Alpina E36 B3 3.2 and thunderous E65 B7

Alpina E36 B3 3.2 and thunderous E65 B7

Every Alpina is rather special, and here we meet an owner with a passion for the brand and his lovely E36 B3 3.2 and thunderous E65 B7.


Words: Bob Harper

Photos: Kieran Lucas


THE B's KNEES ALPINA HEAVEN

Owning one Alpina is pretty special, but this enthusiast has no fewer than five examples in his collection. We check out his immaculate E36 B3 3.2 and magnificent E65 B7.

Alpina E36 B3 3.2 and thunderous E65 B7


If you’re reading this magazine, it points to the fact that you probably have a healthy – or in some cases an unhealthy – interest in BMWs. Once you’ve driven one, it’s all too easy to be afflicted by the bug, and most of us become serial owners or even slightly obsessive collectors. Today’s owner, Mitch Davis (@m7tcx), probably falls into that latter category, and his particular passion is typified by the two beauties you see here. Not just a BMW fan, but a fully paid-up member of the Alpina aficionados club; “Yes, I’m aware I have a problem!” he says with a laugh.


Alpina E36 B3 3.2 and thunderous E65 B7

Mitch’s current fleet includes two E65 Alpina B7s, two E36 Alpina B3 3.2s and an E92 Alpina D3 Bi-turbo, but the two we’re going to concentrate on today are this stunning pair of Alpina blue models – one of the B7s and a very rare manual B3 3.2. Like most of us, the car bug bit early for Mitch, as he explains: “I’ve been into cars and BMWs since I was a child, and I remember watching the Duke 1994 BTCC season review on repeat when I was around five! My dad has had several ’80s and ’90s BMWs over the years, including an E30 325i Coupé he had when I was born.”

While Mitch’s first car was a Mk1 VW Golf, he knew that he would soon be graduating to the Bavarian marque, and it was the E36 generation of 3 Series that he was drawn to. “My first BMW was a 1997 323i in Hellrot,” Mitch tells us. “I got it as I loved the E36, due to my dad having an E36 325i in the late ’90s. I remember telling him as a child, ‘One day, I will have one of these for myself.’ I was lucky enough to be in the position to get one in 2013, just after I turned 19.”

It’s fair to say that Mitch likes to enhance his cars, and the 323i didn’t stay standard for long. “My 323i went from a low-spec SE model to an AC Schnitzer and M body with an Alcantara headliner and Vader seats. The car was treated to Air Lift suspension with AccuAir management, Tarox 10-pot brakes and genuine BTCC 10x18”-inch centrelock alloys all-round,” he says. The bug had truly hit, and in 2020, he tackled another project. “I built and re-shelled a rotten AC Schnitzer M3 into my AC Schnitzer 328i and fitted a Geoff Steel carbon intake with an Alpha N chip. The car was dripping in rare Schnitzer parts and a big stealth audio upgrade, among other things,” he enthuses. He’s obviously a huge fan of the E36, but before we get onto how Mitch ended up with an Alpina version, we should perhaps take a little step back and see what’s so special about an E36 Alpina B3 3.2. Almost as soon as the E36 hit the streets, Alpina was fettling the 3 Series to make it better than BMW had intended, and first up was the B6 2.8, an enhanced 325i complete with a 2.8-litre engine.

However, BMW soon launched its M3, which left the 2.8 feeling a little outgunned, so Alpina launched the E36 B3 3.0 in 1993, with the final incarnation, the B3 3.2 being Alpina’s ultimate six-cylinder E36 incarnation. Launched in 1996, the heart of the B3 3.2 was a 3152cc capacity iron block (as found on the US-spec M3) that incorporated Mahle lightweight pistons and Alpina-developed cylinder heads and engine management. With 265hp, it may have been down on power when compared to the contemporary M3 Evo, but it still had enough clout to hit 62mph in just 5.9 seconds and with no limiter to contend with, was capable of a claimed 160mph. Alpina’s trademark suspension was, of course, part of the package, as was, importantly, optional Switch-Tronic transmission.

These days, the F1-style semiautomatic has become an Alpina staple, but on the E36-based cars, it was still very much a new and exciting feature. Completing the package was a set of Alpina Classic alloys, 8x17” up front with 225/45 tyres and 9x17” at the rear with 245/40 rubber. Externally, other changes were limited to Alpina’s subtle but stylish aerodynamic kit comprising front and rear spoilers, while the traditional Alpina Dekoset stripes were optional. The 3.2 was available in two- and four-door guises, as well as in Touring and Convertible shells, and just 342 were built between 1996 and 1999.

So, what about Mitch’s example? “Over the last 10 years of BMW ownership, I’ve collected rare parts and ended up with quite a few Alpina items, so I started looking more into Alpinas. I found a few E36 B3 3.2s needing work and got the bug for it. I had four B3 3.2s and then started looking at the Alpina Archive to see the specifications of the 35 UK coupés that were still around. There were a few I saw that I really wanted to own, including B3 3.2 number 32, this car, which is one of three RHD manual cars built, two in the UK and one in Japan. So, I spent two years looking for number 32 with just a few images of it taken in 2007. In the Summer of 2023, it surfaced on Autotrader! I must have rung the number on the advert 12 times over that morning until the seller answered. I drove to Essex that night and paid the asking price,” Mitch grins.

There’s no doubt that Mitch’s B3 looks suitably gorgeous with its Alpina blue paint and black leather interior, and part of that’s down to the fact that it’s a low-mileage example at just 68k, but also thanks to it covering just 2000 miles since the photos Mitch had seen that were taken in 2007. Thankfully, it was drystored during that time, which has certainly helped to preserve it in such good condition. While the B3 3.2 might look like a potential concours contender, Mitch is keen to point out that this isn’t the case as he uses both the B7 and B3 extensively. “I just wanted to make them even more presentable,” he says, and it certainly looks like he’s succeeded. As with most cars, the B3 did need a little bit of fettling and has also been subject to a couple of tasteful upgrades. The headliner was sagging when Mitch bought it, a common E36 problem and the rear dampers were shot, which he replaced with some Bilstein B8s. He’s also equipped it with OEM cupholders and an OEM fire extinguisher, too.

