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Listed for Auction

1990 BMW Alpina B12 5.0

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Estimate: £21,000 - £25,000

The Background

The B12 was Alpina’s first V12 and was based on the E32 7-Series, making it the epitome of luxury and performance when it debuted in 1988. 

Under the bonnet, it had a tuned version of BMW’s M70 engine from the flagship 750i, but whereas that car was all about being luxurious, this one was a much more savage yet stealthy beast.

Exterior changes compared with the rather sober 750i include a front chin spoiler with distinctive Alpina graphics, 17-inch deep dish alloy wheels, a choice of special colours and "B12 5.0" badges on both the boot lid and inside the kidney grille. 

In addition, bold Alpina pinstriping and polished exhaust tips set it apart. 

The interior was customised according to the customer’s own specifications, with a choice of fabric or leather seat facings and a selection of Alpina steering wheels and gear knobs. The original owner of this example was clearly a fan of the dark side, so the car has black paint, black leather, charcoal grey carpets and black just about everything else – all the better for its slightly menacing appearance. 

With Alpina’s mechanical tweaks, the B12 develops 345bhp and a whopping 470Nm of torque, which gives it incredible performance. 0-60mph is dispatched in 6.5 seconds, while the top speed is pretty much all the way around the 300km/h (186mph) speedo. Improved springs are complimented by Bilstein shock absorbers at the front and Fichteil & Sachs shock absorbers at the rear, giving a firmer, more composed dynamic feel.

This example was imported to the UK in the mid-2000s and was originally supplied to Japan. It is described by its current owner as being a very good, usable example that is in perfect mechanical order - and he should know as he runs a garage specialising in German models and is a self-confessed BMW fanatic, with an E39 M5 and two other Alpinas in his collection. 

The History

This example was supplied new to Japan, where a left-hand-drive car is considered a status symbol among enthusiasts – stepping out of your own car on the kerbside is one social peg above being let out of the car at the rear by your chauffeur!

It returned to Europe in the mid-2000 and was discovered by its current owner in 2015 with a seized engine. As a BMW specialist with years of experience working on these complex engines, he bought the car and brought it back to his garage in Blackpool for a full engine rebuild.

In the past 18 months, the car has had over £3,000 spent on it in parts alone, with new pistons, liners, timing chains, gaskets, exhaust manifolds and valve gear. In essence, the engine has been more or less completely rebuilt, while all the hoses and ancillaries were also renewed where needed.

There’s a lot of history detailing work done on the car in the UK, while its mileage (around 75,000 miles if converted from km) is extremely low for a 30-year old car. There’s little history from its time in Japan, other than some fascinating stickers inside the engine bay and door shuts, advertising a hand car wash and documenting dates of oil changes. It also still displays a Japanese licence disc in the windscreen. 

The Condition

The owner is quite open about the fact this Alpina isn’t perfect – the paint is the original 30-year old finish and hasn’t been restored at all – and it has held up well with nothing in the way of fading or lacquer peel.

The most obvious defect is a small crease in the off-side front wing, which is a result of the car being badly tethered on the ship during transportation. The paint has cracked here and while it isn’t rusted, we would highly recommend a localised repair sooner rather than later in order to maintain the car’s overall appearance. 

Luckily, the crease is right on the wheel arch and providing it is reshaped and the paint blended carefully, there’ll be no need to source any of the original Alpina pinstripes, which are still in superb condition all-round, as are the near-unobtainable boot lid and grille badges.

Otherwise, the Alpina is in exceptional order with excellent original alloys and all of the Alpina styling parts in excellent order. 

Inside, the cabin is in excellent order, the only divergence from original specification being a modern Bluetooth stereo, while the black leather is free of cracks and creases. The deep pile carpets are still excellent and all of the electrical components work, including the memory seats and dash-mounted trip computer. As you’d expect, it’s a well-equipped car with all of the toys. 

Underneath, the car is exceptionally good, with no signs of any previous welding or any need for it soon – even the original brake pipes are intact and free of rust. The exhaust system has a few bits of surface rust on it, but isn’t weakened or blowing. The front suspension was also rebuilt at the same time as the engine, so the lower arms, dampers and wishbones are as new. 

Fans of original details will also appreciate that the boot lid-mounted toolkit and original first aid kit are both present and correct. 

This is probably as original and today a B12 as you can find, and with some minor detailing improvement it has the potential to be one of the very best, while the reassurance of the full engine rebuild means it should be good for many, many more miles. 

The Drive

If ever there was a car with a true Jekyll and Hyde character, then this is it. Like a typical large executive model, it’s serene and relaxing to drive around town – slot it into drive, steer it with your fingertips and thread it through traffic with all of the comfort and peacefulness of a classic Jaguar. Use the throttle sparingly and you’d have no idea that beneath the stealthy exterior, here is a car with a completely different character as well. 

Press the right pedal that little bit harder and the Alpina wakes up – it’s not the full-on induction-obsessed punch in the back of some of its turbocharged rivals so much as a reminder that there really is no substitute for cubic inches. Wind it up and it uses pure power and capacity to get going – and keep on going. 

This is a car that is extremely rapid – deceptively so – but also remarkably easy to live with, while the handling is pure BMW; a positive rear bias but with exceptional steering. The Aplina tweaks make it firmer than a standard Seven, but never to the point of discomfort.


The Appeal

This is a car that would be just as at home in a gritty urban environment as it would on fast open roads and glorious countryside. 

Its stealthy performance is part of its appeal. Here is a car with 180mph performance that can easily fade into the background if needs be. Yet if you want to make an entrance it has all of the power and presence you need it to.

The stance, Alpina graphics and black paintwork give it a truly menacing aura that’s almost gangster-like in its appearance. 

Yet at the same time, here is a usable, family-friendly performance saloon that will never disappoint from behind the wheel or when admired from afar. It’s a fabulous rarity and a car that is bound to appreciate in value over the coming years. 
Vehicle specification
  • Year 1990
  • Make BMW
  • Model Alpina B12 5.0
  • Colour Black
  • Mileage 74,640
  • Engine size 4988
  • Location Lancashire
Bidding history
20 bids
  • JonJo £19,500 05/07/20
  • KRZYSZT•••• £19,000 04/07/20
  • KRZYSZT•••• £18,500 04/07/20
  • Barry W•••• £18,000 04/07/20
  • KRZYSZT•••• £16,500 03/07/20
  • KRZYSZT•••• £16,000 03/07/20
  • JonJo £15,500 03/07/20
  • KRZYSZT•••• £14,000 02/07/20
  • KRZYSZT•••• £13,500 02/07/20
  • Barry W•••• £13,000 02/07/20

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