So the last few listings for Alpinas have been….well, quite disappointing to say the least. Most recently was the “B12 5.0”, a car which was cleverly listed to avoid the discussion about its actual provenance. It worked, as the ’88 750iL sold for $23,600:
Another Almost Alpina Alumnus: 1988 BMW 750iL “Alpina B12 5.0”
Before that I looked at two E30s, both of which had some questions about their history and authenticity, though they both looked the part:
Tuner Tuesday E30 Showdown: 1986 Alpina C2 2.5 v. 1987 Hartge H26
Then there was the other C2 2.5, which I was able to confirm after a long time was another assembly of parts rather than an original build:
Mystery Solved?: 1987 Alpina C2 2.5
Not a great record, eh? But all of these auctions went to show that it was very important when checking out these cars to make sure that they had a well-documented history confirming their authenticity. So the other day when a B10 BiTurbo – one of the most sought Alpina models out there – was narrowed into my search criteria, I knew it was worth a look. And at first glance, it all seemed to be right. Did a scrutinizing hold up that belief, or is this another case of ‘can’t judge a book’?
I wish that I had better news for you. I’d love to say that I’d found some hidden gem no one else had discovered, and that it could be yours for a song. Today is not that day. Instead, what we unfortunately have is another case of mistaken identity. To add a bit of insult to injury, it would seem that it’s quite intentional.
Back in May of 2017, I looked at two E32 BMWs. Both were modified, non-original examples. One was a 5-speed 735i sporting some Racing Dynamics bits, and the other was a clean and low-mileage 750iL that had undergone a full cosmetic Alpina B12 5.0 makeover.
Outstanding E32 Face Off: 1988 BMW 735i and 750iL
Kudos to the then seller, it was accurately represented. It looked great but needed to be cleaned up a bit, but despite low mileage and all the original Alpina goodies, it sold for pretty budget price – just a bit over $5,000.
Well, it’s back. It’s cleaner, better photographed and there are also some clever changes and omissions in the current advertisement that have apparently sold bidders on a bill of goods that I’m pretty confident the car can’t write:
Back in February, I took a look at very hot item in the marketplace – a clean, European-spec BMW E30 modified by Alpina.
Or, at least that was what was claimed.
Further research pointed out some problems. I found it to be a car I looked at two years ago in 2015, then listed as a 1986 C2 2.5. The VIN was transposed incorrectly, but the stranger item was that the year was wrong. Stranger still was that a tremendous amount of the car didn’t seem to work. Yet it was a lot of Alpina for the money even as an automatic, as it was relatively clean and priced well below other similar E30 Alpina asks.
Well, here we are some ten months later and it’s popped up in a new listing with a new seller. We’ve seen that before, so no big surprise there. As I started to look through the listing, though, I was struck by just how lazy it was. Okay, there were new photos, but none of them were detailed. The VIN is filled in with “1”s. Then I got to the text, which is a near-carbon copy of the last listing. I say near for two reasons – one, the current listing cut and paste the prior listing….twice. So, halfway through the details, you start all over again!
But perhaps that was done to distract you from the one detail which was added to this listing. Cleverly stuck in after the copying of the prior listing, just before all the fees you’ll need to pay, was a second change and the line which finally answers the questions about this car:
Note this is an Alpina clone with correct Alpina numbered engine.
That’s a pretty frustrating statement to bury in the end of the listing. The ad listing has, for the last several years, maintained how rare this car is and they’re just now getting around to admitting it’s not a real example?…
It’s hard to imagine being the bottom of the totem pole at Alpina, but the 3.5/1 might just be that car. In part that’s because the E34 lineup was so robust, featuring the cool 3.0 Allrad and the Learjet-channeling BiTurbo. When BMW ceased the production of the M30, V8 powered 310 and 340 horsepower 4.0 and 4.6 models replaced the inline-6. In comparison to those headliners, the 254 horsepower B10 3.5/1 seemed like an article more suited for the corner of page 2. However, consider for a moment that the B10 3.5/1’s power numbers were nearly identical to the contemporary super-saloon S38-powered M5 and it helps to restore some clarity to the impressiveness of the products rolling out of Buchloe. Today one of the 572 3.5/1s produced is up for sale in Illinois:
It’s a strange world we live in when I first looked at the $39,500 asking price of this 1985 Alpina C2 2.5 and thought, “Well, that’s pretty reasonable”. But at what may be the height of the Zeitgeist of E30, when asks on 318is models are in the 20s, 320is are in the 30s and you’ve heard enough about the M3’s race winning streak to nauseate Jochen Neerpasch (no, no, I’m sure you know who he is without looking it up, “lifetime” M3 fan!), is it really all that outrageous to ask $40,000 for an excellent condition, ultra limited Alpina model? This particular one was a stranger even in Europe; the C2 2.5 was a Japan-only model with 74 reported produced. It was also the second least powerful on offer from Alpina, with only the C1 2.3/1 below. Although that meant it was more a sheep in wolf’s clothes than the typical other way around, the C2 2.5 still packed 185 horsepower and matched it with upgraded suspension, wheels, brakes, exhaust, and of course the typical Alpina décor. This particular example, looking splendid in Lapis Blue, comes to the market with only 46,000 miles:
