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1991 Alfa Romeo 164 L
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Hi y'all,

I'm about to enter my first winter as a 164 owner. Any information on how snow-worthy 164's are? They're front wheel drive so I figure there's a chance, but I know there are many other factors that go into that equation. We're talking about Chicago / Maine winters here.
 

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For what it’s worth, I think the front wheel drive hype it’s just a marketing scheme. It allows for vehicles to be built less expensively, and the manufacture claims the motor over the front wheels aids in traction. I am not sure I buy into that, I live in New England and have seen many a front wheel drive car struggling up inclines when the snow is not even that deep. To hedge your bet, I would suggest installing a set up four skinny snow tires to give you the edge you may need.
 

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My experience is quite different, as I started out with Minis (real ones), then MG1100s and Austin Americas which friends had, and they were unstoppable in the snow. I could easily drive up snow covered hills I wouldn't go back down without sliding.

I ended up with 164s and they are also quite good. Of course I agree that wide tires are not nearly as effective as skinny ones. The drawback in all fwd cars in the snow and ice is that the more power you have, the less effective the fwd advantage is. The one car model which was awful in the wet snow and ice was our two GTV6s, even with snow tires. Our Milano never sees snow days, the 164 is for that.

Our snow though is very wet, slushy, very slippery, forms wet ice, not at all like very cold snow that I've also driven on in Alaska which is like driving on a sandy beach. Always amused by those drivers from somewhere else, thinking they can drive on our slop. First ones in the ditch.
 
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M The one car model which was awful in the wet snow and ice was our two GTV6s, even with snow tires.
Ain't the truth!

Buy some good snow tires. I've used both Michelin X and Blizzaks and both perform very well. They're very soft tires so you won't see a lot of mileage from them but totally worth the price.
 

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Oh, I had very good snow tires, and one time I couldn't even make it up the hill to our house with cables on the 86GTV6. Putting bags of sand in the trunk helped. No prob with the later 164S. Quite used to driving on all types of snow, going night skiing outside of Seattle in the passes for decades.
 
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I believe it. I traded my GTV6 for a 1st gen Pathfinder after moving to Denver back in the late 80's. The GTV6 was worthless in the snow. My Spiders and Berlina's always did pretty well unless it was icy.
 

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I’m in Nebraska...for the past 20+ years I still worry about door locks, windows, and door handles freezing solid! Washing only when I can drive into the garage and leave overnight!
 

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I have driven my 164 through 29 Canadian winters, so far. As a daily driver. It has literally never been stuck in snow nor ever let me down by losing traction. The car is so well balanced and has such effective suspension it is a complete joy to drive in the worst road conditions imaginable.

Italy is a winter country. In some places snow tires are required. Alfa Romeo is based in Milan, at the feet of the Alps. Lancia is a past world rally champion. Italians build excellent winter cars.

A good handling road car is also a good wet road handling car and a good winter road handling car.

No car can be expected to deliver its full capability with the wrong tires. Fit winter rated tires for winter. Period.

As many of you know I concurrently drove the corresponding SAAB 9000 models for most of the time I have owned my 164. Let me assure you that the 164 is as capable in winter as any SAAB and a SAAB will outdrag even a full on Jeep in winter. It is also very well made and I still own it several years after my most recent SAAB was written off by an inattentive driver rear ending me.

As for FWD being some sort of marketing ploy, nope. It is very easy to prove that up to the limits of adhesion a FWD inherently corners faster than any RWD arrangement. Even AWD can't beat FWD for safety in handling. In non-mathematical terms, by aligning the drive forces with the orientation of the steered front wheels a FWD chassis utilizes all of the contact patch grip available and literally pulls the front of the car into and through the curve. That's easily provable physics, not marketing hype. Only at speeds inducing four wheel drift* does the balance shift to favouring RWD. That's due to the complex behaviour of pneumatic tires and irrelevant to road driving, especially in winter.

