- Post is under moderationFancy an Alpina B7 but don’t have the £115,000 required for a new one? Then how about a used E65? It’s a great car for a very reasonable amount of money… Words: Matt Robinson. Photography: Chris Wallbank.
Old School Rules
We look back at one of Alpina’s ultimate executive expresses, the stunning E65 B7.
Chris Bangle – a genius ahead of his time or the man who wreaked the most stylistic havoc on the BMW canon in the marque’s storied history? It’s a debate that continues to rage to this day, seven years after the controversial, bearded American left Munich for design pastures new. It’s an argument in which we’re not going to try and convince you one way or the other if your mind is already made up but we will at least pin our colours to the mast and say we think he was definitely onto something good with his work. His era of flame-surfaced BMWs remain classy and elegant today, with the subsequent models that followed not exuding quite the same crisp lines or distinctive appearance. For instance, the original Z4, with the pre-facelift round rear light clusters, could be argued to be the prettiest #BMW roadster of the lot.
The E60/61 5 Series, in M Sport guise and on big wheels, can even to this day still elicit a ‘phwoar’ from us when it drifts past on a motorway. And the E63/64 6 Series? That’s surely Bangle’s finest hour… Perhaps his most controversial design, though, was the fourth-generation 7 Series, known as the E65 in short-wheelbase form and E66 as the stretched variant. It really was a shock to the system when it launched in 2001 with its ‘eyebrow’ front lights and a very, very American rear. However, it was dramatically face-lifted in 2005 into a model that was perhaps more widely acceptable, if a little less idiosyncratic. And it’s that post-facelift E65 that we’re looking at here, in its ultimate guise as the storming Alpina B7.
Developed in the era when Buchloe went from a confusing mishmash of letters and numbers for its cars (C2? A1? B12?) to simply designating the letter ‘B’ and then the series number of the BMW it was based on, the mighty B7 took the then-biggest Munich V8 in the form of the 4.4-litre M62 and slapped a mechanically-driven radial supercharger onto the side of it to liberate massive numbers of 500hp and 516lb ft of torque.
That compares well to the recently launched current B7, based on the sixth-gen G11 7 Series, which also has a forced induction 4.4-litre V8 – albeit a twin-turbo unit – rated at 608hp and 590lb ft, all for £115,000. It’ll do 0-62mph in 4.2 seconds and a top speed of 205mph, numbers that aren’t a huge step above the old 2006 model’s 4.9-second time and 187mph. And you can bag this particular example, in trademark Alpina ‘Dunkelsaphirblaumetallic’ paint, resplendent in side stripes and sitting on a 21-inch set of 20-spoke ‘cotton reels’, for less than half the price of the new car. It’s on sale at Kahn Design in Bradford, a specialist in rare exotica including Alpinas; it was here where we recently sampled the ultra-limited V8 Roadster based on the Z8. At the time of writing, Kahn actually has two B7s on the stock sheets: this 2006 car that began life in Japan that’s on sale for £49,995; and a left-hand drive pre-facelift model with a black interior up at £39,975. So, if you can stomach the challenging looks and sitting on the wrong side of the car, you could save even more cash on the older Alpina.
However, it’s car No.111 out of a global build run of just 141 units that we think represents all that is good about the Bovensiepen family’s concern. There’s a lack of ostentatiousness (big lip spoiler on the bootlid notwithstanding) about this executive express that truly appeals. No quad exhausts, no overtly loud soundtrack on start-up – it’s just a cultured saloon car that happens to have a really, really potent engine.
It’s also as close to a new one as you’ll get if you want an E65 B7. It has covered just 36,000km, or around 22,500 miles, and the bodywork looks pristine, free from rust and dings and generally in what you could accurately call showroom condition. The same goes for the interior, which is finished in cream and is free from rips, tears, squeaks and rattles. Everything works as it should, and there’s a lot of technology on the E65 that could go wrong, while the Alpina logo is present and correct on the dashboard trim, with Buchloe’s rhoms and roundels on the seats and the armrests on the doors. It’s a classic look for an Alpina.
There’s nothing classic about the driving experience, though, because this is a modern enough performance car that still feels epically quick on the road. When the E65 B7 first appeared in 2004, the story went that while it was testing on the Nürburgring, it was going at such pace along the main straight that the E46 M3 CSLs, also undergoing factory shakedown, were receiving aerodynamic tows from the big barge to cut their lap times. Astonishing.
