1996 Alfa Romeo 155 2.0 – Project Profile

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By Chris Pollitt

The British Touring Car Championship is pretty good these days. It went through a bit of a lull, but now it’s back on form with some seriously close racing, a full grid of all manner of machines and some brilliant driving on display at every race meeting. Good though it is, however, it’s not got a patch on the BTCC antics of the early 1990s. We all remember the 1992 final, with Walker doing his best improvisation of “I’m going for first!” which is not, for one second, what Cleland was saying! We all remember the cars, the close racing, the driver scraps and of course, the vehicular antics.

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Think of BTCC in this time and there is one image that sticks out above all the others. Frustratingly, we can’t use it here, but we can link you to the clip from where the photo came. Back when Garbriele Tarquini clipped a Donington curb a bit too keenly, putting his Alfa Romeo 155 on two wheels as he did so. A lesser driver would have binned it, but not old Gabbers. He found the car’s balance and kept off its lid, and instead got it back on all four. It was an incredible moment in motorsport, and one that has cemented the Alfa Romeo 155 within the mind of many a petrolhead. Good job, then, that this week’s project of choice is a 155.

What is it?

Boxy but good, the car we have here is a 1996 Alfa Romeo 155 2.0 Twin Spark. Being a 1996 model, that makes it the more coveted ‘wide body’ version, which featured improved steering and a wider track – something Alfa decided to implement based on what it learned from racing. Unusual in that it’s finished in black, this car has covered a frankly (for an Alfa) staggering 200k over the course of its life. It’s only on its third owner though, and the second kept every receipt, every bill and every other bit of paperwork pertaining to the car over twenty-two years of ownership. It has made it to such impressive mileage by being meticulously looked after. But, as with any old machine, the years have caught up with it.

It might not be the most desirable model, as bores will tell you that you need a V6. But ignore them. The 2.0 twin-spark, twin-cam, four-cylinder engine fitted is an absolute gem of an engine. Mated to a slick five-speed manual transmission, this every bit the drivers’ car. One that you shouldn’t miss out on.

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Why is it a project?

The current owner has had the 155 for a little over a year. He bought it after the MOT expired and had plans to put it back on the road. Sadly, he’s unable to, and now the car is being offered for sale. It needs some welding, in particular on the rear arches. The interior is, after 200,000 miles, looking a little threadbare in places, and the car just needs a good mechanical going over. For the last MOT, which was carried out in May of 2019, the exhaust needed work, there was some welding carried out to the offside front and around the offside rear (arch). Looking through the rest of the MOT history, this seems to be the only welding thus far. The rest has been tyres, wipers, bushes and so on. Which you’d anticipate given the miles.

It needs bringing back. It’s made it this far, and as such, deserves the love and attention. These are rare cars now, and most definitely can be classed as modern classics. This one has lived a life, there’s no doubt, but it seems to have been cared for. It had a new cambelt in 2019, plus a head rebuild. It has three keys, the original book pack and much more. A rare find, this.

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Five things to look for:

1) Rust
We can’t stress enough just how much the 155 likes to rust. It is a magnet for oxidation and as such, you need to check it thoroughly. The rear is the worst, with inner arches, sills, floors and more all being keen to succumb to tinworm.

2) More Rust
This isn’t us trying to be amusing. This is serious, check it for rust again. If you don’t believe us, have a look on Google for the 155 in TV show, Flipping Bangers. That should give you some idea of just how badly the 155 can corrode.

3) Trim
Trim is very, very hard to find for the 155, so you need to make sure it’s all in good condition. The dash is pretty touch, but seats, door cards and carpets etc are not as hardy.

4) Engine
The 2.0 fitted is actually quite a common unit within the Alfa family, so if it needs any serious work, parts are readily available. However, it’s better to have an idea of its health going in. This one should be good though, given the extensive service history.

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5) Body
Being a later ‘wide body’ car, you need to make sure the panels are in good or at least, restorable condition as you are going to have a hard time finding replacements.

What should you do with it?

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The Alfa Romeo 155 is a rare machine these days, thanks in no small part to their propensity towards dissolving at the mere mention of moisture. Plus, and we say this as lovers of old Alfas, they weren’t built particularly well. Basically, this car with its near 200k on the clock, is something of an oddity. They didn’t normally survive so well. But does that mean it should be restored back to standard? Of course not. It’s tired, a bit battered, it needs welding. So, why not build it back up into a replica of Tarquini’s company car? Or build it into a full track car? Make it something fun, something exciting. Though we should caveat; driving on two wheels is not advised.

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