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So I grew up in a petrolhead's home, being raised from an early age on stories about all the exotic cars my father had owned in his lifetime (including his first car, a Renault Dauphine which I firmly remember him saying he used to have to climb out of on steep hills to help push.) As I reached adulthood and my dad stayed firmly rooted to the Porsche camp, I narrowed my sights on three car companies we in the US missed out on that I was eager to explore; Peugeot, Citroen, and Alfa Romeo. Sure, Renault had the Le Car, but compared to the other three, it was a distant fourth.

In a clear example of why you should never bid on something on eBay without careful research :hammer:, I discovered at the end of October I was now the third owner of a 1991 black Alfa Romeo 164L. Deciding I needed my 'Official Petrolhead' credentials (dad owned an Alfa in the 1960s) I decided "own an Alfa? Sure, why not?" :laugh2:

So taking the Salt Lake City shuttle down 30 October I arrived in downtown Salt Lake where the seller and his wife picked me up and ferried me to their home chatting about cars. I mentioned my past, how in retirement dad now had a lift and heated garage, a dream now firmly fixed in my own mind. The Alfa's owner smiled, then introduced me to a garage with two lifts, a Ferrari F430, Lamborghini Gailado, Jaguar XKE, Maserati Quattraporte, and Maserati Cambricosa. And there, parked on the street, was an Alfa Romeo. I signed the papers, handed over the check, shook hands and after fumbling into the Alfa got my first introduction to the 164. :nerd: Aggressive exhaust note, wonderful handling, and an interior 20 years ahead of its time (when it worked, which this one did, wonderfully.) True the front seat resembled 220 grit sandpaper, and there was an obnoxious hands free kit I was fairly certain was at least 20 years old) but I had an Alfa Romeo 164! I was driving a car I used to see in my home town (a 164Q which I still see now and again when visiting, the lucky dog!)

Fast forward 140 miles of driving joy in a quiet and comfortable vehicle and I pulled over to stretch my legs for the last 40 miles. This is when things went Top Gear, as I was greeted with the stench of imminent failure, and acrid smoke from under the hood. :crying2:
After a mile in which I soon discovered just what the belt powered (trial and error, yes?) and the car arrived back home later than expected, on the back of an AA lorrie. No matter, I thought with a bad belt changed out I'd be back out there zipping around in my Alfa. I'd spent half my life turning wrenches as a shade tree mechanic, sure, why not?

As November turned to December I changed the water pump, thermostat, belts, and promptly made a hash of it all. Enter Sutton Autotech, a mechanic's shop not advertised found in the back end of nowhere out by the local airport. A father/Son team who took one look at the Alfa and said "Sure, why not?" Embarrassment at my incompetence aside, With December coming to a close the full extent of the disaster was made clear. What happened was not the result of a bad belt, but caused by the A/C Compressor packing it in completely. And I faced a dilemma; repair it half assed, or do it properly? The Previous Owner spent a fortune on the paint (which didn't match) but nothing on the internals, so once again "Sure, why not?"

Enter Alfisto Steve and Jason at Alifissimo who had until now put up with my badgering questions over the basics I was quickly becoming familiar with, without telling me politely to GTFO. Apparently the clutch coil on the compressor decided it no longer wished to have bearings and promptly seized before melting off its own casing exposing the coil itself and bricking the compressor. Fine, new Compressor, new evaporator, other bits, we'll do this right and be happy as a lark as December turned into January.

With work now at a super busy point, I none the less happily received a call one Friday afternoon that my Alfa, the car I'd driven once in the three months I'd owned it, was ready for me. And once again, I was not disappointed. Not, at least, until I got to the local car wash to wash the vehicle. A weird vibration that seemed to go away when you turned the wheel suddenly went away...along with my power steering. Reversed power steering pulley, OK, Alfisto Steve once again to the rescue with some helpful advice, and specialty wrench on the way, in the meantime she can still be driven, right?

Alfa Romeo is a mystery to those of SE Idaho beyond the Spider Veloche, a 164 is ****ed peculiar, oh there it goes passing another loud diesel pickup, what a racket! Soon, I noticed a new noise, a noise I assumed had to do with sticking lifters. One morning, in fact, I decided to record the noise for posting here in the hopes we could suss the problem out. That evening, three miles from home and CRUNCH! sudden loss of the engine at 4,000 RPM. :scared: Somehow I managed to get two lanes over, turn into a side street, then turn into the home depot parking lot and park comfortably with no engine nor power steering, and grumbling, locked the car up for the night.

during those three miles on foot I wondered about what it could have been, and some might recall my adventure with the speed sensor bracket during my earlier attempts to replace the waterpump. Surely I bungled the fix and that system was coming back to bite me! In any event, once more my Alfa (for the fourth time at this point, they now know all my cars and me on a first name basis) was carried by AA Lorrie back to Sutton Auto Tech. I expected a few days delay while they fiddled about, and maybe another bill, but what I got was a phone call I'm told drained all color from my face.

