Feature Listing: 1981 Alpina B7 Turbo

Feature Listing: 1981 Alpina B7 Turbo

“If you’re looking at this ad, you know what it is. Yes, this is the real deal.”

It was a simple, straightforward solution – but its effect was profound. By adding a KKK K27 turbocharger to BMW’s M30 inline-6, Alpina made quite a splash and firmly cemented its name in the hallowed halls of the ‘World’s Best Tuners’. The result of that marriage coupled with adjustable boost, an intercooler and special injection was 300 horsepower and 340 lb.ft of torque – in 1978! Even the much lauded and celebrated Porsche 911 Turbo Carrera had less power from more displacement; the 3.3 turbo flat-6 produced 265 horsepower and 291 lb.ft of torque. If the Porsche 911 Turbo was a supercar killer, the B7 Turbo was a 4-door 911 assassin. The Alpina was the real deal, and ever since then they’ve been at the sharp end of the world’s fastest sedans.

Beyond just looks, the Buchloe firm of course added signature deep chin and pronounced trunk spoilers. Large (for the period) 16″ alloy wheels wore 225 section tires in the rear to help transfer that power, while specially specified Bilstein shocks were mated with stiffened and lowered Alpina-spec springs and sway bars. Inside, Sheel seats were outfit with Alpina’s beautiful striping, while extra gauge pods read out critical engine performance measures.

A total of 149 of these sedans were produced, each in a slightly different and unique specification with numbered dash plaques. This example, #209, was specified in Sapphire Blue Metallic with Alpina’s bespoke cloth:

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1981 Alpina B7 Turbo on Seattle Craigslist

1975 BMW 530i

1975 BMW 530i

3The E12 was the first sedan from BMW to wear the 5-series badge. Available in the US only as a six cylinder model, it was sold here in two guises: the 530i (1975-1978) and the 528i (1979-1981). The classic, Paul Bracq-styled design was, and remains, a winner. However, the E12 is mostly remembered for its numerous flaws. Like a lot of European imports from the time, US market cars were burdened by less powerful, emissions-restricted engines and ugly, 5mph crash resistant bumpers. The 528 incorporated thermal reactors as part of its emissions control system and these had a tendency to overheat the engine bay, causing cracking or warping of the cylinder heads. The air conditioning was rubbish. The handling could be twitchy. The gas mileage was pretty awful. The bodies were particularly susceptible to rust, which is why most of them ended up in junkyards long ago. Still, I have a lot of time for these cars mostly because they are so handsome. Since there are so few of them left it’s always a pleasant surprise to find a nice looking survivor like this one.

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1975 BMW 530i on eBay

Tuner Tuesday: 1982 Alpina B7 Turbo

Tuner Tuesday: 1982 Alpina B7 Turbo

It is with some eager anticipation I open my browser every week and search for the next interesting tuner car for today’s signature feature. Because of the explosion of the internet and the shrinking of the world coupled with trends in classic 1980s cars, the playing field has become littered with interesting period examples of cutting edge tuning technology. And for that it seems we have to thank Japan, since a majority of the classic AMG, Alpina and even Ruf cars are rolling back through Europe and into America from the land of the rising sun. Today’s star draft pick is one of the best players to emerge from the 1980s – the Alpina B7 Turbo. It was, for some time, the fastest sedan in the world, besting even BMW’s own Motorsport division entrants. With adjustable boost trimmed to 300 horsepower, only cars like Porsche’s 930 or some exotics could keep up. Today’s B7 – number 251 – has traveled around the world and back but is set to make the next leg of the journey:

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1982 Alpina B7 Turbo on eBay

1979 BMW 528i

1979 BMW 528i

In yesterday’s Alpina Roadster post, I mentioned cars that you just don’t see much of any more. Is there a better example than the BMW E12? I’m sure there is, but in many ways the E12 embodies exactly what I was speaking of. Early examples suffered from the notorious thermal reactor problems – something that would likely put them on a CIA watchlist for extremist activity today. But it wasn’t just engine problems that struck the E12. There was one that a friend of mine owned and then sold to my cousin. It was a fun car for sure with tremendous personality, but it also had tremendous rust – the downfall of many 1970s BMWs. From the floorboards to the (leaking) fuel tank, it seemed to rust from everywhere. Not many of these sedans survive today, but they really established the benchmark for BMW’s mid-range sedans that carried over through today – they were, at the time, the best driving sedans money could buy:

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1979 BMW 528i on eBay

Tuner Tuesday Mega Tuner Showdown: Dinan v. AMG v. Treser v. Alpina v. Ruf

Tuner Tuesday Mega Tuner Showdown: Dinan v. AMG v. Treser v. Alpina v. Ruf

I’m always a fan of the showdown posts; no surprise, since I think I’m the only one who does them here! While it’s nice to highlight one car at a time, I’m just a fan of the opportunity costs; considering what my money could go towards otherwise. Plus, though we see comparisons of new cars in magazines and online fora, it’s not often that we have comparos including nearly 40 year old cars. While I usually highlight this type of comparison in my 10K Friday posts, today is a bit different and I believe the first time I have a showdown on Tuner Tuesday. I’ve rounded up a quintet of neat cars that are all modified from stock by some of the most famous tuners of the 1980s; which is the winner?

