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Old 19th November 2013, 16:58   #1
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Default My Alfa Romeo Story - A 156, a red V6 & my own workshop!

What you see below is my Alfa Romeo 156, which I have named 'Rosebud'

My Alfa Romeo Story - A 156, a red V6 & my own workshop!-1.jpg

Why make a post about a 2003 model car that is no longer in production? For one, it looks rather pretty even when it refuses to start.

My Alfa Romeo Story - A 156, a red V6 & my own workshop!-2.jpg

For me, it is not the fastest car nor does it have big numbers to brag, not very showy, not too comfortable and certainly not all that reliable; but after a dull day in office, I start her up and that awesome engine note, the quick steering, the way the engine revs, the smell of fine leather and petrol (from the faulty fuel pump), all this makes my drive home an event.

Then again, for the last three years an Alfa Romeo has been my daily driver. Quite an achievement in hot and humid Dubai. Well not this exact same car mind you. This is my second Alfa, The first one I called 'precious pearl'. I have driven them on almost every single day, except when they broke down bad enough that I had to use something else.

Still not remarkable enough? how about this. My car currently shows more than 233,000 Kms on the odometer and I had to loan money to set up a garage to help me with my hobby.

I am sure there are other bhpians here who own Alfa Romeos but every time I searched for Alfa Romeo on teambhp, understandably, there were very few articles pertaining. To Alfa ownership. so here goes. Moderators and readers please excuse my exuberance with words and the less than stellar quality of my pictures.

A dear friend asked me online, “Whatz so special with alpha romeos [sic]?”

And this was my longish reply, "Where do we start? Just look at it (mind you, the picture I showed was of a 1972 GTA), most of them are made with passion and some interesting engineering tidbits. Not Teutonic and perfect like Germans but then they are Italian. They are desirable and drive really well on those rare occasions that they work. In that they are a bit like humans, they fall sick, get in a bad mood or just dies leaving us in awful agony, so like they say it has soul. This is all what people say. Then there is the history of this brand; Enzo Ferrari started his racing career in an Alfa Romeo. And oh, it is spelled Alfa Romeo, as a certain Jeremy Clarkson said, "Alpha males’ drive BMW's, Alfa Romeos are for nice people."

And that is all the reasons I have and more below,

Precious Pearl

My Alfa Romeo Story - A 156, a red V6 & my own workshop!-3.jpg

Needless to say, I have always loved car. All my life as far as I can remember. My first car in Dubai was a MK4 VW Golf, It was the more interesting kind of Golf with the VR 6 (narrow angle V6) engine and six speed gear. A bit more about my experience can be read here, http://tduc.blogspot.ae/2010/09/adieu-to-black-car.html

So I was scouting for an Alfa and saw a few cars that were in less than presentable condition. Wifey was getting pretty irritated. In fact we had seen one awesome GTV which even my wife loved. It was lovingly owned by a Spanish architect/ professor and in spite of being a two door variant; we wanted to buy that car. Mind you, we had a tiny child and a two door was almost useless. However, finance did not materialize and the VW was not yet sold but by now I really wanted another car.

Just for the heck of it, I made a call to the local dealer (often called stealer). They listed the different 159's and GT models they had, used ones priced at around 20,000 USD. I elaborated more on my specifics. I wanted something cheaper (a lot cheaper actually) that is still an expensive toy for someone with my means and responsibilities. Aha, he seemed to have the perfect car and he invited me to the showroom.

and this was how she looked when I first found her.

My Alfa Romeo Story - A 156, a red V6 & my own workshop!-4.jpg

My Alfa Romeo Story - A 156, a red V6 & my own workshop!-5.jpg

A beautiful silver paint that was very understated and to my liking, red leather interiors with Momo seats, perfect, and a beautiful, thin rimmed, wooden steering wheel. The only clincher, she did not run. A faulty alternator was to blame.

My Alfa Romeo Story - A 156, a red V6 & my own workshop!-6.jpg

All I had to pay for was to get the alternator fixed and the car was mine. I took note of the chassis number and made a few calls to some knowledgeably people (I work as an analyst for an automobile warranty provider) and the results were not too bad.

At a mileage of 122,000 or so, she had only one owner. The timing belt, one of the banes of Alfa ownership, has been changed only recently and the sales person provided me with a thick book with receipts of all the work that he had done. I even managed to track down the previous owner and speak with him. He was an Indian chap who had bought it new and took good care of his car but it was lying unused at the dealership for almost two years.

