By on June 19, 2015

1998 Alfa Romeo 164 2.5 TD

One clever man who likes powaaah, steaks and punching people once said that you are not a real petrolhead until you’ve owned an Alfa Romeo. Seeing how Alfas are either considered terrible, unreliable crap by sane and rational people or totally revered by devoted fans, I assumed there has to be something about them. Maybe it really is that fabled “automotive soul” everyone talks about.

When I drove modern Alfas, I tended to lean towards the “they’re crap” crowd. The Mito is just a Fiat Punto that’s been made worse and more expensive, while the Giulietta can be a hoot to drive, but you want to douse it in gasoline and light on fire every time you need to use it as transportation. It’s like someone did the first 90% of development and then decided to have some chianti instead of finishing the rest. Which is probably what happened.

As usual, the fanboys say the older cars are the “real” Alfas, before the brand was ruined by someone or something (usually Fiat or GM). And with the prices of 156, 166 and even the FWD iteration of GTV from ’90s laughably low, I’ve been eying an older Alfa, preferably with the famous Busso V6 engine, for some time now. But with my tight budget not allowing for two cars at once, I always ended up going for something bigger, more comfortable and (supposedly) more reliable – like an old Mercedes E-class, Chrysler LHS, borrowed Lincoln or also-borrowed Chevy Van.

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Only recently did a perfect opportunity to get an Alfa present itself. I managed to find some poor soul who was willing to give me actual money for the Chrysler and a friend of mine needed to get rid of her old Alfa as she was getting a newer one (a diesel 159 Wagon). The car in question was a 164 Super, highly optioned and from the last year of the model’s manufacture, wearing some “cosmetic flaws” (= it looks like some crazy Italian drove it around Rome for a month, drunk) and motivated by diesel.

A diesel engine kind of ruins the point of proving you are a petrolhead. Also, I hate them. I never understood why American auto enthusiasts, with their access to cheap gas and powerful engines, lust for diesel cars so much. Diesel stinks, rattles and booms, and it’s slow. It doesn’t rev, which kind of spoils the point of stick shift. Even worse, the 164 is powered by the infamous VM Motori 2.5 TD four-cylinder with one head per cylinder, well known for ruining the reliability score of Chrysler Europe when it was used in Voyagers and Cherokees.

On the other hand, the car had its merits. First of all, it was free. Second, the diesel four-cylinders tend to be quite economical, which is a welcome change after several years of pouring expensive European gas into a series of American cars while broke. And third, it’s still an Alfa from the “better times” (even though it was developed in cooperation with Fiat, Lancia and Saab), so it should be interesting at least. And fourth, as I learnt soon after being offered the car, it’s got a wooden steering wheel, which is insanely cool and in itself enough reason for me to want it.

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So when the time came for me to pick up my new vehicle, I was quite excited. Save for the various press loaners with their fancy new common-rail engines and a friend’s old Mercedes W124 300D-24, I’ve never really driven a diesel manual car in a while. Also, my last four daily drivers (see above) were invariably automatics with quite powerful engines, but with totally numb steering and suspension setup for comfort. Will the Alfa feel like a someone put an old tractor engine in it? Will it have the terrible turbo-lag the old turbodiesels were known for? And can a diesel powered, Saab-and-Fiat-based Alfa show any signs of the famed Alfa Romeo soul?

The last question was answered right after I placed my bottom into the bluish-green cloth seat. Remember all those ramblings about the ape-like driving position of old Italian sportscars? The modern Alfas don’t have it. Even the 156 didn’t have it. But once you sit in the 164, you instantly feel like you’re in an old Italian movie. You instantly forget about “proper” seating position, with nearly vertical backrest and steering wheel close to your chest, and instead find a relaxed position, leaning back slightly and with the steering wheel seemingly too far in your lap and far more horizontal than you would find acceptable in a modern car.

It’s interesting how the seating position changes your attitude towards driving. While it reminds me of old Italian sports cars, it’s definitely not sporty in your classical “sit straight and focus on the apexes” way. Instead, it makes you want to drive in an Italian way. Fast and with joyful abandon instead of precision. You can just imagine yourself bombing around the Rome with a smoke in the corner of your mouth, blasting through tight streets and narrowly missing scooters and tiny Fiats. Or, sometimes, not missing them, as evidenced by the beat-up state of the car (in fact, it was scoff-free when it came to Czech Republic, but it just looks like it was driven in Rome).

