The Northwest Passage

Mind Over Motor: ALFA ROMEO 164L

Thinking is Overrated
Alfas that Came and Went

There’s more to life than logic and reason and thinking. If you want a reliable car, go buy a Toyota, maybe an old Buick. But if you’re after a beautiful, likely disastrous adventure, then you need an Alfa Romeo. My Dad had an Alfa 164L, then it broke down and he sold it. Then I bought one. Then I sold it. But then I bought it back. And then I scrapped it. Nostalgia has a strong pull. Love hurts, but the beauty and passion is worth it, and you don’t get that if you think too much. Here’s the story:

About the Alfa 164

The Alfa 164 was the product of a collaboration between Alfa Romeo, FIAT, Lancia, and Saab – these manufacturers collaborated to create the shared “Type Four” platform in order to share components and save manufacturing costs. Alfa decided to change a bunch of stuff anyway in the name of styling. The gorgeous, wedgy shape was the work of Pininfarina – it’s stunning in person, and stylistic choices such as the low hood height meant that mechanical components were crammed into the engine bay making the car a pain to work on. The sedan is powered by the legendary 3.0L 12V V6 “Busso” engine, giving it effortless speed and a delicious, guttural sound, but it you stomp on the gas, the front wheel drive will torque steer violently to one side or the other. The ride quality is sublime, but the steering is very heavy at low speeds. The Alfa 164 chooses beauty and feel over ease and practicality.

My Dad’s Alfa

My Dad, Enzo, chose beauty and passion over practicality when he bought his Alfa 164L brand new from Marino’s Fine Cars on Lakeshore Blvd in 1991. His was blue on yellow with an automatic transmission. I first saw it when he pulled in to my Nonna Maria’s driveway at Jane & Wilson on a summer evening. I looked on from the veranda, stunned at the shape. The smell of the leather interior was divine. It was pure class. He looked like a million bucks.

A practical man would have bought a Mercedes, but my Dad wasn’t about being practical. He had the courage to follow his dreams. He took risks, worked hard and he made things happen. An Alfa isn’t the the logical choice, it’s a choice for the <<impassionanti>>.

So when the top end of the engine blew up at 40,000kms, the Alfa was forgiven. My sister, Tania, began driving the car as a teenager (she loved it, too, and named it “Alfina”) and the comedy of errors continued. The sunroof stuck open, and that was ok. And some door handles broke off and that was ok, too. And it leaked AGIP oil onto the interlock driveway, and that, too, was fine. Because the car was beautiful and it had presence and everyone loved it.

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