Burkard Bovensiepen, Alpina founder, has died aged 87

By topgear, 20 October 2023

Burkard Bovensiepen, Alpina founder, has died aged 87

The founder of Alpina, Burkard Bovensiepen, has died. He was 87 years old.

“Burkard Bovensiepen was a visionary, a perfectionist, and a man of clear ideas,” Alpina said in a statement. “When he had an idea in mind, he never tired of refining it, until it matched his vision and expectations to 100 per cent.”

He was born in 1936 in the German city of Chemnitz, and after graduating from high school, took up an apprenticeship as a toolmaker and later studied mechanical engineering before switching over to business administration.

He would later develop modified carburettor intake systems for “various automotive brands” to improve performance, but there was only one brand that really kindled his enthusiasm: BMW. Indeed in 1963, Alpina rolled out its first ever performance carb inside the spacious bay of the then-new BMW 1500 with its “state of the art” four-cylinder engine.

It was so good, BMW itself issued a customer service notice saying the performance modification could be safely added without voiding the car’s warranty. “Essentially a nod of approval from the BMW board,” said Alpina.

Despite BMW’s blessing, at this early stage he couldn’t afford a booth at that September’s Frankfurt Motor Show, and instead decided to personally tuck an Alpina brochure under the wipers of every BMW 1500 he could find in the car park. “A clever marketing move that secured the sale of the first hundred carburettor kits,” said Alpina.

He named his new company – established in 1965 – after his father’s typewriter factory, itself a nod to the nearby Alps, and made the move into racing towards the end of the 1960s.

“In his view, motorsport was the stage where one could best demonstrate competitiveness and technical know-how,” said Alpina. The company lists a star-studded roster of drivers who were “all on Alpina’s payroll”, including Derek Bell, James Hunt, Jacky Ickx, Niki Lauda, Hans Stuck and Dieter Quester.

It wasn’t until 1978 that Alpina unveiled its first in-house car – three of them, in fact: the B6 2.8, B7 Turbo and B7 Turbo Coupe. In 1983, Alpina would register as a car manufacturer proper.

Highlights would later take in the B10 biturbo – the world’s fastest sedan in 1989 – the first V8-engined 3 Series in 1995, Alpina’s first diesel in 1999, and of course the Alpina Roadster spun off the Z8 which was the first Alpina to go to America.

Burkard’s two sons jointly managed the company from 2002 while he himself concentrated on the Alpina wine business (which he started back in 1979). After more than 50 years of collaboration, BMW bought the rights to the Alpina brand in March 2022: the deal keeps the current Alpina line-up until 2025, with a new strategy mapped out together with BMW thereafter.

“We owe it to his life’s work that BMW Alpina automobiles and the Alpina brand enjoy a first-class reputation worldwide,” said Alpina. “His legacy is evident in every car delivered to this day.”

STORY Vijay Pattni

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