Now doesn't seem like a particularly good time to be brilliant at building engines. Once the vision of a dystopian future, a world without any new combustion-powered cars doesn't seem all that far off. And where an average car might have been saved by a great engine, batteries and motors don't have quite the same effect. It's something those manufacturers famed for V6s, V8s and V12s will have to get to grips with pretty quick. Alfa Romeo is the latest to join the list, confirming last week that the new Giulia will be electric only. The current Quadrifoglio was definitely one of those cars you could buy just for its engine; that the rest of it was so good is what made it a legend in its own lifetime.
We'll concede that the link between electric Giulias and this 164 QV is a little tenuous, though the fact an executive saloon from 1994 can garner such excitement shows how important engines have been to Alfa over the years. This isn't just any old four-door saloon car. Furthermore, with 125,000 miles racked up over 28 years, the 164 isn't that high mileage, averaging less than 4,500 miles a year. But just look at it - this had to feature somewhere, somehow.
Arguably there's no such thing as an unattractive Alfa Romeo 164, the proportions and details making it easily the best looking of the Type Four execs (that also included the Fiat Croma, Saab 9000 and Lancia Thema). But some are even more appealing than most, and this must be one: a 230hp QV in Rossi Red with the black lower half, stunning 18-inch split rim wheels, a leather Recaro interior (believed to be the only one left in this spec) and that eye-popping engine bay. Even without reading the ad this looks a real treat, with owners club stickers in the window and a remarkably well preserved interior for something almost 30 years old.
There's more to be encouraged by in the extensive advert, too, with plenty of bills and history extending back to the 1990s. The 164 actually had an engine rebuild at the turn of the century when a timing belt broke; 2000 wasn't a great year for it, with another big bill for the air-con and starter motor. Most importantly, however, the receipts are all there in what's described as a "thick sheaf of invoices" that accompany the car. Something like a 164 QV was never likely to be bought by a non-enthusiast; the history and apparent condition of this one point to very conscientious care.
There are blemishes, inevitably, but very minor ones, the ad pointing to a small tear in the leather and a digital display in the dash that's only half working. Neither is likely to spoil the next owner's enjoyment of this car. It would take something a lot more serious than a slightly dodgy display to put anyone off an Alfa Romeo that looks this good and features that engine under the bonnet.
Also, the QV is for sale at £9,995, which really doesn't seem an awful lot when every 'modern classic' out there is apparently worth at least £7,500 by dint of being from the 20th century. But the 164 even compares favourably with its contemporaries; £10k is what's being asked for this Mercedes W124 diesel (!), with 50 per cent more being asked for an E28 5 Series. And why waste precious fuel on anything less magnificent than a Busso-powered Alfa? Might make a nice pairing, one day soon, with a battery powered Giulia...
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