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Discussion Starter #1 (Edited)
I use a 156 2.0TS as my main mode of transport (plus a scooter for short trips). I love my 164 and so I drive that when I want to experience the thrill of the V6 and the sort of heavy luxury that the lighter, economical 156 can't provide. My current 164 owes me less than $1000 (about US$800 at the current exchange rate).

I'm contemplating the replacement of my 164 with an Alfa Romeo Spider. Should point out this will be the 916 'GTV'-type (1996-2005), not the 937 Brera-type (2006-2010). The 916 GTV/Spider is kind of the 155 Coupe/Convertible though I guess some parts cross over to the 164 and the original Proteo concept was based on a 164.

Compared to a 164 it seems that a Spider will offer a similar 3L V6 (24-valve version) and smooth six-speed manual transmission in a slightly lighter car. I already have one four-door saloon car (the 156) and I don't have a family, so having a two-seat convertible has obvious appeal, and winter is a good time to buy.

Problem is, of course, the price - I have found a few good examples at around $10- $15000 but they are *** imports and usually have a few blemishes.

I have found one show-quality Spider, 2003 (old shape). It has had one owner from new and is back for sale at the original dealer. It has been maintained religiously by the supplying dealer (official Alfa Romeo dealer, one of few in NZ) - has had two cambelt changes (one in 2006 and one last year) and there's under 63,000km on the clock (39,000miles). The car is perfect except for some collapsed foam on the edge of the driver's seat base. No stone chips, no repairs or repaints, has lived in a garage, and is clean and original in the engine bay. It is metallic 'Coventry Green' with a beige interior, so basically the colours of an MGB brought into the '90s... Very similar green to the 164. For a Spider I would prefer the red, the 'Verde Acido' lime green, or some hideous yellow (Zoe Yellow) but the green is more dignified, I guess, and 'in period'.

Asking price is $20,000 (US$16,000) which would buy a lot of 164s. On the other hand, it's hard to imagine a better condition example. I've always wondered if it would actually 'save money' buying a car that's in good condition in the first place and it is probably true that, no matter how much work was done, an average example that's had the odd bodge here and there could never be lifted to quite the same level as a 'concours' car.

I guess it might be like having the option of a '94 164LS in average condition or a '91 164L that is double the price but in perfect, original condition. Which would you choose? I suppose one problem would be the feeling that it is too good to use, but at least it wouldn't be my main 'daily driver'.

I don't really have $20,000 and was hoping to spend about half that, but something tells me it might be a good idea to buy the best in the first place - what do other 164 drivers think?

These Spiders don't ride all that well - lots of wobbles and shakes which annoy me - windscreen frame jiggles around before your eyes and steering column moves - pretty much what you'd expect if you chopped the roof off the fairly-rigid GTV. I drove one with modified suspension (even lower, Koni shocks) and oddly there seemed to be less flex in the structure, which is the opposite of what you'd expect. Maybe it was one of those 'golden sample' cars that was just better in the first place (it had over 140,000 on the clock).

$20,000 in a private sale may also buy a 2004-2005 last-of-the-line facelift Spider with 3.2L Alfa V6 but an import with unknown history. These are usually a bland silver colour like my 156, but they do have the benefit of safety features like stability control and side airbags (older Spiders have only ABS and front airbags). I don't know if that even-larger engine is worth striving for? I guess I need to drive one to find out if the scuttle shake is any less.

Also, 2007 Brera Spiders kick off at about $40,000 - twice the price again, so at least that's safely out of the question. People say they have the worst scuttle shake of any current car. I do like the styling though.

So what would you do...?

Thanks,
-Alex
 

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I'm all for 164s and keeping money in my pocket. Cars are just not a good investment. Put the money into your real estate or other investments. I've spent more money than I care to think about driving fancy cars, no real reason to and after making a pretty good return on my last house and picking up a much nicer one, I've seen the light on where my money should go. Besides, 164s are nice cars and dirt cheap to buy.
Charles
 

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They will NEVER be able to make this glorious V6 EVER again. The 3.2 did not reach North America (much less the stunningly attractive Spider) so we can only dream of replacing our humdrum sedans with a sports version. I doubt the demand for this engine will decline much as the World moves to ever smaller turbo supercharged direct injected maintenance free dull dull dull powerplants. Heck, we may all be driving diesels and electric cars in 10 years time.

NZ is a place where a convertible car makes perfect sense. The weather over there is pretty fine and usually compatible with top down motoring (in Western Canada winter lasts 6 months and the summers are usually very hot and very dusty. Ever wonder why convertibles in North America are equipped with AC?).

As for paying for a good one: any car can be brought to concours with liberal applications of money. The most expensive work is the body and interior. All the mechanicals can be replaced as needed by identical new or good used parts. So, the golden rule is to buy a solid and well preserved body with the best interior you can find. Then start deducting cash from the maximum reasonable asking price for that model for any mechanical work needed. Any vendor should know what needs doing and the cost of mechanical work is very easy to quantify.

Then the fair price is not what this car costs compared to all other cars, just what this car costs compared to other similar cars, in your case convertibles styled by pininfarina imported to NZ.

BTW, an owner who paid to change the cambelts every 5 years regardless of mileage knew how to maintain one of these cars. The engines are anvil reliable if they are looked after properly. Remember the realistic capital costs of running a car are the acquisition price plus interest costs (paid or foregone earnings) minus the residual value on resale at any point in time (any actual depreciation is enjoyed by using the car, with the return getting better the longer you own the car) and plus the cost of any major repairs such as engine rebuilds or transmission replacements. Running costs are the more or less the same for any age of that model of car when out of warranty if it was built properly to begin with or properly repaired under warranty. (This last point is important and makes used cars from the original owner worth a lot more if you think that owner was knowledgable. This is because many manufacturers, and certainly Alfa Romeo, complete the manufacture during the warranty but only if the first owner knows enough to insist on it)
 

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Considering your amazing talents, both in repairing and in finding good buys, this car seems expensive, especially if it overextends your budget, and perhaps inappropriate. Whenever I look out there and see this or that new "flashy" car, I usually end up saying to myself, "I wouldn't pay $xx,xxx for that, it's against my grain" and besides the older cars have much more soul and charm. Real metal. I also feel that way about Italian espresso machines, my Gaggia from 1954 will knock the socks off of you, and then when I get bored I can do a nice one with my '52 Faema. Like fine cars they are immensely fun, well built and easy to maintain. Really Alex, with your skill I think you should look backwards. Much more interesting specimens in my opinion and a lot less costly.
 

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If you can't win it with a raffle ticket stay with old dependable.
 

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Discussion Starter #6 (Edited)
Thank you most kindly for the answers.
You guys are the very best, you know that? Most forums would generate a string of "wrong forum" one-line replies.

I think I still have two options to think about.
Either A - find a Spider requiring some work (pinino is right; I would find that more satisfying, but I stop short of wanting something pre-90s). I always feel more involved with cars that I get to work on.

or B - go for that amazing-condition example but plan to keep it for a long time. The reason being, there may not be such examples available in five years when the prices have dropped. Sometimes I look at my Uno Turbo and wish I'd bought a better example nine years ago when they weren't worth much. Long term, buying the best you can afford makes some kind of sense. I think Alfisto Steve would agree - Mr. Patchin did buy his 164 brand-new rather than waiting for depreciation to take its toll, and look at what he got out of it - years more 164 driving than the rest of us (well, me anyway). That level of commitment always impresses me.

For me, 'old reliable' is my rebuilt 156 on which I have spent lots of time and money, and I'll certainly be keeping that and using it most of the time, in lieu of a newer 'ordinary' car. It has pretty much all the features you could want in a new car anyway.

I've decided to keep calm under the salesman's pressure and complain about the price of that Spider. Hopefully, I'll be the last person left in the ring when they're desperate to move it off the forecourt and hopefully by then, I will have saved the money just in case. Living cheaply in the meantime. And if I miss out, well, there's plan A to consider.

$20,000 would be a lot to spend, so I won't. I established that there are other cars in the market at around that price that are also one-owner, convertible, though not Pininfarina-styled. So while perhaps not excessive, it's not a bargain either.