And this example feels every bit as strong as that claim. The B7 burbles out of Bradford in an exquisite display of luxury limo comfort, the ride supple, the throttle beautifully judged and the V8 motor quiet and hushed. Bizarrely, the sat nav hasn’t been updated for European spec as yet, so the car thinks we’re in a prefecture of Japan, just outside Tokyo; such a cutting-edge place is a world away from the faded woollen mills and Victorian industrial buildings of this particular area of West Yorkshire.
But then, as we emerge onto winding moorland roads, the chance to open the Alpina up presents itself and suddenly the absent-minded sheep ambling along the Tarmac are in very grave danger of becoming mutton, courtesy of a two-ton Bavarian missile. Wow, the 4.4 has absolutely monster pick-up. It’s connected to the six-speed Alpina Switchtronic transmission, which – during the city driving phase – is predicated to setting off in second gear, making the gearbox seem like a lazy, smooth five-speeder. But out here, with the throttle pushed to the bulkhead, the Switchtronic awakens, offering crisp downshifts out of bends and firing in the next ratio going up the transmission when accelerating rapidly along the straights.
The B7’s rich, baritone voice is more pronounced, too, once the tacho gets past the 2500rpm point, but as this is an old school, torque-rich V8, there aren’t loads of revs to play with. No matter; make the best use of that 516lb ft midrange and the Alpina simply hurtles along. It’s incredible to think, when experiencing its military-grade firepower, that the B7 couldn’t usurp the iconic E34 B10 Biturbo (188mph) as the fastest Alpina of all time; it had to allow the E60-based B5 of 2005 that signal honour, the 195mph Five, of course, using precisely the same drivetrain as the B7.
Also fitted to the Kahn Alpina is the optional Dynamic Drive active anti-roll system, which genuinely does allow the B7 to change direction with an alacrity that speaks more of the 3 Series, rather than a gigantic Seven. Shame, then, that the steering is rather too US-spec – light and lacking feel. It’s direct enough and the Alpina turns in keenly but if you’ve driven a lot of performance BMWs over the years this will feel like a woolly setup. You probably also won’t be using the Switchtronic plus and minus buttons, mounted on the back of the steering wheel, to change gear, because they’re not as intuitive as a good paddle-shift is nowadays and the six-speed autobox is fine left to its own devices in D.
The rest of the Alpina B7’s dynamic make-up is excellent. Large 374mm front, 370mm rear discs lifted from the contemporary 7 Series do a fine job of hauling the saloon down from high speeds with little drama, while Buchloe also felt the standard suspension of the E65 was more than capable of dealing with the grunt of the supercharged engine. And for all those occasions when you can’t utilise the 4.4-litre’s massive reserves, then the doubleglazed windows and impressive aerodynamics make the B7 a near-silent cruiser. The only fly in the ointment is the early version of iDrive still fitted to the car, which does have the menu shortcut button, but which features the eight-way options click override. It’s nothing like as nice and simple to operate as BMW’s current software, but that’s the price you pay for a 500hp rarity like this.
At almost £50,000, this is not a cheap example of the E65 7 Series; you could probably get yourself in a V12 760Li for less than half as much again. But, given Alpina sold just 11 of these E65 B7s in the UK during a three-year period, it is almost certainly an appreciating classic and the chance of getting behind the wheel of such a collector’s piece, that looks so stunning in this particular colour combination and which has clearly been very well looked after in its previous life, seems like too good an opportunity to miss. An utterly brilliant, super-scarce, 187mph super saloon for less than the price of a fully specified modern day hyper hatch? Seems like a no-brainer to us.
CONTACT: Kahn Design / Tel: 01274 749999 / Web: www.kahndesign.com
Suddenly the sheep ambling along the Tarmac are in very grave danger of becoming mutton, courtesy of a two-ton Bavarian missile.
TECHNICAL DATA #2006 / #BMW-Alpina-B7-E65 / #Alpina-B7-E65 / #Alpina-B7 / #Alpina-E65 / #BMW-E65 / #BMW / #Alpina / #BMW-E65-Alpina / #BMW-7-Series / #BMW-7-Series-E65 / #BMW-7-Series-SWB / #BMW-7-Series-Alpina /
ENGINE: #V8 , 32-valve, #supercharged
TRANSMISSION: Six-speed #Alpina-Switch-Tronic / #ZF6HP
MAX POWER: 500hp @ 5500rpm
MAX TORQUE: 516lb ft @ 4250rpm
0-62MPH: 4.9 seconds
STANDING KM: 22.9 seconds
TOP SPEED: 187mph
CO2 EMISSIONS: 306g/km
PRICE (new): £78,950 (2005)
PRICE (today): For car 111 of 141: £49,995
The B7 features a wonderfully opulent cabin with swathes of leather and alcantara along with Alpina’s trademark wood trim.Stream item published successfully. Item will now be visible on your stream.
