These days, it’s rare for me to spot a 164 in my part of the Midwest, but when I do, I smile. Those Italians may not be able to make a car last like a Camry, but Toyota can’t make a Camry drive like an Alfa, and I think that’s just fine. The world is a better place for interesting cars like the 164.
If you’ve driven one, you know that the 164 has a certain athleticism to its movement. The engine revs freely, and power builds progressively in a way that feels far more natural than today’s engines with variable valve timing, variable intake manifolds, and other electronic aides. Steering is light but communicative. The ride is smooth, yet the 164 never wallows. And if the instrument cluster hadn’t burned up 10 years ago, you could verify you were doubling the caution speed through most curves. Ah, but I digress. The Alfa Romeo 164 urges you to drive, not think.
The Pininfarina styling, in a word, is unique. I don’t think I’ve ever heard anyone call a 164 beautiful, but I wouldn’t argue if someone said they were handsome in a way that many cars with a chiseled (if boxy) physique are. There’s as much scattered about the 164′s body to keep your eyes entertained as you’ll find this side of a late-’90s Grand Am, but it comes across better executed and more mature on the 164.
I myself have always been partial to the slim rear lights, which to my eye are very similar to the Subaru SVX’s. (So similar, in fact, that I had to look up who penned the Subie, and it was another Italian designer, Giugiaro.)
Driving an old beater of a car is nothing to fear, though I do have my limits. It takes a certain kind of person to own an aging Italian sedan of questionable build and materials quality. I’m not that guy, but I’m glad he exists, and he probably enjoys his drive to work more than me.
(Many thanks to Bryce, one of the Cohort’s most prolific photo posters, for the shots of this lovely 164. Visit the Cohort and see what’s going on!)