Here we go again with the rare and sporty stuff. All I really want to find is plain Jane, honest classics — and the occasional JDM oddity, of course. But somehow, this city seems to be full of weird specials, and boy is this one of them. Or at least, I think it might be…
The thing is, when I found this old gal, I had no idea how rare these are supposed to be. It wasn’t too much of a challenge to ID the beast, for once: it’s difficult to find a surface on this car that doesn’t scream ALPINA at you. But the place where I found it (not exactly the nice part of town) and its general condition left me wondering whether this might be a fugazzi. Having never seen one of these before or read about them, it’s impossible for me to ascertain if everything was kosher with this particular one.
Luckily, there are a lot of folks on the Interwebs who love their Alpinas, so information about these is pretty easy to come by, as are photos of other survivors. The question remains: how can such a valuable car (probably now worth north of US$100,000) be left out in the open like that, seemingly sleeping rough for a while now?
According to most of the many websites that discuss this particular model, Alpina were keen to replicate on the E28 what they had done on the E12, i.e. claiming the title of “fastest 4-door saloon in the world.” Based on the 535i, the E28 Alpina B7 Turbo/1 was unleashed on the Autobahns of West Germany in April 1984. The 3430cc straight-6 M30 engine, expertly worked over by Alpina, provided the rear wheels with 300hp via a Getrag 5-speed manual, which enabled the initial B7 Turbo/1 to reach 100kph from a standstill in 6.1 seconds. Maximum speed was claimed to be a frightening 266kph (165mph).
However, the headline number, for Alpina aficionados, was that the new B7 Turbo claimed 30hp less than the E12 version. And it turns out that Alpina aficionados, back in the ’80s, tended to live in two places: its Bundesrepublik of birth and Japan. Apparently, the Japanese punters were not impressed by this slight decrease in horses and let it be known that they expected better from Alpina.
Not that they rejected it entirely, but there was also the matter of the catalytic converter, which was becoming the norm in their market (though not in old Europe just yet). At this point, in late 1986, and here sources don’t all agree 100% and I start getting a bit confused, but it seems that Alpina created the B7 Turbo/3 specifically for the Japanese market and somehow endowed it with both a catalytic converter and a face-saving 320hp.
Funny thing is that the 320hp B7 Turbo/3, according to some data, is a smidgen slower than the 300hp B7 Turbo/1, though I’m not at all sure why that would be. Aside from this nugget: nearly all the Turbo/3s were saddled with a 4-speed auto. The Japanese market had its own logic: they wanted their BMWs with the steering wheel on the wrong side and two pedals only. Go figure.
Again, not all sources agree on the exact number of units made, but the most commonly accepted total of B7 Turbo/1s made between 1984 and 1987 is a mere 236 (or 278, depending on where you look or how you count). Their Turbo/3 sisters were apparently even fewer: between 30 and 42 of these were sold in 1987 only. And according to Internet lore, all but four cars were automatics.
I wasn’t able to get around to the other side of the one I found to make a decent interior shot, so the above is all I managed. It’s not excellent, but it does show that everything that should be there, down to the stripe on the Recaros, is there. It also shows that this is a manual car, which if all genuine (and if the Internet is to be trusted), would make this a real rarity.
Let’s pump the brakes for a second, though. I found three other JDM-sourced Turbo/3s detailed online, and for whatever reason two are manual cars. So maybe that claim about there being four cars only needs to be taken with a pinch of salt. On the other hand, maybe this well-worn E28 is just wearing all the accoutrements of a genuine Alpina. But it’s so much like the real thing it’s almost hard to believe, unless I’m not seeing something (which is the likeliest possibility, as I really don’t know these cars well at all).
The thing that sort of bugs me is the condition this car is in, i.e. quite decent, but far from perfect. When new, these cost a whopping ¥21m, or almost as much as two Ferrari Testarossas. The license plate looks as old as the car, so whoever bought this back in ’87 still has it now. Yet they cannot afford a decent garage to protect this gem from the elements? Strange. Not incredible, but still a bit off. There’s most probably a story behind this car, but unless someone out there knows it, reads this and lets us in on it, it’ll have to remain a mystery to us.
Vintage Road Test: 1982 BMW 528e, by Perry Shoar
My Curbside Classic: 1986 BMW 528i – The Ecstasy of Beige, Part 1, by James Pembroke Tenneson