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    What did I do to deserve these servos?

    1972 Alfa Romeo Spider S2

    Owned by Russ Smith russsmith @ drive-my com
    Time owned Over six years
    Miles this month 130 Costs £165
    Previously New clutch and ring gear

    / #1972-Alfa-Romeo-Spider-S2 / #Alfa-Romeo-Spider-S2 / #Alfa-Romeo-Spider / #Alfa-Romeo / #1972 / #rebuild-servo / #rebuild / #servo

    The celebration that followed the Spider’s return to active service was short-lived. We got out to a well-subscribed show at a National Trust barn near Bedford that was notable for tea-and-cake refreshments served by the WI at the next-door church, at 1972 prices it seemed. But two weeks later, en route to a classic cars, beerfest and model railway event, the brake pedal went squishy approaching a roundabout. I pulled into a layby and found the recently topped-up master cylinder fluid reservoir almost empty. So we drove home... very carefully.

    There was no trace of fluid on the garage floor or under the car, which could mean only one thing – an internal leak in one of the brake servos that grow in abundance under the bonnets of Seventies Alfas. Well, there’s a pair of them, which has always seemed a bit excessive. Not to mention expensive. A check in the car’s history folder showed they were replaced 11 years ago. I could be wrong, but that didn’t feel like long for a car that does limited mileage. Is this another case of lower quality replacement parts?

    I went for the cheaper option of buying a pair of rebuild kits from Classic Alfa, which cost £160. While that order was being processed I removed the servos and got on with refurbishing the normally inaccessible area of the engine bay beneath them that had been damaged over time by spilt brake fluid. It has been a cosmetic disgrace since I bought the car and I’d always promised to sort it if the servos ever came out. The paint was well eaten away but nothing worse than surface rust has set in, so it needed just wire-brushing, sanding, cleaning materials and paint.

    Back on the Workmate, the first servo – sloshing sufficiently to prove my diagnosis – was stripped to receive its various new rubbers and gaskets. And that’s where it all went wrong. The metal piston that runs in the servo’s bore was badly scored, and the bore itself wasn’t great either. That means the servos will have to be replaced rather than rebuilt – and if there’s that degree of contamination in the brake fluid you have to worry about the master cylinder too.

    The cost of replacing all three items would come to £738, and I’m not exactly impressed with their longevity. Having spoken to Phil Bell’s Alfa-loving friend Rob, I am instead going to fit one of Alfaholics’ servo-free competition master cylinder conversions that costs about the same. More on that next time.

    Russ was planning to rebuild the servo, but on inspection declared it only fit for scrap.
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    Making a brake for it
    CAR: 1972 Alfa Romeo Spider S2

    / #1972-Alfa-Romeo-Spider-S2 / #Alfa-Romeo-Spider-S2 / #Alfa-Romeo-Spider / #Alfa-Romeo / #1972
    Owned by Russ Smith (russ_smith)
    Time owned Six-and-a-half years
    Miles this month 0
    Costs this month £837
    Previously Brake failure traced to servos

    finished my last instalment with a dead pair of brake servos and the momentous decision to do away with them completely and replace the dual underfloor master cylinder with the race-bred twin-cylinder kit that’s been developed by Alfaholics. That uses relatively cheap and widely available Girling cylinders along with a front/rear balance bar. After a deep breath, £756 changed hands for that. Milled from billet aircraft grade aluminium, it looked a sexy bit of kit when it arrived, though quite dauntingly it was without instructions. After a grumble, those were emailed over by Alfaholics.

    Also not included in the kit was the shorter pair of bolts needed to mount the new unit to the old master cylinder’s holes in the chassis leg. After a quick measure I got a pair from an online bolt specialist for £1.96… plus a ridiculously hefty £8.95 for postage. Would it really hurt to include those in the kit?

    While waiting for the bolts I stripped out the multitude of copper pipes that are needed when you have an underfloor master and two inner wing-mounted servos. The new system gets by with a much neater system of four (supplied) braided stainless lines that just leaves a solid pipe across the rear axle, plus the larger diameter feed lines from the fluid reservoir on the inner wing.

