Having terrified me half to death on the journey to a local restaurant, Andy Bovensiepen (son of Alpina’s founder, Burkhard), drank a glass of Reisling, began chewing on some spectacularly good anti-pasti, then turned to me and smiled. As if to say; “And now, after the drama of our 191mph speedfest along the autobahn, it’s time to relax – to understand the way we do things here at Alpina.”
Which would seem to involve driving very fast cars as fast as possible, everywhere, then talking about and quaffing unfeasibly expensive wine. Which, all things considered, doesn’t seem such a bad way to spend your days.
As the main course of a whole Dorade arrives, with my pulse no longer in the stratosphere (he was demonstrating how stable an Alpina B5 is during violent lane changes on the wrong side of 150mph, for heavens sake), I ask the Bovensiepens if Alpina has ever had anything to do with any other car company beyond BMW. To which ‘senior’ – who is a couple of glasses to the good by this point – replies; “There was a time, once. But it was a long time ago, and we’ve forgotten all about that now.”
It turns out that when Wolfgang Rietzle was in charge of Ford’s Premier Automotive Group (Jaguar, Land Rover, Aston Martin and Volvo) he approached the Bovensiepens and made them an offer they very nearly couldn’t refuse. According to Burkhard, the offer was “for a simply incredible amount of money, it was crazy” and would have involved Alpina severing its relationship with BMW to design and engineer Jaguar’s high performance models.
Burkhard Bovensiepen chose the restaurant in London in which the meeting took place. “But in the end it wasn’t a long conversation” he says. “Mr Rietzle made me the offer, I thought about it for a while, and then said no. And I’ve never regretted it since.”
Indeed, Herr Bovensiepen. Indeed. Then we went back to talking about and drinking his beloved wine.