- Post is under moderationFirst time lucky – #BMW #E30 2-doors #M20B25 engine boost. For a first project car, the E30 makes sense. To Karel Silha, so did 726bhp. Words: Joel Newman. Photos: Lars Sikhammar.
Take a second and try to picture the very first car you modified. For me, that car was a #VW Mk2 Golf Driver. It may have had a measly 1.3-litre lump under the bonnet, the steering was heavier than death metal and the interior looked like a duvet cover stolen from a ’70s swingers party, but it did nothing to deter me. This was my first motor and as such I wanted to personalise it. It wasn’t great but I think I can be forgiven; it takes time and rather a lot of practice to get things right.
For my sins I popped to the local modding hut, which was like a cheaper version of Halfords (if you can imagine such a thing). Here I selected a set of 17” unbranded rims, a huge exhaust and one of the world’s loudest and perhaps poorest audio systems (complete with MiniDisc player). Not only did the ICE die after six months, in retrospect the wheels were chavvy and it’s safe to say that the 4” pipe out back was not yielding any additional power. I tell you this because, like most, I made mistakes. But for every thousand of me you may be lucky enough to find one Karel Silha.
Like many of you, Karel picked the E30 #325i for its classic styling and appeal as a true driver’s car. He concurred that for a first attempt, an E30 made perfect sense. The parts are relatively cheap and much of the service and tuning work can be completed without specialist equipment.
For most, one’s first modified car is generally a styling exercise. Initially, new wheels, bumpers and side skirts, lowering springs and an exhaust system are about as far as most are comfortable with, but Karel had vastly different concerns. Despite this E30 being his first project car, he knew what he was after, and styling just didn’t come into it. Although he was on a budget, for him modifying is about one thing. Power. What’s the point of having the sickest rims, the best suspension, the widest of body kits if, you only have a hairdryer to plough you along? For Karel this side of tuning is fake. A staged world of ‘look at me’s’ and flash idiots; a world he just didn’t want to be a part of.
“I’ve always loved the E30 because it’s so much fun and it’s not expensive nor exclusive. I paid just £350 for this car and even though it was rusty and in need of some TLC I knew I could save it,” he explains.
So, what exactly was Karel’s big plan? Amazingly, even from the outset his hopes were pretty out there. He explains: “The line of the attack from the beginning was to turbo it and keep the standard internals. I was told the M20 could handle around 400bhp at the crank in terms of rods and pistons and I felt that would be more than enough.” You don’t say!
Karel was lucky enough to have a small workshop, something it seems all Swede’s have access to (I wonder if it’s the same one?). Over the next five months he would get to work, and with no prior knowledge of turbocharging, he would attempt to install and fabricate this entirely new setup. Before any of the real work could begin, the #M20 was sent to Engson Motors, which increased the bore to 2.7 litres and welded the head. This was one of the only areas of the entire build Karel did not do himself.
With the engine back and ready to roll, a huge turbo was required, and you’ll never guess where it came from… The 61mm trim beast was removed from a Volvo truck, which gives us a clue to its capacity!
As stated, Karel wanted to plumb this in with the minimum of fuss, to work out what could and what couldn’t cope. To this end he first needed to sort out the cooling and fuel delivery, so popped in larger 1260cc injectors, a front-mounted intercooler and got on with the long job of fabricating the required exhaust manifold and turbo tubing.
With combustion increasing so abundantly, Karel also fitted a race fuel tank in the boot along with two new Bosch 044 fuel pumps capable of running E85 (or 98 grade octane fuel to you and me).
With such a huge turbo it was essential for Karel to fit two Tial wastgates to keep boost pressure in check, while a decent sized 50mm Tial blow-off valve stopped pressure build-up and turbo surge, which can severely damage an engine. An Aeromotive regulator also made its way into the engine bay, helping him determine and direct boost and fuel pressures, as well as a Nuke Performance fuel rail for good measure. As Karel planned to keep the bottom end standard, he fitted Nuke Performance cam gear, enabling him to match cam timing by advancing or retarding the cam profile in one-degree increments. This meant he could keep his standard M20 cams.
With the engine working, Karel got on with installing an #Alpina-B7 differential, involving customisation of the driveshaft to enable him to utilise the standard Getrag 260 five-speed gearbox. He also added a hydraulic handbrake so he could compete competitively in the drift events so popular in Scandinavia.
