- Post is under moderationOffering some incredibly exclusive alternatives to the hottest BMWs out there for several decades now, Alpina still acts as an extremely worthy distraction for anyone in the market for a sporty German cruiser.
GILES RAMSDEN’S ALPINA B10 3.5 / #BMW-E34 / #BMW / #BMW-5-Series-E34 / #BMW-5-Series / #Alpina-B10-3.5 / #Alpina-B10-3.5-E34 / #Alpina-B10-E34 / #Alpina-E34 / #Alpina-B10 / #Alpina / #BMW-535i-Alpina-E34
Giles here was kind enough to share his slice of Alpina perfection with us: this stunning #Island-Green B10 3.5 that took on BMW’s E34 5-Series back in the early ‘90s. “I bought it as a shell on a trolley, along with a couple of boxes of bits, after the previous owner lost interest in it.” Giles explains how he took on this huge, yet clearly extremely rewarding project, just a few short years ago.
Now back to its former glory, practically every part has been bought fresh from either Alpina or BMW. There’s no denying that luxury charm is present by the bucketload too. This one contains touches like signature gold stripes and a sumptuous leather interior. Of course, there's also the re-worked version of the #BMW-M30 #straight-six engine that Alpina took out of #BMW-535i-E34 .
Only 572 of these super-saloons were ever produced worldwide, so it’s great to see another example brought back from the brink. Top work for saving another modern classic icon from the scrapper!
TOP MODS: Full nut-and-bolt bare-shell restoration in original Island Green colour, genuine Alpina badging and stripes, original Silver Grey leather interior, #Bilstein shocks and #Eibach springs.
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- Post is under moderation/ #1988 / #BMW-E34 / #BMW-Alpina-B10 / #Alpina-B10-E34 / #Alpina-B10 / #Alpina / #Alpina-E34 / #BMW-Alpina / #BMW-E34-Alpina / #BMW / #BMW-5-Series / #BMW-5-Series-E34 / #BMW-5-Series-Alpina / #Alpina-B10-3.5-E34
Sitting somewhere between a standard E34 535i and an M5 or Alpina B10 Bi-Turbo lies the naturally-aspirated B10 and this looks like a nice example with 125k miles on the clock and one owner for the past 13 years. It’s just passed an MoT with no advisories so should be in fine fettle. £6-£8k looks like value for money, but it was on the Damaged on Condition Report in 1993, though it’s not listed on the HPI register. Perhaps a fine way into the rarer side of E34 ownership.Stream item published successfully. Item will now be visible on your stream.
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New Order #Alpina-B10-3.5-E34 / #Alpina-B10-3.5 / #Alpina-B10 / #BMW-E34-Alpina / #Alpina / #Alpina-B10-E34
It’s not often we come across an #BMW-E34 Alpina B10 3.5 as nice as this one and with an interesting past. Ordering a brand-new Alpina B10 3.5 straight from the showroom back in #1989 would have been quite an occasion. Driving one today reminds us why… Words: Simon Holmes Photography: Max Earey
Walking into a BMW showroom and strolling straight up to the salesman to tell him you wished to purchase a brand-new 535i SE auto would have probably made both his and your day back in 1989. No doubt the salesman would be grinning from ear to ear at the thought of an easy £22,013.39 sale but think of the feeling you would have knowing that you were about to really surprise him when it came to selecting the option boxes. Limited-slip differential for £333.91? Yes, please. Sports seats? Well worth the £365.22. And metallic paint for £364.41? Add it on. But what’s that last one? An Alpina B10 3.5 conversion for £11,900? Over half the car’s value? Go on then…
That would sure put a smile on my face and why not? Buying a £42,327.13 car in 1989 (when tax was just 15 per cent!) would be an enjoyable experience for anyone, but even more so when you’ve just ordered yourself one of the most exclusive and fastest BMWs money could buy at the time. Powered by a heavily tweaked naturally aspirated 3.5-litre engine the B10 was first launched in 1988 before the M5 was available in the UK, but even when the new M car was released one of the B10’s key selling points was the fact it was still available with an automatic gearbox. The M5 didn’t offer this option, which immediately meant the B10 had a niche market as the fastest 5 Series without a clutch pedal.
Whilst the later B10 Bi-Turbo model essentially stole the show with its devastating performance the earlier incarnation was still an extremely capable car. It was based upon a standard 535i SE although Alpina required Sports seats and an LSD to be selected as options. In typical fashion, Alpina didn’t do things by halves when it came to extracting more power from the M30 3430cc six-cylinder. Tuning a naturally aspirated engine for big results is no easy task, so first of all the M30 was stripped to its bones and built up again with much lighter Mahle pistons at its heart.
These helped raise the compression ratio to 10.0:1 over the original 9.0:1 for increased power. The cylinder head was ported for improved flow and fitted with modified valves at the same time, and then came a special high-performance camshaft designed specifically for fast road use. With those vital elements in place, a specially made tubular exhaust manifold was added, made from stainless steel, together with a complete freer flowing exhaust system. Last of all the Motronic ECU was given an Alpina defined remap to improve fuelling and the rev limit was raised to 6500rpm to make the best of it all.
The result from all the work was an impressive 254hp at 6000rpm, giving over 20 per cent more power than a standard 535i. Indeed, some of the earlier UK cars that didn’t require catalytic converters made as much as 260hp. Torque was also up five per cent to 237lb ft at 4000rpm from the original figure of 220lb ft.
Although the B10 gained a healthy dose of extra power and made it fairly high up the rev range the focus was set on ensuring it all came in a smooth, solid motion so there was no peaky power band to contend with. To help the B10 climb the revs and reach its peak power faster and to feel even livelier Alpina also changed the gearing in the rear axle to 3.73:1. The ratio change helped improve acceleration at the cost of a little extra top speed, which seemed like a fair trade off. Alpina claimed 62mph from rest was now achieved in 6.4 seconds, a very admirable figure for the time and enough to snap on the heels of the M5 model that would soon appear. Top speed was quoted from Alpina as being a solid 155mph, some 14mph faster than a 535i and, again, enough to trouble an M5.
The engine came coupled to a five-speed manual gearbox as standard but importantly, as mentioned previously, the four-speed automatic could still be selected from the options list. Both transmissions worked well in their own way and offered different kinds of driving experiences.
To go with the new-found power increase Alpina also focused on fine-tuning the already capable E34 handling package. The main aim was to improve the ride and level of grip. So working in conjunction with Michelin and Bilstein, the latter supplied gas-filled dampers to replace the standard items and tighten up the ride quality whilst still providing comfort. They were matched with shorter and stiffer springs designed by Alpina to limit body roll and sharpen up response. These changes worked together with the special low profile Michelin MXX tyres measuring 235/45/17 at the front and 265/40/17 at the rear.
The larger diameter Alpina wheels were wider too – 8.5-inches at the front and 9.5-inches at the back. To finish off the package, on the outside there was a colour-coded lower front spoiler and the body was finished with a set of matching Alpina and B10 3.5 badges. On the inside there was a new design of Alpina steering wheel finished in leather and a build plaque to remind you that you were part of a privileged club.
Although it was privileged club the B10 actually sold fairly well and 572 examples were built in the four-year production run, which was successful for an Alpina model of the time. However, as the youngest examples are 22 years old it’s hardly surprising that finding a B10 3.5 nowadays has become harder, particularly when it comes to sourcing one in good working condition. We were lucky enough to find this one for sale at classic car specialist KGF Classics, who specifically deal with desirable cars from the ‘80s and ‘90s. This particular example is in beautiful condition, and has just 57,000 miles on the clock so it’s about as good as you can find. To cap it off it’s got an interesting and detailed history, having been ordered in the summer of 1989 at John Clark #BMW in Aberdeen by one Lord Seafield, part of one of the wealthiest families in Scotland. The original invoice is still with the car, which is how we know the exact cost of the car listed at the start of the feature.