The picture was clear, he spends all that money on the timing belt and a week or so later, the car had to be bought to the workshop on recovery since the alternator failed and he had changed the alternator at 80,000 or so. He had every reason to be unhappy. Even so, he exchanged that car for an Alfa 159!

I got someone to wash the car and realized that the sunroof leaked. But that wood steering wheel and the red leather seat, oh my, how often does it rain in Dubai? Wifey was worried as I paid a booking amount while still mesmerized by the steering wheel. I had done one of dumbest things that used car buyers should never do, bought a car without driving it!I asked them to change the grille and the leaky sunroof.

A week later, I got the call. Paid for registration and went to collect the car. There it was, for a paltry sum of 3,200 USD. I had bought my first Afa Romeo. Buying from the dealership also meant that delivery experience was similar to buying a new car. It also meant that we were invited to the Alfa Romeo Centennial celebrations that year;

The first drive


I inspected the car, checked all fluids and fired up the V6, it sounded good. Traffic was getting thicker and we started our drive home.

Almost immediately, I noticed that the clutch was quite heavy and had a wooden feel. The VW clutch was not too light either but this was really hurting my legs. Must be because the car was lying unused for an year or so. I shifted up to third, and as the traffic lightened, I put her into fourth and back to third and finally as the roads cleared up I tried shifting to 5th, damn! nothing. tried pulling sixth! nope. Did not want to discuss this with my wife who was still looking indecisively as to why we did not buy the Audi that we saw a week back. She appeared least impressed by my plight.
Soon she realized the situation but was very gracious and even sympathized with my situation. She even reassured me that it was fine and we could fix it and even something to the effect of "never mind, it is a small sum of money".

We stopped for dinner, my mind still fielding around the gearbox issue. We finished dinner and drove home and 'voila', it shifted to fifth, and to sixth albeit with some hesitation and I was laughing with joy as we reached home safe. That, was the beginning of my Alfa ownership experience.

The next morning as usual I got into my car to get to work, but the parking brake would not release. oh my. Put the car into gear and moved it a bit in either direction and after five minutes, the problem sorted itself out.
That was the charm of Alfa, very anthropomorphic, ailments sometimes cure by itself.

I had changed the oil at the nearby Alfa specialist. Oh, how can I not talk about the friendly neighborhood mechanic? Yes, there was a specialist here for Alfa Romeos and he was an ex dealership electrician and the garage was near my place. I have to mention here that this was also part of the reason I opted for an Alfa Romeo.

My romance with the Alfa Romeo brand had just begun. We started driving her to places further away and things were seemingly fine for now.

That Engine

The Alfa Romeo V6 designed by Giuseppe Busso is one good looking motor.

My Alfa Romeo Story - A 156, a red V6 & my own workshop!-7.jpg

It is also known as the Busso V6, after its designer and to add to the theater, Giuseppe Busso died just three days after they stopped production of this engine in Milan. Now that is enough of trivia and you can find more on the internet.

My Alfa Romeo Story - A 156, a red V6 & my own workshop!-8.jpg

The lovely dash

My Alfa Romeo Story - A 156, a red V6 & my own workshop!-18102011974.jpg

The Experience


In my eyes, the Alfa Romeo 156 is a beautiful car. It is also regarded as one of the best works of Walter De Silva, the genius who penned those lines. I will not bore you with more information that is already available on the net. There are some details that make this car special.

Like on the dials, the needles in the gauge allow for the lighting to reflect on the chrome bezel.

My Alfa Romeo Story - A 156, a red V6 & my own workshop!-28062011866.jpg

My Alfa Romeo Story - A 156, a red V6 & my own workshop!-12072011895.jpg


The interior lights (dome lights?) switch on & off slowly, so when you enter the car, the leather interiors are slowly bathed in a warm incandescent light.

I know all that reads a bit like gibberish.

As for the ride and handling, it is one of those front drive cars that don't feel that way. The quick steering is what does the trick and the car darts into corners with enthusiasm. For reference to an Indian car, I could compare the handling to that of a Ford Ikon but unlike the Ikon, comfort is not its greatest asset and the ride is rather jittery. It does not have the same chassis balance as an E36 BMW which was a competitor from the same period but it definitely feels more entertaining.

The engine is one of the greatest gems I have experienced. It revs all the way to 8000 rpm and the noise keeps getting even more awesome as it nears the limiter. There are no cup holders or bottle holder available. I guess the notion is that when you drive, you drive. The audio system is not the best. I think it is one of the worst. The seats are not as comfortable as they look especially when compared to that in my previous Golf which were engineered for comfort.

