I Bought An Alfa Romeo 164

• 1980-1999

• Manual transmission

• For sale by owner

• Has pictures.

These were my search parameters as I was goofing around on craigslist to see what interesting cars were on the market. I was not looking to buy. As so many of us enthusiasts do, I was simply window shopping. “Ooh, what’s this?” I thought, as I spotted a beautiful white Alfa Romeo 164. Reading the description, I discovered that in addition to the 164 pictured in the ad for $10,000, the seller had another 164 that needed a clutch. The disabled Alfa was only $1,500. It was a 1991 model with the 12V 3.0 V6 engine. This interested me. I made sure my wife, sitting on the couch next to me, was either sleeping or thoroughly invested in the Real Housewives of Dubuque that was on the TV (I may be wrong on that city). I confirmed that she was, in fact, asleep and proceeded to email the seller from my iPad about his Alfa Romeo 164.

I’ve admired the Alfa Romeo 164 since its introduction. Its polished intake runners on the Busso 3.0 V6 are art. The engine was a key reason I’ve long desired an Alfa Romeo Milano Verde, the rear wheel drive predecessor of the 164. The 164’s exterior styling by Pininfarina is more elegant, though less quirky than the Milano, while the interior of the 164 retains the flare of Italian design. I’ve never been a fan of front wheel drive cars, and this is the one drawback of the 164. Its manual 5-speed transmission made up for this deficit. I decided this sedan could be fill my needs as a semi-daily driver, sharing that task with the Porsche 944 and the always reliable Ford Expedition (which I’ve now just jinxed).

Look at those chrome intake runners!

I set up a time to look at the Alfa, which was southeast of Seattle, and dragged my daughter along to get her opinion. The owner of the car is an enthusiast with several Fiats, including an X1/9 and a 500e. We know some of the same people in the car community, which was reassuring. The owner of the Alfa bought the car ten years ago from a woman who sold the car after the clutch went out. The car had been serviced by Ferrari of Seattle and later (when Ferrari shop rates grew too high) by Group 2 Motorsports, a well-known local shop for imports.

Do I keep the license plate frame? I think I keep the license plate frame.

In addition to needing a clutch, the timing belt was due for replacement. The 164’s body is straight, and it had been repainted to adequate standards. There is a crack on the corner of the front bumper and in the middle of the rear bumper. One of the front turn signal lenses is missing and a fog lamp is cracked. The interior is in good condition, only let down by a sagging headliner and missing driver’s interior door handle (though a new one came with the car). The air conditioning is inoperable, as one of the hoses is missing completely. The cloth seats show little wear. We agreed to a price, I handed over the cash and the now previous owner signed and handed over the title.

Bumper will need some fixing.
Interior looks good.

The next week, I recruited my son and eighteen year old daughter to haul the trailer down to pick up the car and take it back to the warehouse in Seattle. My daughter successfully backed the trailer down a long, windy gravel driveway to the garage, where we loaded the Alfa using the trailer’s winch. We were careful not to use the broken clutch or the brakes (whose hydraulics hadn’t been exercised in ten years), using the handbrake to stop the car while pulling it out of the garage. The car was hauled to Seattle without incident and put away to wait for parts to arrive and the four-post lift to be available.

Loaded up to go home.

The work I plan to complete for the car includes the clutch and timing belt mentioned above, as well as the standard maintenance for a car that has sat for ten years – replace all the fluids, new belts and hoses, new master cylinders for the brake and clutch and slave cylinder for the clutch. The fuel tank will need emptying (fingers crossed that it was running on fumes when last parked). I’ve decided to remove the engine from the car, since I’ll need to work on both the front and the back of the engine. While the 12-valve engine is out, I can replace the water pump as well as reseal the engine so as to minimize the oil spots in the driveway. I would love to have working a/c in this car, but I expect I will need an expert to get the system back up and running.

As a reader, you might wonder how I will use an Alfa Romeo, a make not known for reliability. My intention is to press it into my daily-driver fleet, along with the Porsche 944 and Ford Expedition. Owners of the 164 on Facebook, who may be lying, tell me that the 164 is fairly reliable when properly maintained. I will put that to the test. This vehicle will also serve well as a tool for picking up wine. I live about thirty minutes from Woodinville, which is Washington’s wine tasting capitol. My wife and I, a few times a year, go to Woodinville’s wineries to taste and pick up wine. In the summer, we will put the top down on her Boxster S and fill the prodigious frunk with our cases. When weather turned rainy (the other ten months of the year), we would take her Audi, which has now moved on to a new owner. The Expedition functions adequately for this task, but struggles with some of the parking spots seemingly intended for a child’s pedal car. The Alfa trunk’s capacity should out-perform the number of wineries we are able to visit in a day. The 164 is compact compared to modern sedans and I expect it will fit in the narrow parking spots. Follow along as I work to get the 164 back on the road.