Further upgrades have included an Alpina rear bumper insert and the Deko-set, which were both optional extras when the car was new, as well as retrofitting factory cruise control to the car. While the inside was pretty immaculate (bar the headliner), Mitch had a further upgrade in mind, which was a set of Alpina VDO gauges which sit in the dash pod and were an optional extra on manual cars – “Lucky I had a set in my loft… as you do,” quips Mitch. This winter, he’s also planning some further upgrades, including a Quaife LSD, an Alcantara headliner, Bilstein B12 Sport suspension along with some new bushes and an E46 330i brake upgrade with an M3 master cylinder.

But what about the B7? It might not seem like the obvious choice for someone who has a passion for the smaller and nimbler E36. However, as Mitch explains, there was method to his madness. “I really wanted a BMW V8 but thought, ‘why not get the 500hp supercharged option?!’” Initially, he was looking at an E60 Alpina B5 Touring, but having missed a silver car which sold for a little more than he wanted to pay, he heard about an Alpina B7 that popped up for sale four doors down from a friend’s house. “I had to go take a look!” he tells us, and he ended up buying it. It’s one of just 14 built in RHD and was originally sold in Japan, and those with eagle eyes might have spotted the Japanese dealer info on the UK plates, which is a particularly cool touch. For those not au fait with the E65 B7, it was the ultimate Alpina back in the early 00s and offered mind-bending performance for a two-tonne executive express. The previous two generations of Alpina super Seven had been based on the V12-engined 750i, but for the E65 model, Alpina instead opted to extract some more grunt from the Valvetronic V8 in the 745i. Headline figures for the B7 were 500hp at 5500rpm and a stonking 516lb ft of torque. Those figures represent gains of 167hp and 184lb ft over the standard 745i and 55hp and 73lb ft over the six-litre 760i. The conversion from mild-mannered 745i to fire-breathing B7 wasn’t easy, particularly getting the centrifugal supercharger to work with the complicated Valvetronic engine. The V8’s compression ratio was lowered from 10.5:1 to 9.0:1, and there were bespoke Alpina pistons, engine management and a Boysen exhaust to go with it. Vital stats were a 0-62mph time of just 4.8 seconds and a top speed of 186mph.

Mitch’s example was in decent fettle when he bought it, but like the B3, there were a few little niggles that he attended to. “The E65 was actually similar to the B3,” he says. “The car was really clean, but had a sagging headliner, and the Alpina Deko-set needed sorting. The supercharger idler bearing needed replacing too, which needs doing every 60k miles, and the car had 59k when I bought it.” As with the B3, Mitch has sympathetically rejuvenated the B7. That sagging headliner has been retrimmed in black sport fabric that he also sells, the original audio has been upgraded to an Android CarPlay head unit, an OEM fire extinguisher has been installed, and the suspension has come in for some attention, too.

“I thought about air suspension and more power on the B7, but felt it was too special to mess around with as there are only 14 in RHD,” Mitch tells us, so, in the end, he went down a more conventional route. “I wanted the B7 to sit a little lower, and the front dampers were worn out, so I went with Bilstein B4 front dampers with H&R lowering springs and Eibach lowering links,” and we have to say that it looks perfect to our eyes. Sadly, the B7 is now looking for a new home as Mitch is taking on a new project… not a BMW, but an equally tasty Aston Martin V8 Vantage. With his attention to detail and OEM+ ethos, it will be fascinating to see how that project materialises. In the meantime, he’s not likely to lose his passion for Alpinas – it looks like it’ll be a lifelong obsession and when the results are as impressive as his B3 and B7 we’re glad there are Alpina fans such as Mitch to keep the candle lit for Buchloe’s best.

Headline figures for the B7 were 500hp at 5500rpm and a stonking 516lb ft of torque

THANKS Huge thanks to my wife Rae and my parents for the number of times I’ve needed their help to secure these cars at short notice, Lea at LA Detailing, Nick from Retro Plate, Simon Alcorn and Bob Whiffin from The Alpina Register

Below-left, the B7’s awesome supercharged V8; below, the B3’s soulful NA straight-six.

The V8’s compression ratio was lowered from 10.5:1 to 9.0:1, and there were bespoke Alpina pistons, engine management and a Boysen exhaust to go with it. Vital stats were a 0-62mph time of just 4.8 seconds and a top speed of 186mph

TECHNICAL DATA E36 Alpina B3 3.2

  • ENGINE: 3.2-litre straight-six based on S52B32US block
  • MAX POWER: 265hp @ 5800rpm
  • MAX TORQUE: 243lb ft @ 4400rpm
  • 0-62MPH: 5.9 seconds
  • TOP SPEED: 161mph
  • PRICE NEW: £39,640 (1996)

TECHNICAL DATA E65 Alpina B7

  • ENGINE: 4.4-litre supercharged H1 V8
  • MAX POWER: 500hp @ 5500rpm
  • MAX TORQUE: 516lb ft @ 4250rpm
  • 0-62MPH: 4.8 seconds
  • TOP SPEED: 186mph
  • PRICE NEW: £76,900 (2004)

The B3 was down on power compared to the M3, but it’s a far more exclusive and discreet machine 20-spoke wheels are an Alpina staple.

There were a few I saw that I really wanted to own, including B3 3.2 number 32, this car, which is one of three RHD manual cars built, two in the UK and one in Japan

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