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What makes an ALPINA special?

 
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Charles
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PostPosted: Wed Mar 19, 2008 5:26 pm    Post subject: What makes an ALPINA special? Reply with quote

I was hanging around NOG this morning causing my usual mayhem and winding up the used car team about when they are getting their next ALPINA to try and sell whilst the B3S was being MOT'd - which it passed with flying colours BTW.

Anyway, I was chatting to one of the new car team about E91 specs and was trying out the electric seats in an E92 M3 when he asked me what appears to be a simple question:

What makes an ALPINA special?

I started to explain about suspension and steering and engine management and swithtronic gearboxes and build plaques and double VINs and then it struck me that none of this really answers the question - mainly because ALPINA is as much an "experience thing" as it is an engineering solution.

In the end, I felt the only true response was to suggest he drive one and work it out for himself - after which he would truly understand what makes an ALPINA special.

But this feels almost like a cop out. I know why I love ALPINAs so much but putting it into words suddenly becomes quite difficult.

Now I would like to think a true car enthusiast would have bitten my arm off to take a run in my car but he was hesitant which made me wonder how enthusaitic he was about cars. This isn't a criticism because I accept that you don't need to be car mad to flog them - but it helps! So, the need to express my feelings about ALPINAs in words becomes important - yet remains extremely difficult indeed.

How would you have handled that conversation?
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Dunk
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PostPosted: Wed Mar 19, 2008 6:21 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Hmm.

I've always found BMW sales people are far too indoctrinated in the '///M is best' cult to really get the gist of Alpinas. In addition, you have to remember that a 335i is now capable of hanging onto the shirt tails of an E46 B3s, and can quantifiably lose a B3 - so in raw paper terms, the E39 and E46 models don't seem that special any more.

Yet people like Munich Legends and Independant understand the Alpina thing, as do people like Ged.

I've come to the conclusion that you can't 'get' an Alpina on the basis of a twenty minute test drive - you need to live with one for a while to really appreciate it's depth of talent...
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mac
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PostPosted: Wed Mar 19, 2008 6:22 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Hi Charles,
Surely he was hesitant because his sales manager would be saying to him 'That he is there to sell cars, not to take a joy ride in a customers car'!!
Especially as said customer would not be buying from them, in all probability would be buying another ALPINA from Sytner.
Unless said customer was to start his own ALPINA franchise!!!!!!!(as suggested previously).
Mac.
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nealpina
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PostPosted: Wed Mar 19, 2008 6:26 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Disappointed in you Charles!

I get these questions all the time when I am at work!

• Racing heritage (that is the correct spelling, looks wrong).
• R&D, BMW often buys from Alpina
• Speed and comfort with soft suspension
• Developed one of the first trip-tronic (Switch-tronic) gearboxes.
• For a number of years Alpina production cars were faster than any other.
• Wolf in sheep’s clothing with it subtle looks.
• Current models are as quick as ///M but more enjoyable on the roads.
• IMO better looking than other BMWs
• The interior on a fully loaded example is breathtaking.
• I also like to say that the engine is hand built therefore someone’s heart and soul went into the car.
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Last edited by nealpina on Wed Mar 19, 2008 7:05 pm; edited 1 time in total
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olli
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PostPosted: Wed Mar 19, 2008 6:48 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

very good points, Neal, but I think the last point is not true anymore on the latest models.
Afaik, the latest models get all Alpina spec engine components delivered to the BMW factory and things like the Alpina spec Mahle pistons etc. get dropped in at the factory already, so it's not ripped apart in Buchloe anymore. Someone correct me if I'm wrong. (hopefully)

All other points I wholeheartedly agree.
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nealpina
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PostPosted: Wed Mar 19, 2008 7:04 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Thanks Olli

IMO this is what sets my Alpina apart from any other manufacture (apart from AMG). To me this gives my car a bespoke and a certain essence which no other car has. It’s now a shame that Alpina have decided to move away from this. The engine will most likely perform the same whether it is hand built or built by robots, but where is the allure with a robotic engine!
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PostPosted: Wed Mar 19, 2008 10:27 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

The bigger cars still have an element of what made an Alpina special but I don't really see it in the mass market cars.

The big engines are still assembled at Buchloe by hand. There is still a traditional leather workshop. There is still the small engineering mentality which can bring out unique solutions which may not surface in a larger company. THIS is what makes Alpina special in the way that MacLaren, Lotus, Aston and Bently are (were) special. It's an artisan quality which is somewhat misty-eyed and subjective but it's very real in the eyes of the customer. When an Alpina becomes another BMW the essence of this is somewhat lost to marketing.