Gargantua (now firmly named) had decided it no longer needed all its valves and tried to eat one in the number one cylinder. Said valve proceeded to sheer a spark plug, then bury itself in the side wall. Bricked car. Fix cost was enormous, and I was convinced I'd have been better off burning the money in a giant oil drum. Even 'Kars for Kids' ran the other way. After a search, enter Pinino who not only had an engine, but did not demand a kidney or two for its purchase. The stage is now set; despite mother nature deciding now was the time to bury the east coast in a snowpocalypse, the engine was boxed, and to my knowledge, now makes its way across the country. Meanwhile Gargantua sits, waiting for the fix to put it back on the road... again. Let the Alfa die? not a chance. I mean, keeping a rare example of good car going, sure, why not? Expect photos and updates as the saga continues.
 

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Great story, and I am sure it will all be worth it someday! Just, for your own sake, do not keep track of the spending!
A pic of the car would be nice, also. But, I guess it is probably not currently in your possession!
 

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Discussion Starter #3
I have to keep tabs on cost, but I also believe that a love of cars isn't a logical/financial decision. That said, at this point the only 'clear' image I have of the Alfa, is the following;
 

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Good luck with the repairs.

I did notice that nowhere in the saga was mention of the timing belt having been changed before/after you bought the car. Had the belt been changed, and how many miles were on the new belt if so? Otherwise, any guesses as to how many miles/years were on the old belt?
 

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Discussion Starter #5
I changed the TB immediately. I was off a few degrees when they checked my work after that. The belt was brand new in other words.
 

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Discussion Starter #6
My timing by the way was not a condition the engine ran in. It was towed to the shop where sutton retimed it properly.
 

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Great story. Parallels my experience on the drive home from the "buy." A/C bearing, coil, and compressor self-destructed. Added $400 to the cost of the car for the transport.

A few personal observations for prospective owners of 164s.
1. I'd trailer it home from the buy if you're talking about a long distance. You don't know the condition of it. Many of these cars are garage queens and driven little.
2. These cars are over 20 years old now. You gotta expect problems.
3. You don't necessarily know the maintenance history.
4. Unless you absolutely KNOW when the timing belt was changed, change it along with the water pump. My opinion: Ditch the mechanical tensioner and convert back to the original Hydraulic or fixed.
5. If you have an original R-12 compressor, it's going to fail. At minimum I'd replace the compressor bearing and idler bearing as a matter of course.
 

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Wise words. At least the idler pulley is super easy to change.
 

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enjoyed this saga immensely thus far. Tho my car is completely different - still a 164 just euro - I can relate for some reason. Ciao jc
 

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Discussion Starter #10
Converted the system to R134a, have the original hydraulic tensioner with new seals done up. TB is new, and I have a new throw out bearing on hand for the transmission.
 

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Discussion Starter #11
Engine in a box! Well, OK, Engine and transmission in a box. Image two is part of the pulley process, and number three is the hydraulic tensioner system being reassembled with new seals.
 

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Discussion Starter #12
Finally; setting the timing and locking everything in place before Engine-in-the-Box
 

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you know, since you're "in there - might as well......" ciao jc
 

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Discussion Starter #15
Hi Steve,
Pinino set the timing for me. However, that said, I will ask my mechanic to verify.
 

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I gleaned that you are from SE Idaho. The Q that you referenced in the neighborhood, was it red? I bought my red 95Q from the original owner in that area and am just curious!

Good luck with the repairs.
 

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Discussion Starter #17
No, the Q I mentioned is hopefully still in Naperville, IL being enjoyed. It's been probably a decade since I saw it, but it was a dark color as I recall. That said there is a person here with two or three 164s/Milanos just behind their home. I'm not adventurous enough to introduce myself but once my 164 is running I'll see what I can find out.
 

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If you are not removing valve covers to verify cam timing with front crank pulley at top dead center (TDC) mark on pulley and front cover pointer use this cam timing template:

http://www.alfabb.com/bb/forums/attachments/164-168-1991-1995/66906d1179330802-cam-timing-cam-timing.pdf
Don't worry Steve, setting up TB is within my paygrade. Cam templates were used before and after those photos shown (miserable cold didn't allow a lot of picture taking). C-clamps on both pulleys (just gently cinched) plus holding tool on bottom of crank were used to keep the new belt anchored while I worked on the de-tensioner.

By the way, thanks for suggesting to mount the engine/trans diagonally on pallet, that's exactly what had to be done.
 

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OK sounds good. I was a bit confused with pix. So timing belt and tensioner set up was done before engine went in the box right?
 
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