Reader Submissions: This Alfa Romeo 155 With A "Busso" 3.0L V6 Engine Swap Is Inspired By '90s Touring Cars

This Alfa Romeo 155 With A “Busso” 3.0L V6 Engine Swap Is Inspired By ’90s Touring Cars

By Petrolicious Productions
January 23, 2019

Story by Levan Inadze
Photography by Zviad Rostiashvili

My name is Levan Inadze, I live in Tbilisi, Georgia, and I’d like to share my 1995 Alfa Romeo 155 with you. I’d grown up watching variants of these cars compete (and often win, sometimes for an entire season) in the touring car series that were running around Europe in the 1990s. The sound that those V6s made, coupled with the image of the extremely angular bodywork of the cars from the DTM and later ITR years, has never left me.

I grew up with a father who loved cars and motorsport and set me on the same path, and when I became old enough to drive it wasn’t long before I began looking for my first Alfa Romeo. In due time I ended up owning just about every Alfa Romeo production engine they made—twin-spark, JTS, etc.—but never the famous Busso V6. The motors in the FIA Class 1 touring cars were obviously not available for the street, but I wanted to experience the equally-revered Busso-designed street units. Every time a good car with a V6 came up for sale I’d miss it for one reason or another, and I got achingly close to a beautiful GTV 3.0 but a move to Brussels for embassy work meant I had to let that one slip away too.

I spent four years in Brussels with a motorcycle as my only form of transportation besides public, but in the back of my mind a red car with Busso power had taken up residence. At the end of those four years I returned to Tbilisi, and so immediately began looking for a V6 Alfa. It turns out an acquaintance of mine had a 155 in very nice shape, so I contacted him and began trying to pry the car away. He didn’t want to see it at the time, but we stayed in touch anyway and became friends, bonding over a mutual appreciation for these rather squared-off Italian sedans.

Eventually he was convinced that I could be a suitable person to take care of his beloved 155, so we worked out a deal and teamed up to turn the car into what it is today. I finally had my Busso. This particular example was imported from Japan with its original 2.5L V6, and while that was a perfectly fine motor, I feel it’s no match for the 24-valve 3.0L that it has now. That was donated by the larger Alfa Romeo 164 (a contemporary to the 155), and it isn’t the only piece that’s been swapped into the 155.

It’s a clean example of a 155—original paint, only 124k kilometers—but I wasn’t going for a stock car. Though the touring cars that made the 155 famous to enthusiasts almost all had 2.5L motors, I wasn’t trying to make a replica in sense either, considering just how far the touring cars were from their road-going versions by the mid 1990s. Instead I just wanted to have a car that featured the Busso I’d always wanted (a completely torn down and rebuilt one no less!), and with a sportier disposition infused throughout the rest of it. In that regard I’ve added sports suspension, a custom straight-through exhaust, and a five-speed gearbox from a Fiat Coupe Turbo. Next on the list is to swap that out for a six-speed sourced from a 156 or a GTV, but that’s a little ways and a lot of planning down the road.

For now I just enjoy what I have, and I could hardly be happier. I love it all, but my favorite element is the V6, of course. I cannot explain how smooth it pulls through the rev range and how connected you feel because of it. If you’ve driven a healthy one you know what I’m talking about and if you haven’t then you must try it if there’s an opportunity to.

My car has a character of its own. It’s typical to say it, but it feels alive beyond what I’m telling it to do. It always wants to go a bit faster and stay in gear a bit longer, but a daily commute is not the place to enjoy it. It just does not like sitting at lights and being stuck between gears in traffic. When you find the space to appreciate it though, the sound is astonishingly addictive and it compels you to heel-toe and downshift instead of using neutral and the brake pedal—it’s that kind of car that’s fast enough to get yourself in trouble but not enough such that you can’t use gears beyond second. Georgia has astonishing landscapes outside of the cities. My favorite route brings me to Kazbegi, a village in the high mountains of the country. I always try to avoid motorways, always look for back roads instead, and am typically rewarded for taking the extra time to get wherever it is I’m headed, if there’s a destination at all. Nothing can beat a feeling of an open throttle after a well executed corner, but also I love to take my three-year-old daughter for a ride. Her favorite place apparently is in the tunnels when the car is really screaming—she’s going to turn out OK I think.

Though it’s fun to drive fast, I always make sure to treat it well, warming it up in the morning slowly, not rushing anything, making sure that the oil is properly heated before I step on it for the first time during the drive and let the needles climb. I admit that I also like the looks and thumbs up I get every time I go out on it—it’s not to everyone’s taste, but there are plenty who seem to connect with it, whether they know what it is or not. It is a special car to me for the simple reason that it makes me feel special. I have a bond with this Alfa that I hope and believe will last forever.

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Jorge Cristóvão
Jorge Cristóvão(@jmc_)
1 year ago

Amzing build. Looks epic in every way!

Eric van der Laan
Eric van der Laan(@eric_van_der_laan)
2 years ago

Nice car, I had a 1.7 ts back in the 90’ties. I lived in Germany back then and visitied several DTM events to experience the thrills of the screaming v-6 engines. Fantastic engine, the busso v6 but the DTM engines were based on the prv v6 that was also used by Lancia and therefore allowed to be used for the Alfa Romeo v6 ti in DTM.

2 years ago

Wow, I’m jealous ! I have a similar dream and would love to hear more in detail how you managed to convert it. What to think about and what’s the best way to do it. I’m thinking of getting a GTV (916) engin and transmission in to my 155 v6. Any advice or useful tips, links etc would be much appreciated !

Tharanga Wijayaratna
Tharanga Wijayaratna(@kuseetha10014266)
2 years ago

I own a 164 with 24V busso v6. That engine drinks a lot and is expensive to maintain. A pain to work on while engine is inside. A full rebuild will cost you dearly. But still what a special piece of engineering it is. The Nissan VQ series engine is much smoother in comparison but busso V6 sound is unbelievable. It makes you feel special. Gives you the chills. Glad to see you’re taking care of it Levan. Mechanical sympathy indeed is a must.

Levan Inadze
Levan Inadze(@levan)
2 years ago

Thanks. Yes there are engines out there that are pretty much perfect but Busso has the mind and charm of its own. I love 164 hopefully I will own one one day. cheers.

Francisco Yantorno
Francisco Yantorno(@fyantorno)
2 years ago

Nice to see some of these here in Petrolicious, to many E36s around!

Nicolas Moss
Nicolas Moss(@itsnicolas)
2 years ago

Built, not bought. The best way to drive tastefully!

Levan Inadze
Levan Inadze(@levan)
2 years ago
Reply to  Nicolas Moss

True 🙂

Chad C.
Chad C.(@chad-c)
2 years ago

Excellent time capsule there. Clarkson described the 75 as being “designed with an an Etch a Sketch”, and I don’t disagree or see it as prejorative. I bought the first one I ever saw in person after falling in love with them online. The Busso V6 is the most fun motor I’ve ever had.

We didn’t get the 155 or 156 in the States, but I do long for the Q4 variant…

Levan Inadze
Levan Inadze(@levan)
2 years ago
Reply to  Chad C.

Thank you. 75 is amazing and whats most important it is RWD with transaxle. Q4 basicly has the same driveterrain and engine as Lancia Delta Integrale so it must be pretty epic. Busso V6 is in my opinion one of the best engines to ever go in mass production.