Currently reading: Throwback Thursday 1971: Autocar's first Alpina experience
We drove a BMW 2002 modified with an Alpina engine and chassis parts by Buchloe's new British concession; the upgrade cost the equivalent of £5710

Alpina's annual sales in the UK are usually only between 50 and 150 cars, yet the German BMW tuning specialist has huge clout among motoring enthusiasts here.

And that's fair enough, seeing that many of Buchloe's creations can hold their own against, or even trounce, BMW's in-house M division's models

Alpina has been fettling BMWs since 1962, beginning by applying Weber dual carburettor to a 1500, and with Munich's blessing since 1964.

In 1968, the company entered touring car racing, going on to win the European Touring Car Championship with the 2002 in 1970 — the year it became the de facto works team.

By this time, Alpina tuning parts had become available in the UK, with the appointment of a concession in Crayford Auto Developments, a Kent-based company best known for its convertible conversions.

It was courtesy of this company that Autocar gained our first experience of Alpina machinery in the shape of a tuned 2002. 


This car was based on the standard model, seeing as the hot 2002ti wasn't then available in right-hand drive form.

Crayford's creation had been brought up to the standard of the 2000ti with an Alpina engine conversion, which would have cost customers a reasonable £425 — equivalent to about £5710 today.

This comprised a new cylinder head with reworked combustion chambers, enlarged and gas-flowed ports, special valve springs and guides, a 300deg camshaft and, of course, a pair of Weber carburettors (40 DCOE 31s, if you want to get geeky) to replace the standard Solex unit. 

The standard exhaust manifold was retained (because there was no room for a more efficient one in RHD form), as was the four-speed manual gearbox with a 3.64:1 final drive.

The final product probably produced around 150bhp.


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"The tuned engine is noisier," we said back in 1971, "although not obtrusively so. It emits a splendid growl, not unlike a well-tuned Lotus Twin Cam [probably because the same Weber units were used on some Lotus models].

"Throttle response is excellent and the car proved an untemperamental starter, needing the usual Weber procedure of two pumps on the throttle and half-throttle from cold."

We continued: "The engine 'comes on the cam' at 2800rpm, which is 50mph in top gear and 42mph in third. It's still reasonably tractable below that, and the driveline remains free from snatch when accelerating from low revs in high gear.

"But it is rattly and fussy under these conditions — 30mph in top gear isn't really on. In practice, one uses second most of the time in town. We think that the car would be much improved by fitting the lower 4.1 final drive and the optional five-speed gearbox, which costs another £150. The lower axle would undoubtedly further improve the acceleration and would make fuller use of the improved rev range (up to 6400rpm).

Engine 0

"As it is, the conversion improves the car's 0-60mph time by 2.2sec, with 8.4sec to our original road test 2002's 10.6sec. To 90mph, the improvement is up to 7.2sec (19.2sec against 26.4sec). There is, however, considerable variation between individual standard 2002s, because our long-term test car was 1.7sec slower to 60mph than the road test car."

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The Alpina conversion also provided the 2002 with a top speed of 111mph, up from 107mph, and a drop of 4.6mpg in average fuel economy to 20.4mpg.

In addition to the engine modifications, Crayford's Alpina had wider alloy wheels, necessitating a reshaped flange on the wheel arches (£16) and a cast-aluminium, offset bonnet air scoop (sourced from the US, so not an official Alpina part) to feed air directly into the Webers' large double air filter. 

Other modifications on offer, but not fitted to our car, included a kit to lower and stiffen the rear suspension by boxing in the semi-trailing arms and fitting new dampers, as well as ventilated brake dsics, improving what we called "the weakest feature of the car in high-speed driving". These, and the packed-out calipers that accompanied them, cost £45.

Aside from some steering troubles (apparently likely due to the demonstrator car being rather well used), namely the rack "not being as positive as it should have been" and, very disturbingly, the "tendency for the steering column and engine to touch under hard acceleration on a tight lock", we found the Alpina car's "handling and roadholding to be as one would expect, with a tendency to lift an inside wheel near to the limit".

We considered that "the stiffened-up suspension would improve the car for high-speed driving", because "although the ride is beautifully controlled for normal use, there's perhaps too much movement when cornering fast on undulating roads".

Crayford's next project after the 2002 was to sell Alpina parts for the 2800 coupé. Meanwhile, back in Buchloe, work was under way on the legendary BMW 3.0 CSL.

Alpina 3

Alpina set about appointing an official UK dealership network in 1973 and has continued to grow in stature and quality ever since.

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