Thinking of buying a 1991 164L, any suggestions or advice?? - Alfa Romeo Bulletin Board & Forums

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post #1 of 39 (permalink) Old 07-15-2009, 08:27 PM Thread Starter
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Thinking of buying a 1991 164L, any suggestions or advice??

I came across a 1991 164L for sale today that seems to be in fairly good shape that I'm considering buying.

It has the 3.0 V6 with the 5 speed and has about 122,000 miles. It seems to drive really nice and seems to be really peppy. It does have a few minor issues that need to be addressed like a driver seat with stitching coming apart, a driver mirror that's rigged in place, 2 small dents, a broken antenna, a broken fog light and some wear on the paint on the lower body which can be easily fixed.

There are a couple other issues that I noticed such as when pressing the clutch, you have to push the clutch all the way to the floor before you can shift, there is a noticeable "ticking" noise coming from the motor when running which could be noisy fuel injectors (or lifter tick) and finally it seems like the brakes require more effort to activate than other cars. The ticking noise and the brake issue are similar to what one of my friends with a 1992 Saab 9000 faced.

Unfortunately it's at a used car lot, but I can pick it up for $1400 which according to Kelly Blue Book is below "good condition" price.

Is there anything that I should look out for on these cars? Any major issues that are typical for these cars? Are parts easily accessible or are they impossible to find? Would you consider these cars reliable enough to be a daily driver?
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post #2 of 39 (permalink) Old 07-15-2009, 08:29 PM Thread Starter
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Here's a couple more pics of the Alfa.
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post #3 of 39 (permalink) Old 07-15-2009, 08:55 PM
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I think I saw this car on craigslist. Welcome to the BB.

What are you looking to do with the car? This is important!

Lots of things to look for on these cars, particularly ownership history when buying.

Any history of the car? Timing belt, oil changes, etc? Priority on timing belt and tensioner and water pump.

At $1400, expect to spend it again rather quickly taking care of the issues that are obviously visible in photos if you don't turn your own wrenches.

I'd run a carfax at minimum. It's apparent the car has at least been bumped a few times, especially after seeing the nozzle for headlamp washer broken on front bumper. Foglights can be bought for replacements, but stuff like those washers are hard to find.

The valve "tick" is normal on Alfa V6 engines. The clutch operation near the floor is/can be indicative of a worn or end-of-life clutch, failing slave cylinder, clutch damper present, clogged hydraulic hose, bad master cylinder... a few tests can isolate the fault(s). Does the brake pedal approach floor slowly when braking?

If you just want to drive it, then I'd isolate mechanical issues (clutch, timing belt) and put some fresh fluids in it and just drive it. Otherwise you're going to find yourself over your head very quickly.

So, what are your plans for the car? I wouldn't pay $1400 without any history given, and a thorough test drive would be required (i.e. panic stops to test brakes, idle in traffic to see if fans kick on correctly, etc.) otherwise - again - you're going to be chasing a lot of little items.

Alfas first, then everything else.
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post #4 of 39 (permalink) Old 07-15-2009, 09:31 PM
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once they are sorted out, yes, you can absolutely drive them every day. I drive my 92 164S anywhere I want anytime I please without fear. That said, you have to get to know the car some, what it is telling you, and when, before you reach that level. As far as price goes, from your pictures, I'd say you'd be way ahead if you took the $1400 they want for this car, and put it with the $1400 you are going to have to spend to fix the things that are wrong with it, and buy a $2800 example. As far as parts go, I have not come across anything I could not find either new, or used if I have to. There are several good suppliers and many seem to advertise on this board. Easy to find. And this board is very friendly to new owners. Lots of good help here, many people with years of experience maintaining these cars.

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post #5 of 39 (permalink) Old 07-15-2009, 09:38 PM Thread Starter
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I was planning on fixing some of the issues I mentioned just so the car looks nice again, but I wasn't planning on customizing it or making it a show car. I was just planning on using this car as a daily driver. I also have a BMW 525i so if this car needs any repairs, I still have another car to drive.

I noticed a ton of receipts in the glove box for all the maintenance that was done on the car, but I am planning on replacing the timing belt right away regardless because the timing belts are cheap and I would be happier knowing that I don't have to worry about a snapped timing belt.

