Scrapyard Gem: 1999 Alfa Romeo 166, Screwball Rally Edition

SHERBURN-IN-ELMET, England — Alfa Romeo took a break from selling new cars in the United States after 1995, when the final Spider Veloces and 164s were sold here. That beat Fiat and Lancia (both of which departed after 1982), but still deprived us of the Alfa 164’s handsome successor: the 166. The easiest way to find discarded 166s is to cross the Atlantic, so that’s what I did recently.

I’ve been spending a lot of time in the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg in recent years, being the descendant of immigrants from that tiny but proud nation, and there are still quite a few 166s prowling the streets of Luxembourg City. Despite their reputation for unreliability and horrifically rapid depreciation, the 166 looks so good that I remain tempted to ship one home. The facelifted model in the photo above had its debut as a 2003 model and thus won’t be legal in the United States until 2028, but the first-year ’99s shouldn’t raise any U.S. Customs eyebrows when you pick one up at your local port.

I was hoping to shoot plenty of interesting Italian iron during my trip to the scrapyards of Yorkshire in January, so I headed over to Sherburn Motor Spares, located on the very land in Sherburn-in-Elmet where the famous Fairey Swordfish torpedo bombers of Bismarck-crippling fame were built. This yard specialises in Italian and French cars; it’s what we’d call a dismantler in the United States, so customers aren’t allowed to pull their own parts unless they get permission beforehand.

There’s a nice little breakfast joint located just out front, which was welcome on a below-freezing Yorkshire morning, and the employees are very friendly (though a bit difficult to understand if you come from anywhere else in the English-speaking world). Inside, you’ll find plenty of Alfa Romeos, Fiats, Peugeots, Citroëns, Renaults and even a few Toyota MR2s; I spotted an extremely rare Alfa Romeo Brera S, which was one of a mere 500 built.

Cars rust quickly and inspections are rigorous in England, so I didn’t see many machines built prior to our current century. Well back in one of the rows, however, was this first-year 166 done up in some kind of racing livery.

The cars were packed and stacked so closely that I wasn’t able to get great photos of this car, but Sherburn Motor Spares has included some pre-stacking photos in their eBay store. Its MOT history shows that it last passed inspection in 2015 with 150,191 miles on the clock, and that it failed several times before then due to electrical problems and excessive emissions.

This car participated in the Screwball Rally, presumably while it was still registered. The Screwball appears to be very similar in spirit to its American counterparts such as the Lemons Rally, the Rocky Mountain Rambler 500 and the Gambler 500. I may have to go over there, buy a sub-£1000 MG TF and do this rally.

I can’t find much evidence of this team’s participation in the rally, other than a single Flickr photo, but I’m sure the experience of driving a 15-or-so-year-old Alfa luxury saloon through France and Italy was both comfortable and character-building.

The team appears to have been sponsored by a repair shop in Leeds that works on Alfa Romeos, Fiats, Abarths and… Jeeps?

This car had the 3.0-liter quad-cam V6 under its bonnet, rated at 223 horsepower and 203 pound-feet. It has the automatic transmission, so top speed was 147 mph instead of the 5-speed manual’s 151 mph.

Drive it from St. Petersburg to Berlin on a spy mission. As one does.


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