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Discussion Starter #1
1991 White Alfa Romeo 164S

Seller says it's had a timing belt done locally (ostensibly by the PO) but has no records or name of the shop. If one of you knows it, or is the PO, I'd be interested in any insights you have (via PM if it's sensitive). I really like the car, and it looks like a good deal, but I'm not going to gamble with a timing belt on a V6.
 

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That's really low mileage for that car, hardly broken in (I've got 178k miles on mine, bought used in 94). If the timing belt was done properly, should be a very good deal. Of course, you could have the belt checked right after you bought it. Also depends on how the clutch is. Some get worn out quickly by an owner, others can make the clutch last for years (the one in mine is still the original).

Also check out the hvac controls. If you have trouble getting the air distribution to activate, ie, send the air to the various outlets as is indicated by the buttons, it is possible the stepper motor gears for that system have broken. There are several write ups in the BB on how to change them out. Not fun but can be done if you understand a little wrenching. If that works ok, there is a write up for installing resisters in the circuit to reduce the loading on those fragile gears and make them last.The a/c should work, although many have changed the system over to 134a instead of the R12. There is a good write up for making that change.

Assuming you decide to buy it, you will have to monitor the front tire wear, as these cars first came with a large amount of toe out, and we've discovered that this setting wore out front tires very quickly on the inside edge. What we do these days is set the front toe to zero, and then watch the tire wear, slowly adding a very light amount of positive toe if the inside tread is still wearing.

Good luck, looks like a nice one
 

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Discussion Starter #3
Yeah, the low miles are enticing. As far as I know, there's no definite way to assess the condition of a timing belt once it's been installed, but my experience is limited to a VW Golf with a non-interference engine and two years' ownership of a Lancia Beta sedan, during which I replaced the belt...

The HVAC is high on my list too... I've reviewed the excellent sticky at the top of this sub-forum.
 

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Discussion Starter #4
License is 2ZEJ735 so it's likely been in CA most or all its life. I see smog tests back to 1997 too. Checking back through the BB classifieds doesn't seem to show this car.

Would those of you with 164 experience consider it, given there are no records, but only 76K miles and a $3400 ask?
 

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Yes. The mileage and the general condition (no East Coast rust) make it a good deal, IMO. The chancy stuff, ie, unknown timing belt change date, hvac stepper gear condition, electroshocks condition, etc, are secondary I would think if one is even remotely familiar with wrenching. Might be good, however, to have it looked at by one who owns one, or knows Alfas, just to be sure.

If I didn't already have one, and it was in this area, I'd probably jump at it, even knowing that there might be a few things to work on or refurb.
 

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License is 2ZEJ735 so it's likely been in CA most or all its life. I see smog tests back to 1997 too. Checking back through the BB classifieds doesn't seem to show this car.

Would those of you with 164 experience consider it, given there are no records, but only 76K miles and a $3400 ask?
I would, I bought my most recent L with 96,000 and no timing belt record. Have driven it for two years with no issues.
 

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Before buying a 164 this many years on... do you turn a wrench or do you pay a mechanic? Is changing a timing belt really too much of a deal breaker? (if it is, I don't recommend a car that needs a new one every 30,000 miles). Do you have the time to hunt down new and used parts? Many new OEM 164 specific parts are NLA. General maintenance items are easy to find (with the exception of fuel pump mounting items). Is this going to be a car you want to drive everyday or a hobby car for entertainment? Is $3,400 a lot or a little for you to spend on a car? Is tearing apart a dashboard a nightmare scenario in your mind, or something you wouldn't mind doing to spent a whole weekend tinkering with for fun? Only you can answer these questions as to whether it is a wise purchase.

Seems like a very nice car to me, but I'm a fan boy that has a spare car to go with my 164 if things go pear-shaped. :001_unsure: At this point, if my 164 went away tomorrow, it doesn't owe me anything and I'm not real sure I would start over with another one, due to so many parts going NLA and not wanting to catch up on a POs deferred maintenance which will surely exist with just about any reasonably priced 164 you will find at this point (unless you get lucky). If you gave me a free one today, I'm sure I would spend countless hours and at least $2,000 in parts just getting it to my standards of mechanical condition nevermind what the thing may look like. Don't even think for a minute that you can trust a timing belt and tensioner with no documentation. These things will bend valves if that item is not properly looked after. Do NOT take the chances that some people do if $3,400 is a large sum to you.
Charles
 

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Maybe we need a list of just how many parts for the 164 are NLA. Not that many I think. And everyday someone seems to come up with a valid substitute for a hard to find part.

