Marketed as the “ultimate driving machine”, BMWs have been creating fun cars for decades. In fact, BMW has done such a good job that they’re virtually everywhere. But what if you want to stand out from the crowd and just be a little different while remain tasteful and subtle (looking at you, Mansory)? Well, look no further than Alpina.
Alpina is short for Alpina Burkard Bovensiepen GmbH & Co. KG, and it doesn't take a rocket scientist for one to realize it was founded by Burkard Bovensiepen.
In fact, Bovensiepen started tinkering with BMWs before Alpina, his family business that produces typewriters, was converted into a tuning house for BMW. Yes, you read that right: Alpina was once a typewriter business.
Michael H. [CC BY-SA 3.0 de (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/de/deed.en)], via Wikimedia Commons
The story starts in 1961, when BMW released its "New Class Sedan 1500", which was initially fitted with a 1499cc, making 80hp.
Stahlkocher [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/)], from Wikimedia Commons
Yet BMW soon released a 90-hp, 1779cc variant, which was aptly named "New Class 1800". This upset many buyers of the 1500, as their practically new cars are now rendered slow and obsolete.
Bundesarchiv, B 145 Bild-F027641-0007 / Storz / CC-BY-SA 3.0 [CC BY-SA 3.0 de (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/de/deed.en)]
Bovensiepen saw this opportunity and developed dual Weber carburetors for the 1500 and convinced BMW sales boss Paul G. Hehnemann that it could be an optional upgrade for buyers seeking for more oomph. Bovensiepen insisted that the factory warranty must remain, which BMW also granted. Then, in 1965, Bovensiepen scrapped his family business and turned it into his business tuning the carburetors and crankshafts for BMW engines. Eventually, Alpina's focus on carburetors and crankshafts made it into Alpina's logo design as we still see today.
However, there is a fundamental difference between Alpina and other tuning houses. Unlike others, Alpina offers products that roll off the same production line that its BMW-counterparts do that can be easily serviced at almost every BMW dealership as if they're engineered and built by BMW itself. Bovensiepen says,
"In those days, the other tuners only cared about having the most powerful engine; the rest of the car was not very harmonious. With Alpina, it was always the complete package, and remains so today. We designed the cars to be used all year round as daily drivers, but to still have the performance of a weekend sports car.”
And boy they surely did. Check out MotorTrend's Head2Head episode when they pitched an Alpina B6 against its M-Division evil twin, M6:
Would you have a B6 over an M6? Which is your favorite Alpina? Let us know in the comments!