I have a bathroom renovation project to do but I think I should be careful not to go overboard on that either, as I personally don't think you get back that sort of investment any more than you do with cars, except in the actual enjoyment of the result. Does it raise the value of a house, or merely the saleability... But I certainly intend to divert some money to that project instead.

Thanks again for the advice, I'll let you know the outcome.

Meanwhile tonight I drove over 100km in my old blue 164 (which has been sitting for weeks) and it was, of course, perfectly reliable and a delight to drive. Kind of wish I hadn't done that as it reminds me how difficult it will be to part with my favourite 164.

-Alex
 

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Discussion Starter #7 (Edited)
Here is the car, by the way:
Alfa Romeo Spider 3.0 V6 24V 2003 $19,990, Euromarque Christchurch

Just for interest, on the engine photo you can see a strange-angled pipe running to the intake corrugated rubber tube from the front cam cover/cylinder head - doesn't look like it's supposed to be that angle? - and there is a plastic box underneath it. Is that plastic box original equipment on the 164's 24V V6? Maybe it is some sort of alarm immobiliser etc.

Insurance companies in NZ require this type of vehicle to have an alarm, I have learned. The premiums are approximately three times what I pay on my 156 of the same age...

-Alex
 

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Here is the car, by the way:
Alfa Romeo Spider 3.0 V6 24V 2003 $19,990, Euromarque Christchurch

Just for interest, on the engine photo you can see a strange-angled pipe running to the intake corrugated rubber tube from the front cam cover/cylinder head - doesn't look like it's supposed to be that angle? - and there is a plastic box underneath it. Is that plastic box original equipment on the 164's 24V V6? Maybe it is some sort of alarm immobiliser etc.

Insurance companies in NZ require this type of vehicle to have an alarm, I have learned. The premiums are approximately three times what I pay on my 156 of the same age...

-Alex
You know me, cheapskate and lover of the 164 mystic. As I R retired/retarded and moving on in my silver headed moments all I can say is if you really want Spider and can afford it without a second mortgage go for it.

But, if you want to do the house remod and drive a beloved 164, 156 ot Fiat Uno or Spider that are long paid for and pretty much tax free, DON"T DO IT!

I had a pristine one owner 81 Alfa Spider (obsessively showroom) at 24k on odometer) I still lust for owning it again but the guy near me who now owns it gets to keep it and I still don't have dedicated garage space for it since my 164L Black Beauty gets garage space over my bride's 09 Malibu.

Being an older Alfisti I am prejudiced towards what I like. However, I made 110% profit on my 81 Spider (24k miles) when I sold it to owner before the current owner. Now if you can make a real deal on your lustful Spider I say go for it!
 

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Discussion Starter #9 (Edited)
You know me, cheapskate and lover of the 164 mystic. As I R retired/retarded and moving on in my silver headed moments all I can say is if you really want Spider and can afford it without a second mortgage go for it.

But, if you want to do the house remod and drive a beloved 164, 156 ot Fiat Uno or Spider that are long paid for and pretty much tax free, DON"T DO IT!

I had a pristine one owner 81 Alfa Spider (obsessively showroom) at 24k on odometer) I still lust for owning it again but the guy near me who now owns it gets to keep it and I still don't have dedicated garage space for it since my 164L Black Beauty gets garage space over my bride's 09 Malibu.

Being an older Alfisti I am prejudiced towards what I like. However, I made 110% profit on my 81 Spider (24k miles) when I sold it to owner before the current owner. Now if you can make a real deal on your lustful Spider I say go for it!
I should probably sell the Uno Turbo but it's really worth so little (like the 164), seems hardly worth it.

If I had a mortgage I'd probably buy a Ferrari. I don't and I think most of the more pressing house maintenance is of the nearly-free kind. I did effectively spend $1000 on the garden this year in supplies (probably close on $1000 labour on top of that was exchanged for working on a 164). Place is looking much better. I think outside appearance is more important than ensuite bathroom for now at least.

I'm not sure there will be many mint-condition 916 Spiders around in another five years when they'll be cheap. In ten years, I expect few people apart from me would bother to restore one (like the 164, then). You might anticipate that I would save a few of them and I probably would (time and health permitting)... But to have a nice one would be, well, nice. And I would be proud to keep it that way. I see them as a classic.

