Alfa Romeo Front Suspension Rebuild Part 1

When I took the Alfa off the road at the end of the 2014 driving season last November, I decided that this year’s winter project would be a complete rebuild of the front suspension. Although the car drove and handled remarkably well, there were clunks and squeaks from the front which left me uncomfortable. A quick check with Pete, the previous owner, confirmed that he had not rebuilt the front end during his stewardship. Convinced that all bushings and ball joints were original to the car, I decided it was time.

Having done this kind of work on previously-owned collector cars, most recently my 1968 Mustang, the same approach was used: disassemble only ONE side of the suspension, so that in the worst-case scenario of “how the #$&% does this go back together again?”, I would always have the assembled OTHER side to use for reference. With the Alfa, there was also the admittedly minor concern that since  the shop manuals I owned did not describe the procedure in detail, some or most of the work might fall to “figuring it out as I go”.

Some technical words about the 1967 Alfa Romeo Giulia Sprint front suspension: on the surface, this is a conventional suspension design, with upper and lower control arms, coil springs situated between the lower arm and crossmember, tube shocks, caster arms, and sway bar. The spindle rides on upper and lower ball joints connected to the respective control arms. In detail, there are some unique and fascinating design elements. The lower control “arm” is actually three pieces, joined by bushings and a ball joint. The bushings are not conventional rubber bushings, but are heim joints (like a ball and socket) enclosed in a steel casing and pressed into two of the arms. The lower spring seat bolts to the lower control arm and so can be removed and reinstalled separately. The caster arm serves as a fore-aft locating arm for the suspension, and is attached to the body of the car with a heim joint. The overall effect is a suspension which has an almost perfect combination of suppleness and control, with very little lean.

As I write this in March of 2015, let me explain that the first side I tackled (left side) is now almost completely done. That was the side to learn on – components were not always disassembled in the best order, I did not always give complete attention to the way things came apart, and so on. This is typical for old-car work that stretches out over a number of weeks. This blog entry, entitled “Part 1”, will pick up for the most part at the beginning of the second (right) side of the suspension. In this way I hope to better capture the logical order of performing the rebuild, now that I’m making my sophomore effort.

Early in the month of March, we finally had a winter day of temperatures reasonable enough to spend a few hours in the garage. One habit I’ve practiced with all my restorations is to take as many ‘before’, ‘during’, and ‘after’ photos as possible. In today’s digital world, it’s too easy to accomplish. So on Day One of this suspension rebuild, I dutifully took as many photos as I could of the pieces I was about to remove. I also decided it would be prudent to remove the brake caliper, disc, backing plate, and hub as a first step (I had left them in place when working on the first side, and they only got in the way).

The impact gun made short work of this effort. Once those were off, the front shock was unbolted, and I photographically documented the markings on it, as I believe these shocks are original to the car. At this point I had some components which could be cleaned and prepped for painting. The next step would be the somewhat tricky removal of the front spring. This would wait until one or two friends could join the party and provide some needed assistance.

 

All photographs copyright © 2015 Richard A. Reina. Photos may not be copied or reproduced without express written permission.

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