RE: Shed of the Week | Alfa Romeo 166

RE: Shed of the Week | Alfa Romeo 166

Friday 20th March

Alfa Romeo 166 | Shed of the Week

Well-specced, handsome and rare - does this Alfa T-Spark joy in you?



Something a bit different this week - an Alfa 166. Shed hasn't picked one of these out of his wrinkled old bag for almost three years. There is a reason, and it's not because he doesn't like them, but more on that later...

Although 166 production continued in Italy until 2007, right-hookers for the UK were knocked on the head in 2005, killed off by the factory's failure to produce a diesel-engined model when black gloop was seen as the cure for all Britain's motoring ills, rather than the cause of them as it is now.

Our September '05 shed, then, is one of the very last RHD cars built. Obviously that also makes it a facelift model, seeing as how Alfa did the makeover in 2003. These gen-two cars went on sale in the UK on April 1st 2004. It was a good makeover too, stylistically tying the car more closely into the zooty look of the 156 rather than the gen-one's 'why me' expression of a depressed catfish on the fishmonger's slab, and hoisting up the cabin trim spec and quality accordingly.


It needed that. The Β£28k sticker that Alfa GB slapped on the 166 at the 1998 UK launch looked ambitious when you compared its interior plastics to those of the German cars it was meant to be taking on (E Class, 5 Series). The facelift was undoubtedly much nicer than the gen-one, but 'Germanicising' the 166 with silver paint to attract exec buyers didn't do the car's otherwise interesting lines many favours. It looked properly horny in darker shades though. Irrespective of the hue, you'd never think that the 166 was actually smaller and lighter than the BMW Five.

Not small or light enough, though. With 1,420kg to tote, the 2.0 four-pot Twin Spark version was willing and, generally speaking, robust enough to take on the task, but it was no rocketship. Although the 148hp wasn't totally lame, the 133lb ft at 3,800rpm was. 133lb ft. Sheesh. To overtake anything faster than a milk float, your only option was to seek out the 6,300rpm power peak and keep 'er spinning. Your reward was a 0-62mph time that just about scraped into single figures, but if that became your default driving mode the fuel consumption would easily dip into the teens. Even in gentle use you'd be lucky to see more than 30mpg. Still, at least our shed won't go through a pint of oil every thousand miles, as Busso 3.0 V6 versions are wont to do.

The lighter Twin Spark motor doesn't put as much stress through its front suspension as the Busso and gives the 166 a more nimble feel. You'll still want to check the bouncy bits for untoward noises, but hopefully you won't hear too many on this car because many of its front end parts are new. So is the cambelt, ish.


You need to know that this is a Lusso TI-pack car, because that's a good thing. Lusso was the higher or the two 166 specs. The base Turismo had Vehicle Dynamic Control, which is Alfa's name for stability control, plus automatic climate control, six airbags, electric windows and seatbacks, heated door mirrors, rain-sensing wipers, bi-xenon headlamps with headlamp washers and a leather steering wheel. To that lot, Lusso added a six-disc CD autochanger, leather upholstery, electrically adjustable front seats, cruise control, an auto dip rear view mirror and 17-inch alloy wheels.

Throwing the TI sports pack on top of the Lusso spec lowered the ride height by 15mm and added those black leather Alfa-embossed sports seats, TI badging to the door sill plates and rear panel and a pretty snazzy set of 18-inch alloys. This is a well fitted out car. If you are at this moment stroking your virtual beard while peering into the unknown, here's something that might just help to launch you into the pleasure-and-pain experience of Alfa ownership. Rarity.

As you know, the website called How Many Left is designed to give users information on the number of cars, motorcycles and commercial vehicles registered in the UK. Great idea and all, but HML's big flaw is that it relies on information from the Dept of Transport, where data is not always input with the degree of motoring insight that someone from (say) PH might be able to throw into the pot. When a full stop, a hyphen or nothing at all is lobbed between the 'T' and the 'Spark' in 'T Spark', The Computer generates a whole host of 'ghost protocol' 166 variants that aren't real. As such we can't be exact about the actual number of 166s left in the UK.