Some memorable incidents

The day I helped jump start a stranded Corolla; The lady was very upset and she had a tiny baby with her. I t was dark and near the creek and she cam asking for help. I was a bit worried how my battery and electronics would handle the load but it did and we were pleased to help a stranded lady.
I was smiling on way home and wifey seemed confused. I know it was just the battery but an Alfa Romeo assisting a broken down Corolla, the irony here can only be understood by someone familiar with automobiles.

Drive to Kalba; A nice long drive with family, it was pleasantly uneventful.

My Alfa Romeo Story - A 156, a red V6 & my own workshop!-9.jpg

My Alfa Romeo Story - A 156, a red V6 & my own workshop!-26112010524.jpg

Drive to meet the in-laws was still very tiring though ;-)

Chasing the sun;Early morning drive to catch the new year sunrise of 2012,

My Alfa Romeo Story - A 156, a red V6 & my own workshop!-01012011602.jpg

My Alfa Romeo Story - A 156, a red V6 & my own workshop!-01012011603.jpg

Mechanical problems and the friendly mechanic,


There was a garage near my place which was know as an Alfa Romeo specialist. It was also run by Indians which I felt reassuring. I took my car there and after inspecting my car, they reassured me about that it was in top condition. I did an oil change and was notified of a top strut mount (engine mount) that was weak. It was changed and I was a satisfied customer.

I had also befriended a mechanic from the same workshop. He used to come home and help me with things. So now I had access to a guy who could sort any issues at reasonable cost and he in turn wanted to start his own garage. For now, I showed a lot of interest in his plans.

The next major problem I can think of was the clutch. It was as stiff as a brick. I noticed a leak at the master cylinder. They did not have a replacement part and I drove so for many miles until one day it failed. So the clutch pedal would go down but it would not return. This happened when on a trip to the beach with my family. My drive back home through traffic with a worried wife and a scared son was indeed very eventful.

Once the clutch was sorted out she ran well for some time and now the clutch pedal was a little easier to use. before the clutch assembly itself failed. This was replaced at a reasonable cost.

The Centennial celebration of Alfa Romeo

The dealership was kind enough to invite us to the Alfa Romeo Centennial celebration. I dragged my wife along and went for what was mostly a marketing ploy in association with Montegrappa brand. The violinist was playing for a sober disinterested crowd and we were trying to fit in with the ambience. But I also met some fellow Alfa enthusiasts one of whom I knew from before. His cars were featured in the local edition of 'Evo' and he was highly regarded as one of the most knowledgeable Alfa guy. I had met him previously at the local Alfa specialist and due to our previous acquaintance, we did not feel out of place.

Some pictures from the event;

Attachment 1319835

My Alfa Romeo Story - A 156, a red V6 & my own workshop!-10.jpg

My Alfa Romeo Story - A 156, a red V6 & my own workshop!-11.jpg

A beautiful Alfa Romeo Spider

My Alfa Romeo Story - A 156, a red V6 & my own workshop!-12.jpg

My Alfa Romeo Story - A 156, a red V6 & my own workshop!-13.jpg

An Alfa Romeo 8C

My Alfa Romeo Story - A 156, a red V6 & my own workshop!-15.jpg

I also saw this well kept Lancia Delta Integrale and an Alfa Romeo SZ by Zagato, a car that I had only seen in the 1989 World Car book that I still have with me.

My Alfa Romeo Story - A 156, a red V6 & my own workshop!-16.jpg

My Alfa Romeo Story - A 156, a red V6 & my own workshop!-17.jpg

One evening when I started the car from office, I noticed that the AC was not cooling and the air coming out was warm. I noticed that the compressor was engaging so it was working fine and there was gas in the system. I took the car to the local specialist who gave me the bad news. There is a leak from the evaporator. The job involves removing and refitting the dashboard and that is a hell of a labor charge and I have to pay for the parts. Oh dear, that was most unfortunate.

I began searching online for any alternatives. I had already registered of Alfa Owner forum as ‘Desi Alfista’, never posted but I read many of the threads. I believe Alfa Owner is a must visit site of well, any Alfa owner and there I found this thread about a similar situation and a suggestion to remove the battery that could rest a part of the climate control module responsible for opening and closing the A/c blower vents. I was very apprehensive but I disconnected the battery for ten minutes, reconnected, put ignition in ACC, waited for ten seconds, put her back in ACC for another 10 seconds, removed the key, reinserted it and cranked the car. After this ritual, even as a non believer, I had to grab some faith and utter a prayer before I switched her on. I switched on the A/c and there she was blowing cold air. It must be part of the character and soul that the Alfista talk so much of but the Alfa Romeo at times makes you want to have a spiritual side.