As far as any mechanical issues that may come up, I have worked on all my cars in the past and unless it's something that requires a lift, I am planning on repairing it myself. I also have a few friends who are mechanics and can help me out with any difficult repairs.

I would like to get a carfax report on this car before I buy it, but just looking at the car in person it didn't appear to have any signs of major body damage that would throw up a red flag. I did take the car for a 20 minute test drive (not noticing until I got back that the car had no plates) and I let it idle for quite a while and it didn't appear to be overheating at all. I didn't slam on the brakes hard at all when I test drove it, but I may check it out again tomorrow so I can do it then.

As far as the clutch, does this car have a self adjusting clutch like BMW uses?

I really don't mind fixing many of the little issues. I have done tons of maintenance and repairs on my BMW including replacing the center drive shaft bearing and flex disk, I replaced the suspension, blower motor, timing belt, water pump, fuel filter, spark plugs, distributer, rotor and cam seal.

As long as I don't run into any major motor issues, I'll be happy.
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post #6 of 39 (permalink) Old 07-15-2009, 09:56 PM Thread Starter
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CarFax report on this car

The CarFax report came up clean.

It said that there were 6 records but they are all Passed emissions inspection, Title or registration issued and Registration issued or renewed.

There is no record about any accidents or theft, so good news!!
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post #7 of 39 (permalink) Old 07-15-2009, 10:16 PM
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One of the good things you said is that you plan on fixing it yourself. Too many people buy these cars planning on taking them to a "mechanic" only to find out how fast their wallet can get very thin!!
One of the bad things you said is timing belts are cheap. It shows how much you have to learn about making a 164 a reliable car. Yes the timing belt is cheap, but unless you also do the belt tensioner, hoses, waterpump, etc, your be doing the same job over and over one after another.
As far as the clutch goes, it depends what you mean by "all the way to the floor" every 164 I've owned the clutch takes hold very near the floor. If your used to driving something else where the clutch takes hold higher up, the 164 feels awkward when, maybe nothing is wrong...there is no adjustment in the clutch.
This car has had at least a minor bump to the front bumper. It is pushed in a inch or 2 in the middle.

I bought an $840 164B with a bad clutch, sloppy shift linkage. So far I've done this...
1. Clutch kit
2. all motor mounts
3. Timing belt, tensioner
4. Water pump
5. All hoses
6. Serpentine belt and tensioner bearing
7. Starter
8. Brakes on all 4 wheels including rotors
9. Rebuilt shift linkage
10. Rear struts
11. Front struts need to be done...haven't got to it yet
12. exhaust, front to back ( I knew about that when I bought it)
13. Clutch slave cylinder
14. Clutch master cylinder
15 fuel rail hoses
16. Fog light
17. Head lite
18 Idle actuator
19. Tune up...plugs dist cap rotor
20. Clutch pedal( broke off)

Still needing attention...
1. Cam seals
2. complete front suspension rebuild including struts

Well, there's probably more. The list is just off he top of my head.

Moral of the story...don't get a 164 with out having your eyes open.... "mechanic" buddies will probably do more harm than good. You need to learn how to work on a 164 from people who know the cars. There are several on this form.

Red 1991 164S, Black 1991 164S, Red 1987 Milano, 1972 Berlina, 1973 Berlina rebuilding SPICA engine
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post #8 of 39 (permalink) Old 07-15-2009, 10:30 PM
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I add my "yep" to what Richard2 says.
Good you will try to work on it yourself. You'll have a better feel for the car that way and save money, too, as long as you don't break other things working on something else.

The best mechanic in the world will destroy an Alfa because he does not understand their peculiarities, and then declare them "all junk". Alfa's are just that little bit different than anything else you will work on. I guess that's one of the reasons I love them so. Hands down my 164 is the nicest car I have ever owned. But it takes some "doing" to keep her that way.

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post #9 of 39 (permalink) Old 07-15-2009, 10:46 PM Thread Starter
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Well, this will be my first (but not last) Italian car. I've owned American, Japanese and German cars, but I've always loved these 164's and if I end up buying it, I can't wait to learn more about this car!

It's always exciting to work on a new type of car!

