Cohort Sighting: E21 Alpina – Malaise Era Redemption

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One of only 533 made over a four year run, this E21 Alpina B6 2.8 was a very lucky find for Triborough, who recently uploaded it to the Cohort after shooting it about six years ago.  And if it is an original grey market car, whoever had it imported was very lucky indeed.  While the E21 is more interesting than enthusiasts give it credit for, the disappointment upon its release was enough for Callaway to do solid business selling turbo kits for the 320i. Even those were still not as satisfying as the 323i that BMW kept in Europe, where standards were such that buyers wanted even more power.


To meet that demand, Alpina took the 2.8 six from the E12 528i and put it in the E21, creating the first B6 2.8.  With high compression pistons, a new, distributorless ignition, a hot cam and Solex Pierburg Zenith DL fuel injection, the small BMW now made a solid 200 horsepower and a 1983 revision using L-Jet made 218.  Hartge created a 335i using the 635CSi’s engine, but that torquier engine still only slightly the Alpina’s horsepower with 240.  The takeaway here is, the early ’80s were a great time to have extra cash in Europe.

Alpina has been known to fit extremely wide tires to its cars, but for this model, the fifteen inch wheels shod with 205/50 tires in the rear and 195/50 tires in front were a rather sensible increase.  The fitment of wider tires in the rear showed Alpina was well aware of the new 3-series’ propensity for oversteer, but with so much power on tap, it was probably even more dramatic than the stock 323i.


I wish there were more photos of that gorgeous red car to post, but I’m thankful for the chance to write about the car at all.  It’s not everyday you see a car so sexy and in the case of early ’80s BMWs in the states, it’s even less common.  The B6 2.8 was a success, but the cars which followed, based off that most famous of 3-series, the E30, were more famous.  This, despite the wider variety of engines BMW offered stock.  With so many powerful, over the top BMWs these days, it may be difficult to realize how utterly fabulous that red Alpina is, but back when the 3-series needed more power and luxury to match its fine manners, it was a genuine treat.

Alpina 009