Our drives / Tales of running modern classics in the real world
Its happening again…
Just when Nathan thought that owning one Alfa was mad enough, now he’s got two. Nurse!
To be an Alfa Romeo owner requires a certain strength of will, more than a little sense of humour and the understanding nature of Nanny McPhee. The rewards are cars that are interesting and exciting, if not always in intended or even positive ways.
But owning two of them? For those in the office obsessed with boringly predictable German machinery, this is the kind of behaviour that, if applied to anything other than cars, would provoke an intervention. Perhaps some prescribed medication too.
They’re just unenlightened. Say hello to the latest Italian to grace the Chadwick fleet, a 2005 Alfa Romeo 166 Ti. With a 2.0-litre Twin Spark engine. Hmm. I can sense among some of the readers that I’ve perhaps let the side down, wimping out of a V6. Worse still, this car in this particular specification was recently derided by our own Tony Middle hurst on an internet motoring forum popular among powerfully-built company directors as being one of the most disappointing cars he’d ever driven.
There is method to my apparent madness though. For a start, I already own a Busso V6 Alfa, which provides all the adrenaline hits I need. I’ve not bought the 166 for that. I’ve bought it to be a comfortable cruiser.
The first bit of comfort comes on the Running costs of the 2.0 versus a V6. A cambelt change on the V6 is around £700; on the Twin Spark it’s around £300. A replacement clutch is £750 on the GTA; it’s a third of that on the 2.0-litre. Then there’s the fuel economy. Alfa claims a smidge under 30 mpg for the 166 #Twin-Spark
, though such a small engine (just 153bhp folks) hauling 1500kg (plus, er, ballast) makes for a busy unit, so I doubt I’ll get that. Still, it can’t be worse than the GTA: I get 19mg out of that when cruising, and 7mpg when I’m not.
So, how did I end up with a £700 166? Ant from Auto sportivo, who fettles the GTA for me and who knew I’d been looking for a 166, texted to say he’d found one. Single family ownership from new, 72,500 miles up, all the service history and – luxury! – two keys. This is the first car I’ve owned that still had both its original keys.
There are some negatives. It’s been sat for a little while as a new Mercedes-Benz had replaced it as the previous owner’s family workhorse. The air con doesn’t work, which may just be a regas (any suggestions in the Cambridgeshire/ Northamptonshire area?), and the driver’s Foot-well is a little soggy.
There are also some minor paint marks, and the cambelt needs changing. Alfa Romeo suggests 32,000 miles or three years as a replacement schedule for Twin Sparks, though some specialists suggest 22,000 miles, and this hadn’t had one for a long time, so I’ve booked it in with Ant.
My mate Danny pays £312 a month for his BMW 4 Series Gran Coupe. Aside from a few modern toys, I fail to see what the Beemer has that the Alfa doesn’t. The Italian certainly looks more handsome, and the interior’s far more comfortable. And all for £700.
Does that make it a bargain? Too early to tell. Finding out will be fun, though.
ALFA ROMEO 166 Ti
Acquired March 2018
Costs £700 (car)
Other cars 2002 Ford Focus 1.6 (daily) 2004 Alfa Romeo 147 GTA
2.0-litre Twin Spark has just 153bhp. Ti spec includes lowered suspension.
Aircon doesn’t work but this interior’s still cool.
Well, at least the car’s good looking, eh?