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The Italians .. Alfa & Fiats

Our Alfa Romeo 166, was one of those cars we wish we had never sold. It had every option that Alfa could have dreamed up to put into a car, and was the fastest car we have ever owned, with a max speed as tested by Autocar, UK of 151 mph (240 kph). It was also their last larger executive-style model. The noises its 3 litre quad-cam V6 made were quite stirring, encouraging the driver to rev it just to hear it, which didn't do much for economy.

Problems: Not many in six years of pretty hard use. It was immaculate and garaged all the time, so no sign of any rust showed itself, and the only electrical gremlin was when the circuit that caused the Xenon headlights to dip down before switching on, then come up again (as required by European Law), kept poking the beam up too high. It was either spend big on importing new bits for it, or simply disable the dipdown startup routine and leave them in a fixed position, this being completely legal in New Zealand. The 4-speed ZF Automatic did start to make a singing sound at around 50 kph, which was a little annoying but not enough to spend lots of money on, and the rear suspension eventually got very soft and floaty - something they were noted for. After reading that many UK owners had spent upwards of $5000 rebuilding rear suspensions, and another $2000-3000 coming due for a cambelt change, we let it go.

NB: The 166 continued in production until 2008, and its replacement never happened, despite numerous predictions from motoring publications. Although Jeremy Clarkson loved the 166, and told Mercedes, BMW and Audi drivers that they had bought the wrong car, the 166 had a reputation for toxic depreciation, so not many bought them. In theory the Maserati Ghibli was the successor in the Fiat group, with the Maserati name enabling a much higher price to be charged.

A bit of fun on the racetrack at Ruapuna, with the Alfa Romeo Club, along with some classic Alfas, as part of the club display of Alfa's to celebrate 100 years of building these iconic cars.

Our Fiat 132 had the free-revving 1600cc twincam 4 cylinder Lampredi engine, basically an updated version of the old Fiat 125 engine. With 4 speed manual, it could be stirred along quite nicely, but the style was a bit bland, especially for an Italian car, so we only kept it for a couple of years.

The red Fiat Uno we had, was the Fire 1000cc version, with single-overhead cam design. The space inside for its length was remarkable, as was its ability to run on the smell of an oily rag. It was also designed by Giugiaro, at Ital Design helping the Uno to become a best seller around the world, and a must-have for the trendy set in the 1980's.

It was noteable for having all sorts of hard to trace electrical malfunctions (normally bad earthing problems), especially the rear lights. We arrived in our garage's workshop at Tawa in Wellington just in time to hear our mechanic ending some loud cursing about Fiat Electrics, then looking a but red-faced when he saw the customer standing there. It did have a memorable feature though, the large single wiper, could throw quite a quantity of water in each direction when first started up on a wet screen, causing nearby pedestrians to wear it. (Probably not a good feature.)

Copyright: Avant I.S. Ltd, 2020