2008-08-13

Italian Day 2008

This weekend it was once again time for "Italiensk Dag", which directly translates to "Italian Day". This is an annual event where people who drive Italian cars and motorcycles meet to show off their machinery, do some laps on the race track and ogle whatever goodies are on display.

And boy were there some goodies on display this year. In particular one car. The Alfa Romeo 8C Competizione. I have seen a lot of supercars up close and personal. The 8C may not be as wild as the Pagani Zonda or as well-handling as the Ferrari 430 -- but it is a sensual, curvacious beauty of a car. And indeed, she sounds better than her cousin, the Ferrari 430. At low revs, she purrs like an enormous cat -- at high revs she has a wonderful snarl, and when you let go of the throttle she crackles and pops like a race car. I bet the propellerheads at the Alfa Romeo Engine Sound Department worked a lot of hours when tuning the exhaust for this car. And the result is stunning.

When, at the end of the day, the engine was fired up and she rolled onto the track, the whole place fell silent. Hundreds of car geeks who only moments earlier had been prattling on with enthusiasm about rust and nuts and bolts and paintwork suddenly fell silent. The 8C rolled into the pitlane, the clouds parted and (I am not making this up) the sun shon down on the most beautiful car I've seen in a long time.

It was a bit of a letdown that the driver didn't have the cojones to give the car some stick, but I can't blame him -- I would probably have done the same thing.

Hmm, no. Not really.

As for the car I arrived in: Ståle and I spent some late evenings picking apart the old 2 litre Nord engine of our Alfa Romeo 75 and then putting it back together again. Now the old girl has a new head-gasket and instead of producing white smoke, she now billows blue smoke.

In case you are confused: we consider this an improvement.

Especially under engine-braking she produces blue smoke, as I was told after taking her onto the track and spanking her bottom. Blue smoke under engine-braking we have a diagnosis for and it will be dealt with later.

We did a few other things as well, including changing the lower wishbone ball-joint (next time: buy or make the proper tools first) and jury-rigged the rubber thingy that goes around the steering rack. Don't worry, it is a sound solution, but not a permanent one.

All things considered, the 75 did OK on track. She is too soft in the front for my taste, so we need to flatten her a bit in the corners -- hard transitions are a bit of an adventure. Either stronger torsion bars, a stiffer sway bar or both. I also want a bit of negative camber at the front. Oh, and it would help in the wet if the steering didn't have 873265 turns lock to lock. I had a bit of a moment in a corner when I let the back go a tad further than I had anticipated.

That being said: two geeks who have no idea what they are doing took the engine apart, put it back together again, drove her 450 kilometers, drove 80 kilometers on track, then drove her 450 kilometers back again and the car worked all the way.

Lovely.

On the way back we actually opened the windows a couple of times. You know, to get the full aroma of the car. Although still being far from being one, she does have that Alfa Romeo racing smell. The mixture of hot oil, gasoline, exhaust and that lovely smell of hot brakes. Mmm. It may be hard for you to imagine, but I love those smells and what they mean :)

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