I think you might be making it sound worse than it might actually be, but yes, usually it does help if the potential buyer can read a repair manual and do a little wrenching.

We've all pretty much agreed that these cars are not for the guy looking for Toyota hands off reliability and dealer availability.
 

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Discussion Starter #9
Thanks for the thoughts... as you can see on my signature line, I don't shy away from making decisions your average person would call foolish. The Alfetta was a $250 trailer park find, and now it's a mostly redone car with some remaining interior cosmetics to be done... god only knows I probably could have picked up one of the nicer ones in the country for what I've spent in time and $$. I've been around old cars for over 20 years now, so I'm pretty comfortable with everything short of an engine/transmission rebuild or body work. That said, I'm more firmly rooted in the pre-electronic, rear-wheel drive era, so I'm a little intimidated by the complexity of a newer car like this.

One thing I know is, if I buy it, I'll never park it in gear. :)

And Del, I live in Vancouver, WA now - maybe that would be close enough at some point in the future?
 

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One cannot predict the future, can they, lol.

Does sound like you are a good candidate for this car. If you haven't driven a 164, esp the S, you will be in for a surprise I think.
 

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Well Del, you and I and several others here have learned how to deal with the parts issue. Someone new to the car won't have what I have stashed way on a shelf ready to go. I have 4 boxes full of every door handle, three recall filler necks that haven't been available for years, new NLA fuel pump mounting parts, etc. Spare fans and also NLA coolant sensors. I only think at this point it is right to warn people about the parts issues and the need to make sure the timing belt is looked after as soon as you buy one of these. It doesn't get any worse than owning a car for a week or two, only to have a 3-4 valves bent situation happen, or no heat due to failed steppers, or no A/C (a bad A/C pump clutch bearing renders the car undriveable), or a failed head gasket, etc. You have to be ready to fix it and not throw in the towel when issues pop up. Also, if the car needs a new windshield, the trim is not available, the original must be saved, etc, etc. If front wheel drive already puts you off, than you will not like the starter replacement job. The FWD format makes that job a PITA.

In this case, if your adventurous, mechanical, patient and like unusual cars, that particular 164 seems like a very good candidate. They are rewarding cars that do not really drive like the usual front wheel driver. It is certainly NOT impossible to own one of these at this point and even make it a daily driver, just not as easy to do as it used to be unfortunately. I used to be able to call around and get just about anything new as long as I didn't mind calling multiple venders. Now, you call call around all day long and many things just can't be had as new parts. (Can't even buy a steering rack mount bushing, though something may be improvised). Used, well you have to hunt it down. You WILL find it eventually from an Alfa specialist or ebay (if you have the time to keep looking for stuff, over time you will have it).
Charles
 

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I generally agree, although not quite so pessimistic, lol (of course, I have owned and driven nothing but Alfas since 66, so might be biased, wink, wink). Thanks for the comments, though. As I mentioned before, however, this car is not for the Toyota lover.

If the potential owner is familiar with the BB and Alfas in general, as he seems to be, he knows that while there may be several parts NLA, such as the window trim and fuel pump parts (I'm surprised someone hasn't tried mounting a different intank pump from some other car since almost all have them now), he knows how to work the problem to find the needed parts or fake a piece. New door handles are available, bought one myself from Jason, fan motors are available from Saab, coolant senders are no problem (just replaced one), the list goes on.

"a bad A/C pump clutch bearing renders the car undriveable"

Well, at the time it happens, yes, but for the long run, that is no longer true, as with a simply made kit, you can move the alt to the removed a/c pump location and drive it that way forever if you want, or even drive on just the battery (for a little while) to maybe get home or at least to help without removing anything except the longer OEM serp belt, and still have only the water pump running with a short serp belt. (Yes, I carry the necessary kits and the few tools to do this). Actually, with the 24V engine, it is easier to bypass the a/c pump and run the waterpump and alternator by just removing the upper serp belt idler and bypassing the a/c pump with a different length belt (have yet to determine just how long it should be so I can buy one).

You list other ailments, but they tend to happen infrequently, and with the low mileage on this car, they are not to be considered immediate at this point. My 164S, with 178k miles, has the original clutch, the original alternator, the original head gaskets, the original starter, original struts, etc. Yes, have changed the stepper gears (nowadays one would put in those resisters to forestall that), fuel pump (bad hose), steering rack (leaky seal but by using Lucas steering stopleak you can probably stop that, have done that myself with success), refreshed the struts with new bellows and bearings, etc, but the rest of it is regular maintenance and consumable part replacement. I change the timing belt at ~40k miles or ~5-6 years (getting time to do it again).

