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What is an Alpina?

October 3, 2017

If you read my first blog entry, Sleuthing the Car (how I found my Alpina), you likely recall the noise about whether the car was “really” an Alpina. That begs the question: What is an Aplina. Its easy to answer for modern cars. After all, Alpina, now, is a bona fide car manufacturer (with their own Vehicle Identification Numbers and VIN plates) and the cars they build are Alpinas. Case closed.

But back before they became a manufacturer in 1983, Alpina was just a BMW tuner, like Dinan is now (and Ruf is for Porsche and AMG was for Mercedes Benz). The parallel to Dinan is striking. Like Dinan, Alpina back in the day, was the premiere vendor and manufacturer of parts to modify your BMW and builder of BMWs that they modified. And, like Dinan, you could get the modified BMWs directly from Alpina (or Dinan) or you could get a BMW modified by an authorized Alpina (or Dinan) dealer.

So, a pre-1983 car being presented as an Alpina usually falls into one of three categories: a car that has some random Alpina parts installed on it by God-knows-who (that isn’t really an Alpina), a car built by an authorized Alpina dealer/distributor (which may be an Alpina, depending on your definition), and a car build by Alpina themselves.

A little Alpina background probably helps. They began tuning BMWs in 1962, first by strapping a pair of Weber carburetors on the M10 in a 1500 sedan. In the 60s, they developed motors with Webers, increased-compression pistons, longer-duration camshafts (notably the BMW Motorsport 300* camshaft), and porting, polishing, and combustion chamber machine work on the head. While this unleashed lots of locked-in horsepower, it wasn’t a