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Book Review: The Alfa Romeo DOHC Engine High Performance Manual

A must-have resource for the venerable DOHC Alfa engine

by Simon Brown

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Right from the outset, this book doesn’t pretend to be anything other than as described in the title – it’s a guide to power tuning the Alfa DOHC engine as found in RWD Alfas. This includes all variations of this engine, in capacities of 1300, 1600, 1750, 1800, 2000 and 1800 turbo, and as fitted to Gulias, Berlinas, Spiders, Guliettas, Alfettas, 75s, 155s and others from the Sixties, Seventies, Eighties, and even the Nineties (and they say that the Holden grey motor was long lived!). To maintain continuity, the author uses the 2000cc version as the basis (aiming for approximately 165hp), but points out where other capacities vary and what should be done in those situations.

The book, the second edition of the title, is broken down into logical and simple to navigate sections covering Engine, Fuel System, Ignition and Electrics, Exhaust System, Oil and Water Cooling, and finally Chassis and Drivetrain. Additional chapters are devoted to the introduction, a list of suppliers and specialists around the world (including Pace and Benincas in Australia), camshaft diagrams/comparisons and an American to English glossary of terms.

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In terms of readability, it’s not the sort of book you’d necessarily enjoy as bedtime reading, but as a resource for a performance rebuild of the venerable DOHC Alfa engine, I consider it a must. However the author does assume some reader knowledge of engine modification tricks. As an example, the use of BMW valves is mentioned; however, there is no discussion as to what type or even from what model or year BMW. But the detail given during the porting process is nothing short of extraordinary as the author discusses where the head material needs to be removed, what sections to be careful of, and gives a full set of ‘before’ and ‘after’ internal diameter dimensions.

The author is clearly an Alfisti but that doesn’t prevent him noting weaknesses and design flaws of the engine, or in fact in any other part of the car that he touches upon. The book runs to some 144 pages and the text is enhanced with approximately 170 detailed illustrations, photos and graphs, though some are not as easily tied to the text as they should be. A simple “as illustrated overleaf” would have helped in more than a few cases. Seventeen pages of detailed camshaft profile diagrams further supplement the illustrations. Another nice feature is that factory part numbers and companies specialising in certain areas are quoted throughout the text as well.

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Nearly 70 pages are devoted the engine alone; other pages cover improvements to the electrical system, big brake modifications, suspension revisions, LSD adjustment, recurving distributors, weight reduction, gear clusters selection, etc.

In summary, this book is for the hardcore Alfa nut wanting to get the most from his or her engine. But while at first glance it appears to have no relevance to other makes, there are still passages of text that would be useful for anyone considering a performance engine rebuild. For example, inlet gas inertia and its effect on cam timing are discussed in detail, as is why you might want to balance the oil pump - but I imagine there will be texts available on similar topics and of more relevance to your engine type.

Rating: 9/10

Title: The Alfa Romeo DOHC Engine High-Performance Manual

Publisher: Veloce Books

RRP: £19.99 UK, $39.99 USA, $54.95 AUS

Author: Jim Kartalamakis

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