I'm sure now he has a clue as to what he might be getting into if he were to buy the car. I think this car is worth it if he is a prudent Alfa owner. I think there are a ton of good and fun miles in this car yet.

Hope he has fun.
 

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I was referring to the coolant gauge senders as being NLA, which they are for the 91-93 models. I mis-typed that description. Motronic temp senders are have a very good cross ref. to many other Bosch equipped cars, so not a problem at all.

I agree, if an "Alfa Guy" already, it may be a smart purchase as it is in very good shape. Just feeling the need to be "up front" with people with regards to the 24 year old car that hasn't been sold in this country for 20 years. Work arounds are possible and enthusiasm here on the forum is still strong though it is noticeably quieter here in the 164 section than a few years ago. I hope people are just getting lots of answers from previous post searches and it's not because these cars are disappearing. :(

Take a look at it, drive it, ask lots of questions of the owner. See if it fits you. :clap:

Charles
 

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"though it is noticeably quieter here in the 164 section than a few years ago"

Well, yeah, partly because there are so fewer of them on the road, too many being parted out, either because they were wrecked, or just because the owner didn't have the funds or desire to fix them, and also partly because many of the problems have either been solved, or work arounds have been devised and posted on the Digest and BB, so fewer queries for help.

Point taken otherwise. Your comments are good words to the wise. I do believe he has been adequately warned now, but I think he would be missing a good bet it he didn't at least try it. I think he perhaps doesn't know what he is missing, IMHO.

cheers,
 

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Discussion Starter #15
Wait, these are 24 years old??? What happened?

Seriously though, thanks for the tips. I was on the digest way back when so I've read the stories about common ailments, though my info is probably about 10 years out of date. I'm not scared off by weirdness and parts challenges, see previous ownership of a Lancia Beta sedan... and as for Toyotas, I got my then-girlfriend, now wife, out of an automatic Corolla and into a 6-speed Jetta TDI. So I've experienced that, and it has its purpose, but not in my garage...

I'll check the car out - I don't think it's the steal I initially thought it was, but it could still be a good buy.
 

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When you replace the TB, go back to the old Hydraulic De-tensioner or fixed tensioner rather than the mechanical one. No danger of rolling backwards and skipping splines. Much greater piece of mind. Lots of previous threads. I went to a Hyd one and don't worry about the TB anymore.
 

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Wasn't sure if I was going to chime in on this one, but figured I would. I actually 'won' this car when it was on eBay back in July, for a great price. It was a no reserve auction. I figured it was nice enough and in the same state to start bidding. Well, I won it.

Then, the seller who had over 25 stars or so as a buyer and seller on eBay, told me he wouldn't sell the car to me and wanted almost double what I won the auction for. (Which is more than the advertised price now btw.

He was adamant that he would not sell me the car at the winning price. I reminded him that's why there are starting prices and reserves. That didn't seem to matter. He wasn't suoer pleasant throughout the experience. And I think there should be an excellent relationship when buying an Alfa, but that's just me. (And the 99% of the Alfa BB community)

He tried to mutually cancel the auction after the fact. I disagreed, saying I still wanted the car for the price I agreed to pay. He ended up having to pay sellers fees, because I didn't agree. Not the kind of guy I would prefer to do business with. Just my two cents.
 

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So Chris...How's the buy going???? There's a 164 that just went into the Pick & Pull in the North San Jose Yard....that is pretty much intact...at least on Monday while I was there trying to rescue a Spider from the crusher...too bad I missed the Spider...it's a dumb bell now!!!
Good Luck on your 164
Paul
89 Spider
 

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Discussion Starter #19
I *knew* this car looked familiar... sorry there was some agony on your part, Chase.

I've been back in SF dealing with other business. Think I'll give him a ring tomorrow to see if he still has it - the story is not enough to scare me off, but I will tread a bit more carefully. With no service records I'm actually feeling ready to walk away unless he's willing to go down in price.
 

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Discussion Starter #20 (Edited)
Checked out the car this weekend. It's a pretty nice one - good power (though with a small flat spot under load), good shifting and ride, good paint as you'd expect from a 76K mile car. It's seen only limited use the last couple years, so there are some of the issues you'd expect from a light-use car, but it seems like an easy project for a 164 lover. Biggest concern is non-functional HVAC - the display lights up, but there was no air flowing from the vents, and while I could hear a faint noise that sounded like an electric motor, there was none of the clicking I've heard you get with a broken stepper (right?). Anybody who's a serious potential buyer is welcome to PM me for details, as I'd like to see it go to a good home. I'm most likely passing because I don't have time to handle those light-use issues, and my plan included a 6-12 month test drive and then passing it on to the next caretaker.
 
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