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1983 Audi Quattro on eBay

Alpina Double Take: 1976 520i and 1983 B9 3.5

Alpina Double Take: 1976 520i and 1983 B9 3.5

We’ve had the pleasure of looking at some pretty cool European and Japanese market Alpinas lately, and another two popped up that were worth considering. One is a B9 3.5; we’ve seen a few of these from the same seller, and this one looks as exceptional as the seller’s previous offerings. Interestingly, where the seller previously had listed the cars on reserve, this time they give us an entry price. The second example is a bit more of a mystery; an Alpina liveried E12, it looks more like an assemblage of parts than an actual original Alpina car. Let’s start there:

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1976 BMW 520i on eBay

1981 BMW 528i – REVISIT

1981 BMW 528i – REVISIT

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This classy E12 that we featured last summer is still looking for a home. I would assume that the 300k miles have led interested parties elsewhere, which is a shame. It’s still just as clean inside and out with the great Zender bits. 10 months and $1k later, it’s a better deal on a clean survivor that needs a good home!

Click for details: 1981 BMW 528i on eBay

1981 BMW 528i

1981 BMW 528i

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The E12 5-series is kind of like the E21 3-series, being the first of its name but not quite as cool as the Bavaria/2002s before them, nor as desired as the E28/E30s that succeeded them. This is a pretty sweet example though that has been subtly updated over time so that after nearly 35 years and over 200k miles, it still looks and runs great. The original 2.8-liter inline-6 has been replaced with a stronger 3.2, the wheels are from an E28, and both the interior and exterior have been tastefully redone. It’s old and has a few issues that will keep it a project, but odometer gears and door handles are easy items to start with. There’s definite interest but bidding is very low, making this a nice opportunity to get in a rareish classic BMW for cheap.

Click for details: 1981 BMW 528i on eBay

1981 BMW 533i Dietel Alpina Conversion

1981 BMW 533i Dietel Alpina Conversion

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As even 3-series models of real, full-blooded Alpinas go for big money, they pull up the wide range of tributes as well. Today’s E12 533i is more than just a sticker job, as it brings with it one of those cool, “back in the day this guy was the MAN!” stories. Here, BMW importer Mike Dietel is the hero with a magical line on Alpina parts who built up this 533i with Euro and Alpina parts when it was fresh from the dealership. On top of the unique provenance, a respected enthusiast spent a good amount of time and energy restoring it, yielding a gorgeous and unique 80s tuner car. It may not be straight from the Alpina shop, but that won’t stop the seller from asking for very serious money.

Click for details: 1981 BMW 533i Alpina Conversion on eBay

1977 BMW 530i

1977 BMW 530i

Being an Audi fan, I’m aware of what a bad reputation can do to cars. In the 1970s, Audi gained a reputation for unreliability and poor electronics; perhaps justified, considering the many stories that people have about early Audi 100 ownership. However, it’s a haunting reputation that amazingly nearly 40 years on they’re still trying to shake. It looked as if by the early 2000s they had done so, but now a generation on, the cars from that generation have their own problems and have bred more discontent generally from enthusiasts on the outside looking in. The result is that it’s damn near impossible to find a nice condition Audi from the 1970s, and in just a few years we’ll see the same thing with 1990s Audis, too.

Where am I going with this, considering this is a listing for a BMW? Well, the early E12s had their own problems, but notably that was an issue in the U.S.. That’s because to meet U.S. market regulations, the E12 was made slower and more ugly. Large 5 m.p.h. bumpers were fitted, and compression on the M30 was dropped to meet lower fuel standards. Additionally, to burn off hydrocarbons to meet emissions regulations, the 530i was fitted with thermal reactor manifolds. They did as their name suggested, though the reaction unfortunately many times was with the internals of the engine – warping heads and frying valves. It was a debacle which spelled the death of the 530i, reborn as the 528i in 1979. Coupled with rust issues that this generation BMW had, it’s now quite hard to find an original U.S. spec 530i:

