Report "Building A Dream"

1983 Bertaggia Mk I 

Building A Dream

 

I had been thinking about building a car since I was a teenager. Not rebuilding a car. Not building a kit. But building everything. Build the body. Build the frame. Make the interior. I wanted a mid-engine sports car that I could slalom, do time trials, and drive on the street. Dreams are created twice: Once in your head, the second time into physical existence. I believed I could do it, so in 1983 I started building my dream. And it was called the "Bertaggia." Say it with a big gesture and a heavy Italian accent, and it rolls off the tongue like Maserati, Lamborghini and Ferrari. At least in my dreams.

 

Body

The first major step was building a quarter size model and then a full size model of what I wanted the car to look like. I spent many hours looking at pictures of cars that I liked, especially Ferraris. I felt like a sculptor. I never intended to copy any car, but not unexpectedly, it came out looking like a Ferrari Dino 246. Very round and sexy. If you want to get my goat, say it looks like a Corvette. (No offense to you Corvette lovers). After the full sized model was looking just right, I built the molds and then the final body, both out of fiberglass. I had never worked with fiberglass, so I had to learn how to use it as I went along. This took about 3 1/2 years

 

Collecting The Pieces

After the body was completed, I collected all the bits and pieces to build the car from around the world. The heart of any sports car is its engine. Many years ago, I fell in love with the Alfa 2.5 liter V6 (Italian), mostly because of the sound, so that is what I started with. This engine has single overhead cams, hemispherical heads and six Dellerto carburetors. I had to get the engine from England to get the carburetors. This engine sounds great. With 150 horsepower and the Bertaggia weighing about 2000 pounds, the acceleration is more than "adequate," as the British say. The suspension comes from a Toyota Supra (Japanese), the transmission from a Porsche 914 (German), and the wheels from England (they look like Ferrari "star" wheels). Mixed together with Yankee ingenuity, and you have a truly international car.

 

Frame

Now that I had all the components, I designed a quarter scale model of the frame from wooden dowels, glued together. I could twist the frame and tell where the weaknesses were. Not totally accurate, but it gave me an idea where the weaknesses were. After the scale frame was done, I started building the real thing. The problem was I didn't know how to weld. I bought a MIG welder and started practicing. First I made a welding cart. It was terrible. Then I made the front section of the real frame. My welding had improved, but it wasn't good enough. I threw that away. My second attempt was acceptable. By the time I got done with the entire frame, I was a pretty good welder. What I designed and built was a "space frame" made up of mostly one inch mild steel square tubing. Aluminum sheet metal was used as the floor and firewall.

 

Miscellaneous

The miscellaneous phase included running brake lines, shift linkage, radiator plumbing, throttle linkage, building the headers and interior and getting the engine started. After I finished the wiring, dashboard and rebuilding the (many) carburetors, I started the engine. I had problems with the carburetors, which was not unexpected, but I did get discouraged enough to stop working on it for almost a year. A friend from work kept bugging me to get it going and we finally figured out the problem.

 

Finished at Last

In 1990, I finally got far enough along so I could drive it. I ran a couple of slaloms to shake the bugs out. Then I ran some time trials out at Holtville International Raceway. The car handles great and is fun to drive. At that point I ran out of enthusiasm again. Then I started seriously dreaming about the next car I wanted to build. Actually, I started thinking about what I wanted to build next about a year after starting the Bertaggia. Something about a Ferrari powered front engine car or a mid-engined Corvette. In 1998, I started seriously working on the Bertaggia again and finished up the bodywork and painted the car. The part about driving on the street didn’t happen. Too much work to make it street legal (windshield wipers for example). After 17 years (year 2000), I was done!!! I did it!!! I sold the car shortly after finishing it to a guy in the L.A. Alfa Club, Joe Leonne. He took Top Time of the Day in a time trial and the car was pictured in the Alfa Romeo National newsletter. I was so proud. If I can build a car, I can do anything.

 

But I didn’t build the Bertaggia Mk 1 by myself. Many people have helped me, technically and by encouraging me. A good friend of mine even designed an emblem for the car. My dream has finally come true.

 

Enzo Bertaggia

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Construction Gallery
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The car in the net is wrongly as "1966 Alfa Romeo "Alfredino" SP 256"....

 

I intend to restore incorrect web posts about classic cars that I know well up close, I also want to thank people who help me see these rare cars up close, to drive them whenever possible and all of you who read the texts and enjoy my photos.

Vasileios Papaidis

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