Run by Alain de Cadenet
Total mileage 150,286
Owned since 1972
Miles since February
Latest costs nil
PLUG SHORTAGE TURNS OUT WELL
I’ve not done too much on the car recently, due to not being around and the ghastly weather. All quite normal for winter of course, but I have finally got over the nightmare of finding original-style 18mm spark plugs. From the 1930s right up to the late ’70s, the ideal fitment for the Alfa was a Lodge platinumelectrode long-reach item that was listed as an HL1P, and for which you needed a 1in AF long socket to put them in and take them out.
Today, such plugs are unobtainable. I used to advertise for them in the 1980s, and was surprised when the late Hon Patrick Lindsay called to say that he’d bought some brand new from the old KLG/Lodge office that used to be down by the Kingston bypass. Originally they were 15s each (75p), which was expensive for the time. You can’t clean a platinum plug using glass beads without causing damage to the electrode, but I’ve used a baking soda blaster and done quite a good job over the years. The only real solution is to fit 18-14mm adapters and run modern alternatives.
So, after spending many hours on the Myford drilling, turning and threading some phosphor-bronze hexagonal bar, I’ve ended up with eight inserts that now enable me to use #NGK #BP6ES
plugs for tootling around and B7ESs for racing. I even have some B7EVs for use with methanol. Three different types, whereas one used to do all three jobs. If I was judging 8Cs at Goodwood, Pebble Beach or Amelia Island, would I penalise an owner for not having 18mm plugs? Yes, I would. Going is one thing, showing is something else. I notice that new-manufactured heads are all drilled for 14mm plugs, anyway.
Alfisti par excellence, Chris Mann, runs an early Weber carb on his 8C, as indeed do I. He told me of his modification that lets him adjust the main jet needle from the cockpit by way of a cable drive. This enables him to fine-tune the mixture with a lambda sensor placed in the exhaust.
He leans off in towns to avoid stinky black smoke and richens up when on the open road. Healthier for the environment and his wallet. Considering that these old birds were always run rich in period (to lessen the likelihood of combustion chamber cracks), this struck me as something that I had to try myself.
It works beautifully. I do plug ‘cuts’ at various settings and can get them from off-white on the electrodes via the ideal coffee colour to black and sooty, just by twiddling my home-made cable system. Horrible ethanol petrol works fine with this device, as does Goodwood Mega Gas. Thank you, Chris, for that one.
All this makes me realise how terribly boring modern cars are in comparison, and how lazy we get letting science do all the work. I much prefer being the #ECU
Our Leica stalwart pays a visit to the camera manufacturer’s Mayfair outlet – the Alfa isn’t afraid of London traffic.
Old 18-14mm adaptor served as template. Lodge HL1P plugs are no longer available. Electrode is easily damaged by cleaning. Weber carburettor has been modified to allow adjustment of main jet needle on the go.