RexSeven UltraDork
Aug. 23, 2013 10:22 p.m.

It's official. I'm a glutton for punishment.

Not only did I buy a 1994 Alfa Romeo 164LS, notorious for expensive timing belts, unobtainium parts, and flaky Italian electrics, but I bought one with 206K miles on the odometer. Oh, and it's destined to be my winter car. Since I took these pictures I already had some General Altimax Arctic tires mounted up.

In its defense, this Alfa spent most of its life in North Carolina with a very sympathetic first owner. There is hardly any rust, a very welcome contrast to my last winter car. He did most of the work himself on the car and used OEM parts wherever possible, and sent me a long list of the services he did. The motor runs strong and makes all the right noises, and the the automagic transmission shifts fine and even has a halfway decent sport mode that holds shifts longer. The A/C blows nice and frosty and most of the electrics work.

So, what does it need? The fuel gauge, automatic antenna, and heated seats are the only electrics I can find (so far) that don't work. The timing belt will need to be replaced next year. I do need to give it an oil change and will replace the spark plugs and O2 sensor soon since those are the only parts the PO hasn't changed in a while. I will probably replace the vacuum and radiator hoses with silicone pieces. And a few trim pieces are missing or need replacing like the worn-looking gear selector and the loose center grille.

For mods, I hope to upgrade the brakes, get some aftermarket wheels that fit (5x98 isn't a common PCD over here. I might need wobble bolts or adapters to fit 5x100s), add lowering springs and sway bars, and add Quadrifoglio AWD intake runners for a 20hp boost. I will probably add an oil pan heater for winter. A more pie-in-the-sky mod would be to replace the Bosch Motronic ECU with Megasquirt and upgrade the injectors.

So, what have I gotten myself into?

irish44j PowerDork
Aug. 23, 2013 10:30 p.m.

The shifter handle looks comfy

Aug. 23, 2013 10:54 p.m.

Those intake runners are the cat's pajamas...

RexSeven UltraDork
Aug. 23, 2013 11:00 p.m.

In reply to irish44j:

The shifter handle isn't all that bad, but yeah, it could use a better one. Unfortunately all the 94-95 shift handles deteriorate like that, but a 91-93 will fit.

In reply to sethmeister4:

I was thinking of polishing them up, but I do plan on replacing them with the runners from a AWD Quadrifoglio model. They are a direct swap onto the 24V engines and add 20hp with no other tweaks! They will look great with powder coated valve and coil covers and intake plenum. Sort of like these:

Aug. 24, 2013 9:07 a.m.

In reply to RexSeven:

Beautiful!

belteshazzar UberDork
Aug. 24, 2013 10:46 a.m.

not just anyone would attempt this.

good job.

z31maniac
z31maniac PowerDork
Aug. 24, 2013 1:52 p.m.

^What he said, and especially for the winter beater.

Good luck!

alfadriver PowerDork
Aug. 24, 2013 2:09 p.m.

Couple of things:

Seat heaters- not that it should be said, but check the switches before you get it too far apart- that what was wrong on ours.

O2 sensor- if you are ok with doing it when you paint the intake- do it then. If not, the space where the connectors are is very very cramped. sometime early in the life of our car, someone did O2 work, and instead of correctly taking the connectors apart, they yanked on the wire, which pulled the pins out of the car side- forever. major PITA.

Looks like you got one with the dash board electronics change- the LED's on the stack were not put together wrong, but a guy developed a really nice fix for that, replacing the cables. Works awesome.

Wheels wise- there are a few companies who have them, but in the end, our local Discount Tire found a really nice set that wasn't too expensive. Great for us, since we had a set of snows and a set of summers.

There's was a company in England that had 3.5l conversions for the engine, but didn't sell them here in the US.

Oh, exhaust wise- outside of normal corrosion, we had to change the flex coupling, which I did with a better part that I could get...

Keep on the belt, and it will do you fine. We had one for more than a decade. I never really fit driving it, but my wife really loved it.

One last thing- if your car has the factory CD changer (and I suspect it does not)- I've got 2 cassetes for it. No idea why we got them, but we did.

Powar Dork
Aug. 26, 2013 8:56 a.m.

I love it. A local car buddy of mine had this car's twin and a 164S for sale a year or so ago. I went to his place and test-drove the S and decided it needed a little too much work for me to pick it up at the time. It's one of those that got away because of timing, sadly.

RexSeven UltraDork
Aug. 28, 2013 8:55 p.m.

