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Alfa Romeo 155

AT THE RACES Published: 29th Apr 2014 - 0 Comments - Be the first, contribute now!

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Alfa’s 155 has EVO status and a racing pedigree to spare but for old Mondeo money

YOUR MOTORSPORT FEATURE HAS GOT ME THINKING OF A CHEAP ROAD & TRACK CAR

Have you ever considered an Alfa Romeo 155? Once the delectable 156 was introduced, the earlier model was quickly forgotten, but it feels like an old school Alfa and is one of the most charismatic cars of the 1990s. Cheap and cheerful – for all the right reasons – the 155 makes both a good, entertaining daily driver and a useful club racer in Alfa Romeo racing classes or employ as a track day mount.

GOT SOME PEDIGREE I UNDERSTAND…

Yes that’s right – the 155 was made with motorsport in mind and it’s an EVO for old Mondeo money. Saloon car racing took off big time in the 1990s and Alfa Romeo won both the BTCC driver and manufacturer championships with a 155 20 years ago. Spurred on, it redesigned the car with a revised body and chassis just to help it win more races both in the UK and across Europe.

WHY ARE THEY SO GOOD?

Well, for a start while being front wheel drive (the platform is a Fiat Tipo), the 155 is one of the last of the old school Alfas in spirit. And if that’s
not enough for you, then there’s the car’s sparkling engines and a very responsive chassis fed through the standard fit Momo racing steering wheel! The fun factor went up quite a few notches during 1995 when the car’s steering and suspension was completely facelifted turning a good car into a very fine one. Of course, it wouldn’t be an Alfa without its quirks and this includes a bitty, rattle-prone interior and a dash, with its cluster of confusing warning lights, that would do the Space Shuttle proud. And there’s the typical Italian driving position to contend with, naturally…

WHAT’S THE RANGE?

The 155 was launched in 1992 with 1.8, 2.0 (both Twin Spark) four pot engines plus a delightful 2.5 V6. Later
that year the Cloverleaf 4 surfaced with a turbo’d 2.0 engine, good for 190bhp, harnessed by all-wheel drive. Mid 1993 saw better crash protection while early in 1994 anti-lock brakes were standardised.

The biggest change occurred in 1995 when a major revamp saw a new 16-valve 2.0 engine. All models gained a much more aggressive look with flared wheelarches and 15 inch wheels. Exactly 12 months later, the 2.0 Super comes along with a higher tuned 150bhp 2.0 engine.

BEST BUYS?

Given the scarcity of all models these days, condition counts most of all, but if you can, go for the 1995 revamp range because the car was thoroughly overhauled, particularly the chassis which boasted a wider track and a brilliant higher-geared racing- like steering meaning the difference between the ranges is vast. The V6 is a gem but the 2.0 versions are arguably better as they have almost the same performance, better balanced handling – due to less nose weight – and far better economy than that admittedly lovely 2.5.

There was one cracking special edition called, appropriately the Silverstone. It was a 1.8TS decked in racing addenda such as sports suspension and even adjustable spoilers. Some 300 were made but there’s not that many left. In fact probably less than 100 155s in general around now.

WAS THERE AN EVO VERSION?

Sort of. It was called the Q4 and was essentially a Lancia Integrale saloon. Don’t mistake it for the Cloverleaf model as the former was a left-hand driver only and even more exclusive than the lovely Lancia!
THESE OLD ALFAS ARE AS CHEAP AS CHIPS… Cheaper – but don’t buy purely on price because some repairs will outstrip the car’s worth – a cambelt change (critical) runs to some £300- 500 depending upon engine and besides, most mainstream models won’t sell that much over £1000 anyway unless they are in showroom nick. If you’re offered a wreck for peanuts it might be worth buying it to rob for its parts alone.

WHAT GOES WRONG?

Plenty – it is an old Alfa after all! Let’s start with rust on neglected examples although in general it’s not too bad – floors, rear wheelarches and sills are the common rot spots. The trim can become ratty so look for tired trim, broken switchgear and an assortment of rattles and squeaks because it’s no BMW! Being Italian, don’t expect all the electrics to work as they should either. Chief culprits are sunroof relays, electric windows and wipers. No, the biggest worry are the mechanical bits and the engines especially. On early versions they were pure Alfa Romeo units dating back to the 1960s but after 1995 they became ‘Alfa-tuned’ Fiat engines and now relied on cambelts not the old fashioned timing chains. Neglect these at your peril as a snapped one will wreck the engine. Skipped oil changes is another downer and water pumps and radiators are worth replacing before they need it.

Transmissions are sturdy but a clutch is quite dear to replace. Front suspension wishbones and rear
trailing arm bushes are known to fail and because the latter also feature bearings cost £200 a go.

Routine maintenance is really no dearer than, say a Vectra or Mondeo and there are plenty of Alfa specialists about, although not all deal in 90’s models. Bear in mind that on the TS models each cylinder relies on two spark plugs – so effectively it costs the same to renew as a V8 – say £80 per service. As we hinted at earlier, some parts are becoming hard to get hold of but http://www.alfa155.org is a great help as are Alfa Workshop (01763 244441) and Simply Alfas (01384 424022).

THINK I’LL HAVE A LOOK AT ONE, THEN

We don’t blame you, the 155 is a seriously overlooked classic that is bound to have you going out for a drive just for the sake of it. And you can’t say that about many other 1990’s cars, can you?



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