Alpina Burkard Bovensiepen GmbH & Co. KG is an automobile manufacturing company based in Buchloe, in the Ostallgäu district of Bavaria, Germany that develops and sells high-performance versions of BMW cars.
Alpina’s roots can be traced back to 1962 when Burkard Bovensiepen developed a Weber dual carburetor for the BMW 1500. This carburetor was well received by the automotive press, as well as BMW’s own sales boss Paul G. Hahnemann. In 1964, BMW certified the quality of this Alpina product by awarding BMW vehicles fitted with the Alpina system the full factory guarantee.
Although Alpina started by producing typewriters, the original Alpina ceased to exist at the end of the 1960s in their attempt to move into the textile industry. In 1965, Burkard established a BMW tuning business, following his success with investments in the stock market. He started the tuning business in an outbuilding of the original Alpina typewriter factory. The company worked on carburetors and revised cylinder heads. By 1970, with seventy employees, the original facility changed locations from Kaufbeuren to Buchloe.
In its first years, Alpina established its core competency by tuning carburetors and crankshafts to extract more power from BMW engines, elements that eventually defined the company’s logo, which came into being in 1967. Between 1968 and 1977, Alpina cars did very well in competition. The highlight was in 1970, when the team’s cars won the European Touring Car Championship, the German Hillclimb Championship, rally and track racing championships and the extremely prestigious Spa 24 Hours.
Alpina officially withdrew from racing in 1988 because of capacity limitations and restrictions. Tied to this was the decision to begin production of a new set of BMW Alpina automobiles.
Distinctive features of Alpina vehicles are the fact that these models are literally “manu-factured”, meaning “hand-made”. The production process switches between fine tuning the engine, delivering it to the BMW plant, marrying engine and body there, bringing it back to Alpina for interior upgrade with Alpina’s specific components, again all in a hand-made process that allows only limited production numbers. Besides engine and interior, Alpina also optimizes the transmission and installs steering wheel mounted button-shifters (called Switch-Tronic) on most cars, with paddle shifters used on the B4 S Edition 99. This has historic reasons, since Alpina was the first to mount shifting buttons on the steering wheel. Distinguishing marks from the exterior are the 20-spoke alloy wheels with hidden valves under the center cap and the “Alpina Blue or -Green” metallic exterior colours. Inside, the finest materials are used to fabricate the exclusive feel. A typical blue and green pattern is often used on interior parts such as stitchings on leather. A thin, pinstriped style outside body decor set in gold or silver is also a hallmark of older Alpina cars which is an option on new Alpina models. A metal plate inside also proves the heritage and the serial number of the car.
Compared to cars from BMW’s in-house performance subsidiary, BMW M, Alpina’s vehicles have more emphasis on luxury, higher torque, and have their own Alpina-style shiftable ZF automatic transmissions instead of manual or semi-automatic transmissions. For instance, regarding the high performance variants of the BMW E60 5 Series, the B5 offers a different take on performance and how to accomplish it. Unlike BMW M’s own M5 which has a naturally aspirated, high-revving 5.0L V10, the Alpina B5 uses a supercharged 4.4L V8 which produces similar horsepower and greater torque at lower rpm.
In the end, Alpina is a legendary tuner of BMWs and will remain an extremely cool and iconic car. Whenever i spot one on the street, my non car enthusiast friends just think it’s a normal boring BMW, but what they don’t see is the amount of modifications and history embedded in the car.
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