I can understand why people think I’m mad buying an old Alfetta 2000, but then I jumped in with both eyes wide open. Put simply, the one reason I took the plunge was not what I knew, but who – and in this case, that person is Les Dufty.
Les is Alfa Romeo specialist, Automeo – and more pertinently, he is a fully-fledged engineer. Packing over 21 years of experience at Bristol-Siddeley Engines/Rolls-Royce Number Four Development Machine Shop, Les worked on gas turbine engines such as the TSR2’s BSEL Olympus Mk320 and Concorde’s Olympus 593B. He subsequently turned his Alfa Romeo passion – and knowledge acquired after being disappointed with a new nuova Giulietta 2.0 – into a business. (You can read all about him here in something what I wrote before).
Les kindly put three days aside to sort out the Alfetta’s running – the plan consisted of replacing the twin Dell’Orto 40 DHLAs, setting them up and giving the car a full service. This would provide us with a rough idea of what we were looking at and go from there.
Les is always quick to give credit to the late John Clifton, from whom he learnt a helluva lot. In an oddly fitting turn of events, it turns out the Alfetta’s 2-litre twink had been rebuilt by John during the restoration under its one and only previous owner…
The sole proviso which Les has about working on an Alfa is, that he does things his way; in other words, he works on cars as if they were his own and if you don’t like it? Tough.
The Dufty technique for setting up carburettors is based on a very simple theory. In order to get a complete picture of what’s going into the engine, you need to know what’s coming out.
Later Alfa twinks would adopt Les’s preferred method – a tapped exhaust manifold – so that an exhaust probe could be fitted and luckily, the Alfetta’s were already done. Unluckily, someone hadn’t cleaned the bolts before refitting them because part of the cast manifold had cracked and crumbled around No.2. In the short-term this would be fixed by a tube of magic goo, in the long-term, I’ve got to source and renovate a pair of manifolds.
This though, was the only nasty surprise we were to discover because the horn earthing strap on the steering column was okay, and luck of luck, it’s running a more reliable Bosch dizzie.
Day 1 saw Les swap the carbs and get them running beautifully. You often hear ‘pub experts’ talking about such things but to see it first hand – and make such a vast difference – was fascinating. Les apologised a fair few times because he thought I might be bored, but as he adjusted vacuum (aided by an Alfa mercury manometer), mixture and idling screws on each of the four chokes then studied the emissions read-out, it was captivating. At the end of the day, Les got the lambda emissions so low that the Alfetta could have passed modern emissions requirements. No wonder he declared “I like it!”
Day 2 – which incidentally was Les’s birthday (“I’d rather be working on this, than doing anything else!”) saw him crack on with the service. Oils were changed (the plugs were changed yesterday before the carbs) and the rear pads were adjusted on the rear inboard discs. He also replaced the nylon bush at the base of the gearlever, because someone had fitted an incorrect brass item instead. Needless to say, finding first is now vastly easier than before, when it required a sniffer dog and crossed fingers.
The difference the carbs and oil change – Les insists on using the correct Agip Racing syrup – have made to the quietness of the engine is very surprising. The many flat spots and lumpy idling have gone, instead the twink idles rock steady in traffic at around 850-900rpm. Far better than the SU-fed Midget initially did…
How did he exactly do it? I’m sworn to secrecy – which is understandable given the number of years this has taken him to harvest such know-how.
Work done and dusted – the third day wasn’t needed – Les insisted on a test-drive which also included tips on how to drive a transaxle Alfa… Always start with the clutch pedal depressed and don’t attempt second until the gearbox is warm. His enthusiasm during the drive, really assured me that the Alfetta’s healthcare in safe hands.
Now I must get on with racking up 1000 miles in the Alfa, so that the carbs can be checked once more and adjusted accordingly.