However, looking back at previous shed stories, we can identify a trend. When we featured a 166 in November 2012, around 1,300 166s were on British roads. A year later, when another 166 came to Shed's attention, a hundred had gone to the scrapheap. The same thing happened a year after that. Between 2014 and 2018, which is the most recent year that HML covers, the number of UK 166s dropped like a stone to fewer than 300 - and that's treating all the likely duplications on HML as real cars. The actual number will almost certainly be smaller still.


Shed reckons that this all qualifies the 166 as 'rare'. You don't need a degree to know that scarcity generally interacts with price in a positive way for owners. Bearing all that in mind, Β£1,249 for a low mileage, good condition, stylish and now officially rare Italian executive saloon doesn't seem like too big an ask. Especially one with a long MOT, no signs of corrosion and a goodly parcel of new bits fitted, including brakes, exhaust and belts.

You'll need to keep your nose primed for the depressing whiff of burning electrics. Scouse comic Alexei Sayle panned his early 166 for having more electrical problems than North Korea, but issues in that area are hardly exclusive to Italian cars. The only one confessed to in our vendor's ad is an intermittent SRS light, but 166 windows, indicators and cruise control can all play up. Distorting body panels were another 166 foible, and whatever paint you have on it will eventually lose its sparkle, not to mention its lacquer.

Assuming you're lucky in all those areas, what will you end up with as the next owner of this car? Well, one 166-owning PHer commenting on that Nov 2012 Shed said that driving his Twin Spark made him feel like a king. Right now that doesn't sound like a bad feeling to be having. Plus it's something nice to look at through the lounge window as you glumly self-isolate.

See the full ad here.

Author
Discussion

Turini

Original Poster:

92 posts

124 months

Friday 20th March
quotequote all
Such handsome looking cars, parked next to one recently and found myself having a good look.... still stands out today

Edited by Turini on Friday 20th March 06:47

RSchneider

145 posts

122 months

Friday 20th March
quotequote all
Oh these were sooo nice! Confused in many ways but oh so nice mini-Maseratis. So much style. The want is very strong, especially for late model V6 automatique smilesmile

Filibuster

1,620 posts

173 months

Friday 20th March
quotequote all
An absolutely gorgeous looking thing cloud9

Although that colour combination isn't the best one. Much better looking in a darker exterior colour and a light interior one.
Dark blue over tan leather for example. With that Busso V6 cloud9

Nevertheless, great shed!

Si 330

1,166 posts

167 months

Friday 20th March
quotequote all
Nice Maserati mate, the chap said to me in Sainsbury’s car park....

I had a 2002 3.0 lovely car, ECU can go pop as they are under I think the heater matrix which can dribble on to them, which they don’t like.
Of all the Alfa’s I have owned this was the least reliable with electrical niggles, but I still loved it.

JRaj

43 posts

31 months

Friday 20th March
quotequote all
Stunning car, took the fight to the Germans and won on the looks and lovely interior. However lost miserably to badge snobbery.

Shame!

mrpenks

266 posts

113 months

Friday 20th March
quotequote all
Reminds me of my 159. Lovely and horrible all rolled into one. As a thing to look at though, perfection.

george123

360 posts

140 months

Friday 20th March
quotequote all
“Still, at least our shed won't go through a pint of oil every thousand miles, as Busso 3.0 V6 versions are wont to do.”

Really ? It’s the twin sparks that drink oil. The Busso V6 is the opposite.

loafer123

11,018 posts

173 months

Friday 20th March
quotequote all
I had a 2.5 V6. Great car, albeit bits of trim were prone to falling off occasionally.

A quick story...

I parked up next to some railway arches on a dodgy estate in south London after a car wash to top up the oil.