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The steering position is not the only part of the interior that feels alien to someone used to new cars. There’s, of course, thin body pillars and the fact that the 164, although it was the biggest Alfa of its time and quite a large vehicle by any (European) means, feels slightly cramped with its windscreen right in front of you within arm’s reach. But there are weirder bits. Its full instrumentation with a cool layout – large speedo and tach in the upper part, voltage, oil pressure, water temperature and fuel in the lower row – and crazy center panel with rows of buttons that resemble an ’80s cassette recorder. Or the power window controls, with buttons for front windows on the doors and for the rear windows on the center console.

Being an Alfa, one would expect it to break. And, stereotypically, it does. The cool buttons on the center panel work only sometimes, and the trunk button often activates the hazard lights. Or the hazard lights activate themselves. Or the trunk unlocks while driving. And the HVAC control display doesn’t work. Nor do the power locks.

But a proper Alfa should also be fragile mechanically and prone to rust, at least if you believe the popular opinions, which makes it kind of strange the most pervasive feeling from the whole car is that of robustness and solidity. It may be that my example is in better shape mechanically, but it doesn’t feel any less substantial than the same-era Mercedes E-class. And, unlike the Mercedes, it doesn’t show any signs of rust – probably the result of Alfa’s disaster with Alfasud (which was usually already rusty on the showroom floor) and its drive to prevent any similar problems in the future.

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At the same time, there’s still a bit of Alfa Romeo’s sportiness differing the 164 from its siblings – the Thema, Croma and Saab 9000 (or at least people who have driven all of them say so). For someone who’s used to large American cars and old Benzes, or brand new cars with their numb electric steering racks, the Alfa’s helm is fantastically direct and full of feel. The shift action is not nearly as great, but that’s compensated by pedals perfectly laid out for heel-and-toe downshifting.

Of course, the large diesel kind of spoils the fun. It’s much smoother than one would expect from an oil-burner that’s almost two decades old compared to, say, the 1.9 TDI/66kW from VW. It has almost zero turbo lag and it pulls linearly from 1200 rpm. When driven leisurely, it’s quite a pleasant engine, but try any kind of spirited driving and you’re in for a disappointment. It’s still an old diesel, so it’s noisy, unrefined and it seems to hate revving above 3500 rpm. Also, the VM Motori four, with its four fragile cylinder heads, is prone to overheating and subsequent head failures.

Even with this in mind, I couldn’t resist taking the Alfa to our last trackday/cheap car race event, but at almost 90 degrees Fahrenheit, I was pretty scared of blowing the head gasket and never found the courage to really push the engine. Even so, the Alfa showed some pretty interesting handling. With the large and heavy diesel in the front, one would expect it to understeer like crazy. In reality, the 164 is pretty well balanced. On old winter tires, it was pretty easy to adjust it from understeer to oversteer by lifting the throttle and even throw it into pretty spectacular four-wheel slides.

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The Verdict
Though it may be Saab-related and diesel-powered, the 164 is still able to give you a taste of the Alfa Romeo soul. It’s interesting to drive and, after a series of large American cars, it made me understand how US enthusiasts can consider diesel manual cars as something really cool. It also seems to be, contrary to the public opinion, quite reliable (except for electrical stuff) and it’s definitely one of the cheapest cars I’ve ever had to run. Even if I had to buy it at market value (probably $500 or so), it would be dirt cheap transportation. On the other hand, the Italian suspension and driving position, together with cool Pininfarina design, will always make me think about how cool this car would be with a proper engine – the illustrious V6 “Busso”. Since 164s with V6s are almost extinct, I’m starting to think that there’s a Busso-powered 166 in my near future. You have to have a proper Alfa, at least once, to be a proper petrolhead.

@VojtaDobes is motoring journalist from Czech Republic who previously worked for local editions of Autocar and TopGear magazines. Today, he runs his own website, www.Autickar.cz. After a failed adventure with importing classic American cars to Europe, he is utterly broke, so he drives an Alfa 164 Diesel he got for free. His previous cars included a 1988 Caprice in NYC Taxi livery, a hot-rodded Opel Diplomat, two Dodge Coronets, a Simca, a Fiat 600 and Austin Maestro. He has never owned a diesel, manual wagon.

