I still remember hearing the news that Alpina was going to be tuning a Z8 around 2002. “Awesome”, I thought, “this thing is going to eat Porsches for breakfast!” Imagine my shock when I found out it was going to be an automatic; I was confused and felt lost. Then, I found out they yanked the 4.9 S62 M5 powerplant out in exchange for something less powerful. It was as if Alpina had broken into my mind and destroyed my dreams – I didn’t get it. Then I saw one, and I thought “Wow, they actually made it look a little bit better”. Yes, externally it was only wheels, but somehow those wheels and Alpina badges were still magical and understated but hinted there was more to this car than just less horsepower and more money. Fast forward a few years and the Alpina Roadster V8s are commanding more money than the original Z8 they were based upon. What had I missed?
Well, I missed that Alpina hadn’t just slapped some wheels onto a Z8; Alpina had completely reworked the E52 to be their own car. Yes, the tuned M62B48 V8 borrowed from the B10 had a few less horsepower than the S62, but critically it had more torque, and that torque was available lower in the rev range. Alpina had also softened the suspension, which apparently improved ride quality despite the massive 20″ wheels. Indeed, by softening the character of the Z8 slightly, Alpina had made the V8 Roadster a more enjoyable and more relaxing car. One thing they didn’t change was that bite-the-back-of-your-hand good looks. Today’s example looks stunning in black, a nice change from the very popular silver that most seemed to be painted. Oh, and it’s got 7 miles. SEVEN. If that doesn’t blow your mind, the price will.
Part of the appeal of cheap(ish) cars to me is that when they get older they’re so infrequently seen. It’s not that exotics are daily drivers around me, but once a generation of car’s usefulness has been eclipsed they all but disappear from the roadways, replaced by the newest model. Do you really want a clean Audi 5000CS quattro Avant, for example, or an impeccable BMW 630CS? They can be found, but few and far between best describes the frequency with which they come to market. But as the price goes up, so rises the number of examples that are available at any given time. They may still be classified as “rare”, but they’re rare not because they’re hard to find – just hard to afford. There is nothing particularly rare, for example, about most of the Porsche 911 model range from any generation – they were all effectively mass produced sports cars. But because they were highly priced and treasured, the number of good examples that are on the market today exceeds the actually rare 924 Turbo and late 944 Turbo, for example. Looking in another direction, I marveled that on eBay this week there was not one, not two, not even three – but no less than six Z8s tuned by Alpina. That represents just over one out of every 100 that was produced, all for sale at the same time, all in perfect shape, all with low miles and high prices. In fact, this pool gives us a chance to check out exactly how much mileage changes perceived value – or at least, asking price:
Perhaps it’s fitting that if you hit the shift key on the keyboard when attempting the M-Stripes in script you get three questions marks. We’ve recently had a few features questioning whether or not you need the ///M Badge on your 5-series; most recently, Paul looked at the E34 lineup with his M5 v. 540i post. The question has remained throughout the various iterations of the 5-series; while there was a pretty big gap in performance between the E28 535is and M5, those gaps have narrowed in subsequent generations. Couple that with the increased costs of ownership of the M-branded 5 and the higher residual value, and there are some good arguments to look at the top-of-the-range normal 5 versus the Motorsports version. When it comes to the E60, that’s especially true in my mind; the M5 had that great screaming V10 motor and many are fitted with the 7-speed break-your-neck-shifting SMG gearbox. Those are great items to have when you don’t have to pay the bills to repair them, but now the best part of a decade on despite the inexpensive entry price for E60 M5s relative to the performance you’d get, they just seem like a nightmare to undertake ownership of. The answer, then, may be to find a lightly warmed over 550i: