It surely wouldn't be too contentious a statement to suggest that Alpinas are widely liked cars. Obviously some prove less popular with traditionalists than others, but the combination of relative subtlety with capability beyond base BMWs ensures an easygoing charm for the Buchloe bruisers. If an M car is too intense and too obvious, there's almost always been an Alpina alternative that does a similar job in a slightly more unassuming fashion.
There's also a pleasing consistency about what Alpina turns out, with six generations of 3 Series now - right back to 1980 - being powered by six cylinders. There was the diesel, four-cylinder D3, but if Alpina has modified a petrol 3 Series, it was always with a straight six. It never went up to a V8 and never stuck with four cylinders, even when it modified the E30 M3 for the B6 3.5 S of 1987-1990. Securing the M Division's S58 3.0-litre for the incredible new B3 Touring ensures that lineage will continue for a few years yet.
Still, you'd want the latest Alpina 3 Series to be nothing less than incredible for the £70k it costs to buy one - or £85,000 as the most recent demonstrator was optioned to. However lovely it might be, that's almost M5 money. So, here's an alternative: a 3 Series wagon that's also straight six powered, just as rare and just as lovingly crafted. But it's for sale at £8,995.
The reasons for that are pretty clear - it's a 20-year-old E46 with 180,000 miles - but, this being an Alpina product, it's rather more than that. It's rather more than just a sticker set, too - we'll come to that. This old blue BMW is in fact a 2001 B3 3.3 Touring, believed to be one of just nine right-hand drive cars made. Nine! A development of the contemporary 328i (then 330i) and launched before the M3, the B3 produced 280hp from an enlarged straight-six, enough for 62mph in six seconds and more than 160mph. As an automatic car this will be a little slower, though perhaps more in keeping with the more relaxed Alpina attitude.
More than 60,000 miles ago, this B3 was bought by its current owner as a daily driver; from the end of 2017 it became a second car, and is now being moved on because - in their own words - "I've two 300-odd hp estates and it doesn't make sense". Which sounds fair enough to us. As you might expect for such a car, the ad is chock full of detail and dutiful care, including replacement Alpina interior parts, a gearbox rebuild and rust treatment.
There's also a note on the stickers, you might be pleased to know, because they might not be to all tastes. But then Alpina stickers sometimes aren't - on the early cars they could be really prominent. These aren't original items, instead the creation of a venture called @BoxAndWedge - you can see what else they're up to, including work on Integrales and E36s, here. Designed specifically for this E46 wagon shape and aimed to evoke those bold early cars, they are nothing if not distinctive. And, of course, fit perfectly, But are removable, if you so wish...
Even if the stickers aren't to your taste here, there's plenty to like: E46s have been highly regarded since launch, and the Alpina derivatives even more so. However excellent the new B3 is, there's always going to be an endearing simplicity about the older stuff. Given how rare this particular Touring is and the care that seems to have been lavished upon it, the temptation to crack on for a mighty 200,000 miles is clear enough. It'll still need some careful upkeep, but for an Alpina like this that would surely be no hardship. With or without the stickers.
1 / 7