    With everything bolted in place and connected, I filled the fluid reservoir, only to hear the depressing sound of all that nice fresh brake fluid running into the large catch-tray that lives under the Alfa.

    The leak was coming from halfway along one of those copper feed lines, and once this was removed it was clear in the past it had been rubbing away against a bellhousing bolt and was so thin that pulling all the pipes around had cracked it. New 3/8in pipe was not easily found locally so I ordered a length from a supplier in Scotland. I then had to borrow a professional quality pipe-flaring tool from our friends at Practical Classics after discovering that my own cheap tool was incapable of producing a straight flare in the pipe even after eight attempts. Another wasted evening.

    Once the fluid finally made it to the master cylinders down the new pipe, I then found leaks from the union bolts on the inlet side of the master cylinders as the bolts were bottoming out in their holes. That meant buying some thicker copper washers to pack them out a bit. More delay and hazy, crazy Alfa-ing days of summer continued to slip away.

    My Gunsons Easibleed kit then refused to seal fully on the fluid reservoir, releasing loads of fluid onto the newly repaired and repainted inner wing. After a thorough clean-up operation I took advantage of a visit from MGA-owning friend Ian Bainbridge and bled the system the old school way with a lot of pedal-pumping. That just leaves the slightly baffling instructions for final adjustment of the new pedal-to-cylinder linkage and balance bar system. I’ll let you know how I get on.

    This does away with the troublesome brake servos. Russ attempts to trace a brake fluid leak after fitting his expensive new piece of kit.
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    Buying Guide Alfa Romeo Spider / Duetto

    Posted in Cars on Saturday, 27 January 2018

    Nine steps to buying a Alfa Romeo Spider With prices chasing the coupés now’s the time to buy a Spider, with our advice Words Malcolm Mckay. Photography John Colley. Buying Guide How to buy the finest Alfa Romeo Duetto.

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  • Post is under moderation
    CAR: #Alfa-Romeo-Duetto / #Alfa-Romeo / #Alfa-Romeo-Spider
    Run by Mick Walsh
    Owned since April 1988
    Total mileage unknown
    Miles since February
    report 950
    Latest costs £400


    On the way home in the fading light from the Shuttleworth Collection’s wonderful Race Day event last October, the Duetto’s ignition light suddenly started to glow. With only 20 miles to go, I ran on sidelights where possible to save the battery and checked the dynamo the following morning. The fanbelt was tight and, after a test, I discovered that the system was charging, so the dynamo and regulator were removed for overhaul. A social call to Patrick Blakeney-Edwards led me to Guy Electrics on the recommendation of the Nash guru.

    With the Alfa little used over the winter, I’d delayed getting the electrical problem sorted, but I headed over to Standon, near Ware in early spring to visit the long-established specialist. Dayrell Guy and his son Wesley rebuild a vast selection of dynamos and alternators – from vintage cars to modern coaches – in an old-style workshop with a fascinating range of equipment. Recent work has included making a starter motor for a 1927 Fiat 509A with only the original casing surviving.

    Dayrell confirmed that the regulator was fine, so I asked him to rebuild the dynamo, including the bushes and armature. The finished unit was also ‘marine-ised’ to further protect against damp. It looked as good as new after a repaint, but the £350 bill proved how out of touch I am with prices. It cost £60 when it was previously done 15 years ago.

    Once it was fitted and the engine run up, the red light remained on until I realised that I’d wrongly connected the terminals.

    The joy of working on a classic was re-emphasised recently when I had to fit a new radiator to my 156 Sportwagon, which turned into a hellish job requiring the removal of body panels, fan and air cleaner that took most of a day. The similar task on a Duetto takes less than an hour.

    Now that the car is based in Essex, a test drive is an instant joy because there is a wealth of superb roads to enjoy around Saffron Walden.

    A few weeks later my MX-5 was stolen from my London driveway and, with the engine of the LeaF in bits, the Duetto has been used a lot this summer. Highlights have included a run to Grantchester for a picnic by the Cam, the idyllic area that inspired poet Rupert Brooke.