Photography:author

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55 Comments on “1998 Alfa Romeo 164 2.5 TD European Review...”


  • avatar
    28-Cars-Later

    Nice piece.

  • avatar
    bumpy ii

    That thing was built in 1998? I would have guessed 1988, with the designer having penned it nearly a decade earlier than that.

    • 0 avatar
      28-Cars-Later

      I agree, a subtle yet elegant design. Unlike today’s cartoonish and offensive styling.

      • 0 avatar
        jhefner

        Yes; what has endured me to the cars from this era; subtle, yet elegant.

        This car has not been subjected to the rounded nose with the teardrop headlights that started in the mid-1990s; and it also retains it’s rectangular full-width tail lights. It would have fit right in a decade earlier; but would have started to look dated by 1998.

    • 0 avatar
      Vojta Dobeš

      You’re right. It looks like it was designed in early 1980s, because it was. And it looks like it was built in 1988, because the production started in 1987. The 1998 was the very last year for the 164, and the year first 166s started rolling off the assembly line.

      • 0 avatar

        I heard that Pininfarina worked on the Alfa 164 right after they finished the Ferrari Testarossa. That may just be a rumor, but it explains a lot of the cabin layout.

      • 0 avatar
        rcx141

        A buddy of mine had a 1988 one of these with a V6 in it. Now that was a nice car.

        Also, as a fellow European I too can’t understand why Americans want diesels. If they were forced to drive the self destructing sheds that Europeans have been riding around in for the past 10 years there would be a riot. Anyway now it looks like the tables are turning against diesels and even the French have realised they make no sense.

    • 0 avatar
      pbr

      If I’m not mistaken, the design does date to the early 80s. I have driven the US-Market 3.0L 12V and 24V versions, the 12V in particular sounded fantastic and they drove very well. Given a good service tech (a big ask), they weren’t really any worse to maintain than a contemporary Mercedes. Which is to say “expensive.” But like a few things in life, sometimes it’s worth every penny to bring a little color and verve to your commute. They’re not for everyone, but I think that’s exactly the point.

      Thanks for the article!

    • 0 avatar
      CoreyDL

      That’s why it was the final year of the model. And it sort of was an 80’s project. The Saab 9000 as well ran from 1984-1998.

      Though certainly the Saab has aged much better than this, I can’t really resist a Guigiaro design.

  • avatar
    DevilsRotary86

    “I never understood why American auto enthusiasts, with their access to cheap gas and powerful engines, lust for diesel cars so much.”

    I don’t get it either. Have had the privilege of driving a diesel VW Jetta. It’s nice, but not thrilling. I think I will stick with gasoline. And your statements on the 2.5L engine don’t do anything to change my engine. Doesn’t want to rev past 3,500RPM? Wooo! Party!

    But I do like the styling. I think it’s plain, but handsome.

    • 0 avatar
      krhodes1

      It’s not meant to be thrilling. It’s meant to be a smooth, comfortable, quiet, and economical way to cover big distances at 80mph with the cruise on. If I want thrilling I will drive some loud sportscar.

      A modern turbodiesel has power delivery that is not unlike the lo-po big block v8s of years gone by, but with 3x the fuel economy. Lots of relaxed torque, no revs.

      • 0 avatar
        Athos Nobile

        ‘A modern turbodiesel’ this is the key wording here. And yes, they’re smooth, behaved noise-wise and pull like a train. I’ve sat in a Focus diesel and a local V6 SUV and got my impressions ‘updated’.

        The diesel in that Alfa is probably not ‘a modern turbodiesel’. It may be when they started to get modern, but I doubt it even has electronic controls.

      • 0 avatar

        2200 rpm at 80 mph. love it

  • avatar
    ccode81

    I could offer free 2 liter V6 turbo 1996 Gtv if it was 2 years ago.
    It was everything you wrote with lots of torque and power.
    I couldn’t afford for parking space for 3 rd car…

    Nice write up !

  • avatar
    Halftruth

    Love that back seat. Looks comfy. That’s a sweet deal for free.

    @ bumpy >> I thought the exact same thing. I thought it was a 90 or so.

  • avatar
    DeadWeight

    Vojta, your articles are the anti-venom to Doug DeMuro’s canned/rehashed/recycled/moronic QOTD drivel, and this one, being very timely, was no exception.