Selling my soul


My Alfa Romeo Story - A 156, a red V6 & my own workshop!-18.jpg

After the air-conditioning incident, Wifey was getting more impatient and began to nag me slightly to sell the car. She reminded me that our reasoning for getting these old cars was that we would keep changing cars once every six months or so. Finally, I placed an online ad and I set a price high enough to ease my displeasure in selling her.

There was not much response for some time and then a short Iranian guy came up. He took a test drive and agreed to buy the car, I literally welled up in front of him and wifey had to hold my arms to comfort me. The trade was to be done on the next day and I went out for one final drive on my Alfa.

However, as part of the sales process, the car was inspected and it failed the test which was most unfortunate. The Iranian now refused to buy the car at the agreed price and wifey was most unhappy. Even I wanted to sell her now. A part of me had already disowned her and we had already thought of things to do with that money.

So we renegotiated the price and sold her for slightly less than what was agreed upon all thanks to a tall Russian friend of our short Iranian who was brutal with his negotiations.

After selling ‘Precious Pearl’ I was genuinely unhappy. I bought a guitar thinking that would ease the pain but since I was unable to get much far with it, I bought a keyboard and started learning to play Adagio in G minor by Albinoni. Very ambitious, I know.I even made a video which was a rather feeble attempt video making even for an amateur;

You can see it here if you wish,

For now I was driving a Mk1 Ford Focus that I had bought in between. I should acknowledge here that it was a very good car but it failed to give me the thrills that the Alfa offered. There was no drama here and my drive home from work was just a boring commute almost as dull as my day in office. PS; I do not work as a lion tamer.

The workshop project

The ‘bhooth’ of setting up my own business and being an entrepreneur had been bugging me since my college days. Several ideas ranging from hair salon to a consultancy (perfect business if you not very good at anything and can give bullshit advice to a gullible crowd) were considered but I wanted to start something close to my heart and thus was born the idea of B5 Garage. I created this website with my limited IT knowhow and recruited the friendly mechanic to work with me full time.

The B5 Garage was born, wwwb5garage.com

I posted about it in the local Alfa Romeo forums and there was some good response. There was much success initially. However, my choice of location was not apt for the job as I later realized. Even so, we attracted many customers and I tried to help as many people to enjoy the hobby as possible.
Part of the reason was so I could learn to work on cars myself and the garage could be used as a platform to realize my automotive dreams.

The garage, my mech with one of the regular customer

My Alfa Romeo Story - A 156, a red V6 & my own workshop!-210420121376.jpg

A 916 GTV spider needed a brake job

My Alfa Romeo Story - A 156, a red V6 & my own workshop!-19.jpg

A slightly old Alfa Romeo spider visited the garage, and that is possibly the worst photograph of this car, all credits to me.

My Alfa Romeo Story - A 156, a red V6 & my own workshop!-090620121526.jpg


And so to compliment the garage I bought another Alfa, or rather, I might have used the garage as an excuse for buying another Alfa.

Rosebud


The search for another Alfa had begun some time back and after looking through several options, I came across this red Alfa Romeo V6 in a rather battered shape. It was owned by a Russian guy and the sunroof was not working. There were several dings in the bodywork and the paint in the bonnet was scotched. The grille and logo were also knackered.

Here you can see the pictures,

My Alfa Romeo Story - A 156, a red V6 & my own workshop!-20.jpg

My Alfa Romeo Story - A 156, a red V6 & my own workshop!-21.jpg

My Alfa Romeo Story - A 156, a red V6 & my own workshop!-22.jpg


I took it for a test drive and in spite of the exterior; the engine seemed more powerful than my previous 156. Not too much concern I thought, I have my own workshop and a competent mechanic. Some negotiations later I was the proud but concerned owner of a 2003 Red Alfa Romeo 156. Well it is a Red Italian car, so perfect. The ‘Rosebud’ moniker was assigned much later.
On my drive to office the next day the car sputtered to a halt. It started again after some coaxing and I got her to the office. The issue was a faulty fuel pump which was replaced and she ran fine again.

Last edited by spd_tkt : 18th December 2014 at 21:03. Reason: incomplete
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Old 18th December 2014, 14:08   #2
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After driving the car for a few weeks, I changed the oil and filter. By now, the workshop was still going alright. I was worried about the timing belt since I was not sure when it was last changed. The cooling fan needed a new bearing as well. A month after I purchased the car, I got the necessary ingredients to do the job and left it at the garage.