Along the pavement came a small gang of teenagers. I got a little worried when they stopped next to the car and it’s open bonnet, and relaxed again when the leader said “nice motor, mate” and walked on...it was a nice motor.


sidewinder500

190 posts

52 months

Friday 20th March
quotequote all
Si 330 said:
...ECU can go pop as they are under I think the heater matrix which can dribble on to them, which they don’t like...
Exactly that, the leaking heater matrix was responsible for some irritating malfunctions
When I picked up mine in '09 ( a 02, 100k, fully specced manual 3.0, one owner, full Alfa service records etc etc) for 1.200 (!!!! it was sitting with an dubious dealer after the Alfa-dealer was fed up to sell it for 3 yrs...) I had to invest 2k to correct EVERYTHING, having a Bosch-Service correcting all the bad leads, installing some new/used ECU's and covering the ECU below the heater with plastic sheets, after a thorough TLC the car looked like new.
So much so that it was sold off while standing in a car park for an offer I could not refuse (5,5k...).
Other than that, it was a real looker, much better in metal as the saying goes, nicely done inside, roomy, the busso sounding great, and capable of really high speeds.
Other than that, pathetic turning cycle, not that economical, pretty uninspiring to drive...
Nice shed, but considering the main reason for a car like this should be something remarkable, which the busso definetly is, no doubt, then this one is a fail with the TS. No guts, no glory...

waynedear

1,398 posts

125 months

Friday 20th March
quotequote all
It sure is a looker and I do like the front brake upgrade.

scottygib553

445 posts

53 months

Friday 20th March
quotequote all
Beautiful

viggyp

1,868 posts

93 months

Friday 20th March
quotequote all
george123 said:
“Still, at least our shed won't go through a pint of oil every thousand miles, as Busso 3.0 V6 versions are wont to do.”

Really ? It’s the twin sparks that drink oil. The Busso V6 is the opposite.
Yep, this is very true. The weird thing is that the TS drinks a lot of oil when new but once the mileage creeps up, it drinks quite a bit less. The other thing is that because it's an Alfa, when the oil warning lights appear, most think it's your typical Italian car electrical hiccup but the engine is literally low on oil.

cerb4.5lee

16,435 posts

138 months

Friday 20th March
quotequote all
The interior in this looks really lovely. I usually love the exterior with Alfas but this doesn't quite grab me as much as usual.

Eazy71

59 posts

14 months

Friday 20th March
quotequote all
Lovely shed. Despite being a bit underpowered, I reckon the TS might suit the 166 - they love revs. I think these look fantastic - seriously understated elegance without the image issues of a German equivalent. Anyone who wants to spout the “Alfas of this age are too unreliable” can get their hat and coat cos a 2004 bmw/Audi has similar potential to be a money pit.

Lord.Vader

3,148 posts

97 months

Friday 20th March
quotequote all
Thats (was) mine!

Sold for £800.

Such a shame, absolutely no interest what so ever, even on the shed / barge thread.

Would certainly have another but 3 other cars and a bike on the way enough.

Edited by Lord.Vader on Friday 20th March 08:37

sgtBerbatov

2,299 posts

39 months

Friday 20th March
quotequote all
I had the opportunity to buy one of these about 5 years ago for £150. Was really looked after, red interior, beautiful example.

Except the smart computerised gearbox was shagged.

Rafeabrook

77 posts

87 months

Friday 20th March
quotequote all
Top sheddage.

I'm tempted, despite the fact my most broken and ruinous car to date was a black facelift 3.0 Sportronic one of these, with an incurable oil leak that even Autolusso gave up on after having the engine out.

That car was passed around the Alfa community like the new lad at Wormwood Scrubs.

I even had random phone calls from subsequent owners years after I was shot of it asking me questions about it.

It was a slut on a grand scale, emptying wallets and breaking hearts across the land.

Still would though.

Nickp82

2,388 posts

51 months

Friday 20th March
quotequote all
Nice shed, there are some cars that you only need to drive a short distance for it to etch itself in to your memory, a 166 V6 did this for me when I sold a nice dark blue one at the dealership I was working 15-odd years ago, beautiful thing.

rallycross

11,007 posts

195 months

Friday 20th March
quotequote all
One of the very last and I'd say in the best spec if you want to have the least aggro from one of these, a manual 2.0 makes sense.

I'd be very tempted to buy this if I was looking for a nice cheap runner, amazing value and something a bit different.

Mr E

19,394 posts

217 months

Friday 20th March
quotequote all
My 156 v6 didn’t drink oil. It did eat tyres and front suspension.