Here are some glorious pictures of classic Alpina models

By topgear, 22 February 2019

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Plus, we give you a quick history tour! But mostly, here are some cool pics

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Just how much do you know about BMW’s rakish alter-ego Alpina? Probably not as much as you think…

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If you thought it was just another aftermarket tuning company, you’d be wrong, for a start. Alpina Burkard Bovensiepen GmbH & Co. KG or Alpina Automobiles, is actually a manufacturer in its own right, recognised by the notoriously strict German Federal Ministry of Transport.

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The reason being that Alpina works very closely with BMW – with cars actually integrated into BMW’s own production line – rather than being ‘aftermarket’. An example? The B7 is produced at BMW’s assembly line in Dingolfing alongside the company’s standard cars. Which must be confusing for BMW’s own M Division if nothing else, seeing as the B7 could be considered the M7 that BMW doesn’t actually build itself.

(Click HERE to read about the 2019/2020 B7)

(To read about the drive of the B7 LWB without the big grille, click HERE)

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Suffice to say that Alpina is as embedded in BMW’s corporate structure as it’s possible to get without actually being a fully-fledged subsidiary. And it’s been around for a very long time, and has serious history.

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Originally, Alpina actually made typewriters, but the founding operation failed and in 1965 a chap called Burkard Bovensiepen, a member of the big-hitting Bovensiepen German industrialist family, started the Alpina we know and love.

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Originally he just specialised in tweaking BMW carbs and cylinder heads – specifically Weber carbs – and in ’67 came up with the enduring automotive logo that still adorns the Alpinas of today.

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What followed was motorsport success, and lots of it: Alpina-equipped BMWs won hillclimbs, European touring car championships and the Spa 24hrs in 1970 - giving it the kind of motorsport foundation that gives fast road cars a warm, fuzzy feeling.

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And Alpina tuned and tunes absolutely everything, from E21 320s with just 121bhp and 176Nm in the mid-‘70s, to M3-alike B6 2.8s – based on the E21 323i – with 215bhp (in 1981, that was plenty), and latterly BMW’s powerful turbo-diesels.

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It has tuned and fettled pretty much every BMW model since, adding power and performance, but always managing to stay relatively subtle, and very, very drivable – this is a rounded company that doesn’t just chase headline horsepower.

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Of course, the signature 20-spoke alloys and Alpina blue paint have remained as markers for this remarkable, slightly under-the-radar company, but generally it’s a carmaker for enthusiasts and connoisseurs, rather than boy racers.

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Dream Alpina? Possibly an early 3.0 CS, or a 315bhp, B7 Turbo Coupe E24 635CSi from the late ’80s. Now there’s an Alpina worth having.

STORY Tom Ford

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