The cooling fan

My Alfa Romeo Story - A 156, a red V6 & my own workshop!-img_1480.jpg

My Alfa Romeo Story - A 156, a red V6 & my own workshop!-img_1483.jpg


The job was done over a weekend and I collected the car at night. On reaching home I checked the fluids and found the coolant level was low. I called my mech who informed me that it must be in circulation and all was fine!

The next morning I dropped my kid in school and was on my way to office. At the second signal, I noticed the temperature needle climbing up. I was a bit concerned but in Dubai during peak traffic there is little you can do. Then suddenly, a low oil pressure warning appeared on the central display and the temperature shoots up to the red indicator and more warning lights come on. I shut down the engine and manage to coast my car to a side. On opening the bonnet I notice that a coolant pipe had snapped. There was some smoke and that was the just the beginning.

My mech offered his assistance and managed to change the torn coolant return pipe. However, the damage had already been done and the car kept overheating. I asked him if the head gasket was blown but he insisted that everything is fine but it was still overheating and by now, I was sure that the gasket had failed and the head was warped. My mech finally agreed on the gasket but he was still not convinced that the head might have failed.
We started taking the engine apart and I was hoping that the engine was still usable.

Meanwhile, almost convinced by my mechs confidence, I thought I will give my engine a thorough makeover.

My Alfa Romeo Story - A 156, a red V6 & my own workshop!-270120121095.jpg

I removed some of the engine trim and took them home,

My Alfa Romeo Story - A 156, a red V6 & my own workshop!-img_1413.jpg

After much cleaning, some of them could be truly used as art pieces.

My Alfa Romeo Story - A 156, a red V6 & my own workshop!-img_1425.jpg

My Alfa Romeo Story - A 156, a red V6 & my own workshop!-img_1375.jpg

My Alfa Romeo Story - A 156, a red V6 & my own workshop!-img_1371.jpg

My Alfa Romeo Story - A 156, a red V6 & my own workshop!-img_1377.jpg

I even took home the headlamps and polished it.

My Alfa Romeo Story - A 156, a red V6 & my own workshop!-img_1380.jpg

We found a brand new head gasket and the engine was finally put back together but fortune did not favor this fool. The engine was misfiring and did not keep compression. I pointed my finger at my mech who still managed to keep a straight face. So after all this labor, the car was still not usable. He suggested that we put in a used motor to which I reluctantly agreed. That means spending more money!

With some luck and some more wealth, we managed to find a broken down Alfa at the scrap that came from Japan. We had to buy the entire car but we had some customers for other bits and bobs and we used that engine on my 156.

My Alfa Romeo Story - A 156, a red V6 & my own workshop!-img_1810.jpg

My Alfa Romeo Story - A 156, a red V6 & my own workshop!-img_1813.jpg

I used the water pump, tensioner, and other shiny bits from my old engine and lo and behold I had a running car.

I drove her in good health for the next two months and now that I have my own garage, I was brave enough to explore the limits of that engine. It was awesome fun.

My Alfa Romeo Story - A 156, a red V6 & my own workshop!-img_1543.jpg

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Old 18th December 2014, 15:55   #3
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Free flow air filter – Pipercross

A free flow intake felt like an absolute must and I am not going into the technicalities. I know that a performance air filter by itself does not produce much effect on the power output and it is more of a feel good factor but I went for it and was happy with the results.

My Alfa Romeo Story - A 156, a red V6 & my own workshop!-img_1989.jpg

It was a DIY job and the car felt marginally more responsive (my perception) and it had a bit more induction noise. My wallet was thinner but I was happier.

The Clover leaf badge;


Another must have for an Alfa Romeo

Bought it online from Hong Kong

My Alfa Romeo Story - A 156, a red V6 & my own workshop!-img_2645.jpg

All the tools that I need,

My Alfa Romeo Story - A 156, a red V6 & my own workshop!-clover1.jpg

My Alfa Romeo Story - A 156, a red V6 & my own workshop!-img_2656.jpg

Meanwhile at the garage; like any new businesses I wanted to provide a different experience. However, at times I noticed that my mech was not up to the task. I insisted on doing certain jobs in a certain manner and he found several excuses why it couldn’t be done that way. I insisted that the sump nu be changed and the air filter be cleaned at least one spark plug should be inspected at the time of service. He told me that the sump nut was reusable and the air filter was always clean and inspecting the spark plug was not required. Another area where he failed was in handling the customers’ car. I bought him gloves which he refused to use so he sometimes climbed into the car with greasy hands. No offence to greasy hands here as I myself tinker around cars quite a bit and at times use greasy hands but some of the customers were not that appreciative.