I brought the Alfa to the inspection station today. Thankfully, it only needed to pass saftey, and it did so. However, while in the bay the inspector noted a puff of smoke and got a whiff of oil burning. I never noticed it before, but then again I don't have a garage so the smoke probably dissipates without me seeing or smelling it. "I think you got some oil dripping onto the exhaust," he said. Sure enough, I felt under the car, and it does have a minor (I hope) oil leak.

Ahh, the joys of old Italian car ownership!

EvanB PowerDork
Aug. 28, 2013 9:01 p.m.

I would imagine the oil is dripping from the valve cover gasket onto the exhaust.

alfadriver PowerDork
Aug. 29, 2013 6:40 a.m.

You ever wonder why the Italians have their own synthetic oil? (Selinia, if I recall)

Olive oil. Smells a little better on the exhaust.

On a more serious note- check the power steeting- ours leaked, but didn't go onto the exhaust, whereas a buddy's Milano leaked, right onto the exhaust.

If it's the valve cover, look it as an opportunity to paint them!

SilverFleet SuperDork
Aug. 29, 2013 7:44 a.m.

Good luck and godspeed with your Alfa.... and that's coming from an Italian.

(I not so secretly want a 164S...So many dash buttons...)

Quasimo1 Reader
Aug. 29, 2013 7:48 a.m.

In reply to RexSeven:

Looks like a nice purchase!

Rusted_Busted_Spit UltraDork
Aug. 29, 2013 9:10 a.m.

I have a yearning for a manual LS. Nice ride.

RexSeven UltraDork
Aug. 29, 2013 6:49 p.m.

In reply to alfadriver:

I also suspected this as the 164 was a little low on P/S fluid and it tends to creak during low-speed turning. It looks like a big PITA to swap P/S racks on these if the AlfaBB is to be believed.

In reply to SilverFleet:

The LS has quite a few dash buttons itself:

You know how I knew this car was loved? No dead pixels! Seriously, the LCD display on the 164LS and Quadrifoglio AWD models is known to die because of a bad ribbon cable design, and is a very expensive item to have fixed.

On a good note, the fuel gauge started working again after I filled the car up. The sender probably needs cleaning, methinks. I've been driving the Alfa on my 35 mile commute and it hasn't skipped a beat so far.

RexSeven UltraDork
Aug. 31, 2013 5:20 p.m.

I think I found my leak - it's coolant. I figured it out in near heart attack inducing fashion when coming home from work this morning.

The temperature gauge was reading fine the whole way home (temp sender is fairly new too) , but as I pulled into the driveway a good amount of steam started billowing from the driver's side of the hood. I shut the engine down immediately and carefully opened the hood to find coolant had spewed all over the air box, intake hose, MAF sensor, and atop the transmission. I thought at first the coolant tank had ruptured. It's pretty old and cracked along the seam, so I will be replacing it soon. However, when I felt around underneath it, it was mostly dry. Mystified, I started checking hoses, and noticed the intake plenum to coolant tank hose was bubbling a little where it slips over the nipple on the tank. Sure enough, just nudging it made it hiss and bubble more. Off to the FLAPS in the Mustang for some new hose...

EDIT: Looks like I will be replacing the coolant tank anyways. The nipple is cracked and just moving the car around the driveway made it piss lots of coolant everywhere. Looks like a good opportunity to get a lot of "while I'm in there" stuff done. Silicone hoses, spark plugs, O2 sensor at a minimum. I may also replace the stock injectors with more modern ones from a Volvo S80 and get the coil cover and plenum powder coated.

gamby UltimaDork
Sept. 1, 2013 11:47 p.m.

Wow--this is a brave choice for a winter beater.

RexSeven UltraDork
Sept. 16, 2013 4:48 p.m.

I've begun working on replacing the vacuum and coolant lines with a Hi-Performance Store silicone hose kit, and also the old coolant tank with a new aftermarket one sold by Alfissimo.com . I was interrupted by rain while installing some of the new hoses.

You can see how gnarly the old tank looks here. It was leaking at the nipples (huh, huh, leaky nipples, huh huh), but you can also see all the cracks along the seams.

The inside is looking pretty nasty as well.

Here's the new one:

Look at that rat's nest lurking under the air intake box!

I was also going to install a set of new hood struts, but I ran into a snag. The stock hood struts have pins installed. The new ones do not. I cannot seem to get the pins out of the old hood struts using only a BFH. I'm hoping they are not welded on since I don't have any way to remove welds, so instead I will try PBlaster + BFH next.