    Thank you for helping to counterbalance DeMuro’s crap, and right TTAC.

    • 0 avatar
      JMII

      The guy tracked a 4 door ’98 Alfa diesel… so he pretty much won the internet for today.

    • 0 avatar

      Look, criticism is one thing, but slagging off a TTAC writer because of your personal dislike of his material under someone else’s column is beyond the pale. It’s the sort of thing we could do without.

      You want to grill your personal beef with DeMuro? Do it via email.

      • 0 avatar
        DeadWeight

        TTAC is among the few places things automotive where writers can be criticized based on their work product.

        Both Jack & Derek accepted that, and at times, welcomed (dare I say, relished) it…

        …as long as it wasn’t personal or ad hominen.

        I’m neither engaging in a personal or ad hominem attack on Doug, but rather, repeating my belief that he’s been rehashing & recycling tired old articles with the same memes that he’s been using for years, putting a slight spin on them and trying to rebrand them as new and/or original.

        He’s lazily phoning in work product on TTAC.

        It’s not a personal criticism, but taking an objective measure of the quality (or lack thereof) of his clickbait, worn out articles/essays/QOTDs.

        Have a QOTD, but make it original & truly stimulating.

        • 0 avatar
          HotPotato

          “Welcomed” is a stretch. Early on, Derek sometimes indulged in clickbait headlines, intellectual dishonesty, and unjustified arrogance, and could be thin-skinned and vitriolic when called on it. I’d sometimes read his stuff and hear myself saying out loud “Jesus, can you believe this prick?”

          All of which was familiar to me, because a decade ago I was a writer of similar age with similar defects. In fact, I was in a coffeehouse one time, settled into the reading nook with all the other slobs with our books and magazines, when the guy in the chair near mine muttered “Jesus, can you believe this prick?!” I looked over his shoulder and sure enough, he was reading my column.

          To Derek’s credit, he figured it out a lot sooner than I ever did. He visibly grew in the job and seems to have left TTAC in good shape.

          • 0 avatar
            CoreyDL

            I think Derek’s biggest problem was his temper, which he had certainly not outgrown yet.

          • 0 avatar
            bball40dtw

            Corey-

            I always enjoyed when he was mad at you. Ha. That’s what you get when you are my Lincoln Abilify cloud!

          • 0 avatar
            CoreyDL

            He took everything so personally! I’d criticize an article, and he’d take it like I was stomping on their favorite dog.

            Even sent emails to my personal account (from his regular Gmail, NOT TTAC account) yelling at me.

          • 0 avatar
            DeadWeight

            This proclivity of Derek’s is why I and some others had to bust his hyman when he first started here.

            Exhibit A:

            https://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/01/ford-fusions-debut-makes-the-lincoln-mkz-redundant/

            “When FNG Derek Kreindler called the new Fusion a “game changer” the Best&Brightest tore his throat out like Patrick Swayze in the climactic final scene of RoadHouse. Quite the trial by fire for the young man, particularly since he was effectively making his editorial debut in the middle of a very high-pressure Detroit Show situation. Still, the message came through loud and clear: TTAC readers are allergic to hype.”

          • 0 avatar
            bball40dtw

            Derek got it together. I liked his “Generation Why” articles and he put info out there before other place much of the time. He parlayed this gig into something he is truly passionate about and wants to do.

            At least he spent the time in discussions, even if he got pissed sometimes. It’s better than Doug giving us leftover casserole a few times a week while not responding to anyone. Derek owned many of his mistakes and flaws, and I appreciate that. He probably shouldn’t have yelled at Corey, but he never banned him.

  • avatar
    dwford

    I just don’t get the reverence with which Alfa’s are held. When exactly was the last time, if ever, that Alfa had a car for sale that lived up to the hype? I have been hearing about the revival of Alfa for decades, and it is always just a few years away, but never comes.

  • avatar
    28-Cars-Later

    My only experience with one of these was one sitting in a junkyard. I quite liked it actually, I wish I had stripped it of its seats which were in decent condition at the time.

  • avatar
    Bowlandmonkey

    I’ve been the owner of both a clapped-out V6 Alfa GTV that i bought for fun and a turbo diesel Alfa GT that in which i did 120,000 miles over 5 years and despite my best efforts STILL got 45mpg.