(*real drift, not the crazy stuff now called drifting which is nothing of the sort. Current drifting techniques are just incompetent driving for show. Drifting as now understood as compared to real driving is equivalent to synchronized swimming in the 400 meter freestyle Olympic event, just try it going down the Mulsanne Straight during the 24 hours of Le Mans. That technique is referred to as a crash).
 

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I’m in Nebraska...for the past 20+ years I still worry about door locks, windows, and door handles freezing solid! Washing only when I can drive into the garage and leave overnight!
And all cars are vulnerable to this. Using remote unlocking solves the lock issue. The main risk is breaking door handles while tugging on a door frozen to its gaskets. Do not do this. If the door gaskets are frozen you will break an outside door handle before succeeding in breaking the ice. If faced with this I try each door in turn by pulling the handle only by enough to unlatch the lock. If one door actually opens then you're in and you can usually push the driver's door open but not using a handle, or scramble into the driver's seat to get going. If none open then by pushing on the door from the outside several times you can sometimes break the ice.

Whatever you decide to do DO NOT TRY TO OPEN A FROZEN 164 DOOR using the outside door handle.
 

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My experience is quite different, as I started out with Minis (real ones), then MG1100s and Austin Americas which friends had, and they were unstoppable in the snow. I could easily drive up snow covered hills I wouldn't go back down without sliding.

I ended up with 164s and they are also quite good. Of course I agree that wide tires are not nearly as effective as skinny ones. The drawback in all fwd cars in the snow and ice is that the more power you have, the less effective the fwd advantage is. The one car model which was awful in the wet snow and ice was our two GTV6s, even with snow tires. Our Milano never sees snow days, the 164 is for that.

Our snow though is very wet, slushy, very slippery, forms wet ice, not at all like very cold snow that I've also driven on in Alaska which is like driving on a sandy beach. Always amused by those drivers from somewhere else, thinking they can drive on our slop. First ones in the ditch.
Umm, can't agree there. My gtv6 was excellent in snow and severe winter conditions, except for the heater. Enough heat just only on my right foot!

I never did get around to putting winter tires on. I drove year round on the stock P6. Now I don't recommend that but the chassis could do it.

I even drove into the Rockies on one trip. On arrival the hotel parking lot was nearly empty so I treated my passenger to an impromptu gymkhana. Mind you, he did look a little pale when I finally parked up. I'm still not sure what he was mumbling under his breath as he got out, a prayer maybe?
 

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Only speaking from personal experience in our above freezing temperatures snow slop we get here in this area. Driving on cold hard snow and ice is much easier in comparison, until it is too deep of course, lol. Spent some time in Fairbanks, Alaska when it was 0 degrees F out (a warm day) driving around. Piece of cake.
 
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Only speaking from personal experience in our above freezing temperatures snow slop we get here in this area. Driving on cold hard snow and ice is much easier in comparison, until it is too deep of course, lol. Spent some time in Fairbanks, Alaska when it was 0 degrees F out (a warm day) driving around. Piece of cake.
Yes, I knew that of course. I am familiar with all the different types of ice and snow and how ambient temperature of both the air and the snow or ice affects grip.

I also "cross-country" ski (actually ski mountaineering but using inadequate equipment, just for the fun of it) as well as drive in the stuff which is a whole nuther data base.

Wet snow is a whole different ballgame. For heavy and wet snow by all means fit narrower taller tires. Where I normally drive we benefit from fitting the same profile winter tires as for summer, within reason. I have found that for dry snow, hard pack or ice the wider tire grips better and of course performs far better on bare road.

Deep wet snow is the hardest to drive in but if it's warm, deep, wet snow even a summer tire can work as long as it can cut into the snow. I recall a drive over the pass from California into Lake Tahoe in a Rabbit with summer tires. I was driving fast on the passing lane full of six inch wet snow. The slow lane was bumper to bumper crawling along on bare and wet Tarmac. They said we needed chains (really?) but nobody was at the top to stop me.
 

