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1980 BMW Alpina Turbo E21 Prototype – REVISIT

This post is in our archives. Links in this post may have been updated to point to similar cars available to bid on eBay.

The 1980 BMW Alpina Turbo E21 “Prototype” featured last month created a lot of discussion amongst our readers. One of our readers, Mario, emailed us at the end of last month. He has worked in a large BMW dealership in Switzerland for the past 13 years. He spotted this E21 and was skeptical, stating that hew knew Alpina was not in the business of selling prototypes. After some research on his part, he discovered that this car is a US market E21 with original Alpina parts. Attached is the letter that Mario received from the Marketing and Sales department at Alpina. The letter was originally written in Germany, so I have included the original letter along with the English translation:

Bitte entschuldigen Sie die verspätete Antwort, jedoch stehen wir mitten in den Vorbereitungen für den Genfer Auto Salon. Dieser angebliche ALPINA Prototype hat bis auf einige Teile wie Lenkrad, Zusatzinstrumente, Schriftzüge nichts mit ALPINA zu tun. Bei der angegebenen Fg-Nr. handelt es sich um einen BMW 320 US, der nie bei uns im Hause war. ALPINA hat auch nie einen 4 Zylinder Turbo gebaut.

Mit freundlichen Grüssen aus Buchloe
Angelika Jörg-Kane
ALPINA Burkard Bovensiepen GmbH + Co. KG

English Translation: We apologize for the late reply, but we are busy preparing for the Geneva Motor Show. This alleged ALPINA Prototype has a few Alpina parts such as the steering wheel, dashboard instruments and lettering. According to the specified VIN, it is a US BMW 320, which has never been in our facility. ALPINA has never built a 4 cylinder turbo.

With friendly greetings from Buchloe,
Angelika Jörg-Kane
ALPINA Burkard Bovensiepen GmbH + Co. KG

1980 BMW Alpina Turbo E21 Prototype – REVISIT

The below post originally appeared on our site February 14, 2013:

Often times we come across the E30 M3s, talk about how collectable they are and how the premium prices are justified due to collectability and so on and so on. So if the E30 M3s are the future collectable from BMW, what does that make this car?  A no brainer, that’s what.

Alpina was founded in 1965, and started life producing typewriters and office equipment. In the mid 1960s, founder Burkard Bovensiepen started a BMW tuning business out of the original Alpina typewriter factory. By the early 70s, Alpina was making a name for itself in competition. The highlight was in 1970, when the team’s cars won the European Touring Car Championship, the German Hillclimb Championship, rally and track racing championships and the prestigious Spa 24 Hours. The rest is tuning history.

Over the years Alpina has softened a bit, focusing more on luxury sedans based on the BMW 7-series, but throughout the 80’s they were experimenting on all BMW platforms, and the results speak for themselves. This stunning E21 prototype is a prime example of the days when Alpina seemd to be turbocharging everything.

Year: 1980
Model: Alpina E21 Prototype
Engine: 2.0L turbocharged 4-cylinder
Transmission: 5-speed manual
Mileage: 40,000
Price: $29,900

1980 BMW Alpina Turbo E21 Prototype on

Screen Shot 2013-01-31 at 2.16.59 PM

Alpina Burkard Bovensiepen GmbH has been working closely with BMW since the early 1970’s producing some of their most memorable racecars. By the late 70s, Alpina became their own manufacturer and no longer sold their cars as BMW Alpinas, but rather just Alpina. They would order raw chassis and engines and build their own vehicles, many of which were then sold through the BMW dealership network. Forty years later, they are still producing some of the best-engineered versions of BMWs and sill reselling them through BMW dealerships worldwide.

This very unique prototype is very typical Alpina. In the late 70s, as BMW was determining what engine to put in their new 320/E21 chassis to give it more performance, they once again enlisted the engineers of Alpina to produce a Turbo variant.  They were provided 3 blank E21 bodies with 3 of the 4-cylinder 2.0-liter motors. Several of Alpina’s top engineers were enlisted for this project.

What is so unique is that the head engineer of this particular example was able to purchase the car once it was complete since BMW ended up pulling the plug on the project and going with the 2.3 liter 6-cylinder. The engineer was lucky enough to access BMW’s parts bins in order to install the “Hi-Lux” package on this example. This package included front and rear fog lights, European headlamps with washers, power windows, power mirrors, power locks, glove box flashlight, under hood and trunk lights, electric sunroof, and even the map light rear view mirror from the E23 program. Once the car was complete, being that the engineer was an American, he imported the car to his home in Colorado and federalized the car. Also (since the German engineers would have no part of it), he installed a correct Behr A/C system with an upgraded compressor. The final result was a very comfortable and fast sport coupe that could hold its own on the Autobahn. He used this car for fun weekend events and stored it during much of the winter. He sold the car a couple of years ago to a local BMW/Porsche enthusiast.

