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:
Such was the depth of BMW’s great designs from the 1980s that often the E32 is overlooked. Unlike the E23 it replaced, the scaled-up Claus Luthe-inspired design really worked and the heavy-weight look of the 5-series in a fat suit was met with more aggression, yet still elegantly. As you’d expect from a car intended to challenge the W126, BMW threw the kitchen sink at the 7-series, upping not only the technology, luxury and interior materials utilized in the E32, but the engine offerings, as well – the M70 and later M73 V12s beat Mercedes-Benz to the market with silky smooth and powerful twelve cylinder motors that were the trump card with the Trump types.
Yet while popular and well built, finding good examples of especially early 7s has become quite difficult. Today we have two interesting examples to consider. Both are far from original, though each in their own way is compelling. For those who like subtle speed, there’s a M70-powered, low mileage 750iL Alpina B12 5.0 clone from Japan. If you’re a little more in-your-face and like to row your own, there’s a Racing Dynamics-inspired 735i 5-speed. Which would you choose?
I was quite lucky as a teenager to have some pretty serious metal from Bavaria to cut my teeth on. My father had gotten quite into 1980s BMWs, so we had a few 6-series and even a M5 in the house. But it was the “family” car that I liked the most, believe it or not. That family car was a pretty special one as it was an E32 735i 5-speed. The manual in the large body car might be a bit of an aberration, but as a whole package the E32 was a great car. It was fantastic to drive and felt much lighter on its feet than the size would indicate. It was comfortable, too, in either front or back posts, with rich smelling leather, a modern climate control system and a great sounding stereo. It was a car which ate up highway miles with ease, and outside it was quite a looker, too. It managed to look both more substantial and much better proportioned than the E23, finally integrating the mandated bumpers well into a design that was market leading. In fact, the only area I ever really felt our E32 could have used some help in was to have a bit more motor.
Of course, BMW offered a revolutionary motor in the 750i. It was the first of the big three luxury brands to make the leap to a modern V12, and the M70B50 was a pretty impressive motor on paper. With 300 horsepower from 5.0 liters, it was nearly 100 horsepower north of the M30 mill in our 735i and smooth as silk. As the years progressed though, the M70’s power was nearly matched by the lighter M60 and there was somehow a loss of exuberance about the V12 as a new run of V8 motors proved the impressive mainstays. I have always had a soft spot for the twelve though, and to me none are more special than the very limited production Alpina B12 models:
Almost exactly a month ago, I took a look at “The One” – the single yellow Alpina B12 5.7 produced. With little information and a staggering price, it was hard to conceptualize how it would reasonably trade hands. But if that was the package you exactly desired, that was about as good as it got. Alpina produced only 57 of the 5.7 Coupes, after all. About half of those produced were opted with an early form of semi-automatic transmission. Dubbed the “Shift-Tronic”, Alpina offered this electronically controlled clutch as an option only of the 5.7 models, and a reported 32 were so equipped. Though not so wildly optioned with color, today’s 5.7 is claimed to be number 30 of the run:
Bold. It’s a word not often associated with Alpina. In fact, if anything traditionally Alpinas have been anything but bold. Tasteful, certainly, but they seem to almost blend into the BMW lineup as if they were originally part of it. Indeed, today they are – offered through your local BMW dealership almost as a factory option like floor mats, you can get a monster Alpina tuned version of your car. But if bold is loosely defined as being striking or vivid, few Alpinas would really capture the attention of the general public as anything more than a normal production BMW. But the design of the E31 was bold with the wedge shape redefining production series BMWs. And this particular version of the E31 – the Alpina B12 5.7 – is pretty striking too, with giant wheels filling out the design nicely. The drivetrain of the B12 5.7 was pretty bold too, with a over 400 horsepower from a naturally aspirated V12. But it’s this singular example of the B12 that is perhaps the most bold. Painted Giallo, it’s arguably the most eye catching color to coat a E31, yet somehow suits it well with the black striping. Bold also is the strategy of trying to sell the car with only one photo and no description outside of a telephone number and some very basic details of the car. But perhaps the most bold thing about this E31 is the asking price, which despite the 90,000 miles on the clock is advertised at a stunning $221,000:
Well, folks, I have a new all-time favorite E32. Last time I made that claim it was a beautiful black on black example with M-Parallels and a nice front spoiler. I’ve long been a fan of Alpina’s recent B7s and think they’ve made the last two generations of 7-series much more attractive. Same thing here, with the often-frumpy E32 getting the full Alpina treatment with more power, a great front spoiler, and the classic striping. And the wheels, the evergreen, always gorgeous 20-spoke wheels. The 5.0-liter V12 gets much more than just a chip treatment, with higher-compression pistons and lots of valve work bringing the power from 300hp to 350hp. Lots of show, lots of go, this is a kickass 7-series.
Following up on last week’s Alpina B6 2.8 Touring, I have another post of the boutique manufacturer’s cars. It goes without saying that Alpinas are pretty special cars and quite limited production; however, a few sub-models are notable as being especially rare. Going above and beyond, these cars will really set you apart from the typical crowd – get specific about the configuration, and you can usually count on one hand the number of models that are the same as the one you’re looking at. That’s especially true when you see today’s Alpina twofer – two lesser seen models from a lesser seen manufacturer. Today I have, thanks to a great spot from our reader John, the #2 produced B10 Allrad Touring and the #123 B12 5.7. Which would be your flavor? Let’s start with the Touring first:
The owner of this fine car contacted me about posting his car for sale, and though I usually focus on cars for sale available in the U.S., I would never say no to an Alpina! Check out his 1999 Alpina B12 for sale on his own micro-site:
quote from seller’s for sale website:
The B12 6.0 E-KAT is the fastest Alpina ever to be based on the BMW E38 7-series and also features the largest and most powerful engine in its history. In order to achieve the healthy 430hp (DIN), the 6.0 litres engine is fitted with light Mahle aluminum pistons, reworked camshafts, intakes and exhaust, BOSCH Motronic M5.2.1 fuel injection and various other features. Torque in this V12 engine rises to 600 Nm, 500 of which are available at only 1700 rpm.
Alpina Switch-TronicThe E-KAT part of the nomenclature represents the exhaust systems with steel catalyst that greatly lowers emissions without having a large impact on performance. All this power is sent to the wheels (wrapped in 245/40ZR20 tyres up front and 275/35ZR20 out back) through the only available gearbox, the Alpina Switch-Tronic unit developed in conjunction with ZF.
The BMW e38 really is a fine platform and I can only imagine what the Alpina version brings to the table. According to the Alpina Archive website entry on the B12, it’ll do a standing quarter mile faster than a Ferrari 355!
Good luck with the sale Simon!