Coolest Cars I Saw Last Week is back, and this week’s trio is particularly cool, with two oddball Italians and the most stylish Jeep Wrangler of all time.
First is a 1991 Alfa Romeo 164 Sport. Alfa’s last mainstream offering in the U.S. until recently, the 164 was built on the front-wheel drive Tipo Quattro — or "Type Four" — platform developed by Fiat in conjunction with Saab.
Altogether, the Type Four platform underpinned the Alfa Romeo 164 and the Saab 9000, both of which were sold in the U.S., along with the Fiat Croma and the Lancia Thema, neither of which were offered in the U.S. While the Saab, the Fiat and the Lancia shared much of their bodywork, the Alfa shared only its chassis with its platform-mates. The 164 was offered in Europe for the 1988 through 1998 model years, while sales in the U.S. took place from 1991 to 1995. Two "generations" of 164 were offered in the states over this time: 1991 to 1993 models used a 183- to 200-horsepower single overhead cam V6, while updated 1994 and 1995 models used a dual overhead cam version of that engine, making between 210 and 230 hp.
Three trim levels of the early U.S. 164s were offered: base, L and S. With the 1994 facelift, the base model was dropped, the L was changed to the LS and the S was changed to "Q" or Quadrifoglio. S and Q models were only available with a 5-speed manual transmission, and came with Recaro sport seats, an electronic sport suspension, added aero bits and an additional 17 to 20 hp.
Altogether, fewer than 7,000 examples of the 164 were sold in the U.S. over the vehicle’s 5-year run, with examples from 1991 and 1992 model years being the most common.
This next one is pretty weird. It’s a Bremach GR 35 4×4, circa 1985. I’d noticed this thing out of the corner of my eye several times on my way into the desert. It’s parked in the storage lot of a service station in Bicknell, Utah, about 15 miles from Capitol Reef National Park. I finally stopped to take a closer look this past weekend, and my suspicions from afar were confirmed: this thing is weird.
It’s a 4-door, 4-wheel drive, diesel chassis cab, but it isn’t a Unimog or a Pinzgauer or anything else that carries name-recognition — at least not for me. This particular example also has a racing seat, a snorkel and auxiliary lights. I first looked up the manufacturer, Bremach, and it turns out it’s an Italian company specializing in the manufacturing of tactical trucks for use as military vehicles and fire trucks. It looks like the company ceased European operations this past year, but still maintains U.S. operations in California, although the U.S. website is rather underwhelming. Based on the website on the door, the vehicle was owned by a couple from France who had attached a camper shell to the back and was using it to tour the U.S., grew tired of it, and swapped it for a Ford F-250, presumably at this very service station, where the truck has sat, orphaned and camperless, ever since.
Finally, we have a 1993 Jeep Wrangler with the "Renegade Decor Group" option package. There have been three Jeep "Renegades" over the years. From 1970-1983, the Renegade off-road performance package was offered as an option on the Jeep CJ. Next is the Renegade treatment on the Wrangler you see here. This was technically an appearance package offered from 1991 to 1994. It was installed by Detroit-based ASC and consisted of unique body flares, unique wheels and a variety of other luxury touches.
I spoke to the owner of this one and she said it had lived its life in Las Vegas until a few years ago when she bought it and brought it to the small town of Escalante in Southern Utah. Needless to say, it was pretty clean — unicorn status, if you will. It’s exactly the kind of thing I keep my eyes peeled for when rolling through these small western towns. Of course, the third iteration of the Renegade was released in 2015 and is a Fiat-designed, Italian-made subcompact SUV — making for quite the diverse group.
Chris O’Neill grew up in the Rust Belt and now lives in Salt Lake City, Utah. He worked in the auto industry for awhile, helping Germans design cars for Americans. Follow him on Instagram: @MountainWestCarSpotter.