    For me there’s definitely “something” about the mid-generation Alfas that combined great sport design, decent reliability (i had one new clutch..due to my own lack of shifting finesse, two sets of steering rods in those 5 years) that got lost with the Mito and Guilleta. When i put my GT up for sale when i moved to the US it went within 8 hours to someone who drove three hundred miles to buy it!

    It’s a shame that they’ve lost their way over the last 10 years. Here’s hoping for a decent revival !

  • avatar
    JohnTaurus_3.0_AX4N

    Every once in a while, I find a V-6 164 out on the West coast (usually in or around Seattle), and I want one. Bad. It and the BMW 318Ti are my two most wanted European cars. They may be my only wanted Euro cars (although I do like 5- and 7- series BMWs, Id rather have the little hatchback 3er).

    I like diesels to a certain extent. In trucks, SUVs and economy cars (Fiesta comes to mind), I think they belong and their virtues out weigh their drawbacks.

    In a rather large car like the 164, absolutely not. I had a Benz 300D and I hated it. For all the praise it gets, I found it slow, noisy, not economical and generally a terrible daily driver. It was incredibly expensive to maintain and repair, and it needed repair often. Parts are expensive and hard to find, most diesel shops around here refused to touch it, and the online community dedicated to the car was full of know-nothing snobs whos only advice was to get rid of the car for something else, which I was all too happy to do.

    My current car, a 20 year old Ford Taurus, is superior to the 300D in almost any respect you can name, save for badge-snob appeal (something I care nothing about). Its 3.0L V-6 gets better MPG on cheaper fuel than the 5cyl TurboDiesel, is much quicker and far less expensive to maintain. Parts are cheap and easy to come by, any mechanic in the country worth his salt can and will work on the car, and so far (going on two years/25k miles), its been totally reliable, only asking for oil changes and minor repairs (nothing over $100 yet).

    Before someone says “see how you feel when the tranny goes out”, let me say that according to service records and an oral history on both cars, only the Benz has had trouble with its trans throughout its entire life, the Taurus (with similar mileage) has only had fluid/filter changes thus far, and shifts very well. If it does go out, Ill rebuild it (or have it done), because I love this bodystyle (always have) and I love this car in particular. Im in it so cheap, it wouldnt bother me one bit to fork over some decent money for a major repair.

    • 0 avatar
      Exfordtech

      Is that a ’95 with a Vulcan 3.0? If so the trans is likely to hold up well, the AX4N won’t be taxed by it. If I remember correctly, there were issues with the forward clutch piston cracking but I think that was AX4S. As with all of these, an aftermarket cooler is your friend. ’96 and up Vulcans had cooling system issues, the method of casting the block was changed and resulted in sand being left in the block, causing serious degradation and corrosion of cooling system in a very short order. Numerous TSBs for flushing, replacing freeze plugs, bypass hose kits, etc.

      • 0 avatar
        JohnTaurus_3.0_AX4N

        Yes it is a 1995 3.0L Vulcan with the AX4N. I had an AXOD ’93 for years and the difference in shift quality is very noticable. I realize the AX4N/Vulcan combo was fairly rare in 1995, and Im thankful I ended up with one. This car suits my needs perfectly, and I plan to keep it for as long as possible (not that I wont have other vehicles, mind you, but I wont get rid of this one unless something unfixable happens, like a fire or major wreck). I do plan on installing a trans cooler along with a fluid/filter change when it hits 200k (not far off).

        My mom had a 97 Sable (Vulcan, non-AX4N), and it was reliable for 200k. I did notice a slight timing cover gasket leak (coolant) shortly before they sold it, and I had replaced the coolant recovery resivor and cap previously. Water pump went around 170k, needed a speed sensor at around 60k. In other words, nothing major ever went wrong with it, despite the heavy abuse it recieved when I drove it in High Scool (several “neutral bombs” lol, oh to be that young and stupid again).

        My neighbor has a 97 Taurus with 258k on it. Been a great car for her. Original powertrain, has had some cooling system issues, but no head gaskets or anything. I just recently replaced the leaky radiator for her, along with plugs/wires, etc.

    • 0 avatar
      Bee

      I remember you from the TCCA forums! This was back in 2006 or so, and I was a regular even though I didn’t own a Taurus. I was about 15 and lusted after the 92-95 and 98-99 versions…never wound up owning one as it would turn out.