There was some discontent on either sides but things were going well for now.
Many more Alfa Romeos at the garage;

My Alfa Romeo Story - A 156, a red V6 & my own workshop!-010620121513.jpg

My Alfa Romeo Story - A 156, a red V6 & my own workshop!-210420121377.jpg

I had several concepts planned including an Alfa Romeo engine hot rod, An Alfa engine in an E30 BMW body and even a Jeep to be redesigned as the Alfa Romeo Matta with 156 interior and Busso V6 engine. However, My mechanic did not share my enthusiasm for automobile but I do not fault him for that. After all, for him it was a full time job and he was trying to make more money than he previously did while working for the Alfa specialist and his revenue was based on profit sharing.

He was not keen on my projects as they would take a lot of his time and he gave many excuses for why it was not feasible. At times I began to feel I had overestimated his competency.

We were also working on other brands and started making enough money to meet our expenses.

A Peugeot Partner at the garage

My Alfa Romeo Story - A 156, a red V6 & my own workshop!-img_1905.jpg

At this point, I need to mention that my investment here was very low and I did not make a trade license instead choosing to rent a premise within another garage.

Long story short, in spite of the initial success, things did not go out as well as I had hoped for. Since things were not going in the direction I expected it to, I did not want to make any further financial commitments and we also began to lose money. After two years, I dissociated myself from the project even though I still offered some support for running the diagnostic equipment and in keeping the website alive. The garage is still functional as of today and I am happy for the fact that it has created a livelihood for someone.

In case you are wondering, the idea of setting my own business is livid in me even today and I might do the whole thing again albeit differently.

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Old 18th December 2014, 16:15   #4
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Back to my Alfa,

She was running fine and during that year there were few minor niggles. One of them was a failed crank sensor. By now, I had the necessary diagnostic tools for the Alfa and I could use it to effectively identify the faults. So I knew that it was a faulty crank sensor but I could not find a replacement part. This was worrisome because the car would start in the morning but if I stopped some where it would refuse to start while the engine was still warm. I had to wait for almost a month for a suitable replacement and until then all our trips required much careful planning.

On a misty morning;

My Alfa Romeo Story - A 156, a red V6 & my own workshop!-img_2089.jpg

I had met with a slight incident some time back. It was very unfortunate but I was the culprit and all the blame was mine.

My Alfa Romeo Story - A 156, a red V6 & my own workshop!-img_2090.jpg

A botched painting job by a moron meant that the body work was still in bad shape.

Failures Galore

Another time, a lambda sensor failed but we had a replacement part and it was fixed without much difficulty.

The clutch slave cylinder failure resulted in the car refusing to shift gears and I had to buy a brand new one from the dealer.
Another coolant pipe failure had me with a steamy situation but this time I managed to save my engine with some timely intervention. Since my mech was on leave, I had to change the pipe by the road side armed with nothing but a victorinox and a torch. I always carry these with me ever since.

The DIY experience


By now, I had gained access to some tools and was tinkering with the car mostly during winter. The air filter install was a straight forwards job. I tried to change the oil filter but after scrapping most of the skin from my knuckles I realized it was impossible without access to a suitable ramp or jack. To access the oil filter you need to move a lot of plumbing and there is barely any space to access it.


I managed to replace a faulty ABS module on another Alfa and I managed to fix a clock spring on mine.

My Alfa Romeo Story - A 156, a red V6 & my own workshop!-img_2883.jpg

My Alfa Romeo Story - A 156, a red V6 & my own workshop!-img_2885.jpg

My Alfa Romeo Story - A 156, a red V6 & my own workshop!-img_2882.jpg


Changing some dash lights.

My Alfa Romeo Story - A 156, a red V6 & my own workshop!-img_2875.jpg

My Alfa Romeo Story - A 156, a red V6 & my own workshop!-img_2874.jpg



I was now confident enough to do some minor works albeit with blood and gory but I have kept at it since then.

Back to the various issues that the Alfa faced, a failed oil cooler resulted in oil water mixing and the resultant mucky stuff could be collected from the coolant reservoir.

My Alfa Romeo Story - A 156, a red V6 & my own workshop!-img_2861.jpg

Once again, she was in trouble. I changed the oil cooler and had already changed the cooling fan and flushed the radiator once. However, the problem still persisted.

