Tooling Around in an Alpina B10 V8

Some years ago I owned a 5 Series BMW, a ’98 Sea Green 535i E39 model, and it was the first Beemer I had. I have written elsewhere that BMWs have never really been for me, I had a rather underwhelming 1 Series and also a 2013 520 estate, a barge in sheep’s clothing. Don’t misunderstand, I think that the offerings from the Bayerische Motoren Werke AG are generally excellent, some are among the finest examples of automobiles on offer over the last 50 years. BMW Alpina especially so.

BMW 635CSi
Achingly beautiful BMW 635CSi

There have been some mingers (looking at you Chris Bangle), vehicles hit with the ugly stick, but also there have been some achingly beautiful cars. The 635CSI E24 model springs to mind and is on my list of Lottery win cars. I was also a fan of the 2002Tii from 1971 and that is also on the ‘list’.

Bangle BMW
Bangle’s ugly Beemer

Filial impoverishment has brought an E39 5 Series BMW Alpina B10 V8 to my drive and I have been using it whilst my C43 has been commandeered by son no. 2. He bought the BMW Alpina in immaculate condition and ran it as a daily but a knackered differential required replacement and therefore paternal wallet intervention. Plus Ça change…. A brand new part was sourced from Germany (£1500!), a friendly garage fitted it and we were ready to go.

So therefore the opportunity to tool around in this icon is a joy, it is so smooth and relaxed. It gets quite a few admiring glances from those who recognise it for the classic it is and the burble of the V8 more than compensates for its desire for lashings of the best petrol.

Alpina B10
Alpina B10 V8

Based on the fabulous 540i (and similar to the 535i that I had previously) Alpina have created a trans continental cruiser, one could drive from here to the South of France and arrive relaxed and ready for that all important appearance at Cannes. The changes are not conspicuous and a casual observer would be hard pressed to spot the differences, Alpina’s ethos is more about improving a cars road abilities and less about raw power. The engine capacity is increased from 4.4 litres to 4.6 with a power increase from 286 bhp to 347 bhp, the interior has one or tweaks including double glazing and the suspension is also fettled.

The Alpina wheels are worth a mention, if you look carefully you may notice that there is no valve with which to inflate the tyres. The centre cap tilts to reveal both the wheel nuts and also the tyre valve which is then inflated through one of the spokes, aesthetically sublime. 

Alpina Wheel
Alpina Wheel

However, the 57 year Alpina relationship with BMW is now over, the Bovensiepen family selling to BMW entirely. The end of an era?

All Weather Tyres

The Merc is currently equipped with ‘All Weather’ tyres, or if you’re foreign, tires. If you are one of those philistines that regard tyres as simply black circles then I urge you to read The Intercooler, available as an app. That small patch of rubber on each corner of your pride and joy is what keeps you on the road, delivers communication from the asphalt, squeezes the water out to prevent aqua planing and yet is soft enough to grip the surface under hard braking or cornering.

Around September 2019 after a couple of months of ownership I decided that the distinctly underwhelming and overworn tyres needed replacing. Graham at Oatlands Tyres of Harrogate suggested Vredestein Quatrac all weathers. I toyed with the idea of getting a set of wheels for the tyres so that I could run both summer and winter tyres, an idea that was dashed on the rocks of fiscal reality. Graham assured me that these tyres were more than adequate and indeed after over 30,000 miles on the rears they have fulfilled that promise. Moreover they have proved their worth in adverse weather.

They can be fairly noisy on motorways, the section on the M1 link road with a concrete surface renders Radio 4 inaudible, but generally I am very happy with them.  The fronts have been replaced because of punctures and potholes, sadly with plenty of wear left, but the rears could last another 10k. However Vredestein Quatrac tyres prove their worth!

 

44mpg from the Vredesteins!

The Tale of the Trevor

The sorry tale of a TVR

I once bought a TVR, it was a rather special one, a 420 SE AC and it went like stink.  It was, as usual, an impulse purchase and was mainly the fault of a friend, a local garage proprietor, who persuaded me to buy one when I showed him a magazine article about how fast it was going to be.  He knew Peter Wheeler, the then owner of TVR, and arranged for me to purchase one of the early cars.  Of course I paid too much, don’t I always when it comes to cars?

Crikey it was fast, and loud and bloody awful on a long journey.  At the time I believe it was the fastest production car available, an incredible amount of bang per buck.  It was however very badly built, the term Jerry Built would not do the workmanship justice.  The wipers failed in their primary purpose, the windscreen washers had all the power of a geriatrics bladder, the heater just didn’t and I don’t think the horn ever worked. It did look pretty though

Of more pressing concern was the engine management electrics.  They were fastened to a hatch in the nearside footwell, mounted on a rectangular piece of thin, sharp metal held in place above the passenger’s legs by a couple of catches.  Under hard acceleration the catches would open and the entire caboodle would fall onto the legs of  the passenger with the sharp edge threatening to lacerate the shins.

