Why are Alfa’s different + Gallery

“Alfa Romeo’s might have been the first car to have an all aluminum engine. This reduced a lot of weight compared to the cast iron blocks that most other companies were using.”

According to Glenn, it really wasn’t until 2005 that major car companies really adopted the aluminum engine block and saw the benefits of the aluminum style. 

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Personal Photo: Top profile of the classic Dual Cam Aluminum Engine used in Alfas from the early 1950’s to late 1970.

Dual overhead cams, another innovative design used in 55, and not used in modern cars untill the last decade. Even the timing chain lasts the life of the car, Glenn says he’s never had to change the chain belt ever on his racing Alfa.

“They were really sophisticated street cars for their time.”

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Personal Photo: A Dual Overhead Cam engine outside of an Alfa.
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Personal Photo: An engine rebuild, showing the camshaft gear.

 

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Personal Photo: Timing chain tensioner and two camshaft gears.

Transition to Profession

As the shop opened up, he already had a large customer network so work seemed to come naturally. He started to get regular customers, and continued to service most makes and models with some Alfa’s coming in and out.  

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It wasn’t until ‘85 or so that Glenn started working with a buddy, John Norman, as his crew chief for John’s Alfa Sprint. That’s when Glenn started to have an eye for these older Alfas, and began to turn down non-Alfa customers.  

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By this time, Glenn had a couple of Alfa shells (body) in the back of his garage, but nothing ever happened to them as far as restoration or getting them on the track.  

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Early Career

“Well after college I had to get a job, and the only ones I was looking for were jobs that were draft deferment, as the War was still going on. I landed a job at this Meyer Island Shipyard, where I worked as a designer for piping systems on submarines and other ships. During this time though I was working miscellaneously on friends and my own cars, really just general work. I continued to race motorbikes and that was really my main hobby at the time.”

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Google image: Meyer Island Submarine dock
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Google Image: Mare Island Shipyard

 

Glenn worked here for about a decade, finally leaving after the war was over in ‘78. Since he had been constantly cranking on engines, though, he began to see that as his next career path.

“When you left the shipyard, you got a $50,000 check to either save for retirement or take the cash and run.”

Personal Photo: The entrance to Oliveria Engineering with a 60’s Sprint Speciale in front

 Glenn took the money, and after two years of working on cars out of his parents garage, he bought a lot in Berkeley in 1980.

College Life

He started at Cal Poly in San Luis Obispo studying Mechanical Engineering.  During this time, Glenn lived with six other engineering students. So, naturally, they were constantly talking engines and designs.

“When I first started school, I bought a 1953 Triumph motorcycle from my friend Eric. Back then you didn’t need a license to drive a motorcycle, so I saw it as an easy way to save some cash.”

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Google Image: 1953 Triumph Thunderbird

One day, him and his buddies were sitting around drinking and it was the day that the Cobra came out. However, they costed 3,500-4,000 dollars. At the time, their rent was only 25 a month, and they barley had enough for food.  But they put their minds together and figured you could buy a Austin Healey and put a Chevy motor in it, so that you could have a car that was faster AND lighter than a Shelby Cobra.

 

 

 

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Personal Photo: Glenn’s 1954 Austin Healey

So Glenn did in 1966, buying a ‘54 Austin Healey that he still has in his shop today.“That was the newest car I’ve ever bought, and it was 12 years old at the time. I immediately took the engine out and bought a 1955 327 chevy motor.”

He finished the build by late 1967, and he recalls driving it to and from school, up the coast on the weekends, as well as competing in some autocross races.  

In 1965, Glenn sold his triumph to buy a Bultaco motocross bike. They were made in Spain, and him and his friend had gone to some hillclimb races where these bikes flying up the hills with no problem. 

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Google Images: 1960’s Bultaco 200cc 2-stroke MotoCross bike

“They sounded like bumblebees! They only weighed 200 pounds with 30 horsepower, but triumphs maybe had 50 HP but weight 350 lbs. So I said man I have to own one of those.  After that, I started racing some enduro events and motocross races in the late 60’s.”

 

 

 

 

Glenn’s Childhood

Glenn Oliveria was born in Oakland, California in 1946.  His parents worked normal jobs and a mostly normal upbringing.  And as most boys do, he soon discovered his need for speed.  He remembers taking his pedal car to the top of the hill that he lived on in and would come flying down it to see how far he could drift, or slide the car.  

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Google Image: 1940’s Pedal Car

It only held interest for so long, and they didn’t make too many replacement wheels for the cars then, so Glenn had to choose a new hobby for the time being.  His friend Eric would take him to the track to watch races on the weekends, however, so it kept his need to drive alive.

“There were some older kids across the street who had old hot rods, and I remember them driving down the hill and hearing the cars backfire a lot. I thought that was really cool.”

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Google Image: Guys working on a 1950’s Hot Rod

Glenn was 14 when he bought his first car from another kid in 9th grade.  A 1937 Buick purchased for only 30 bucks, he even talked it down from the original asking price of 50.

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Google Image: 1937 Buick Century coupe

“The Buick ran terribly. So I took the carburetor apart… then it really didn’t run. I had no notebooks or internet to look at so it was all trial and error until I eventually got it running.”

When he finally got his license, he couldn’t drive it because his parents nor he could afford insurance. He ended up selling the car for 150 bucks when he had to leave for college, making a nice profit.