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Do you know the way to .... Monterey?

August 19, 2023

Six months ago in our last episode of this (seemingly) never-ending restoration, an important and emotionally pleasing milestone was passed: the car was running! The shop that got it started had a punchlist of work I wanted done, mostly road-worthy items (get it running, brakes working right, etc.) and some items that were vexing me, too. Like the heater ducting I couldn’t get installed, hooking up the heater control panel, and installing the finned differential cover.

I didn’t like calling them regularly because I didn’t want to be *that* guy and I knew I was lucky to find a competent shop that was willing to work on a vintage car on my time table: getting it ready in time for the 2023 Legends of the Autobahn, part of Monterey’s car week held every August. So, I’d drop by the shop when I was nearby—about once every week or two—just to check on the progress. When I wasn’t stopping by, it was pretty much radio-silence. I could live with that. The three weeks they said they needed to work on the car grew, which wasn’t really unexpected. And that, too, I could live with. We had a good amount of time until August.

Then, one random day I got a call from the body shop that was the next scheduled stop. The car had arrived. I’ll admit I would have preferred to have gotten a heads-up from the mechanics that they were done with the car. And I didn’t love it when I got to the body shop and saw that a few of the punchlist items weren’t done. But most importantly, the car apparently was running well enough and the heater ducting was in, although the control panel wasn’t. You get what you get and, again, I was lucky to find a competent shop that was going to help get it back on the road. Granted it was a drive of all of two blocks from one shop to the other, but I was very excited that the car was (at least semi?) roadworthy!

A punchlist was also provided to the new body shop, The Works in Santa Clara. Top of the list was to color sand the paint thus “finishing” the paint job that started six years ago. (Recall, the car went to my friend’s body shop in Sacramento for paint in 2017 and halfway through the job that body shop closed. I spend much of the early pandemic driving up to Sacramento reassembling the car from the semi-competed painted job.) The Works was hesitant to color sand paint applied by a different shop and there were several areas that they would have done differently; most of their concern was not knowing how thick the paint was and whether they’d burn through to primer while color sanding. But they took the job as long as I understood the risks. Among the more pressing items on the punchlist: installing the heater control panel, the finned differential cover, the rear spoiler and the Alpina stripes (or Deko kit as Alpina calls it).

At this point, I have to apologize: I try to include a lot of images of the progress because as much fun as it is writing (and reading) about the steps taken, pictures are the best was to chronicle the project. But because the car was in other’s folks hands, there are no before and after images of these important milestones. Alas.

When I got a call from The Works to tell me they were almost finished, I stopped by and saw the car. The color sanding was great I think and, even though there were a few spots where they burnt through the paint, they are very small and something only I would worry about. The rear spoiler looked great but at first I was a tad disappointed by the stripes. Not that they didn’t look good, but there was about an inch overlap where they mated the various pieces together. Having never really looked at the stripes closely on my or other Alpinas before, I wondered how the pieces were mated together. (When I got to Legends and saw the other Alpinas there, I realized mine was better than most so the disappointment dissipated.) Also, the heater control panel and finned differential cover were not installed. But, all in all, the progress was amazing and I was very pleased.

Still, I had not driven the car and I was unsure how dialed-in it was. So, I asked if I could take it up and down the block before they finished the few things left and washed it up. Of course they said yes and, although it needed some work—the idle was too low and the steering wheel off kilter—it ran well and seemed like it would make the drive home in a few days. This drive, as short as it was, was the first time in six years that I was behind the wheel in this beast!

The next week, I picked up the car. The idle had been adjusted, the car washed and exterior detailed. I noticed the gas gauge read full and I was impressed the tank had been filled. Once I hit the road I saw the speedometer was not working and the gas gauge bounced between full and empty when the turn signal was on; for the latter, I suspected the fuel sender or turn signal wiring was grounding out. I stopped for gas on the way home and she drank up 12-plus gallons. So much for a reliable gas gauge and full tank!

Once at home, I put in the heater control panel (not hooked up, but at least there’s not a big hole in the middle of the dash!), tried to run down the short grounding out the gas gauge (no success), swapped in my extra speedo to see if that cured the problem (it didn’t; likely the speedo cable or the fitting at the transmission), cleaned up wiring issues under the dash, attended to many, many little details, and tried to straighten the off kilter steering wheel.

The last one proved more difficult than anticipated; every time I moved the wheel to the spot that seemed like it would be properly oriented, it needed more adjustment. Time was running out (I left for Monterey the next day at 2pm) when I admitted to myself it needed to get aligned. Luckily, when I called my local shop at 4:45 they squeezed me in after I explained when and where I was going. I dropped the car off and got the call the next day that it was ready at 1:30. They were able to take out a bunch of toe but the caster was slightly off on one side—it will get new control arms soon in hopes of remedying that issue. Nonetheless, the steering wheel was straight and the car tracked almost perfectly. We were off to Monterey….

Driving to Monterey—yes, I know the way!—was joyfully uneventful other than the Bay Area rush hour traffic (which seems to start at 3pm) and the heat. Judging from the slight smell of gas in the cabin, the car was running a bit rich; I had no fuel gauge or speedometer (thank you Waze for telling me my speed); and for the first half of the trip I regretted removing the air conditioning at the beginning of the project so many years ago. Because of the heat in the valley, I took the coastal route (slightly longer but the curvy roads are more fun, too); once over the Santa Cruz Mountains the heat dissipated and my dreams of a/c receded. Oh, and this car is FAST and fun. F. A. S. T.

Once there, the Alpina section at Legends did not disappoint. In addition to mine, there was a Golf yellow 1972 B2 (based on an e9 3.0 CSL), two 6-series B7Ss, three e28 5-series (2 B7 and one B10), a bunch of e36s and even some new(ish) Alpinas. But I’ll let the pictures and videos do the talking below.


Alpina tribute 2002, huge genuine Alpina truck, stunning genuine B2, and our hero:

Our hero and the stunning Golf Yellow genuine 3.0CSL B2 (Alpina truck in the background)

Some of the other Alpinas:

Pics from the Alpina event organizer; yours truly and our hero (right to left)

Collage of all the Alpinas at the event

BMW CCA video featuring Matt the USA Alpina representative:

Bimmer Life article about Legends in general but also featuring a few of the Alpinas:

The drive home

The plan is for even more Alpinas at Legends next year. By then I’m hoping to finish up several of the details that haven’t gotten the necessary attention, and maybe even the bigger things, like a working speedo and gas gauge, dialed-in the fuel injection and an operational heater control panel! Who knows, I may even reinstall the air conditioning so I can take the more direct route next year.


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