Cheap Sport Sedan Project: 1991 Alfa Romeo 164 S

Word on the street is that this 1991 Alfa Romeo 164 S has been for sale as a project for some time, but that doesn’t deter me from thinking there’s a potentially good deal for someone who wants to put a Pininfarina-designed Alfa back together. The 164 S is disassembled right now, but the seller claims everything is included – along with a parts car – to put it back together. The Alfa is being sold without its gorgeous front seats, which if I’m reading the ad correctly, are still available separately but were pulled out of the deal to get the price down lower. Anyway, check it out here on craigslist where the seller is asking a measly $950 for everything.

The 164 has always been one of my favorite designs of the early 90s, and a car I’d like to own if one ever fell in my lap. However, there are not many shops left that specialize in not-old-but-not-new Italian cars in my neck of the woods, so I’ve never pursued one. The sounds that come from the standard-issue V6 for “S”-spec models will make it worth the next owner’s while to complete, although it’s somewhat unclear the state of the engine in this clearly stalled project. The seller simply references $10,000 in new parts and performance upgrades but doesn’t specify whether that included any engine work or whether there’s still a rebuilt engine in pieces sitting in the trunk. The height of the front end would suggest the engine has been removed.

At the moment, those seats are not with the Alfa, but if my interpretation is correct, you can acquire them separately, or bump the price up accordingly to have them included (same difference, I know). The seller notes that he has owned the 164 for the last 13 years, which begs the question as to how many of those were spent driving and how many the Alfa was in pieces in his garage. The state of disassembly isn’t exactly consistent, with bodywork clearly performed and the car not yet put back together, and random parts missing like horn pad on the steering wheel. The seller does say that the Alfa is freshly repainted, save for the hood and the trunk. The seller claims there was never any rust and it hasn’t been in an accident, so the motivation behind the bodywork is a mystery.

The state of the interior suggests that the car was always in decent condition, as the backseat looks quite clean and the one photo of the front seats shows no major flaws. The list of included replacement and/or performance parts is quite lengthy, ranging from upgraded wheels and sport springs to a new cooling system and timing components. For less than $1,000, a 164S with everything needed to put it back together and an entire parts car seems like a bargain, but if the internet rumors are true, there’s got to be a reason why it’s been for sale for so long. Does anyone have any guesses or insights as to why this halfway-restored 164S remains in pieces?

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  1. giorgitd

    Hmmm…hood unpainted and no airbag. No pics under the hood. New windshield. If it looks like a duck and quacks like a duck… No pics of the parts car, either. Might be a great deal, might be a quagmire. No way to know from here.

  2. H5mind

    I suspect what the seller actually has is one-and-a-half parts cars.

  3. SebastianX1/9

    I’d pass on this deal but would add that the 164 Q is one of the best fwd consumer touring cars of the 20th c in my opinion. I drove one for 3 weeks in the Georgia hills and it really was a fwd E36 M3. Fantastic in the rain, and with 240 hp it has the best torque steering solution I have encountered. If any car can demonstrate those certain advantages of a fwd, it’s this one. This is not a Honda Accord!

  4. callsign

    Owned a ’95 for three years. Wonderful driving car, cruised effortlessly at very high speeds. Absolutely miserable to work on. Heating/air conditioning vent stepper motors all fail, usually around 50k and then the dashboard has to come out to properly fix. Timing belt change, like most transverse V-6s is a lot of work. Head work requires entire engine to be rotated. I wouldn’t call working on the car a nightmare, but the fun to drive factor really didn’t justify the maintenance. Look for a good condition Milano, much more satisfying to drive and much easier to maintain.

  5. Christopher

    This is a great driving car, but it comes with it’s issues of repairs. There is a lot of support for this car on the AlfaBB. Parts can be tricky. The worst part about this is not knowing why it was taken apart and where are all the parts? Did the airbag go off with a collision on the front end? To have a spare parts car helps. I have a 94 164Q, and it is a blast to drive. The timing belt is an all day job. The belt on an S is easier with only 2 cams and not 4. It is going to need some serious going over before it goes on the road.

    • callsign

      Milano 3.0 had same 3.0 Busso and timing belt change was a 2 hour job, plus, everything else on the car was easier to deal with. Alfa 75/Milano was the last true Alfa chassis and driving it was heaven, and much more exciting than the 164. Of course the 164 shared it’s chassis and so much more with the SAAB 9000, Lancia Thema and Fiat Croma. Check photos, all of them used the exact same door stampings. All were good cars, but the Alfa was arguably, no no, it WAS the most engaging of the four to drive. Still, it may have been better without the FWD and without the compromises necessary in a shared architecture.

      Owned my ’89 Milano 6 wonderful, joyful years. Made the supreme sacrifice to part with it when my first kid was on the way. Hmmmm, had I known how that marriage was going to turn out, I would have kept the car and dumped the ex. The Alfa Rosso Milano gave me much less trouble.

      • alphasud Member

        The Alfa 75 was the last of the true Alfa’s. I had two 88’s one was a Gold and the other a Verde. Loved the Verde and should have never sold it. I would definitely own another. The 94 and 95 model years received the 24V version of the Busso and were much harder in the 164 chassis to work on. I remember as a tech replacing water pumps every 15-20K on the Milano’s. They definitely had their QC problems back in the day. But so did Ferrari, Lamborghini, and Maserati.

      • Mark-A

        Can I have a Fiat Croma Turbo, just to keep it in the family?

  6. alphasud Member

    I also owned a 164LS. Ditto on timing belt changes. Total PIA to do. We had one on the dealer lot unsold when Alfa pulled from the country. Asked the boss if I could take it to Saab training school instead of a Saab. Got a speeding ticket in the car on the way down. Car eventually got leased and 3 years later the General Manager bought one at the local auction. I bought it and when I ran the VIN I discovered this was the car I got busted for speeding in. I guess the car was meant to be mine!

    • callsign

      No problem ever with the Milano water pump. Rear brake pad pins locked up, had to be cut out, but in theory it was a beautiful idea. Pull one pin and the pads just fall out, replace pads, replace pin and off you go. It was my baby, so I didn’t drive so often (about four to six thousand miles a years) pins had a tendency to corrode in place. But farting around with that was nothing like the stepper motors or the heads.

      As for getting your car back, yep that sounds like serendipity to me!

  7. alphasud Member

    I responded to the ad on Friday. The owner called me yesterday to tell me he sold it:(

  8. t-bone bob

    Where is it, Jeff?

  9. Tbone Bob

    Chehalis, WA. Would that have been so difficult to include in your write-up, Jeff?

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