The car was then gifted FK coilovers, the front end dropped as low as it could go, giving it a brutal dragster look. Finally a Brembo big brake kit featuring 302mm discs and four-piston calipers made their way behind the 18” ASA Pirate rims. These are wrapped in Pirelli P-Zeros, however as they are changed twice a month during the summer often anything goes!
Karel, of course, stripped the entire cabin, installing a set of Radiopower fibreglass red buckets with Elite four-point rally harnesses, a grippy Momo drift wheel and a new custom-made aluminium instrument cluster.
Karel then spent two weeks sanding and prepping the car for its new Army green paint job. The car’s only exterior modifications were made in order to reduce weight; although the bonnet and boot look original they are now manufactured from fibreglass. He also replaced the rear windows with Perspex to further reduce weight. Overall he has shaved off some 250kg from the original 1250kg, which makes one hell of a difference.
So what to do? Test the damn thing! The car and driver were sent off to a street drag show, but not long after, something went bang. It was an ongoing issue; broken rocker cover and arms, which plagued Karel for some time. “Eventually we realised that we were producing far more power than we originally planned. I just had to strengthen the engine internally,” he explained.
So Karel rebuilt the entire bottom end with the help of Pure Performance Factory, which provided him with race valves and springs, custom pistons and rods, a new heavy duty camshaft and, to quote, “bloody strong” heavy-duty rockers. To make sure history did not repeat itself, Karel also installed a fresh Haltech ECU, so parameters could be kept on check at all times.
Since that day there have been no issues, with the car returning an awesome 650bhp at the wheels and 726bhp at the crank on E85 fuel at 29psi. With 654lb ft of stomachchurning torque, Karel laughs: “Any more power would be a waste of good rubber and 144 neck muscles. So far at just 21psi we ran a 10.28 at 138mph and that was on old tyres.” He’s even put some videos up, at youtube . com/karel021 .
There is something so inherently wonderful about an E30 that looks pretty much standard yet goes like the clappers. To many, it is the underlying soul of performance modifying. It’s not dressed in labels; it is as honest as tuning gets and I hope it inspires some heavy-hitting UK followers. It’s time we got in on this performance act because it doesn’t need to cost the earth. Over in Sweden they’ve been doing it for years. And we can all appreciate a lightweight road-legal E30 325i with that kind of shove. It’s a bruiser, not a supermodel, and it’s fun. And isn’t that what it’s all about?
ENGINE & TRANSMISSION: M20B25 engine stroked to 2.7 litres with custom-forged pistons and rods, Pure Performance Factory ( #PPF ) race valves and springs and CrMo retainers, custom PPF camshaft and heavyduty rockers, Nuke Performance fuel rail and cam gear, 1260cc injectors, custom exhaust manifold, #Volvo truck 61mm trim turbo, Aeromotive regulator, Tial 50mm BOV, two Tial 38mm wastegates, front-mounted intercooler, two #Bosch 044 fuel pumps (running e85), Haltech single coils, Haltech e11v2 ECU (with electronic boost control),
Davies Craig electrical water pump, modified water-cooling system, support Girdle for the bottom. #Alpina B7 rear differential, custom E30 325i driveshaft, standard five-speed gearbox, Polyurethane bushings for engine, gearbox and rear end.
CHASSIS: 7x18” (front) and 9x18” (rear) #ASA Pirate wheels shod in 245/35 Pirelli P-Zero tyres all round. FK coilovers. Brembo BBK with 302mm disc and four-piston calipers.
EXTERIOR: Full respray in Army green, fibreglass bonnet and bootlid, Perspex rear windows, boot-mounted race fuel tank.
INTERIOR: Raidopower fibreglass seats, Elite four-point rally harnesses, custom-made aluminium instrument cluster, Prosport /Autometer gauges, Momo drift wheel, hydraulic handbrake, electrical water pump controller, roll-cage.
THANKS: Fredrik, Ivars, Ted, Jakobsson, Jansson, Magnus, Johnny, Bayrisch, Dogge, Robba, the guys at BVS, Billy, Limmet, Mats, A&A at PPF, Hilda, Arash, Jocke, Larsson, Nicklas, Stefan, Emil, Armin, Johan, and my sponsors Waarwest, PBZ ,VPM, Däckkompaniet, Raidopower, Racedäck.nu, Swedish woodworks, Engson Motor, Dalhems.
“Any more power would be a waste of good rubber and neck muscles”
There is something so inherently wonderful about an E30 that looks pretty much standard yet goes like the clappers.
Stream item published successfully. Item will now be visible on your stream.