      • 0 avatar
        JohnTaurus_3.0_AX4N

        Ha! Yeah, thats back when I had my ’93. Im fortunate enough to live well outside the salt belt, so these cars remain fairly easy to come by in decent condition (moreso when I lived out near Seattle than here in the Dirty South where Im at now).

        I made so many trips in that 93. My 95 is better equipped with the PEP that includes remote trunk release, etc. It also has the buckets-and-console (floor shift) option, which I really like. Ive upgraded it with black leather interior from a 92 LX, along with 16″ alloys from a mid-level 2006 model. I love this car!

  • avatar
    NN

    beautiful car. I often troll eBay for the Alfa sedans they sold here in the states in the 80’s, thinking to myself that it’s probably a good thing I don’t have a few thousand dollars to just throw away on a car that nobody in my area could fix. But I will be watching next week with the new Giulia is introduced. The 2005-2011 159 was, in my eye, the most beautiful modern sedan ever designed. If they make a worthy (slightly larger) successor to that, then I might put one in my garage…damn the reliability/resale (lease it!)

    • 0 avatar
      Vojta Dobeš

      The 159 is surprisingly robust, too. From what I read it seems that the platform on which it’s based was originally meant for large GM cars, and the 159 was meant to be the smallest on its platform – or maybe it was even slated for the 166 successor, and 159 did just so it didn’t go to waste.

      One way or another the 159s underpinnings are more like a Cadillac than Alfa.

      • 0 avatar
        moff90

        After the GM/Fiat JV ended, Fiat was left with a half-baked platform that was meant to underpin a Saab and a EU-only Cadillac. That’s why the 159 is so heavy and, while not terrible, it just doesn’t drive like an Alfa should.

      • 0 avatar
        28-Cars-Later

        “One way or another the 159s underpinnings are more like a Cadillac than Alfa.”

        Cadillac BLS?

  • avatar
    dal20402

    The 164 was really beautiful, inside and out. Too bad it lived up to all of the Italian stereotypes about build quality. I know two owners, and both of them keep two cars in order to make it possible to have one working car.

  • avatar
    Mr. Orange

    Years ago I so (irrationally) wanted one of these so bad. I was only able to come across one. Sitting in the corner of a dealers lot in Memphis. No one else apparently ever had much interest in it because it had been sitting there for a while. Car wouldn’t start. My senses slowly returned to me and I walked away never to see one again in person.

    Would have loved to have gotten it but it being Italian and in so-so shape I had to pass.

  • avatar
    englishtraveller69

    Enjoyed the piece. It brought back memories as the former owner of a 1991 164 V6 here in the US. The car was reliable and fun to drive and sounded fantastic, and never let me down in 4 years and over 60k miles. Of course the stepper motor in the dash never worked for the automatic a/c, so I simply adjusted the temperature settings through a convenient access hole under the dash by pushing or pulling on the wire than ran between the stepper motors. Interestingly enough the troublesome and temperamental seat switches were Bosch branded and made in Germany. The individual rear sport seats were very comfortable, and in mine had the rare electric sliding option. The expenses of new fatherhood ended up forcing me to sell, but time has not diminished my interest in acquiring a replacement. Preferably a 1994-5, manual of course. It would go very nicely in my garage along with a 1975 Citroen SM if I could afford that too.

  • avatar
    craiger

    I spent a month in one of these traversing all over northern Italy. As I recall it topped out at about 120 mph, depending on the wind direction of course. It might have been a 1.8 or a 2.0. It didn’t strike me as awful, considering that back home just a couple of days prior I was driving my E39. Nothing memorable about it though. Handled and stopped pretty decently.

  • avatar
    Pebble

    this is quite attractive. why does the front end remind me of an old honda prelude?

  • avatar
    Nostrathomas

    Nice article!

    Random thoughts…

    1. I live in a somewhat Italian neighbourhood here in Calgary, and there’s a guy in the neighbourhood who drives around in his red Alfa 164 all the time. The car looks fantastic and I always look it longingly as it passes. One of these days I need to find an excuse to talk to him about it.

