Junkyard Find: 1991 Alfa Romeo 164 L

Murilee Martin
by Murilee Martin

Alfa Romeo took a break from the North American car market during the 1996-2008 period, and the very last Alfa model available here before the company's strategic retreat was the 164 sedan. Here's one of those cars, found in a Northern California boneyard in November.

Based on the same chassis as the Saab 9000, the front-wheel-drive 164 offered a lot of European style and power for the price.

This one is the mid-grade L, which had an MSRP of $27,500 (about $60,825 in 2022 dollars).

The 1991 BMW 525i cost $34,500 ($76,310 now), had 168 horsepower and an interior that was far less Italian than this one.

The 164 came with this great-sounding 3.0-liter V6, which made 183 horsepower. If you got the hot-rod $29,500 164 S ($65,250 today), you got 200 horses. Granted, the BMW had rear-wheel-drive.

This is the fifth 164 I've documented during my junkyard travels, coming after three 1991s and a 1992, and each one of them had a five-speed manual transmission.

A four-speed automatic was available, but that doesn't seem like the sort of option desired by anyone crazy enough to buy a luxury sedan from an Italian company with one foot out the door (during a nasty recession).

This car looked to be in great cosmetic condition upon its arrival here.

This parking permit shows that this car lived in San Francisco a couple of years back. Zone X is in the Potrero Hill neighborhood, where O. J. Simpson grew up.

Before coming to California, this car spent some time in Connecticut.

It must cost plenty to keep one of these cars on the road today unless you know how to fix it yourself. There is a person with that knowledge in my Denver neighborhood.

When a very nice low-mile 164 L sells for just over 10,000 bucks, one like this had virtually no chance of being put back in service once something expensive broke.

Alfa Romeo sold more cars than Saab and Honda in the late 1980s… in Europe.

[Images: The author]

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Murilee Martin
Murilee Martin

Murilee Martin is the pen name of Phil Greden, a writer who has lived in Minnesota, California, Georgia and (now) Colorado. He has toiled at copywriting, technical writing, junkmail writing, fiction writing and now automotive writing. He has owned many terrible vehicles and some good ones. He spends a great deal of time in self-service junkyards. These days, he writes for publications including Autoweek, Autoblog, Hagerty, The Truth About Cars and Capital One.

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2 of 10 comments
  • Bryan Raab Davis Bryan Raab Davis on Jan 10, 2023

    Still elegant in spite of its decrepitude.

  • JK JK on Jan 16, 2023

    I see a lot of old Alfas here in Turin, but I've never consciously noticed a 164. I think that they would be a real executive car during that period. 155s, which are similar are pretty rare. I don't think Italians find the boxy Alfas collectable, even Giuliettas. Lancias of the era, however, are another matter. They still turn heads.

  • Daniel J Until we get a significant charging infrastructure and change times get under 10 minutes, yes
  • Mike I own 2 gm 6.2 vehicles. They are great. I do buy alot of gas. However, I would not want the same vehicles if they were v6's. Jusy my opinion. I believe that manufacturers need to offer engine options for the customer. The market will speak on what the consumer wants.For example, I dont see the issue with offering a silverado with 4cyl , 6 cyl, 5.3 v8, 6.2 v8, diesel options. The manufacturer will charge accordingly.
  • Mike What percentage of people who buy plug in hybrids stop charging them daily after a few months? Also, what portion of the phev sales are due to the fact that the incentives made them a cheaper lease than the gas only model? (Im thinking of the wrangler 4xe). I wish there was a way to dig into the numbers deeper.
  • CEastwood If it wasn't for the senior property tax freeze in NJ I might complain about this raising my property taxes since most of that tax goes to the schools . I'm not totally against EVs , but since I don't drive huge miles and like to maintain my own vehicles they are not practical especially since I keep a new vehicle long term and nobody has of yet run into the cost of replacing the battery on an EV .
  • Aquaticko Problem with PHEV is that, like EVs, they still require a behavioral change over ICE/HEV cars to be worth their expense and abate emissions (whichever is your goal). Studies in the past have shown that a lot of PHEV drivers don't regularly plug-in, meaning they're just less-efficient HEVs.I'm left to wonder how big a battery a regular HEV could have without needing to be a PHEV.