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I wouldn't think of driving my 164 in winter and exposing it to the tons of salt that's applied on the roads upstate NY, so can only tip my hat in admiration to those of you have done or do it. Apropos the question here is something that just caught my eye looking at the genuine "Accessori Alfa Romeo 164" catalogue: snow chains.
accesories p.11.png


accesories p.12.png
 

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Luckily, here in this area, they don't use much salt at all with the sand, and the rain usually washes it away quickly. Our Alfas have zero rust, even after decades of use here, even the 78 Alfetta sedan we put 180k miles on.

I remember an old SAE report which said that actually, the use of salt was not worth the effort, as the damage it did to cars, highway structures, and the environment far outweighed any advantage from using it, both in total costs, and supposedly saving any lives, almost all damages being just fenderbenders. The report said that the extensive use of salt in the NE was primarily due to the NE salt industry lobbyists, who evidently are pretty darn influential.

I like using the cable chains, a seemingly better and less damaging ride.
 
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The 164 is galvanized steel below the beltline. In the 70's FIAT group collaborated with SAAB to improve corrosion resistance manufacturing methods and design. Since then, all FIAT group cars are among the best at preventing corrosion after decades of being among the worst.

My 164 is just now starting to rust underneath. The front jacking points are collapsed (but no perforation into the floor) but the rear jacking points remain solid.

I regularly inspect the underbody for signs of dangerous corrosion and find none. All is surface rust. Amazing quality.
 

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1991 Alfa Romeo 164 L
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Discussion Starter #16
The 164 is galvanized steel below the beltline. In the 70's FIAT group collaborated with SAAB to improve corrosion resistance manufacturing methods and design. Since then, all FIAT group cars are among the best at preventing corrosion after decades of being among the worst.

My 164 is just now starting to rust underneath. The front jacking points are collapsed (but no perforation into the floor) but the rear jacking points remain solid.

I regularly inspect the underbody for signs of dangerous corrosion and find none. All is surface rust. Amazing quality.
Didn't the fiat group buy alfa romeo after the 164 was already developed, though?
 

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Didn't the fiat group buy alfa romeo after the 164 was already developed, though?
Yes and no.

The design dates back to the early 80's.

FIAT group already owned the FIAT Croma and Lancia Thema versions of this car (SAAB 9000 was the other version) and they're all based on Giugiaro's Italdesign family sedan concept design.

Once Alfa joined the FIAT group they asked if they could have a version. Previous to that Alfa sedans had been RWD except for the Sud versions. Alfa wanted to differentiate their version from the three that were already on the market. They went to pininfarina for a boob job. Pinin recycled his relatively recent Peugeot 405 by blowing it up a bit and squashing the SAAB designed door frames to lower the roofline. They put a bit of eyeliner and lipstick on it....

Presto, a "unique " Alfa model destined to blow apart the US market.....sure 'nuff.
 

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Yup, but wasn't the car's fault. Italian cars have not been in for quite a while. BMW and Audi, et al, appealed more to the yuppie set via their advertising I guess.
 
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Discussion Starter #19
Ain't the truth!

Buy some good snow tires. I've used both Michelin X and Blizzaks and both perform very well. They're very soft tires so you won't see a lot of mileage from them but totally worth the price.
I ended up going with Blizzaks; I found a good price online, $300 total with shipping, thanks for the recommendation.
 

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Yup, but wasn't the car's fault. Italian cars have not been in for quite a while. BMW and Audi, et al, appealed more to the yuppie set via their advertising I guess.
It's a puzzle. I've test driven many BMW over the years, new and used. I actually selected my 164 over the then newly designed BMW 325. I test drove the pretty impressive 533i against my then owned GTV6, the bimmer failed to impress. I also tried to buy a German market import 635 CSi, the German M6 but with the German spec M engine, now that was worth buying but the seller changed his mind and kept it, At that time BMW still clung to its antique semi trailing area rear suspension and recirculating ball steering. The 635 drove well enough even with the antique steering box.

I've equally routinely tested Audi products, even buying a B5 S4 biturbo. Terrible car, poorly designed, poorly engineered and suffering terminal and uncurable understeer.

Alfa has always been superior to either of those German brands.

Sales continue to elude Alfa. Mind you, any Jaguar is superior to any German competitor but not to the hoi polloi.
 
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