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1977 BMW 530i on eBay

1979 BMW 520 Dinan 3.9

1979 BMW 520 Dinan 3.9

An interesting conversation erupted in Andrew’s post about the 2003 BMW 540i M-Sport yesterday. Andrew suggested that the E39 was not only the best looking 5-series, but perhaps the best looking sedan ever produced. I think for many that opinion will depend on the generation that they grew up in; for example, I bet you could find some folks who would contend that the early fourth generation Lincoln Continental (early 60s) or even the Bugatti Royale was better looking. But taking a break from arguing the best looking ever, how about within the 5-series? There are a lot of E28 fans out there, our own author Nate being one since he owns a M5. I grew up with a ’88 M5 in the family, too – but for me the E28, while a definitive and landmark step for BMW, was not as “pretty” as the E12 which preceded it. That’s especially true of the early E12s, but in terms of motivation there aren’t many that can match the punch of the later M5 and 540i models. To solve that problem, one owner took the pretty look of a 1979 Euro-market 520i but ditched the M20 inline-6, replacing it with a Dinan built 3.9 M30 with accompanying upgrades. The result is certainly impressive:

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1979 BMW 520 on eBay

1980 BMW M535i

1980 BMW M535i

It would be easy to credit the BMW M5 as the first super sedan, and in many ways, it is. With a motorsport-derived twin cam 24V inline-6 under the hood good for over 280 horsepower in Europe, the E28 M535i and M5 were nothing to trifle with. However, well before the Motorsports division of BMW had their way with the E28, they built the prototype for what would become the definitive sports sedan in the E12 M535i. Granted, the E12 didn’t have the super M1 motor under the hood. However, like the later M5 would, the E12 had upgraded brakes, a re-tuned suspension featuring unique springs and Bilstein shocks, a deep front air dam and rear spoiler and BBS mesh wheels. Because this was basically still the 1970s, they also received some spectacular Motorsports stripes outside to help differentiate them as something special. Inside you got special Recaro seats with a unique corduroy fabric and an M1 steering wheel – not a bad touch. All of that was coupled with the uncatalyst M30B34 seen in several other BMWs, good for 218 horsepower. It was in just about every way the stepping stone to creating the M5. They were even produced in similar numbers to the M5, with only around 1,400 made – 450 of them being right drive like this 1980 example for sale today:

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1980 BMW M535i on eBay

1977 BMW 530i

1977 BMW 530i

If the E28 defined BMW as the defact mid-range sports sedan manufacturer, it was the E12 that established the trend. There’s a beautiful simplicity to the original Paul Bracq design; it is both stately and organic, subtle and understated but strong and elegant. The 5-series announced that you had arrived in a distinctly more sporty manner than the Audi 100 or Mercedes W123. Unfortunately, unlike the W123, it’s become exceedingly difficult to find good examples of the E12 – especially when you wind the clock back to the U.S. thermal-reactor 530i. Many suffered death by mechanical disregard or worse yet the ignominious death by tin worm. That’s why it’s especially awesome to see one pop up in fantastic shape, such as this 1977 Topaz Brown model that was spotted by our reader John via Daily Turismo.

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1977 BMW 530i on Craigslist

Double Take: 1978 BMW 530i

Double Take: 1978 BMW 530i

I’d like to think that Paul Bracq winces a bit every time he sees one of his beautiful creations saddled with what the government deemed necessary to survive a 5 m.p.h. impact. It’s rather ironic, seeing as how today most cars can’t even rub up against another without deforming the plastic bumper covers. But back in the 1980s, the solution to the problem wasn’t aerodynamic, well integrated covers – no, as if to say “that’s not a real regulation, is it?” to the government, manufacturers went overboard. They adopted massive impact bumpers for U.S. markets, many extending improbably far from the body lines of the car. The E12 was a perfect example of this; of course, take a BMW from the 1970s, take the bumpers off and drive it at something and you’ll quickly learn what will hit first – the hood. The chiseled looks Bracq refined were great though, almost good enough to overlook the saddling of U.S. safety equipment. In many ways, I prefer the simplicity of the E12 to the refined E28; to me, the early car is prettier, a 5 series with some of the best parts of the 6 series design incorporated. But there were many drawbacks besides the look of the bumpers for E12s in the U.S. market. Most notably, the pre-catalyst engine used thermal reactors and air pumps to help superheat the exhaust to burn off pollutants – remember, these cars were delivered when leaded gasoline was still around, meaning catalytic converters would quickly be clogged. However, the thermal reactors wreaked their own havoc with the M30, sometimes resulting in warping the head. Coupled with diminished performance and a propensity to rust, it’s therefore become rare to find good condition E12s still floating around today – but there are two for sale on Ebay right now:

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1978 BMW 530i on eBay