Friday, July 30, 2021
Cars

From Buchloe to Britain: How Sytner became the UK’s Alpina experts


The B9 3.5 duly arrived with 245bhp, over just 181bhp for the 2.8- litre six of the BMW 528i car donor and 218bhp for Munich’s top-rung 3.5-litre straight six, which Alpina comprehensively re-engineered and slotted into the 5 Series’ engine bay. Then as now, almost every dynamic element of the car was reimagined and it was topped off with a draping bodykit that didn’t just look superb but also really did reduce lift.

What’s so interesting about the incipient UK operation is that, in the days before Alpina achieved full manufacturer status, type-approval compilations prevented cars being imported from Germany whole. Sytner therefore had to build – or rather convert – the cars itself, and it got the logistics down to an art.

“We came to an agreement where they would send us all the parts, including engines, wheels, body parts, differential, suspension, tyres and badges, over in a container,” says Sytner, whose men (or, at first, Mark Adkin) would then piece together the B9 recipe. “The engine came out of the 528i and then went back with the transport company to Germany. As we started to take orders for cars, there was a constant flow of Alpina parts arriving in Nottingham, and we had technicians who went to Buchloe, training how to produce the car.” Somehow this laborious process proved commercially viable. Then again, the B9 cost £24,100 when the Audi Quattro was £20,400 and the 528i SE just £16,925. It’s telling that these early RHD Alpinas were sold mostly to people from the motorsport world, and they were prepared to pay.

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