STOP PRESS: was offered a 1999 166 today for $3500... Looks tidy, silver... 111,000km. Had had $8000 spent on servicing... That's a steal (a little over US$2000). I have always found these cars alluring even though my 166 ($8000) was the worst lemon I've ever had. It is just so tempting to glide along in luxury but I really have my heart set on a Spider and not another large four-door saloon. The 166 may not seem large by US standards (same size as 164, front and back appear narrower) but it is large by NZ standards. Even so, something tells me it won't be long before a 'rescue society' 166 comes this way. Heck I should probably do something with that one (to resell it), perhaps earn some profit towards the Spider...


I'm always impressed that an "older Alfisti" sees the merit in the 164 and rises to the challenge of Motronic and strut bearings rather than contact breaker points and kingpins. I don't think you are an older Alfisti when you are still young at heart and always open to learn more.


-Alex
 

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Discussion Starter #10
It's no good, I couldn't resist...
Just bought the 166 for $3500... with a view to improving it/reselling.

Looks good in photos and apparently has an 'engine temperature sensor problem'. We'll see. Good thing I have the diagnostics software to talk to these cars.

Looking forward to driving a 166 again but of course I want my Spider... thought this would be a stepping stone as I can probably make a profit on this one and then I'll feel slightly better about spending the money on an 'unnecessary' purchase.

-Alex
 

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It's no good, I couldn't resist...
Just bought the 166 for $3500... with a view to improving it/reselling.
R E L I E F (from me at least). Personally I think the Spider is somewhat Toyota-"Solara"-looking, a little overpowered (I like better the philosophy of Lotus), but as a "stepping stone", well....
 

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Discussion Starter #14 (Edited)
Silver is a bit less stunning than those other colours, but these are still a nice-looking car even pre-facelift. Not enough dials for me but it is high style on the interior, too. I love the little 'pillow' on the door for your elbow and the padded leather sides of the centre console for that bony bit below the knee. High-speed cornering is of course, an essential to conserve fuel.

I saw them used as police/security cars in Rome. A friend of mine calls it the "Aardvark".

The bizarre thing is that English on the trip computer is marked 'USA' and it calculates in American gallons. The airbags and frontal impact compliance (a criteria for used imports to NZ that outlaws 164s from being imported after 2004) for the 166 are certified to the US standard rather than the Euro standard. I'm sure Alfa intended to bring this to America (in one of those Alfa Returns! moments) but it never happened.

And now that this NZ$89000 car is down to NZ$3500 (and sure to drop even lower), what a lot of driving for the money. I will probably enjoy driving this as much as driving a Spider, truth be told... But it is for resale...

-Alex
 

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Alfa in North America was run by ARDONA which was to be a joint venture between FIAT and Chrysler in 1990. Chrysler backed out at the last minute. Then the 164 was a complete (and inexplicable) sales flop in North America so ARDONA bailed out in 1995.

Irony of ironies, after taking GM to the cleaners for a few billion, FIAT bought bankrupt Chrysler out of receivership and now plans to use the Chrysler dealer network (selected dealers that FIAT kept) to bring FIAT and Alfa back to North America. The FIAT 500 is already here and the Giulietta is rumoured to be coming next year.

The 166 is a beautiful car. Cornering very fast is good for tire wear on these fwd Alfas (evens out the tread wear, they don't last any longer but at least you get to use all of the tread you paid for!).
 

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Discussion Starter #16 (Edited)
And just when I mentioned that word (Lotus), a "Solara"-Lotus comes on the market, via the AlfaBB forum no less.

http://www.alfabb.com/bb/forums/alfa-romeo-cars-sale-wanted/182621-lotus-xi-non-italian.html
That is a serious Lotus and will be serious money :)
Not in the same league as the kind of gadget-laden mass-produced platform-shared cars that I go for, I think you'll agree!

Would certainly be an adventure to use one of those 50's racers for anything today. Imagine the crossply tyres... I get a little nervous if a 2000-onwards car doesn't have stability control programming in its ABS ;)

-Alex
 
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