built after 8 years of snow-belt winters and one minor accident. No bubbling rust spots at all, the paint still polishes up well and there's not a speck of orange-peel anywhere. Panel gap is superb all around as well. The engine doesn't burn any oil, runs smooth and strong as ever and there are no complaints here. About two years ago though there was a minor issue with the turbo wastegate sticking open, but since it's remedy all is well. The biggest mechanical failure so far though as been the clutch. This car uses a dual plate clutch system as a lot of other VW Group products do. Two winters ago at about 130,000 this mechanism found a way to fuse solid to itself thus prefenting the car from starting, moving, etc. That was expensive. Also it's interesting how much this car LOVES to eat brakes, ball joints and wheel bearings. The front rotors and pads have never lasted more than about a year and a half and it's had all the bearings replaced. Twice in the front (and again soon) and once in the rear. It also decided to randomly break a spring in the left front as well. For the sake of comparison, my 1993 Saab 900 has 178,000 miles on it's original bearings, balljoints, shocks, springs, and only it's third set of brakes. This has become an all to familiar sight at home:

Also of note are some interesting electrical gremlins. This car loves to fry lightbulbs. I don't think any of the lightbulbs have ever all worked at the same time since the car left the factory in Brazil. It also has a uniqe trait that requires you to strike the center console a few times before the heater control lights come on.
The Golf is a good car all in all. It just has some issues that could be associated with any number of things. Being made in South America, being an early model in the generation, being built on a monday, etc. I'd have expected a more reliable machine from VW, and I know I'm not the only one to feel this way abou the newer VW products. Aside from that the package is great when it works right and hopefully when some of the hard feelings have passed I'll look back fondly on this car.

March 10, 2008

Caterham Seven

A while back, a family friend was looking to buy the Caterham 7 you see here. We took a drive with him out to Warren, PA so he could see the car first hand. The owner's house was in a very nice little wooded area with great driving roads all around it which made the prospect of driving a Caterham all the more appealing that day. This example was hand built by a Lotus/Caterham enthusiast in the mid 1990s out in the pacific northwest if I recall correctly, and was intended to be a very simple interperitation on the Lotus 7 design while utilizing modern Caterham parts. It's powered by the "Kent" Ford engine, mated to a 4-speed and a DeDion live rear axle. Having driven this car, let me put it simply:

The most amazing handling car that I think anyone could ever experience.

The beauty of this car is certainly not it's exterior bodywork (or lack thereof) but it the way that it's such a purposeful machine that connects so well with its driver. You can feel everything through the wheel, you hear exactly what the engine is doing, you feel the heat, and the wind and essentially, it makes you feel like YOU ARE the car. The only thing about this car which wasn't so amazing at first was the feeling that I was going clip the left side of it off in oncoming traffic. Right hand drive on a left hand drive road is a very unique experience. Shifting with my left hand took a little getting used to as well. The car isn't extremely powerful, but since it weighs next to nothing, it's like driving the world's best go-kart. You can easily break the back end loose without trying on acceleration, and yet you don't feel the least bit scared by it. It accelerates rapidly through it's rather tall 4 gears and all in all, it makes you feel like Graham Hill in a Lotus 49 with fenders and headlights. It is small, and if you really consider the thought of encountering a small animal or a large SUV that you're not prepared for, you start to back off the throttle a bit. In summation, I won't call this post a "road test", which would require a bit more time and experience with the car. However, I will say that I've driven this one enough to know that I'll be hard pressed to find anything else more fun and enjoyable.
Unfortunately the price negotiations didn't work out and our friend didn't get the car. But he's still hooked, and hopefully in the near future I'll be able to write about a Seven more thoroughly here. 

(that's me in the driver's seat, owner in the passenger's seat)