I learned many many many years back that it's always better to learn how to work on your cars rather than always bringing it to shops to have work done. There were many times where I would have had to have my cars towed to a shop because the car broke down on the side of the road and after 5 minutes of investigating, I find something as simple as a wire that came unplugged or a vacuum line that popped off and the car runs perfect right after.

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post #10 of 39 (permalink) Old 07-15-2009, 11:03 PM Thread Starter
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Thank you both for all your help!

If I end up buying this 164 I'll post up some pictures of the progression of all the repairs.

It's good to know about the clutch on these Alfa's. My BMW clutch allows you to shift with the clutch petal only about half way to the floor so it's good to know that it might not be in need of repair or replacement right away.

Is there a good Bentley or Haynes manual for these cars that you would suggest picking up?

As far as the timing belt part goes, I would also replace the water pump and all the belts and hoses with the timing belt at the same time. I made the mistake of replacing the water pump on my BMW and then later on I decided to replace the timing belt, belts and hoses after and I could have done it all at one time and save myself a lot of hassle.
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post #11 of 39 (permalink) Old 07-16-2009, 05:00 AM
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Get a CarDisc International Ltd. - Alfa Romeo Manuals, Giulietta Manuals, Giulia Manuals, GTV Manuals, Spider Manuals, American Austin & American Bantam 164 DVD and check out my sticky above on maintenance tips and use search function on the 164 section for other info.

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Daily drivers: USA models - 1991 164S Black Beauty II ALFISTO;

Daughter's current ride: BB1 my 164L and Her Granddads 2002 Ford Taurus is back up.

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post #12 of 39 (permalink) Old 07-16-2009, 06:01 AM
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I don't think I would give them what they are asking for it. It was been well "loved". Do not even consider buying this car if you do not have the spare time or the funds to fix it up and make necessary repairs, because you will regret having bought it. 164s are not on every street corner, but they are not in high demand either, so maybe look around for one that doesn't need as much for the same money. If the seller can come down to say, $500 and you are up for the challenge, than maybe go for it.

-'91 164L 5 speed 229k miles and counting
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post #13 of 39 (permalink) Old 07-16-2009, 06:26 AM
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I concur with all of the above, my first 164 looks and sounds just like this one. It was $1200 and I could not have been happier for the first month. Since then I have replaced the T-belt, tensioner, water pump, head gaskets, clutch & slave cylinder, steering rack, brakes and brake lines, fuel pump and a bunch of other misc stuff that goes with the territory and this is only off the top of my head. I still need a front bumper, I have four perfect fog lights that will go in once I find a good bumper. The seats have issues like the one you are looking at. I love the car but I will never get anything close to what I have put into it so I'm going to drive it forever.

To me this car is a $800 car at best. Like mentioned above I'd look around for a better example and spend $2000 to $2500 for a nice one. They are out there! Heck I know a guy in Grosse Pointe that has three and he may want to sell one

current and or past: 1987 Milano (Ariel) 1984 GTV6 (Sabrina) 1992 164L (Jill) 1992 164S (Kelly) 1989 Spider Veloce (Julie) 1991 164L (Chris) 1991 Spider (Melissa)

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post #14 of 39 (permalink) Old 07-16-2009, 07:47 AM
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Spend some time reading the technical bulletins at Alfa Romeo Bulletin Board & Forums Dunno who compiled this, but it is a godsend when your 164 exhibits one of the many symptoms common to these cars.

You had asked about parts availability - it isn't a huge problem, but unlike your BMW, there is no local dealer - everything has to come via UPS. The two major US Alfa parts suppliers - Centerline and International - have a lot of 164 parts. DiFatta Bros seems to go more in-depth for 164 stuff. Vick and AlfaParts also carry some 164 parts (am I forgetting someone?). There is a "Vendors" section here somewhere on the BB that gives contact info for these folks.

Jay Mackro
San Juan Capistrano, CA

'63 Guilia spider
'65 Guilia Sprint GT
'67 Duetto
'91 164L

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post #15 of 39 (permalink) Old 07-16-2009, 09:53 AM
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Yeah, you forgot Jason at Alfissimo is a good source of parts and knowledge too.

Tetteh Pecku: 91 164L (Gone but not forgotten...)
94 164LS
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