However, just before selling the car, the original owner went through the whole car and did a nice restoration. This included taking the car completely down to a bare body. The suspension was redone with new Bilsteins, front and rear bushings, rear suspension arms, and new brakes (discs and rotors) all the way around. Also a top end rebuild was performed on the engine.

After purchasing the car in 2011, the recent owner put the finishing touches on the car. He spent over $6,000 restoring the interior of the car. The factory sport seats were recovered in vinyl. A new headliner and carpet kit was also installed. Also, he completely restored the original dash including the rare Alpina gauge cluster. Finally, he redid the door panels and center console. The only flaw is the small plastic trim near the gauge cluster has a few cracks in it. It isn’t that noticeable, but unfortunately, the part is NLA. We are still on the hunt for a good used one. Recently, a major service was performed on the car including a valve adjustment, alignment, and oil service. This Alpina is ready to be enjoyed.

The build on this car was typically BMW contract prototype budget. No expense was spared and nearly every component on this car was improved upon.

Modifications include the following:

  • Recaro sport seats
  • Electric Sunroof
  • Alpina body stripes
  • 3:64 Limited slip differential
  • Leather 3-spoke steering wheel
  • Rajay oil fed turbo
  • 2.3L Bottom End Engine that’s been Stroked
  • BMW 323 Suspension
  • All Wheel Disc Brakes
  • Bilstein Shocks
  • Minor Porting
  • Minor Head Work
  • Battery relocated to the trunk

I love these “affordable collectibles.” These cars are not only fun to drive and easy to live with even on a daily-driver basis, but being so rare, they have a huge upside in collectible value in the long run. Included with this vehicle are much of the original build information as well as the factory tool kit.

If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact Paul at 714-335-4911 or


This vehicle is sold “as-is” with no warranty, written or implied. In some cases, the vehicle does have the remaining factory warranty still in place and will be described above if that is the case. All taxes and fees are the responsibility of the buyer and are not included in the listed price. All vehicle sales will require a $55 document fee. The vehicle listed is described to the best of our ability. We are not responsible for errors in our description of options or any other details. The above-mentioned vehicle is used and can be expected to show some wear and tear. It is not a brand new vehicle. We do our best to accurately describe the vehicle. We do welcome all local pre-purchase inspections on vehicles in order to verify condition.

A car like this is close to impossible to put a pricetag on due to the shear rarity of it. Regardless of what E21 values are, and Alpina values are, a well documented, one of two prototype should command a premium, as it can only appreciate as the years pass. All factors considered, this car is priced well for the BMW enthusiast market and if you ask me, is a far better collector choice than an E30 M3. That’s not to say that I’d love to have both sitting side by side in my garage.



  1. Paul
    Paul February 14, 2013

    Hi Brian,

    Thank you for sharing the article. My good friend and recent owner of this car just passed away. He would love to see your article. Thank you again.



  2. Ed
    Ed February 14, 2013

    I’m playing the lotto tonight! I would love this car, everything about it seems just about perfect.

  3. Ctp
    Ctp February 14, 2013

    I think it’s a little bit rude – considering the price and alleged amount of work/number of restorations the car has been through – to be selling it as-is, no warranty. If very thing has been “replaced” and “improved upon” you really couldn’t give a peace of mind 30 or 90 day warranty?

  4. Wes
    Wes February 14, 2013

    It is a one-off 33 year old car. Anyone with a lick of common sense knows that no warranty is expressed or implied. It isn’t “rude” in the least.

  5. Paul
    Paul February 14, 2013

    Not even after market warranty companies will warranty a car this old. This is why I tell all my friends who are buying cars to get a good local pre-purchase inspection. They are invaluable.

  6. brian
    brian February 14, 2013

    @Paul thank you for the kind words, and our condolences. It’s evident that your friend cared for this car for many years, and it is an amazing tribute to a true German car enthusiast.