By the late 1990s, it was becoming increasingly difficult for tuners to compete with the stock offerings. Tightening emissions and safety regulations made getting turned up models harder to sneak past inspection, while simultaneously manufacturers were producing hotter models. The 540i is a great example, and you don’t need to look much further than the conundrum of the E34 M5 versus the various 540i Sport and especially M-Sport models. While the aluminum V8 may not have had the horsepower of the M5 model but only just, it had more usable torque and was (theoretically, at least) cheaper to run. It was so good, in fact, that supposedly when it came to the E39 model BMW was unsure if a M5 would be necessary in our market. So, it would seem to be the natural and easy choice to modify, right? Well, not so fast – because signature tuner Alpina had a problem. Its tried and true method of increasing displacement wouldn’t work on the M62 because you couldn’t bore out the special Nic/Alusil coated blocks. Game over, right? No. If you’re Alpina, you call up BMW and get them to make you a bigger motor:
The other day I read an article on Petrolicious entitled “Which classic car gets on your nerves?” The photo was of an E30 M3, and it wasn’t far into the article that it became clear that this was a decidedly anti-E30 stance. In many ways, I agree with the author – having a conversation with an E30 enthusiast and trying to convince them that there are other cars (even within the marque) that are much better values or offer more performance per a dollar is akin to attempting to blame mass shootings on assault rifles in the middle of an NRA meeting. Now, to be fair, there are quite a few very reasonable E30 enthusiasts out there and just like it’s not fair to generalize about any group, they’re not all the same and most haven’t been recent bandwagon jumpers. But the rocketing to fame of the E30 and the ascending prices of the lineup have become somewhat laughable; take Paul’s mint, low mileage 318is for $30,000 the other day. Is it a lovely car? Sure, and if I’m honest I agree with Paul that it’s one of the neatest options in the E30 lineup to me – but is it worth the same as a brand new, replete with warranty 228i coupe in your choice of colors? That’s where the wheels start to fall off the bandwagon, because while I can rationalize a lot of automotive things that are pretty ridiculous I find that one hard to stomach. But, if the market has spoken and a 318is is “worth” $30,000, surely a super limited production Alpina C1 2.3/1 is more highly valued?
From an extremely rare set of custom Corrados this morning, our journey on this Tuner Tuesday ends with a lovely Alpina RLE. Compared to the Magnums, the Roadster Limited Edition is positively plentiful with 66 official examples produced. However, compare that number to the 555 V8 Roadsters the company later produced, and the exclusivity of the RLE starts to come into clearer focus. As Alpinas go, the transformation of the Z1 was not as radical as some. Light revisions to the suspension were met with an uncharacteristically small but notable increase in displacement, giving the RLE some more sport to match its looks. But looks were what it was all about, as even in 1991 a 7.1 second 0-60 run wasn’t much of a headline. Those looks were blockbuster, though – the 17″ wheels filling out the diminutive wedge design perfectly and matched well by the classic Alpina stripes. Special interior details also dressed up the plastic-heavy Z1, and the result was impressive even if the performance wasn’t. So special and limited were these roadsters, Alpina even took the time to individually number the crests on the centercaps of the wheels!
From earlier’s obscure E21 B6 2.8 we move on to the much more popular (then and especially now) E30 model. Alpina once again worked their magic in many ways over the production of the E30, steadily increasing output to try to stay one step ahead of the factory. Up until 1986, that was a bit easier, but the introduction of the M3 model that year put some serious pressure on Alpina and would result in the M30 based B6 2.8 and 3.5 models, but the earlier Alpina models were based upon the M20 323i powerplant. Punching that out to 2.5 and later 2.7 liters as BMW released its own updates, the ultimate result was 210 horsepower from the larger unit. These were expensive cars in their day and consequently few were sold, but performance was top-notch and it was a premium product from the unique manufacturer:
When it comes of tuned BMWs, there’s no shortage of examples. Indeed, there are far more tuners of the popular Munich brand than all the others combined. From ABC Exclusive to Zender, everyone had their hand at modifying some series car into something a bit more. Sometimes more was tasteful, and othertimes it was garish – but all the way along, no firm has been consistently more effective at producing a quality product than Alpina. From their roots as a semi-factory race effort in the 1970s right through the dealer-offered cars of today, Alpina’s results have always been top-notch redefinition of the basic car. And while they have subsequently built faster cars, for me the best examples of the ethos of Alpina and its relation to BMW has always been the B10 BiTurbo. BMW built the screaming S38 powered M5, but Alpina provided its clients a private jet for the road: