Alpina C2 2.7 back in my care, for now
What is it about an old car like this that makes you forget about its countless foibles, allowing you to convert a tiresome, 100 mile drive in a troublesome car into a delightfully vivid trip down memory lane?
It’s like Christmas dinner. Nothing overtly out of the ordinary, but then this simplicity is all it takes to revisit the vaults of childhood memories.
I was 16 years old when my parents went away on holiday in 1989 leaving me to the care of the home. And the brand new BMW E30 318i. I could claim temptation as who in their right mind would leave the keys to the car in plain sight? This is where so many car memories were made and I felt these return to me wave after wave. I took the keys one night and drove up to a girls house who I was infatuated with, picked her up and we drove around all night. That is, right up until I planted a brand new BMW into a construction yards pile of bricks and sand.
I spent the next 2 days desperately trying to find a garage who would fix the car before my parents would arrive. That in itself would have been easier than trying to scrub the remains of burnt tyre rubber from the exit of our driveway. Ahh the wisdom of youth…and she was to die for.
I didn’t actually get into that much trouble, funny enough. Perhaps it’s that nonchalance, or lack of consequence, that encouraged me to be a motoring bad boy at a young age. Still at 16, I was being pulled over by police for driving without license, insurance, tax, MOT etc. etc. It helped being a well known person in a small town back then as all I got was a warning.
Many more misdemeanours led eventually to a 5 car police chase into a police station where they were joined by a police helicopter, two police vans and special weapons. I was only charging up the battery on a late night run. Still, none of them match the memories I had with that BMW.4
Although claimed to have 210BHP, it feels a little shy. The engine hasn’t long been rebuilt but I’d like to take another look into it. It feels punchy though, with the 2.7 six cylinder sounding as fantastic as I remembered it. It’s known for being a silky smooth lump and isn’t built to be thrashed.
This is what gave it so much contrast to the 2.3 four pot of the M3. I guess back then Alpina recognised the different characteristics of the two engines and exploited them. The C2 enjoys added torque its bigger cc affords it and doesn’t ask to have its neck wrung. Suits me fine really as all I want to do in this car is to just listen to it purr and see myself in the reflection of shop windows.
It looks every bit as amazing as I remember it. The proportions are all perfect and look almost compact in comparison to today’s barges. In fact you can see the size difference between it and my Mini, which looks like a monster truck in comparison!
The standard 325i shape was already balanced in proportion and decoration, especially in this ‘Tech 1’ guise which predated the heavy handed facelift – something even the E30 M3 forwent, sticking steadfast to the Tech 1 look.
There are still the odd compromises here. The Alpina styling is wonderfully fitting. The side, front and rear skirt are all Alpina additions. Together with the original wheels, they complete the cosmetic upgrades. Having said that, the front skirt is a dirty replica and is cracking badly under the new paint. An original is needed and that will come in soon. It’s a slightly different shape too, with a more shallow front lip – this one is almost like a snow plough!
listen to it purr and see myself in the reflection of shop windows
Alpina bore out the unit from a 2.5 to a 2.7, giving it that unique vocal characteristic and added power / torque. At 27 years old, those performance benefits are a little lost now, but the block is Alpina and the stamps all match with Sytners database. It’s an official car with rare numbers.
This car provides unique experiences that are hard to match with anything modern, as with any exotic. I can sell any number of cars, bikes, watches – but I cannot bring myself to part with this. Even after all the heartache and stress and consternation, I found myself smiling the whole way home as I navigated 100 miles home in beautiful English sunshine. I have become a little OCD in its maintenance now, finding myself giving it a polish every time I turn the engine.
And I have now understood why some people love classics so much. They are a definite exercise in passion and a personal statement. You can’t really understand it unless you make that switch.
Now, how do I stop people from following me home with offers to buy?
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