Russ Staub,  AROC Arizona

The alternator light on Alphy had been just barely glowing for some time.  Maybe this was a sign I should have taken more seriously……….

We took off for the British-European Auto Tour (BEAT) on Saturday at 6:30am, as scheduled.  The blue skies were inviting, and the coffee/donut stop in Wickenburg was not far off.  Alphy was just perfect, running like a teenager instead of the 36 year old he really was.  We had decided this year to enter two cars in the BEAT, with Sandra & Daniel (our daughter and son-in-law) driving the Alfa.

All was going really well, and the kids were just ecstatic over the opportunity to drive a real, honest to goodness Italian sports car.  They were having a ball.  About the time we were passing through downtown Jerome, Alphy began to complain mildly.  Ominous sounds were emanating from under his hood.

In Cottonwood at a photo rest stop in Dead Horse State Park, we pulled over and investigated the sound from the engine compartment.  It was pretty obvious the sound was coming from the alternator, and it was not a good sign.  I carry lots of spares in Alphy’s trunk, but not a spare alternator.

Being in Northern Arizona with a car problem, particularly in one of those funny little European sports cars was not an easy thing to fix.  It seems as though Northern Arizona is basically shut down on weekends for a vexing problem such as we had.  Daniel is apparently somewhat of a modern techno-nerd, and his Blackberry gadget allowed us to locate and contact all sorts of possible help.  We called some of our always-helpful Alfa Club sources, but there was little they could do to help via long distance.  We located a NAPA store in Cottonwood, and the nearest ’74 GTV alternator they could find in their computer was Atlanta, Georgia!  They had no ability to cross reference the Bosch number for the GTV with any other comparable part we might use.

There was an alternator rebuild shop in Cottonwood, but they were closed on weekends with no emergency number listed.  He didn’t answer the phone either.

Then, along came Karl, a really gentle, low-key kind of fellow who was driving the follow-up tow vehicle for the BEAT.  He was also the owner of Redrock Precision Motors in Sedona, and a very knowledgeable auto mechanic.  He suggested we either load Alphy on his trailer, or drive the car to his garage in Sedona where he would keep it inside his garage for the weekend until we could obtain another alternator (or fix).

What a predicament.  We had one little “furrin” car and four people, and no, there is no way in this world four of us would fit in our one remaining car.  The Blackberry called car rental places in both Sedona and Flagstaff and neither was open on weekends.  Karl suggested a daily shuttle from Flagstaff to Phoenix the kids could take on Sunday morning.  It would seem there was no other option but to send our kids ignominiously back home on a shuttle, instead of the shiny red little Italian sports car they had fallen in love with.

Now, the miraculous rest of the story. We drove Alphy to Karl’s garage in Sedona.  His parking lot in front of the garage was nearly completely covered with the many tents of a large, weekend crafts fair.  I asked if he rented his space for them to have the fair, and he said “No”.  He charged them nothing, and had the craft fair people instead contribute to a local charity for lost/homeless dogs.  He was that kind of guy.

Then there was Paul.  He was in Karl’s garage working on a weekend project of his own.  He was basically Karl’s landlord in that he owned the land on which Precision Motors was located, and he and Karl had worked out some sort of agreement that allowed Paul to work on personal projects in Karl’s garage on weekends.

Paul was a man of many past endeavors, having owned and sold (or lost) a number of varied businesses over the years.  One of them was a foreign car electric repairs business in Phoenix over thirty years ago.  He asked what was the problem with Alphy.  We said it was most probably an alternator problem.  He said all he was doing about thirty years ago was rebuilding alternators, would we like him to take a look at it?  We handed him the keys.

Karl took Sandra & my wife Jan to the Lodge in Flagstaff where all the BEAT entrants were staying.  Daniel wanted to ride along with me in the Healey.  About three hours later, while sitting around the table having a drink with Karl at the Lodge, Daniel got a call on his Blackberry gadget.  It was Paul, wanting to know when we would like to pick up Alphy!

The next morning (Sunday), Karl took the kids back to the garage in Sedona, and we soon followed in the Healey.  Since we had not driven far with the failing alternator, the damage was not too serious.  Paul showed me the toasted parts of the alternator rear bearing, said he found an appropriate replacement bearing, replaced the brushes with new ones, and pronounced the alternator was good to go and would probably outlast the car.  The man spent his Saturday night working to get our Alfa going again.

What are the chances?  An experienced alternator rebuilder, working on a personal project in Karl’s garage, willing to spend his time finding appropriate parts to rebuild our alternator on Saturday night in Northern Arizona?

One side note- Paul said he had actually worked on our alternator nearly thirty years ago in his Phoenix shop.  It was not the original alternator for the GTV, and there were identifying letters he stamped inside the case of all the units he worked on.  And, he jokingly said with a smile, the warranty ran out at thirty years.  Sorry!

The kids were able to enjoy the thrill of completing the drive, with Alphy growling like a tiger all the way home.  And, with a great story to tell at the end.

This article was previously published in the Alfa Owner, the official publication of the Alfa Romeo Owner’s Club and is reprinted here with their kind permission


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