By now, as part of my career, I had interacted with some of the prominent independent garages in Dubai. I discussed my trouble with one of them and he offered to help me. This workshop was run by a German guy and they were very professional. They were a bit like how I wanted my workshop to be and I took my car to them.



They did a thorough job of flushing the radiator. Meanwhile, I asked them to identify any and all faults with the car which they did. There were many missing links and I asked them to fix most of it at a reasonable cost.

The engine was pulled out once again;

My Alfa Romeo Story - A 156, a red V6 & my own workshop!-img_2571.jpg

My Alfa Romeo Story - A 156, a red V6 & my own workshop!-img_2572.jpg

They diagnosed that the water pump was shot and coincidentally they had a replacement part ;-) but they also replaced all the broken bits of the suspension and fixed the radiator all at a very reasonable, almost negligible cost, much cheaper that if I would have done it at my own garage! and I also got them to fix the body work which was absolutely free. Little perks of the job.

When I went to collect the car I saw her parked outside gleaming in the sunlight with a lovely sparkle from the headlamps. They had polished every bit of it and the bodywork was excellent. I quickly grabbed the keys and took her home and what a drive it was.

My Alfa Romeo Story - A 156, a red V6 & my own workshop!-img_2687.jpg

My Alfa Romeo Story - A 156, a red V6 & my own workshop!-img_2691.jpg

Last edited by spd_tkt : 18th December 2014 at 17:21.
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Old 18th December 2014, 17:42   #5
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Default re: My Alfa Romeo Story - A 156, a red V6 & my own workshop!

The next day, I was shocked to see that the A/c was not cooling. Now with all the various issues I had faced, the Air Con was one bit that was working perfectly. A bit disheartened, but then it was winter.

I took it back to the workshop and they said they might have forgotten to refill the A/c gas after they dismantled it. That was done and I was back with the Alfa Romeo experience. It was brilliant fun to drive now. The suspension felt much tauter and everything seemed to work perfectly. I had recently read about the movie Citizen Kane and that was where the ‘Rosebud’ name came from. It was that drive on a Sunday night.

The cockpit;

My Alfa Romeo Story - A 156, a red V6 & my own workshop!-img_2679.jpg

My Alfa Romeo Story - A 156, a red V6 & my own workshop!-img_2682.jpg

I had to work late into the night. Tired, hungry and with blurred eyes I walked up to my car. It was cold and there was some dew/ mist all over the car. The Air Conditioning that was only fixed a week back has failed again but since it is almost winter in Dubai, it was pleasantly warm inside.

The first crank did not yield expected results and my hunger and worry deepened. Second time around she fired up well. Had a smoke until she was suitable warmed up and drove slowly onto Maktoum bridge. By the time we had crossed the bridge everything felt nicely oiled and warmed up!

I could feel the worn and slightly torn leather on the steering wheel, the smell of leather from those seats. The instrument console with red back-lit; all this just made it feel even more special. At the next signal I stopped for the red light, put down my windows and heard that Busso V6 bubbling softly. Once the lights turned green, I neatly floored her. The noise grew into a growl as she climbed to 7,000 RPM. I red lined her in all but the last two gears. Oh that was fun and I was smiling all the way home.

You can read about the Rosebud reference if you look up the movie Citizen Kane on the web. It is a pretty boring movie to watch btw.

Once again the Alfa had a failed A/c which my mech concluded was due to failed evaporator, a component buried within the dashboard and the same repair that I had dreaded on my previous Alfa. I took it back to the independent garage run by the German guy and after a lot of diagnosis, they confirmed the same. Their reasoning was that they could not trace a leak from anywhere else and if it was still losing gas, it was surely from behind the dash and the only components that could fail are the evaporator and drier.

The German guy suggested that I order the replacement part and agreed to perform the job for some bakshish to the floor technicians. That was a good idea since I did not want them to give me any more freebies. The guy asked me to place an order for the part and as a temporary solution, they refilled the gas. My best guess is that they filled the gas properly this time after vacuuming the system for ever since, I have not had any issues with the A/c and I still have this part at home.

When I list all these issues, I do not mean that all Alfa Romeos are unreasonably high maintenance cars. I want to make it clear that the reliability record of my red Alfa should not be seen as a representation of this brands reliability. My Alfa by now was more than ten years old and had more than 200,000 kms on the odometer and even though the engine is much younger, there were still bits of the car that showed its age. Besides, my first Alfa was far more reliable. I work in the warranty sector and have seen far worse failures even for much newer Japanese cars. All in all, I still love the brand.