    With Cambridge just 15 miles away, the Alfa is in regular use for weekend visits. Among the local classics is a lovely 1958 Bentley S1 that’s based at the Gonville Hotel and often takes guests on local trips. Elliott Murray looks after and drives the Bentley and, such is the popularity of the complimentary service, the management is thinking of acquiring a second classic.

    Parked out front, it gives the hotel true style and is a welcome sight majestically purring around town.

    Trips to Euston Hall have resulted in two event discoveries: the Red Rooster Music Festival and Rural Pastimes. The journey over to Bury St Edmunds and beyond to the A1088 has become a favourite route because it avoids the soulless A14. The Duetto seems to know its way to the Grafton family estate, which has pre-war Alfa Romeo connections because a former duke, John Fitzroy, owned an 8C before he was killed racing his Bugatti Type 59 in Limerick, aged just 22.

    Rural Pastimes had a fine classic display, but, having not pre-booked, the Duetto was left outside among the moderns. We were in good company with Paul Hill’s smart BMW 1600, which looked cool on its wide steel wheels. We convoyed out together along the convoluted route of dusty tracks on the scenic estate, which felt like a rally stage.

    The Duetto has also been enlisted for explorations to former WW2 airfields, of which there are many dotted around East Anglia. At Gransden Lodge (Cockpit, August), we followed historian Chris Sullivan along what remains of the 1947 circuit where Dennis Poore’s Alfa 8C-35 titan won the main race.

    Next year marks 30 years’ ownership of MHT 567F and, to toast the anniversary, I pledge to finally repaint the passenger side and rebuild a spare engine – a task that I’ve always wanted to pursue.

    THANKS TO Guy Electrics: 01920 822003 / Colin Mullan / Euston Hall: 01842 766366; /

    From top: dapper Murray chatting with Liz by the Gonville’s Bentley while Duetto shows its best side; Dayrell at work; following Hill’s BMW at Euston Hall.

    Gathering storm at former RAF Hadstock. Roman style, with Alfa at the Fitzwilliam.
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  • Post is under moderation
    Bird strike blues
    Car #1972-Alfa-Romeo-Spider-S2 / #Alfa-Romeo-Spider-S2 / #Alfa-Romeo-Spider / #Alfa-Romeo / #1972
    Owned by Russ Smith
    Time owned Six years
    Miles this month 20
    Costs £67
    Previously Fitted new starter motor (again)

    It was one of those ‘good to be alive’ mornings – open roads, sun beaming down, ELO’s Mr Blue Sky pulsing from at least three of the four speakers and… that fat wood pigeon is going to get out of the way, isn’t it? Bang! No, not the face! The impact appeared to be in the area of the Spider’s special-order small numberplate and left-hand Perspex headlamp cover; I didn’t want to look. But miraculously, on inspection the only casualty was the indicator side repeater, which had vanished, leaving a hole in the front wing. It could have been worse – a new one was just £12 from Classic Alfa and was with me two days later.

    That was easy enough to resolve, but the starting problems – last reported on in the March issue – returned. As the car had sat for some time during the worst of the winter weather, that was easy to blame on the battery and old fuel. So I charged the former and poured a fresh gallon of Super into the petrol tank. Still all it would do is make a noise like a wounded water buffalo, as if the reconditioned starter motor just wasn’t engaging properly with the flywheel and was getting too little oomph to do its stuff. So I tried a new battery. Extravagant, I know, but they were 30 per cent off at Euro Car Parts that weekend. It was still no better.

    Surely there was nothing wrong with this new starter motor? I jacked up the car and crawled underneath to look for clues, to find a nice shiny nut and washer lying beneath the car.

    Looking up, it was obvious they belonged on the lowest of the starter motor bolts. It had come undone, which is a bit odd, as I’m sure I had done everything up as tightly as possible.

    So that was all tightened up and… the Spider still doesn’t want to start. It sounds like there’s not enough juice getting to the starter motor. The engine earth strap is new, so I’m now blaming the long cable that runs from the battery to the starter cable and have ordered a new one.

    To fit that, the carburettors are going to have to come off yet again, the thought of which makes my heart sink. It’s my equivalent of editor Phil’s repeated E-type rear axle removals. While I can get at it again, I may as well remove the starter for inspection too. More on that next time.