Clearly, Lord Seafield wanted a car with some real performance but opted for the automatic, thus creating the ultimate effortless cruiser. He clearly took good care of it for the next 17 years he owned it, too, and in doing so it’s provided us with a chance to try an Alpina B10 for ourselves in all its glory some 20 years later.
Finished in this striking burgundy colour with Alpina graphics in contrasting silver it looks stunning, and the beige interior is all original, complete with a 1980s #NEC car phone. Taking position on the driver’s sport seat I find the B10 possesses a quality all older Alpina cars seem to. There’s a specialness to them, a sense of occasion that isn’t replicated in other cars. Perhaps it’s their reputation or heritage or perhaps I’m simply a stickler for anything that’s a little different. Whatever it is, the original Alpina steering wheel and dials glaring back at me bring a smile to my face and one turn of the key has the engine burbling into life, the exhaust note lively and enthusiastic. I select Drive on the large, automatic gear selector, release the manual handbrake and set off slowly down the road.
Immediate first impressions are based solely on how good the ride is. Having driven standard E34 535i models before I always find the ride way too soft and bouncy, even with Sports suspension. To be fair, most of these cars were on balloon tyres compared to the skinny numbers the Alpina rides on, but I’m genuinely impressed with how much firmer and crisper it all feels. The suspension actually supports the car’s mass and turning into corners, even at speed, gives very little body roll. It stays flat, staunch and confident but it’s not just stiffer, its feel reaches way beyond that. It’s beautifully balanced and the whole thing works as one to feel sharper and livelier.
The effect extends to the steering which, again, I usually find lacks response on 535i models. Yet here the steering gives tremendous amounts of solid and satisfying feedback that you can’t help but miss in newer cars. Together with the suspension setup the whole platform feels wonderfully taut and harmonious. I’ll admit, I was expecting typically 1980s E34 road holding but this is an incredibly refined package and, to be honest, it’s caught me off guard. The engine takes a little longer to impress me. In the lower revs there’s plenty of grunt, as you would expect from a 3.5-litre, but that’s the point; there’s not actually a whole lot to differentiate it from a standard 535i. However, plant your foot further and as the revs build the engine answers the call.
By the time you’re approaching the 4000rpm barrier things are really beginning to work together and you notice pace is building at a decent rate. There’s a nice soundtrack, too, and it’s all very smooth and undramatic in its approach towards the redline. It’s not exactly crazy fast but it’s certainly nippy in the higher rev range and there’s plenty of power to keep you amused. The engine isn’t entirely helped by the lethargic gearbox, which has three preset modes, yet even in Sport gear changes seem a little lazy. After an extended drive you soon get used to the gearbox and surprisingly, you still find yourself having plenty of fun with the power. It does a good job of returning to a gentle cruiser once you’ve finished your fun playing around with the rev range, too.
I’m impressed by the B10; its fine chassis tweaks make it stand out and it’s easy to see the potential of how easily this car would have been able to devour country B-roads. It’s a world apart from a normal 535i and considering the changes from Alpina might seem subtle on paper they make a huge difference in the real world. It’s unlike an M5, though, which feels far more focused and involved whereas the B10 feels like a go between, especially with this gearbox. Although the automatic mutes the whole thing a touch the engine’s rev happy nature and the car’s gearing get around the problem. I’d like to try a manual version to compare against but I can see the automatic’s appeal at the time. No other car was able to provide such an effortless, fast and fun to drive platform. Of course, the modern day answer to this formula would be a big turbo diesel but that was a long way off. So would I have bought one back in 1989? Yes, especially to see that salesman’s face…
THANKS TO: KGF Classic Cars Tel: 01733 425140 Web: www.kgfclassiccars.co.uk
TECH DATA #Alpina-B10 3.5
ENGINE: #M30 , six-cylinder
MAX POWER: 254hp
MAX TORQUE: 237lb ft
TOP SPEED: 155mph
0-62MPH: 6.4 seconds
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