The BMW 8 Series was a car that never really achieved its full potential. That wasn’t exactly an uncommon thing for a car born in the 80s, and the 8 Series certainly wasn’t a bad car, but it’s difficult to shake the feeling that a V-12 BMW grand touring car should have been something more. And indeed, there was a way to get more from the car, in the form of the Alpina B12. This was a tuned version of the E31 8 Series, with more power and a more luxurious interior.

The downside is that it’s quite rare, being a tuned version of a car that was never produced in huge numbers in the first place. But one has just turned up for sale in Evans City, Pennsylvania, and according to the ad, it’s one of only two in the US. And this particular 1991 model was imported from Japan. It has been quite well taken care of, with only 28,000 miles on the clock, but it’s a difficult call as to whether it would be worth buying.
Continue reading to learn more about the BMW 8 Series By Alpina.

  • 1991 BMW 8 Series By Alpina
  • Year:
    1991
  • Make:
  • Model:
  • Engine:
    V12
  • Horsepower @ RPM:
    350
  • Torque @ RPM:
    346
  • Displacement:
    5.0 L
  • 0-60 time:
    6.8 sec.
  • Top Speed:
    173 mph
  • Price:
    75000
  • car segment:
  • body style:

Exterior

1991 BMW 8 Series By Alpina Exterior
- image 628532

Alpina never really goes too overboard with exterior modifications on the cars it tunes. A trained eye can spot them easily enough, but someone who doesn’t know what to look for might never notice anything different. The most obvious thing to look for is the wheels, as Alpina always uses a signature look for these. The graphics down the side of the car don’t necessarily denote a tuner car in every situation, but they do in this one. There are some extra aero pieces as well, but the 8 Series was quite a nice looking car to begin with, and Alpina knew better than to mess too much with success.

Interior

1991 BMW 8 Series By Alpina Interior
- image 628535

The interior modifications were extensive on this and all Alpina cars, but they are also subtle, essentially just making everything a bit better without calling too much attention to the fact. It is upholstered in black Nappa leather with Alpina stitching in the seats. The center console is wood grain, and most everything on the inside looks like it’s still brand new. The steering wheel is also an Alpina signature piece, complete with an Alpina logo in place of the BMW roundel.

Drivetrain

1991 BMW 8 Series By Alpina Exterior
- image 628534

Two different versions of the E31 B12 exist, one made from the 850i/850Ci and one from the 850CSi. Badging can be used to differentiate, as the 850i/850Ci has a “5.0” badge and the 850CSi has a “5.7.” This particular B12 is a 5.0, and it uses a 5-liter V-12 that produced 296 horsepower in stock form, but here has been tuned to 345. Those numbers might sound a bit low, especially when you consider that it was just one year after McLaren used a relative of this engine in the F1 and got 618 horsepower out it. But the 8-Series was never about outright speed, and it’s hardly as though it was the only car of the time to have horsepower numbers on the low side. Further evidence that BMW never meant this to be a supercar is the fact that it was equipped with an automatic transmission.

Prices

The price is where things get a bit iffy with this car, as the asking price is $75,000. It is in exceptionally good shape, but a stock early 90s 8 Series will usually only set you back about $15,000, although those tend to have a lot more miles on them. They can go up as high as about $35,000 for particularly well cared for and low-mileage examples, but this is still noticeably less than the asking price of this car. It’s obviously the rarity of the Alpina version of the car that is driving the price. Whether or not that rarity should more than double the value of the car is a tough call to make, but since it is so very rare, there isn’t really any way to compare. It would ultimately be up to the buyer whether he’s willing to fork over the money.

Competition

Porsche 928

1978 - 1995 Porsche 928
- image 41920

Pick one of these up from the same year as the B12 and you’ll be getting a remarkably similar product, a German GT car with a 5.0-liter engine that produces 326 horsepower. In this case it’s a V-8 rather than a V-12, but at least both cars offer pop-up headlights. First introduced as a replacement for the 911, the 928 was therefore hated by purists despite being a perfectly nice GT. Porsche ultimately sold both cars side by side, and the 928 enjoyed a nice long production run that make them nowhere near as rare as anything from Alpina, and therefore much cheaper.

Read our full review here.

Mercedes-Benz SL73 AMG

1991 BMW 8 Series By Alpina
- image 628651

If you absolutely must have an incredibly rare V-12 German GT car from the early to mid 90s, this is essentially your one other option. Only 85 units were ever built, so you’re going to pay through the nose for one of these as well, very probably even more than the $75,000 being asked for the B12. The car has a much bigger engine; a 7.3-liter V-12 which puts out 525 horsepower. Much as the B12 shares an engine with the McLaren F1 (sort of), the SL73 AMG shares one with the Pagani Zonda. It is much more of a performance machine than the Alpina, but it is a comparable level of rarity.

Read our full review of the Mercedes-Benz SL-Class R129 here.

Conclusion

1991 BMW 8 Series By Alpina Exterior
- image 628533

Taken simply as a list of specifications, this would be an extremely difficult purchase to justify. But that could be said of quite a few classic cars, and if this is something that turns out to be considered a genuine classic, then it will probably be money well spent. Alpinas do tend to hold their value rather well, but this is not guaranteed. Of course, in the end, even if you lose a big chunk of money on it, you would be hard pressed to do so more stylishly or in better comfort.

  • Leave it
    • * no promise of a return on a hefty investment
    • * replacement parts will be insanely difficult to find
    • * for all of the exclusivity, few people will understand what makes the car special

Source: Hemmings

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