    2. I think the draw of older Alfas is in the sheer beauty of their design, and the cool experience of it all. An Alfa has been my dads dream as well, and last year he finally bought himself a ’90 Spider Veloce. Having bought it sight-unseen, we took delivery in Vancouver and drove it back home across the Rocky Mountains over the course of about 12 hours…which considering the car and the time of year, was a bit of gamble. There is definitely something cool about that car…you just feel good being inside of it. It doesn’t have a ton of power (it’s what I would classify as a momentum car) but it handles quite nicely at speed, and loves the corners. It’s had is fair share of quirks, but nothing draws heads like that thing when the top is down. I’m a Porsche guy, but the Alfa is pure beauty.

    3. I never really get the love for diesel either. Every time I rent a car in Europe, I inevitably get a diesel, and while I love that they all come with a stick, I miss the power of the Gas engine. They just feel kind of soulless, and the engine sound lacks any sort of passion. I’ll take a NA gasoline engine any day.

  • avatar
    davefonz164

    I’ve two of these beauties and miss them dearly. There is something truly special about older Alfas which I can’t seem to find in other cars. I currently have two BMW’s in the family stable but my wife knows that I still miss my Alfa.

    My 164LS was extremely robust and handled cold winters without a problem. Sure it occasionally had some electrical gremlins creep up, but which European car from that era didn’t?

    The V6 was a much more interesting engine than the I6 from BMW and made a fabulous noise.

    Was it the best car in the world? def not, but it was an Alfa Romeo.

  • avatar
    krhodes1

    I had my Alfa phase, owned a GTV-6 and a Spider, both ’86 vintage. Wouldn’t mind having another of either one, though nicer this time around – I don’t have time for projects any more. Pretty great cars. The Spider was bulletproof for four years after I sorted it out the first winter I had it. Trouble was, a bit too much tinworm underneath due to a lifetime of living on Long Island. But I bought it very cheap, and enjoyed it very much. Much more special to me than the 164, though I do like those too. Life is too short for boring cars, if you are into cars at all.

  • avatar
    Athos Nobile

    Vojta, you can find that glorious-looking V6 under the bonnet of a 156, FWD Spider or GTV.

    I would love to own either a 156 or 159. In either case with a M/T. 156s can be usually found in good nick here for not too much money, usually with the 2 litre TS engine. I looked at their consumption numbers and they’re nothing spectacular, but the interior is lovely, specially with the light brown leather.

  • avatar
    Joss

    Italian jag. More beauty with brains behind it.

  • avatar
    TonyJZX

    These are a funny ‘unicorn’ of a car. Pininfarina sister design to the Peugeot 406 but somehow these ones are intriguing, the Pug not so much.

    They came to our market as a 12v 4 spd automatic. Strangely beautiful car.

    The rarer imports do turn up like the 24v 5 spd manual for not a great deal of money.

    I see these on the streets and they do hark back to an era where cars were designed by chain smoking Italians and not committees of colorless labcoats.

    I dont even like FWD cars but this one… I dont get why I like them.

    Also the engine is close to being one of the most beautiful out there. And I dont even like V6s either.

    Google an underbonnet image.

  • avatar
    CincyDavid

    I am attracted to the IDEA of owning an Alfa, and have looked at several used ones over the years, but it seemed like they were always bright red-faded to pink, and I just don’t like bright red cars, especially 4 door cars. That, and I am afraid of reliability gremlins.

    In real-world North American daily driver use, I wonder how this would fare compared to an Audi or SAAB from the same era.

  • avatar
    CoreyDL

    Though these were developed together, both the 9000 and the Thema seemed like larger cars to me.

    Was the platform stretched on those two? Or is it just styling fooling me?

    • 0 avatar
      krhodes1

      They are the same size, the angular styling makes the Alfa look longer and lower to me. They really are lovely cars, and the engine note on the V6 is heavenly. I have never been much of a Saab 9000 fan, though I can appreciate their space efficiency.

      Back in the day, the local Saab dealer was also the Alfa dealer (and a Chevy dealer!), so got to see them parked side-by-side all the time. They spun the Saab dealership off to a standalone in another town about the time that Alfa pulled out, then sold it off. Now they are just Chevy with a Fiat Studio in the back 40. Where I bought my Abarth.

      • 0 avatar
        CoreyDL

        I remember the one I checked out for sale once had a ton of space in it, green over camel leather. And the 9000 Aero had the best wheel design probably of the 80s or 90s, IMO.

        I am partial to the extra rare and not-for-US (overpriced by far) Thema 8.32.

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