    Side repeater Pigeonholed.
    Russ looks for nonstarting issue clues beneath the Spider.
    The non-starting culprit? Unfortunately not.
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    Car #Alfa-Romeo-Duetto / #Alfa-Romeo

    Run by Mick Walsh
    Owned since April 1988
    Total mileage unknown
    Miles since March 2016 report 2560
    Latest costs £180


    London is not the most considerate home for any classic, and facing the dread of the M25 congestion has often put me off taking out my Duetto. As a result, in 2016 the Alfa was relocated to rural Essex. Now each excursion puts me in a good mood, with the treat of rewarding roads across the neighbouring counties en route to meetings. The Alfa gets driven more, too, which is the best thing for any old car.

    Just before heading east, I popped over to my favourite MoT station, Mullan Speed Shop in Feltham. The family business is classic friendly and I always enjoy chats during the nervous test, in particular with son Glen who runs a superb E-type that he rebuilt last year. With my Mechmate pit lost after a house move, it was a good chance to have a nose underneath for leaks and rust but the quick review proved encouraging.

    The trip over to Saffron Walden confirmed why I’d made the switch. As soon as I left Royston on the B1039, the Alfa was in its element along the rolling border back road at twilight. On the fantastic hill run to Barley, I even spotted a barn owl perched on the fence watching the Alfa as it rasped by.

    As well as local trips to steam-ups and classic meets, the Duetto was also used to visit the final Shuttleworth flying day on 2 October to meet up with John Blundell and our Lea-Francis. On the way back in the dark the dynamo light came on, which always makes for a worrying drive. The following morning a voltage check confirmed a failed generator, which, along with the regulator, is now heading to Guy Auto Electrics for a winter rebuild.

    After getting pretty familiar with unsung Essex lanes, it was fascinating to take part in the pre-event tour before the revived Warren Classic and Supercar Show on 24 September. Concours organiser Nic Waller is a local when he’s not jetting out to Pebble Beach or Japan, where he also runs a new fixture in Kyoto. Like me, Nic is a confirmed Alfa addict and misses his GTV when away from home. As a result, he has bought another to enjoy in California, where his wife Katee is based. Like my Duetto, the coupé that he keeps here is a 1750 and it has all the Alfaholics suspension tweaks. “It was restored by Sunnyside Garage and now has leather trim,” says Nic.

    “It is perfect for English country roads, but my other car is a 2000 on Spica injection, which is better suited to the US. I love them both.” The Warren Classic had a superb Latin-themed entry, including a great set of Fiat 8Vs and a Cisitalia from Belgium, but the winning Alfa 6C-2500 didn’t join our cars on the run. Waller organised a great route that did full justice to Essex beauty spots, taking in Great Bardfield, Finchingfield and Thaxted before a fascinating coffee break at P&A Wood’s workshop in Great Easton.

    The cars later gathered at Rowneybury House for lunch, thanks to the generosity of event patron Neil Utley. Always self-conscious about mixing my ‘patinated’ Duetto with immaculate machinery, I ended up parking next to Paul Wood’s superb Barker-bodied 1932 Rolls-Royce Phantom II Continental, which had been a treat to follow on the road. After lunch, I diverted across to Much Hadham to visit the newly opened Henry Moore Foundation, which capped a superb day.

    Frustrated with a front-drive Alfa Sportwagon as my daily runabout, I’ve bought a Mazda MX-5 for the regular M25 trek out to Essex. The 2006 Sport is the soft-top version to keep weight to a minimum, and it never ceases to delight on crosscountry journeys. The Bilstein dampers are a revelation, providing a refined ride and superb handling, plus the hood design is brilliant. My only annoyance is that the inaccessible Bose stereo keeps cutting out.

    With the Duetto now approaching 30 years in my ownership, I wonder how long I’ll keep the MX-5. They have a different appeal despite a similar design brief, but on a beautiful day I’d always take the Spider. With its 50th birthday last year, I pledge to get that longpromised respray done and would love to track down Mrs Loraine Baker, the first owner from Bristol.

    THANKS TO Mullan-Speed-Shop : 020 8890 3963 / Guy Auto Electrics: 01920 / 822003,

    Roadsters old and new: Walsh’s Duetto has been joined by a Mazda MX-5 as a London runabout and for drives out to Essex where the Alfa Romeo now lives.

