It's incredible what a rabbit hole the PH classifieds can be. Take today's Spotted. While perusing the listings in search of something intriguing, I happened upon this rather handsome E39 525i. Not only is it fully-specced and low mileage - having only seen 56,000 miles in its 18 years - but, as an example originally sold on the Japanese market, it's in immaculate condition too. A handsome car in anyone's book, then, but the sight of its 16-inch Radial Spoke 48 rims immediately had my mind wandering somewhere else.
Right into the path of the Alpina B10. An example from the same E39 era, of course, a generation of BMWs which I've always thought seemed particularly suited to the Alpina treatment. The car in question was a V8 S, one of forty-two such machines delivered to the UK, and boasting a 370hp 4.8-litre petrol V8, the most powerful engine available in a range which included a choice of 335hp 4.6-litre V8, 280hp six-cylinder petrol and - in a sign of things to come - 255hp 3.0-litre twin-turbo diesel motors. It was perfect.
Or it was, until I saw this. Would you just look at it? £14,980 may seem like quite a lot of money, but it's a decent chunk less than you'd pay for an equivalent M3 with similar miles. Sure, you don't get quite the same kind of power, performance or - beyond those in the know - prestige as you would with an M car, but an E46 in that colour on those wheels? You couldn't put a price on the joy of seeing it on your drive every morning.
The same 3.3-litre petrol inline-six that looked a little tight-fisted in the B10 seems a better fit here and, although its 280hp falls short of the 305hp put out by the 3.4-litre B3S - the model aficionados would say you really want - its 247lb ft of torque puts it in the same ballpark as the M3's 269lb ft. That's enough to see to the 0-62 sprint in 5.5 seconds which, while admittedly half a second slower than the M3, is still pretty zippy. Besides, with a five-speed auto 'box in lieu of the available manual, this car perhaps better embodies Alpina's tradition of high-speed Autobahn cruisers over high-strung B-road bruisers.
And there's more to a car purchase than outright speed, after all. Value, condition, reliability - a certain je ne sais quoi - these things all matter too. With only one former owner, a detailed history and an inspection less than 1,000 miles ago, they all seem to be present here. Our Spotted's 43,000 miles (just over 2,000 a year since it was built) are reflected in what looks to be its incredible state, with its Alpina Green Metallic paint apparently as spotless as its Montana leather interior - two options that would have combined for an additional £5,600 when new, or £10k after inflation.
Speaking of money, the ad claims the original bill of sale to still be on file, a document which displays a £75,000 RRP. What does the Bank of England's inflation calculator make of that sum 21 years on? £131,000, that's what. Yep, it's easy to get distracted by the incredible array of precious metal in the PH classifieds, but when it comes to today's Spotted, I may well have found something that could finally hold my attention. Until tomorrow, at least...
SPECIFICATION - ALPINA B3 (E46)
Engine: 3,300cc, straight-six
Transmission: five-speed automatic, rear-wheel drive
Power (hp): 280hp@6,200rpm
Torque (lb ft): 247lb ft@4,500rpm
Recorded mileage: 43,000
First registered: 1999
Price new: £75,000 (£131,000 after inflation)
Yours for: £14,980