So that is it then; A few months back things were at cross roads with my dear red Alfa having a failed Synchro which required an expensive gearbox rebuild that I was almost unwilling to undertake. It looked like we were about to part ways and it was sad. A lucky happenstance resulted in the gearbox being fixed and once again, I was reunited with my Alfa. Not for long though, as I am preparing myself to embark on yet another automotive adventure, this time in India, I have to say goodbye to my car. I had to find her a new home, at least until we find a buyer, and there would be no better person I can think of, than my good friend and fellow automobile enthusiast who is also a self made entrepreneur who runs one of the most successful automotive portals in GCC who has agreed to take care of my car. As for me, I am heading back home.

Last edited by spd_tkt : 26th February 2015 at 16:31.
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Old 27th February 2015, 12:00   #6
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Default Re: My Alfa Romeo Story - A 156, a red V6 & my own workshop!

Thread moved from the Assembly Line (The "Assembly Line" Forum section) to the Reviews Section. Thanks for sharing!

What a passionate story, straight from the heart. Rating thread a well-deserved 5 stars.
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Old 27th February 2015, 13:42   #7
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Default Re: My Alfa Romeo Story - A 156, a red V6 & my own workshop!

What a great story. And it involved my eternal favorite car the 156. As I am typing this I am looking at red 156 from my office window and thinking that only an Alfa can bring so much passion in owning a car.
Also good luck with your new automobile adventure.
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Old 27th February 2015, 14:36   #8
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Default Re: My Alfa Romeo Story - A 156, a red V6 & my own workshop!

Really well-written and well-documented- had you made this a documentary film, I'm sure the BBC or NatGeo would have lapped this up...and you've made some moolah to get yourself another Alfa Romeo!
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Old 27th February 2015, 15:30   #9
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Default Re: My Alfa Romeo Story - A 156, a red V6 & my own workshop!

Wow, What a wonderful story. it really brought out your relationship with both the Alfa's. Should be titled Romeo and Juliet. .

Noticed you are from Trivandrum. So are you starting your automotive venture there. If so share the details. Maybe we can meet the next time I am there.

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Old 27th February 2015, 15:40   #10
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Default Re: My Alfa Romeo Story - A 156, a red V6 & my own workshop!

They say you aren't a petrolhead if you haven't owned an Alfa Romeo. Here you had two and an entire workshop to support it.

Excellent writeup!
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Old 27th February 2015, 18:30   #11
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Default Re: My Alfa Romeo Story - A 156, a red V6 & my own workshop!

Going by the definition of a true petrol head according to the 2 plucky and a slow Brit from Top Gear, you are never a true petrol head unless you own an Alfa Romeo. Truly a beautiful and one of my personal favorite cars of all times. Drive safe mate. Congratulations!
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Old 27th February 2015, 22:46   #12
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Default Re: My Alfa Romeo Story - A 156, a red V6 & my own workshop!

Quote:
Originally Posted by spd_tkt View Post
even when it refuses to start.

Quote:
Originally Posted by spd_tkt View Post
(from the faulty fuel pump)
These lines were enough to keep me hooked, lines from a true petol head. Your post is filled with your passion for the car and the amount of patience you had to get the beauty back to working condition. You are lucky to have experienced it
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Old 27th February 2015, 23:25   #13
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Default Re: My Alfa Romeo Story - A 156, a red V6 & my own workshop!

Beautifully written, oozes the passion you have for an Alfa in every sentence, the Italians know a trick or two to build automobiles with a soul, ain't it, it was akin to reading a novel describing a cute couple in relation, only that here its between a car and the owner, a lot of us here relate to such feelings.
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Old 28th February 2015, 12:06   #14
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Default Re: My Alfa Romeo Story - A 156, a red V6 & my own workshop!

An Alfa Romeo right from our own dazzling Dubai! I clicked on this title thinking I was going to read of an adventurous person in India with the Alpha Romeo, little realising I would end up reading a story which has unfolded a few blocks away from where I type! Dubai has been, on most sites/blogs/forums associated with flashy million dirham cars. However, it was lovely reading about your passionate experience with the classic Alpha Romeo 156. And btw, opening a garage to fuel your passion is big time. RESPECT BROTHER

B/Rgds
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Old 28th February 2015, 15:39   #15
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Default Re: My Alfa Romeo Story - A 156, a red V6 & my own workshop!

As Clarkson say, to be a true petrol head, you have to own an Alfa at some stage of your life.
You are a true petrol head!!
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