The oil change, S80 fuel injectors, fuel filter, and spark plugs will have to wait for now. The Alfa is parked on a slope and I'm not about to try and jack it up when it could roll away from (or over) me.

RexSeven UltraDork
Sept. 23, 2013 5:33 p.m.

164 Status report: The top of the engine work continues.

As you can see, the intake plenum and intake runner tubes have been removed from the engine for access to the rear cylinder bank and fuel rail.

Unfortunately, all of this work has revealed a problem: Excessive oil blow-by in the intake tract. It's so bad some of it was seeping through the intake runner gaskets. Oil was also present on the old spark plugs. I've given the airbox to plenum hose and throttle body a good cleaning while they are apart and will clean the intake plenum as well.

I think I know the culprit, the oil separator canister. It pretty much acts like an aftermarket oil catch can except some of the oil is supposed to drain back into the sump by itself instead of the user manually draining the oil into a container. Over time the drain hose and/or spout can become clogged, and going by the amount of crud I could see in the passages, this one is well past its use-by date.

It's potentially salvageable if I let it sit in a bucket of mineral spirits or parts cleaner for a few days, but I don't have any handy. I have a new canister underway from Alfissimo.com as well as new intake runner gaskets. If I can clean the old canister I could try adding a drain valve to it and see if I can turn it into something more like an aftermarket oil catch can.

In other news, the spark plugs have been changed. I also noticed the front coil packs were newer than the rears. I swapped the new ones to the back and the old ones to the front.

Front:

Back:

Why? The Bosch coil packs can develop cracks over time due to the intense heat, which can render them useless. I'd rather the older packs be up front where they are easily reachable and the newer ones in the rear where they still have enough life to take the heat. There are Italian-made coil packs which actually hold up better than the Bosch units, but like most parts for the Alfa 164, they are pricey. I've also heard VW coil packs can be adapted to fit, but I don't know which ones or how to make them work.

The Volvo S80 injectors have been serviced and are ready for installation.

What's left for me to do now is to remove the fuel rails and old injectors, scrape away the old intake runner gaskets, and wait for the new gaskets and oil canister to arrive. I am also working on getting some 164Q intake runners. +20hp with no other mods required (not even an ECU reflash) sounds good to me!

RexSeven UltraDork
Sept. 24, 2013 5:50 p.m.

More work done today. The fuel rails have been partially removed. The return line and lines between the two rails remain in place for now. Unfortunately, one of the four Allen head cap screws holding the rails in place stripped so I had to sacrifice my 3/8" socket to remove it.

Here's an old injector and new injector side-by-side. Note the newer Bosch EV6 type injector has a four hole exit for better fuel atomization compared to the older EV1 pintle cap and needle. The later Alfas in Europe used EV6 injectors on the Busso V-6 engine, but those injectors are hard to come by in the US. The Volvo S80 2.9L injectors are almost a direct swap and flow 10cc/min more than the Alfa EV6. The almost applies to the upper slot for the retaining clip. Note how it goes all the way around on the EV1 injector. I will need to Dremel the slot the rest of the way around the new injector.

You can see a little bit of the crud that's accumulated on the pintle cap. It was even worse before I wiped it down a little. I made sure to clean the injector ports after removing them.

What's left before reassembly? I need to modify the slots on the new injectors, clean the insides of the intake runners and plenum, and replace the fuel hoses going to and from the fuel rails. They are starting to crack and the last thing I want is for fuel to spray all over the engine bay. That's some bad juju.

Sept. 24, 2013 11:11 p.m.

Looking good! Hope you get all of this done in time for winter!

RexSeven UltraDork
Sept. 25, 2013 9:09 p.m.

I'm hoping to have the Alfa ready for the Tutto Lite show at the Larz Anderson Museum in Brookline, MA on Oct. 6. I'm not really a car show kind of guy but it would be nice to have my 164 hobnob with other 164s, as well as much more expensive pasta burners.

http://larzanderson.org/events/lawn-events/2013-lawn-events/tuttolite/

I had just enough time before work today to replace all of the old fuel injection lines and worm gear/ear type clamps with screw clamps. The last of the essential parts came in yesterday (intake runner gaskets and oil separator canister). I'm finally around the bend- time to stop tearing things down and time to start putting things back together.

RexSeven UltraDork
Sept. 27, 2013 9:52 a.m.

Injectors and fuel lines installed! I just might pull this off... provided I don't light the Alfa on fire when I start it up.

Sept. 27, 2013 10:27 a.m.

Nice!

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