Friday 26th July 2013


SHED OF THE WEEK: ALFA 164 TWIN SPARK

An Italian executive express for the price of return flights to Rome; Shed swoons over an Alfa 164


What can you get for £250 these days? Not a lot. For the average powerfully-built PH director type, £250 scarcely covers the warm up libations on day one of a smutty sales weekend with that new intern from Accounts.

164 is at a dealer; what's he paid for it?!
164 is at a dealer; what's he paid for it?!
The day of the road legal £250 car is certainly long gone, thanks to the rigours (hi Riggers!) of the modern MOT test. At least, we thought its day had gone until Shed found this handsome Alfa Romeo 164 with tax to December and an MOT to nearly June for the laughable sum of, yes, £250.

Did you know that '164' in Chinese means 'all the way to death'? The importers got Alfa to rename it 168, which means 'all the way to prosperity'. Some Alfa owners might argue with that but, for £250, where's the risk?

Try telling that to Mrs Shed though. She was predictably sniffy on being told the reason for all the triumphant shouting coming from Shed's man-cave. 'Yes, well,' she muttered darkly into her beard, 'as we all know, people don't buy old Alfas, because they're unreliable. Also, it's bound to be rusty... er... well, there's bound to be some on it somewhere..."

What happened next is unrecorded, but according to the curtain-twitchers over the road it apparently involved a V-sign, a loud reference to Specsavers, and the unmistakable clang of a lightweight frying pan hitting a bony mass.

Is that an early-90s car phone we see?
Is that an early-90s car phone we see?
For them as don't know, the Alfa 164 was a Pininfarina-penned executive saloon designed to offer a hot-blooded Latin alternative to the cool surgical efficiency of BMW's 5 Series and Mercedes W124. It's one of those odd cars that didn't go down a storm at the time and which seemed to go straight on from there to categorisation as untrustworthy Italian rubbish without ever really experiencing much of a sweet spot in the public's estimation.

The view through a pair of Shedly spectacles is of course decidedly rosier. The 164's perceived failure is a bit of a mirage. It actually found over a quarter of a million customers over its 11-year lifespan. The whiff of negativity surrounding the 164 was more a reflection of the quality of that German opposition than a condemnation of the car. Bad timing had a lot to do with it too. Many exec buyers preferred to wait a year for BMW's groundbreaking E34 rather than spring for Alfa's effort, an unknown quantity in this market, when it went on sale in 1987. 164 build quality was actually pretty decent. Alfa used the car as a shapely clothes-horse for a goodly quota of galvanised chassis and body panels. This one here is from bang in the middle of the run.

No chrome on the TS, but it's £250!
No chrome on the TS, but it's £250!
The tuneful 3.0-litre V6 is generally regarded as the best 164 engine, but the Twin Spark two-litre four had its own zingy charm. A relatively lightweight body, 148hp at 5800rpm and 143lb ft of torque at 4700rpm gave it a 0-62mph time of 9.8sec. Not exactly ballistic, but respectable enough. It had some bant about it.

Normally we'd give you chapter and verse on what goes wrong with 164s, but at this price such considerations seem churlish. All we'll say is that Alfa was very proud of the complexity of its wiring system, and of the delicacy of the lightweight plastic cogs clattering around in its ventilation system. Fret ye not though, there are enough 164 enthusiasts around to make this car worth buying just as a scrap donor - but hopefully not before you've had ten months of Barolo-flavoured fun out of it.

Here's the ad. Credit cards oot.

BLACK, Next MOT due 22/05/2014, Tax expires 30/11/2013, Grey Velour Interior - Good Condition, Tyre condition Excellent, Right hand-drive, Average Bodywork, last owner had it 14 yrs, £250

 
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