Here are some glorious pictures of classic Alpina models | Top Gear
BBC TopGear
BBC TopGear
The Latest US News & Reviews
USA News
Thursday 30th November

Here are some glorious pictures of classic Alpina models

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

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

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.

Advertisement - Page continues below

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.

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.

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. 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.

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.

Advertisement - Page continues below

And Alpina tuned and tunes absolutely everything, from E21 320s with just 121bhp and 130b ft 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.

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. 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.

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.

Top Gear

Get all the latest news, reviews and exclusives, direct to your inbox.

More from Top Gear

See more on Alpina

Subscribe to the Top Gear Newsletter

Get all the latest news, reviews and exclusives, direct to your inbox.

By clicking subscribe, you agree to receive news, promotions and offers by email from Top Gear and BBC Studios. Your information will be used in accordance with our privacy policy.

BBC TopGear

Try BBC Top Gear Magazine

Get your first 5 issues for £5