Affordable E34 Face-Off: 1990 Alpina B10 3.5/1 v. 1991 M5

Update 6/15/18: After not selling last year with a $14,500 Buy It Now, the Alpina B10 3.5/1 part of this duo is back up for sale having finally been washed at the same asking price. Will it find a buyer this time around?

Just because it’s got an exotic name or badge doesn’t mean it’s automatically out of your reach. That’s the lesson for today’s twin E34s. If you’re willing to undertake a bit of a project you can certainly save money up front. Just like we saw with the S65 AMG Andrew wrote up, the initial cost you pay only going to be part of your total outlay but for the price of a small economy car, you can grab another league of luxury, performance and exclusivity that a Nissan Versa could never dream of matching. So which of these project E34s is the one you’d chose, or are both busts?

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1990 Alpina B10 3.5/1 on eBay

1988 BMW 635CSi

In 1987, BMW wowed the U.S. market with the introduction of the S38-powered M6. In the shadowline of that model, though, was another special E24 – the L6. Essentially, the L6 was a standard 635CSi with a very special all-leather interior. Produced in small numbers for only the 1987 model year, they proved to be a bit of a headache for BMW. Like the all-leather dash M6s, the leather upper cover had a tendency to deform and BMW had to replace quite a few under warranty. The L6 also had leather-wrapped center console, the rear air conditioned storage compartment like we saw in the M6, and even a leather headliner. The L6 generally matched European models referred to as “Highline” packages.

When the revised ’88 E24 launched, the L6 was officially dropped as a model. However, you could still opt to get all of the L6 bits installed in your 635CSi, and that’s what we have here:

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1988 BMW 635CSi on eBay

Feature Listing: 1983 BMW 635CSi

I count myself lucky that my formative BMW experience was in an E24. Around 1990, my father finally gave up riding motorcycles and decided it would be more fun to have company on his trip. He traded his RT1100 for a much older BMW, but this one had doors. The shape was outrageous to me; coming from a family that had almost exclusively owned Toyota products to that point, the low and long 633CSi he purchased had so much more presence and so much less plastic. The interior was lined with rich carpet and supple leather, and it just oozed class and style. It just felt special.

A few years later, he picked up a second E24. It was a 1985 635CSi, and the character of the two cars was remarkably different. Of course, I didn’t realize it at the time, but that was in part thanks to the mid-82 swap to E28 underpinnings. Dynamically, the ’85 was a much better driver, and while the revised M30 only had 1 more horsepower, it felt gutsier and revved more freely. It was Arctic Blue Metallic with Pearl Beige leather, and it was just a beautiful car. It only had one real downside – it was an automatic, and after a few years my dad decided he’d have a lot more fun in a M5.

While that would certainly be hard to argue, I wonder if he would have been so motivated if today’s E24 Feature had been his original purchase. There were several distinct advantages to the European model, not the least of which was of course the lack of the DOT bumpers. But one thing that always really bothered me about the U.S. E24 was the front corner lights. They stuck out a strange amount while the European units smoothly followed the fenders.…

Tuner Tuesday: 1990 Alpina B11 3.5

I’ve shown in several recent Alpina posts that you really need to watch what you’re buying. As it’s still possible to get all of the parts from Alpinas and even replica dash plaques can be forged, it’s the details that help to establish that you’re barking up the right tree.

The last E32 Alpina we looked at was the replica B12 5.0. While it looked the part and featured correct Alpina parts, it was not an original build – something that makes a difference in the pricing. Yet that didn’t slow down bids the second time around, as a slick picture gallery and glaring omission that it was a later build from parts netted a $23,600 sale. For a non-original E32, that was seriously strong bidding. For example, we had featured a real B12 5.0 with very low mileage in pristine condition for $29,900 in 2016.

Today we have another E32, but this time it’s the lower-spec B11 with the M30-derived 3.5 liter inline-6. Looks wise, there’s little to differentiate these two models. While the E30, E28 and E34 models usually steal the headlines, I absolutely love the brutish look of the even larger 7 adorned with the signature Alpina treatment. So is this B11 the real deal, and is it a better deal?

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1990 Alpina B11 3.5on eBay

1986 BMW M535i

Last week’s M5 was a bit of a roll of the dice. While it was claimed to be low mileage and all original, it had undergone some modification and wasn’t in the best condition. Little was disclosed about the running condition of the motor. Worse, there was an undisclosed gaff in the history – it appeared that the odometer had been replaced at some point, and it certainly looked like the car might have more than the mileage claimed when you looked around it.

Here, we have the opposite. While that M5 was all go and less show, the E28 M535i is the appearance package incarnate; all the M-Tech bits are really just for looks here. Still, it’s a very appealing model. This M535i appears to be well documented, fully serviced, and in great shape. I’m also glad to see that it’s a shade other than black. The Arktisblau Metallic paint shines well, mileage is lower, the original and unique TRX wheels are sporting newer Michelins, the M-Tech body kit is all in place, and the interior condition is very good. What’s not to like?

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1986 BMW M535i on eBay

Another Alpina Alumnus: 1989 Alpina B10 3.5/1

Update 2/18/18 – the Buy It Now option dropped from $28,500 to $18,000. What a deal!

Lucky for us, we get to continue the string of great-to-see Alpina E34s today with this B10 3.5/1. Unlike the BiTurbo from last week, the 3.5/1 made due with a naturally aspirated form of the M30. Still, head and software changes netted over 250 horsepower, and with the suspension and aerodynamic tweaks you’ve come to expect from Buchloe these were anything but pokey. Best of all, because they’re not the more extoic twin-turbo version pricing is a lot more manageable in general.

But several of the last Alpinas I’ve written up have also had major credential problems. So is this one to consider collectable, or is it another clever copy?

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1989 Alpina B10 3.5/1 on eBay

BiChance: 1991 Alpina B10 BiTurbo

Here we are a week after looking at the 1990 Alpina B10 BiTurbo, and by chance, we get to look at a second BiTurbo. Last week’s was seriously suspect; there were alarm bells throughout, as major chassis issues and incongruous details were capped by a seller clearly looking to deceive the market. At first glance, there’s some cause for concern here, too, as we’ll see in a moment. Is this the case of another crestfallen hero, or does this super sedan hold true to its heritage?

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1991 Alpina B10 BiTurbo on eBay

1988 BMW 535iS

The main problem with yesterday’s 745i is that, while on its own it’s a neat car, you can grab many other more desirable BMWs from the same period for less money. The perfect case in point is today’s 535iS. Effectively, this was the U.S. version of the M535i – a M5 without the M88/3, for all intents and purposes. BMW sold about 10,000 M535i models making it a quite successful recipe. Equivalently, the iS model was specific to the North American market and gave you the look of the U.S.-bound M5, with deeper front and rear spoilers, M-crafted sport suspension and sport seats. It, too, was quite popular – between 1987 and 1988, just over 6,000 examples sold in the United States alone, and of those, a little more than half were the preferred manual variant.

While M5 prices have gone somewhat crazy, the 535iS remains quite affordable to most enthusiasts. You get superlative handling, great looks, fantastic reliability and build quality at a fraction of the price of the Motorsport version. And when you add a few choice mods, boy do they look the part:

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1988 BMW 535iS on eBay

1990 BMW 735i

Update 4/20/2018 – the asking price of this neat 735i has dropped from $5,995 in December to just $3,995 today.

Following up on yesterday’s Audi S8, I’m reminded just how good the 1990s were for large executive sedans when considering this E32. Sure, the W126 S-Class led the way in the mid-80s, with BMW and Audi playing catch-up. But catch-up they did, with the unorthodox V8 quattro and sporty, luxurious E32 7-series. Both models were followed up with improved models, too – the E38 and D2 are as much fan-favorites (if not moreso) than their predecessors. And while I’m not as much of a die-hard fan of the 3-pointed star, universally the W140 is seen as a worthy successor to the legendary flagship at Mercedes-Benz, too. All around, it was hard to go wrong with these super-executives in the 90s.

While I did own a V8 quattro and pine over the innovative Ingolstadter, my formative driving years were spent with an E32 in the household. It was a great car; the Claus Luthe styling was refined and carried the size and weight of the new 7 much better than the E23 did. It was more potent, too, with the punchy 3.5 liter M30 rated at 208 horsepower, while you could go upscale to the new 5.0 V12 750i kicking out 295 horses. Both could be specified in long wheel base, too – something Audi did pull off with the V8 quattro, but not for the U.S. market.

Yet, like the Audis, the large BMWs don’t have quite the following or the market appeal of the Mercedes-Benz. Perhaps it’s because they’re more finicky, or that parts are harder to find. More likely, it was that they didn’t have quite the same ‘old money’ buyers originally and were more disposable than the inheritance-quality Benz models.…

1988 BMW 535is “M535i” Clone

As I mentioned in the M635CSi post recently, some of the confusion about these “M” branded models came from the nomenclature between the E24 and E28. While the M6 and M5 co-existed in the United States market, they did not in Europe. This left the M635CSi to be the equivalent of the M6. But the same was not true of the M535i. This model was sold as a more affordable alternative to the M5; most of the look of the Motorsports model but without the bigger bills associated with the more exotic double overhead cam 24 valve M88/3. Instead, you got a 3.4 liter M30 under the hood just like the rest of the .35 models. The recipe was a success, selling around 10,000 examples in several different markets – but never in the U.S..

Instead, the U.S. market received the 535iS model. The iS model was specific to the North American market and gave you the look of the U.S.-bound M5, with deeper front and rear spoilers, M-crafted sport suspension and sport seats. It, too, was quite popular – between 1987 and 1988, just over 6,000 examples sold in the United States alone, and of those, a little more than half were the preferred manual variant. One of the nice aspects of the 535iS was that if you enjoyed colors other than black you were able to order the lesser model in any shade you wanted, unlike the M5.

Today’s 535iS is a bit special, as it’s combined the two models into one in an exhaustive recreation of a European market M535i starting with a Zinnoberrot 535iS:

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1988 BMW M535i on eBay