Alpina doesn’t usually mess with BMW M cars. The tuning arm would rather take, say, a regular 3 Series, give it a bit more power, expertly revise the chassis and slap on some pinstripes than take the already blisteringly quick M3 and make it even faster. Granted, it’s dabbled in the track stuff before (think B3 GT3) but for most of its history, it’s been happy to leave that sort of thing to the M squad.
It has, however, given the Alpina treatment to at least one M car before. A few years into the E30 M3’s lifespan, the tuner elected to give the car a once-over to see what’s what. Immediately, its attention was drawn to the 2.3-litre four-pot. This was originally chosen because it proved to be lighter than the six-cylinder M88 engine that powered the M1 - and that would prove critical to the M3’s success in touring car championships across the globe. But Alpina didn’t have to worry about homologation rules (for motorsport, at least), nor did it have to consider whether the changes it made would impact the car’s performance on the racing scene, so it set out to find a suitable replacement for the purposeful – if not quite as characterful – S14 engine.
BMW’s 3.5-litre M30 straight-six was chosen, before being Alpina-fied with a comprehensive list of upgrades. Shorter Mahle pistons were fitted, along with longer con rods, revised cylinder head, an uprated cooling system and a remap to the Bosch ECU to tie it all together. This saw power leap from 218hp in the stock M3 to 260hp, which was pretty punchy by 1990 standards, making the B6 3.5 S comfortably the most powerful road-going version of the E30 at the time – and it remains the only official(ish) installation of a straight-six in the M3’s first iteration.
Naturally, that came with a hefty weight penalty and mucked about with the balance and suspension setup somewhat. Thankfully, there was an easy fix. BMW had already developed stiffer springs for M3s fitted with air conditioning to handle the extra weight at the front of the car, giving Alpina a plug-and-play solution for its six-cylinder rework. The rear was left unchanged, as was the E30’s brilliantly boxy aero kit. What helps this particular car stand out from regular M3s, given it doesn’t come with the tuning firm’s deco pack, is its Alpina Blue finish, a new steering wheel and gear lever, as well as the company’s signature blue and green stripes down the centre of the seats. And, of course, a set of 16-inch multi-spoke Alpina wheels to top it all off.
That paints a picture of something rather special. Not only is the B6 3.5 S among the finest of all E30 variants, it’s also widely considered to be one of the greatest Alpinas ever made – a tad ironic given that the company hasn’t touched a fully-fledged M car since. It’s mighty rare, too, with only 62 examples making it out of Buchloe versus the near-18,000-strong production run of the E30 M3.
Which inevitably means you’ll need to pay top dollar to get your hands on one. This example is listed at £189,000 at Munich Legends, but you do get a chunky history file documenting the car’s life from its original sale in France in 1990 before arriving in the UK a year later. The last owner purchased it in 1992, and is presumably responsible for clocking up the vast majority of the 84,000 miles the car has under its belt. Don’t let that put you off though; Alpinas eat miles (although they prefer kilometres) for breakfast, and all the images in the ad suggest it’s been well looked after. It’s not often you come across hidden gems like these, so you’d better jump in before word gets out.
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