Alpina – a close friend of BMW
Located in Bavaria, Alpina is a car manufacturer that creates models based on BMW cars. They build them either on BMWs assembly lines in close collaboration with BMW engineers, or they send the engines produced in their own factory to BMW, and then receive the assembled vehicle for giving the last touches. Their collaboration with BMW begins in 1965, and the cars that resulted from it were very successful in competitions in the late 60s, and even won the Spa 24 hours race, and the European Touring Car Championship in 1970.
You may be thinking what is the need for BMW to have another in house tuner, when they already have the great Motorsport division that produced some of the finest cars of all time. Well, the thing is that the cars that these two firms produce may seem similar, but in fact they are not. Both of them tune the already powerful BMW engines, and get more horse power out of them, but Alpina focuses on torque at lower revs, instead of brute force. Also they prefer to use automatic transmissions instead of manual, and invest a lot of effort in making the interior more comfortable and luxurious. The M division makes powerful racers that offer performance with no compromise, when Alpina focuses also on the ride comfort, and ease of driving, making powerful cruisers that are suited for long journeys at high speed but could also impress on a circuit.
Alpina’s influence on the popular E30
Now that you have an idea on what kind of BMWs Alpina makes, let’s take a closer look at their influence on one of the most appreciated models ever made by the Bavarian manufacturer: the E30. They modified several models, some mainstream ones, like the 318i or the 325i, but also created rarities, that you may never have the chance to see live.
- Alpina C1 2,3 (462 made) – Based on the two door 323i, it could accelerate to 100 km/h in 7.8 seconds, and reach a top speed of 213 km/h. The torque has a pretty impressive value: 225 Nm. All these, thanks to the 170 hp six cylinder engine connected to an automatic transmission. Also, it has wide silver and narrow gold striped on the side, that mark the Alpina logo.
- Alpina C1 2,5 (50 made) – This model can be found either in two or four doors. The 2494 cc engine develops 190 hp, even more torque than the 2,3, and has a slightly faster time to 100 km/h, and a higher top speed.
- Alpina C2 2,5 (74 made) – The difference from the C1 2,5 model is the fact that the has an enlarged cubic capacity (2552), thus producing more torque and better acceleration times.
- Alpina C2 2,7 (108 made) – The 2693 Alpina engine produced 210 hp, and all the figures were much improved. The 0 to 100 km/h acceleration went under 7 seconds, and that was something for those times. You could buy this Alpina in two, four door or cabrio body types. It was also available with 4×4 traction, on the iX model.
- Alpina B3 2,7 (257 made) – Is the first touring E30 Alpina, and the engine had the same specifications as in the C2 2,7 model and performance figures very close to it.
- Alpina B6 2,8 (259 made) – Based on the two door sedan body, it could reach 230 km/h, thanks to its 2788 cc engine that developed 210 hp and 270 Nm of torque, but also burned significantly more fuel, than its smaller “siblings”.
- Alpina B6 3,5 (219 made) – The massive 3430 cc engine put out 261 hp and a 346 Nm. This made the car extremely fast, managing to hit 100 km/h in just over 6 seconds, making it one of the fastest saloon cars of its time. Even nowadays, few cars of its type would be able to keep up with this beast from the 80s.
- Alpina B6 3,5 S (62 made) – This is one of the rarest BMW in the history of the bavarian company. What makes it so special is the fact that it is based on an M3, and who would have thought that is possible to improve a creation of BMW’s Motorsport division. Alpina took the risk, and created something really special. Using the Alpina 3,5 liter engine, the performance figures remained very similar to the ones of the original M, but there was improvement in the driver’s comfort, the ride was softer, the interior more user friendly, this new car was a tamed version of the wild M3.
An unusual model from Alpina was the 333i, badged as a BMW, and with Alpina’s badge on the wheels. It was sold only in South Africa, and what made it unusual it was that the comfort was sacrificed in order to make the engine fit under the bonnet. The customers had to choose between air conditioning, that is an essential feature, in the South African climate, and power steering. 204 cars of these type were sold, and over the years they become a true collector’s item.
As I told you before, Alpina’s philosophy is to make powerful cars that are user friendly and make you feel that you drive something special and unique. So, the engineers didn’t customize just the engine, but also the suspension, the brakes, the wheels, and of course, the interior. Bilsten gas-pressure shocks were used, both at the front and at the rear. The brakes had bigger disks than the standard car, and those were ventilated. Also, 16 inch rims were mounted instead of the stock model. In the interior, the seats were replaced by Recaro ones and the steering wheel was covered in leather. As a futuristic touch, a dashboard with digital indicators replaced the analog one. On the outside, nothing very obvious was made, except for the striped, that surrounded the Alpina logo. The car that resulted is nowadays very hard to encounter, but you can find it on the wish list of every BMW fan. Consider yourself lucky if you own one, and for the rest of you I’ve prepared a selection of photos as a consolation prize.