  7. Alpina
    Alpina February 14, 2013

    I am disappointed GCFS has posted this and not done any research and believed this story. On multiple msg boards this car has been discussed and univerally been thought by those who know these cars to be a fraud. But that could be just a bunch of hacks trolling you say. Alpina Germany has confirmed not once, but twice that the car was not theirs, never produced there, not ever a project. Ed, everything about this car perfect? Everything about the car is wrong! All the plaques, badges, build sheets, paperwork, are made up. This is for sure as we know what the real ones DO look like. Spend you money here, or put a down payment on the Brooklyn bridge, each are a good waste of your hard earned.

  8. Paul Kramer
    Paul Kramer February 14, 2013

    The one thing the internet banter completely misses that I know the original engineer who worked for Alpina in the late 70’s to Early 80’s. his name is Kent Goldy and he is now the director of Engine development foe Cosworths F1 program. Obviously, this is not some small time garage engineer. I will post some of his emails discussing this prototype project. People keep forgetting that this was not a normal customer car. It never got an Alpina number besides the Alpina 6 digit internal codes which is now part of the VIN for Gray market importation to US. This was simply an engine exercise/prototype for turbocharging the E21 4 cylinder variant. It was never intended to be sold as an Alpina car. If Kent wasn’t the engineer on the project, this car would never be on the streets. Also, if you call up Alpina and ask for the verification, they won’t have record since they only kept track of customer cars, not development projects.

  9. Paul
    Paul February 14, 2013

    Also, Carl Nelson at La Jolla Independent knows the car and owner quite well and can vouch for the authenticity. Finally, here are some comments from Kent himself:

    I have owned this car since it was built. I was employed as a Turbo System Development engineer by Alpina from 79 -81 in Buchloe Germany. This project was done at the same time as the M20 development. The project was to test which powerplant was more cost effective. Obviously turbo charging is a much more costly manufacturing process. And the baby six was the direction the company went, unfortunately with about 50 hp less power, than the Turbo M 10.

    Mfg plate shown in photo is not the Vin tag, run the Vin through the ETK and you will see that this is a 2 door M10 Salon non catalyzed (Non USA).
    The Mfg plate on my vehicle in fact would have been metric units not English lbs. Anything with pounds would have been done by the importer of a Gray Market vehicle, and it would have been brought in under the small volume manufacture license allowing Gray Market vehicles of the mid 1980’s. They were usually an after thought tag placed in the Drivers door jam on the B pillar as is with my 83 745i.

    The build codes are as follow:
    S920A Alpina Without Title
    S9XAA Alpina Package
    S918A Alpina B3 Package (without drive-line)
    S500A Headlight Wipe / Wash/ Intensive Cleaning

  10. Alpina
    Alpina February 14, 2013

    The ‘vouch’ for authenticity needs to come from Alpina. So far, Alpina have sent 2 ‘vouches’ that the car is not theirs. Until you can obtain proof from them, smart buyers are going to go for an authentic documented car like the E21 B6 that has just sold on ebay for less than you are asking for a no doc car and a long story and a lot of fake badges stuck on.

    What is build code S918A Alpina B3 package? B3 cars were all E30, the model after the E21. E30 production was produced for model year 84+. Just something else that needs explaining I guess.

  11. Kai
    Kai February 16, 2013

    Everything of this car seems to be a nice “story”. Not more. This is definitely not a “secret project” but a pimped E21. The most obvious is the VIN plate. A decent political education should stop any dreams about this car: The tag should say W.-Germany due to the two separate German states these days. The Alpina-plate is poorly copied, too. So stay away from this car or lower it to 9k US$. Probably the former owner was a Alpina engineer, who knows, who can proof it: And even though, an engineer is able to build his own little “secret project” it is not a real Alpina project and not worth the price at all.

  12. Ed
    Ed February 16, 2013

    One curious thing I’m wondering about is the radio placement. I’ve only seen the vertical placement on US spec cars, I’ve never seen it on Euro-spec E21s. I could be wrong but it just makes me wonder about the true origin of this car.

    Also, the wheels appear to be stock E21 14″ turbines and not actual Alpinas.

  13. Paul
    Paul February 16, 2013

    This car was a “body in white”. Which means that it was simply a blank chassis delivered to Alpina with no VIN number or any other identification. Alpina simply needed a few E21 chassis to work on the turbo engine idea. They had no intention of building a complete car let alone have it end up on the street. When the engineer, Kent, finished the project and the idea was scrapped, he was allowed to buy the chassis with engine. At that time, Alpina had a 6 digit internal project code on the car. That’s it. Notice the VIN ends in 320. Not a coincidence. The car didn’t have a legal VIN number yet. So, when Kent bought the car, he still worked for Alpina and was able to order parts from BMW to finish the car. He also raided the Alpina parts bin for other items he needed. That is why it is a bit of a hodge podge of parts. When they gray marketed the car to the US, it got assigned a 17-digit VIN from the importing dealership in Colorado. Noticed they retained the Alpina project number and used it as the last part of the new VIN. I’m still working with Kent to get more info. You have to remember, what motivation would Kent have to fabricate such a story? He sold the car for next to nothing 2 years ago and the person he sold the car to passed away. I’m selling the car on consignment so it’s not like I have my money tied up in the car. Whatever the car sells for, it is what it is. No investment on my behalf. However, I know that this car is very cool and do hope it gets the respect it deserves. Anyone who is skeptical should come meet me and see the car firsthand.


  14. Alpina
    Alpina February 16, 2013

    So the car sold by the engineer for nothing, who would could prove ‘authenticity’ and that it might be valuable and now you’re trying to get 30K? Why? No more proof has arrived. What are you doing? The story gets worse and worse. Raided the Alpina parts bin? Why were there fake copies in the genuine Alpina parts bin? If it sold for peanuts 2 years ago, get rid of it for the same and stop carrying on with this BS-for-top-dollar myth. “Affordable classics” you’ve got to be joking.

  15. Kai
    Kai February 16, 2013

    Ed: You are completely right about the wheels. The vertical radio is needed in case you have the AC installed and the space is needed for it instead of the (horizontal) radio. ACs in Europe have been ordered not as often (close to zero) as in the U.S. Again: The horizontal radio installation is because of the room available when the car has no AC.

  16. Kai
    Kai February 16, 2013

    Paul: The story and your statement do – unfortunately – proof nothing. I do not imply that you lie. There are just a couple of details which corrupt the story. You should be open for these arguments. The car seems to be nice though. You have to agree: Only the story generates the high price. Here: This creative but fabricated story does not deteriorate the car (at all) but definitely its price. That’s all the most commentators want to let you (and especially interested buyers) know. Take care – be aware.

  17. Paul
    Paul February 17, 2013

    Also, don’t forget that this car has been restored. The body was stripped down and repainted. New rubber. Over $3k on a brand new A/C system. Also, over $7k was spent on a completely new leather inteiror including carpet, door panels, headliner, dash, etc. All the brightwork was restored. There is well over $25k invested in just the restoration.

    PS it sold for $13k 2 years ago and it was unrestored and needed quite a bit of work.

  18. Alpina
    Alpina February 17, 2013

    Much better angle Paul, sell it as a restored turbo E21. Take all the fake Alpina gear off of it. Post photos documenting the receipts for all the work you have just quoted as being done. Forget this Alpina prototype story.

  19. Fussel
    Fussel February 23, 2013


    please keep in mind that Alpina itself denied that this car is an alpina or ever was at the premise. No Turbo-E21-Engine was ever build or even considered.
    All about the Story is Fake (!) – Alpina never sells prototypes, Alpina does not produce multiple prototypes, no BMW-VIN will be put on the car after it left the factory, the VIN belongs to a car which was delivered to the US, not germany – The SA902A is an internal code from BMW for Cars that will be build by BMW and then get an Alpina-VIN etc. etc.

  20. DanBossi
    DanBossi March 14, 2013

    Well since I am not an expert and just a car lover I would definitely love to add this car to my garage, fake or not is a well executed BMW that could drive 1000 miles a year looking really cool for the next 30. Just my opinion.

  21. Chuck
    Chuck March 14, 2013

    So what is it worth now that we know it’s a fake? Wish Brian would have commented. Cool looking car, though.

  22. brian
    brian March 14, 2013

    Chuck, this is a tough one knowing what we know now….but I’ll give my opinio anyway.
    Honestly I’d venture this to be a $16K car considering that it’s just an upgraded 1980 320i, and I’m basing that on 2 components. First based on the condition, I’d give it the top tier value of a driver condition 320i ($12,000-$12,500), because regardless of the authenticity, it’s still a damn clean car.
    Secondly, on top of that I would add about $3500-$4000 for the rare speed parts, because vintage speed parts are damn expensive, and assuming all of the Alpina parts are legit Alpina, they would command a premium.

  23. David
    David March 14, 2013

    There is so much wrong with this listing, the highlights are (1) claiming it is a imported/federalized car when in fact it was a US car and (2) claiming that it is an Alpina, when it is anything but. Can you say “fraud” sports fans?

  24. Sliver
    Sliver March 15, 2013

    Paul at Auto Kennel is a good guy and a true enthusiast. Not the type that would create a story about a car.

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