    MoT time at Mullan Speed Shop in Feltham. Nic and Katee Waller with their 1750 GTV. Phantom towers above the Alfa at Rowneybury House.
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  • Post is under moderation
    CAR #Alfa-Romeo-Duetto-Spider / #Alfa-Romeo
    Run by Mick Walsh
    Owned since 1987
    Total mileage unknown
    Miles since August 2015 report 1700
    Latest costs £40


    Recent flirtation with the idea of replacing the Duetto with something more modern, perhaps a Honda S2000, has been quashed by superb outings. We have enjoyed some great trips, none more so than following snapper James Mann – driving my old Healey – from Wantage to Hungerford during a spectacular sunset over The Ridgeway on the Poor Boys Tour.

    Alfas on show at the following day’s Thatcham Classic included Ewan Dalton’s red ’ #1968 1750 Duetto riding on original steel wheels and restored by Spider’s Web. Neat touches included converting the ashtray to mount his phone for the concealed wireless speakers.

    The day’s Italian theme continued with a stop en route home to visit pal Phil Rudge, a former 2000GTV owner who’d just taken delivery of a 1973 Ducati 750GT. A vintage Rudge specialist, he’s now a convert to these glorious ’70s bikes. “The engines are fantastic but the electrics let them down,” he says. The decision to show Our classics at the NEC allowed me to coincide delivery of the Duetto to Birmingham with a maiden visit to London Gliding Club on the Dunstable Downs. Having arrived in thick fog, there was little hope of taking off, but spending the morning chatting to instructor Chris Collingham about flying, Tiger Moths and classic cars compensated. He had arrived in his Jensen C-V8, having spent many an evening helping Derek Chapman ready the P66 for the show. Collingham’s other projects include the restoration of an ex-Lancashire Police MG TA. I enjoyed four flights after the fog cleared. Once released by the tug plane at 2000ft, the tranquility of unpowered flight is wonderful, not to mention the stunning views across the Downs. The feeling of soaring through the clouds is magical, and I am determined to return.

    A guided tour of the modernist clubhouse was an extra treat that delayed my departure for Birmingham. Built in 1935, the ocean liner-style building was designed by club member Christopher Nicholson and pre-war photos show various sports cars being used to tow gliders, including a Talbot 105.

    It was late afternoon before I headed for Birmingham on a motorway-avoiding route. From Leighton Buzzard, I cut across to Little Brickhill and had a great run up the A5, the trip blessed with another colourful sunset. The old Watling Street always brings back happy memories of trips to Silverstone with Dad, and my cycle rides to race meetings as a teenager. Just past Pottersbury in June 1967, the Hon Patrick Lindsay came blasting by our family Sunbeam Rapier Convertible in his Alfa 8C Monza, a seminal moment for me.

    Congestion in Coventry delayed my arrival, but Martin Port was there to direct me into place. His Landie looked great splashed with Jackson Pollock-style mud while his stand design – with garden shed, engine parts and automobilia – was inspired. The Duetto was hastily cleaned and a tub of Meguiar’s NXT All Metal Polish transformed the brightwork. The final touch was a ‘Try Gliding’ window sticker.

    The Lancaster Insurance Classic Motor Show gets better each year. Just across the hall from the C&SC stand, the Alfa Romeo Owners’ Club presented a group of Spiders from pre-war 6C-1750 to the latest 4C, and including Paul Conway’s stunning Duetto.

    After a nightmare rail journey, I finally arrived at the NEC to collect ‘MHT’ on the Monday. The hall was near empty, but I resisted the temptation to do an Italian Job-style slalom around the deserted floor.


    Chris Collingham at London Gliding Club: 01582 663419; Meguiar’s: 08702 416696;

    Duetto and Jensen C-V8 at London Gliding Club with classic car owners Chris Collingham (left) and Andy Sampson. Below: later that day at the NEC.

    Lonely ‘MHT’ on the Monday after show.
    Ewan Dalton’s superb Duetto at Thatcham.
    Rudge with glorious-sounding Ducati 750.
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