Anyone who knows what I do for a living will appreciate that I have an elementary grip of commerce, economics and business sense. An accountant would look at what I've just written and rip it apart. It's said that the 850 was the last car BMW made before the accountants took over. I'm concerned that the accountants are taking over at Buchloe.

Alpina used to pride themselves on being a manufacturer. I hope they don't become a sub-contractor. There are precious few independent car companies with heritage and engineering integrity left in the world. And yet there are many more people with the means to buy something special than there used to be. That's not misty-eyed fiction. There's a high value niche which I don't believe is being catered for in the same way. Maybe this niche has just evolved? Perhaps it is flooded with new Astons, Bentleys, Porsche, BMWs and Audi which are good enough to compensate for lack of character and exclusivity? Time will tell Confused
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PostPosted: Wed Mar 19, 2008 10:42 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I know that once you have had an Alpina it's very hard to ever aspire to anythig else apart from another Alpina they really get under your skin. They feel like they have been built by enthusiasts for enthusiasts.
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PostPosted: Thu Mar 20, 2008 5:54 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I need say no more! You all have the answer.
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Charles
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PostPosted: Thu Mar 20, 2008 2:44 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

nealpina wrote:
Disappointed in you Charles!

I get these questions all the time when I am at work!


Neal,

I know that and you know that but our knowledge is reinforced through ownership.

The point of my initial post was about how to communicate the touchy feely benefits of ALPINA ownership to someone else who has no knowledge in the first place . As I said, I started down the rational route of listing the features of the car that make it different, but there is something intangible with ALPINAs that make them special.

"Different" I can explain rationally (as you have done extremely clearly) - "special" is a lot tougher

mac wrote:
Hi Charles,
Surely he was hesitant because his sales manager would be saying to him 'That he is there to sell cars, not to take a joy ride in a customers car'!!
Especially as said customer would not be buying from them, in all probability would be buying another ALPINA from Sytner.
Unless said customer was to start his own ALPINA franchise!!!!!!!(as suggested previously).
Mac.


Like it Mac Very Happy

However, I have been taking my BMWs to NOG for almost 12 years now and they will have made far more out of the servicing of the cars than any margin they would have made from selling me a new one....

Secondly, they all know me extremely well and I am generally contacted by the dealership if there are ALPINA questions that they need answering....

Thirdly, I have still to decide who will get my financing deal for the new car ...

Finally - and here's the clincher - I play golf with the Dealer Principal!

As I said, nice dig though Very Happy
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hythe
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PostPosted: Fri Mar 21, 2008 10:39 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Special is when a company does as much R&D as Alpina does to produce as small a production run as they do (even more so, in the past).

Special is when a small manufacturer puts out a car of higher quality and reliability than its mass-market cousin.

Special is when you don't really notice the car, unless you're a cognoscenti, but it can still blow the doors off a Maserati.

Have to say, some Alpinas feel more special than others. The B8, now that was special - likewise the B12 coupe. B5? Hmmmm... Might have to try the B5S (not that I'll be buying one).
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PostPosted: Sat Mar 22, 2008 12:13 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Charles wrote:
nealpina wrote:
Disappointed in you Charles!

I get these questions all the time when I am at work!


Neal,

I know that and you know that but our knowledge is reinforced through ownership.

The point of my initial post was about how to communicate the touchy feely benefits of ALPINA ownership to someone else who has no knowledge in the first place . As I said, I started down the rational route of listing the features of the car that make it different, but there is something intangible with ALPINAs that make them special.

"Different" I can explain rationally (as you have done extremely clearly) - "special" is a lot tougher


Therefore to describe what makes Alpina special with a tangible view. I therefore would say to extend on the above points, for example: What makes Alpina special is that they are one of a kind because the company invest heavily in research to develop new technologies and are often the first to pioneer new ideas, then other car manufactures will follow. Such as Switch-tronic, Alpina were the first company to market this product and it worked successfully from the start (apart from the odd teething problem). About 12 years later this concept/technology was introduced in mass market cars (e.g. BMW SSG). At the time in 1993 an E36 B3 driver felt special as they had a technology in their car which no other manufacture was providing. This elegance was not over engineered it was just refined to a level where the driver feels comfortable, unlike with SMG II which has several settings and the driver has to keep changing them to maintain the prefect drive, therefore Alpina has a grace of sophistication or je ne sais quoi. This sensation is within the entire car, and is lost with most cars.

Therefore I would say only someone that looks beyond the physical will understand the refinement of Alpina, otherwise they will never grasp the concept with these fine automobiles.
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PostPosted: Sat Mar 22, 2008 12:14 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

ALPINA - The honed nine yards (or should that be meters).
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PostPosted: Sat Mar 22, 2008 5:03 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Geoff wrote:
(or should that be meters).


Now now, none of that foreign rubbish here please Geoff Confused , including the spelling Wink
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