1 Feb 1989
By CHRIS HARRIS
Fiat Auto purchased the ailing Alfa Romeo in 1987. The Alfa brand disappeared from new car price lists in early 1993 until importer Ateco returned the marque here in June 1998.
The164 was a turning point for the Alfa Romeo. A roomy five-seat four-door prestige sedan designed by Italian coachbuilder Pininfarina, it was the first modern and competitive model from the Milanese firm after years of persistence with the unloved and ungainly 90 – which dated back to the original Alfetta sedan of 1974.
Positioned above the patchy 75 (also Alfetta based), the 164 eschewed the traditional red Italian sports coupe image for a sophisticated executive class express, which was on the money in the late-1980s.
It was also front-wheel drive, and – to the chagrin of some “Alfisti” – was initially only available with a ZF-sourced four-speed automatic transmission.
Power came courtesy of a sweet sounding 130kW/245Nm 3.0-litre V6.
It also featured four-wheel disc brakes, anti-lock brakes, power steering, alloy wheels, leather trim, climate control air-conditioning, central locking, power windows and a sunroof.
In response to the economic recession of the early '90s, Alfa Romeo introduced two new models from May '91.
The cheaper 164 Scala was a limited edition, and did without the sunroof, leather trim and metallic paint.
Meanwhile, enthusiasts were delighted with the introduction of the 164 Quadrifoglio. It included a more powerful version of the 3.0 V6 (137kW/257Nm), a five-speed manual gearbox, lowered suspension, electronic damping, new alloy wheels, a body kit and revised leather trim.
But falling sales in bleak times prompted Alfa Romeo Australia to pull out of the new car market entirely in early '93.
It didn’t return until Ateco brought the new GTV coupe and Spider in June '98, followed by the beautiful 156 a few months later.
The direct replacement of the 164 series, the 166 of late 1999, enjoyed only a lukewarm reception.