Weirdo cars exist all over the country. But in my Midwest home, salt, time, neglect, tend to destroy the more charismatic automotive efforts from decades past. Cruising around California’s Bay Area is like stepping into a time machine, full of cars that simply no longer exist where I’m from.

The other week up there, I stumbled upon kind of a rare bird: this Alfa Romeo 164.

  • Car: Alfa Romeo 164
  • Location: San Fransisco
  • Photog: me (Kevin Williams)
  • Camera: Canon EOS M

Now inaugurated into the Italian Car Ownership club myself, I pay far more attention to non-Ferrari or Lamborghini Italian cars on U.S. streets. They’re hit or miss; for a long time they had a strong reputation of having terrible quality control, nonexistent corrosion protection, and a general reputation for being completely crappy cars. Was it deserved? Eh, probably —- the 164 wasn’t a huge seller, but still, there are very few of them left in salt-belt states. It and the Milano (known as the 33 in Europe) are rare anywhere that sees more than an inch of snow annually.

This Pristine Italian Sedan Represents the Last Alfa Romeo Sold in America Until 2016
Image: Kevin Williams

Imagine my surprise, when I saw a well-kept 164, parked on a random side street in San Fransisco!

The 164 was part of a quartet of midsized sedans developed jointly between Saab, Fiat, Lancia, and Alfa Romeo. Underneath, they all use the same chassis, but interiors engines weren’t always the same between the same car. The Alfa Romeo also had the most exterior and interior differentiation, and in theory was the most high-dollar variant of this chassis, save for maybe the Ferrari V8-powered Lancia Thema. This was Alfa Romeo’s last effort for the United States, before pulling out in 1994, then returning in 2016.

This particular example had the five-speed manual; I’d imagine most of the automatic versions of these cars are probably dead now, regardless of care or rust.