One of the best cars to drive but worst to fix, or is it? I bought this good looking muscle car for a bargain. Yes, compared to what I could have bought it was a true bargain. Nothing looks quite like it. A car with sexy curves with leather interior and hidden door handles. The paint job is not the best but nothing else looks like it. You get air-conditioning, power steering, ABS, Fuel Injection, Central locking with built in alarm, Two air bags, and a lot of muscle. 2.5litre V6 quad cam 24 valve Alfa engine that push out 140KW and 190bhp. At 7.2 seconds 0 – 60Mph its fast.
The catch with the car is the service fees you will spend on it. My clear advice to you is to have the cam belt service done at an Alfa repair shop. It might seem as if the guy down the street will save you a dime, but can you really put a price on safety and comfort. Let’s talk about the price of a service. A cam belt service at an Alfa repair shop should cost you about R14 000.00 in South Africa or $2 400.00 in the States. But why you ask? This is the Alfa that saved Alfa Romeo from bankruptcy. From the wheels to the badge to the engine and the seats has all been made by Alfa for Alfa. The Alfa cam kit cost approximately R9 000.00 and the rest of the money is for labor and stuff. A normal oil filter spark plug service will cost you R3500.00. It is best you do the cam belt change before the belt break. To have 24 bent valves replaced will cost you much more than R20 000.00. In Cape Town South Africa there is at least three Alfa dealerships that will do a great job fixing your Alfa. You can also have the Alfa repaired by Bosh or Holandse Motors. Remember to keep the oils and waters checked weekly and top up as you inspect the car week after week. A great service will last a long way. After my service I can just get into the car and start her up and go.
I will tell you A little more about the V6 engine. Yes it is a V6 Alfa engine. The 156 came out with the 2.5 liter quad cam 24 Valve V6 engines that pushed out 141Kw into a six speed manual gearbox to the front wheels. The car is nose heavy and turning is a problem because the huge engine takes up lots of room under the bonnet. I have my car for just over a year now and it is still a pleasure to lift up the bonnet and view that marvel of an engine. The engine was over engineered in so many ways. The Alfa V6 engine can also be found in a 3l 3.2l 3.7l and even a 3.8l. The 2.5l engine lacks the pull away power found with the bigger bores, but in the 156 it simply put that smile on your face. There is really very little mechanically that can go wrong with these engines, but if something breaks, you have to spend all your money and lend some. The weaker point on the engine is all related to the timing parts. The factory water pump had plastic moving parts that could warn under the stress and heat of the engine and fuel leaving you with no cooling for this massive engine. The cam belt has a lower than average life span and should not be overlooked if you are considering purchasing one of these classic cars. The problem with my car was a broken or rather torn cam belt tensioner. I was standing on a bridge and I heard a big taping sound before my engine died. The cam belt came lose after the tensioner failed and I managed to bend 24 valves. It is good practice to have your timing belt and moving parts inspected at every service and please just please do not skip a service on this car.
I have taken the car on a few family trips and it handles fine. The only thing they could have improved on the car if I could mention this to you, is the air conditioner. It is as good as not having it in the car. The rest is all right on the money. From the stitching in the door panels to the exhaust system and that powerhouse engine in front I can truly agree that this car was made with passion and purpose. If this is what it took to save Alfa from bankruptcy, then it is good enough for me.
Is it worth the money? I have to say, a Big Phat Yes. This car and its engine were rated car of the year and engine of the year back in 1998. The engine note of Alfas V6 engines will leave your friends in awe. The day you pull away and leave the Mercs and VW’s and BMW’s behind, you will realize that you are close to perfection in this classic muscle car. The fuel usage is poor, but it’s no VW. With a 6 speed manual and an engine tone at high Rpm’s you’ll be smiling like a rich man in a poor man’s car. Remember, you are not a petrol head until you have driven an Alfa.
It is time to go and look at that Mercedes and BMW again and then look back at your Alfa. Service do cost a little extra, but what you get is the best Alfa had to give to our planet at a time when they had hit rock bottom. What you get is more than a car, it is a piece of history that tells a story of a time when fuel was cheap and power was plenty. It tells of a driver that can be enrolled under the great petrol heads of all time. This is not just an Alfa; this is the Alfa that began all the other Alfas after it in a race to be more than a car. This Alfa is a legend.