But it was chuffing quick; the noise of the cross plane V8 under load was awesome and the ability to thrash it down a winding country lane just intoxicating. For the first service the car was returned to Blackpool and I took the opportunity to apprise Mr Wheeler of some of the vehicle’s shortcomings. He listened to me in his office, wreathed in a cloud of cigarette smoke, paused to light another from the stub of the old one and then told me to eff off; I’d bought the car and it was tough. Great customer service I thought.

The car was left at Blackpool for a couple of days for some remedial work as well as its service and I received a phone call from a magazine, Performance Car. They were in Blackpool for an article on TVR and they asked if they could borrow mine for some photographs around the town. I was assured that the car would not leave town and would only be driven carefully so, after agreeing that I could have copies of the photos, I gave permission.

When I went to pick the car up a couple of days later it was buggered. The engine had started smoking a little, the rear tyres were well past their best and the diff seemed to have a slight whine. Mr Wheeler was noticeable by his absence and any calls to Performance Car were met with no knowledge of our agreement. When I later got a copy of the magazine there was what amounted to a full road test and through thrashing around the Lake District. I never even got the photos!

The time came a little while later to sell the car, it was a real ‘head turner’ and attracted small boys and petrol heads wherever it stopped. Should sell easily!

Meh! I advertised it far and wide at ever reducing prices and elicited zero interest until finally a dealer from Bristol offered a derisory £20K to which I reluctantly agreed. He arrived on the train at Harrogate, took a test drive and then proffered a bankers draft drawn against the Bank of Baroda. Never heard of them and this was long before the internet so anything Google was out of the question. I rang the number on the cheque and was assured by an earnest foreign sounding chap that the bank was indeed real and the account kosher.

TVR420

Went like a bat out of hell!

Private Number Plates

Some years ago I recall seeing an advert in a motoring magazine where they boasted that every car came complete with a private number plate, their lead example was a rather mundane Mini Metro with the number plate BZY 234 T. * Their point was that every registration has to be unique.

*( it wasn’t that exact number, it was many years ago and I use that number for illustration!)

I have owned a couple of Cherished Numbers over the years and the first notable one was NAS7Y.

Performance Car October 87I bought this number whilst it was on a Range Rover, a black 4 door 3.5lt petrol V8. Fabulous car, I ran it for a few months and then I bought the ill-fated TVR 420SEAC. (a separate blog on this will follow soon.)

At one point I had the number on both vehicles simultaneously and it may have gone unnoticed until I inadvertently parked them together in Harrogate and Mr. Plod gave me a lecture.

I even had my car featured in a car magazine with the number plate on.  If you look carefully at the image you can even see my name on the number plate!  Happy days.

Some months later I was in my local pub, lightly oiled, when someone asked me how much I wanted for the plate. I answered that it was not really for sale unless I was offered a ridiculous amount. What, he inquired, was ridiculous? I answered £20K and he said yes!

That sum funded a rather nice Lotus Elan Sprint and another number plate: 8 POO

This was a great car but so tiny, even by the standards of the 90’s when I owned it. This is not the exact car but mine was the same colour combination.

This number stayed with me for some years, unlike the Lotus which found a new home after only a short while. 8 POO was on several cars (not all at once!) and I reluctantly sold it when I needed to get my finances on a more even footing. I did make quite a good profit though.

I missed that number and regretted selling it, even though I was ‘clocked’ wherever I went.

Recently I have been thinking about another number and this came about through an Ebay search, they sell loads of registrations, who knew? I started looking and one caught my attention, fairly rude; F4CKK. That sold for quite a large sum, more than I was prepared to pay. I tried the DVLA website and searched through a huge quantity of numbers that they have available and was informed of their forthcoming auction, one of several they hold each year.

B16 POO was available with a guide price of £550. Lovely! Within a couple of hours of the auction (on line) getting underway the price had risen to £10,100 and I was out of the running.

Back to the DVLA site and I found F4 CKF was for sale at £599. Bargain!

Almost certainly a Police magnet.

I’ve bought it and I am happy to sell it on… I’m not sure I have the cojones to put it on my car.

An Epiphany (sort of)

I have chuntered elsewhere on this platform about the escalating use of keyless ignition and the ubiquitous START button which I really don’t like. Mainly the issue is that when I clamber aboard and I have the keys in my hand I struggle to find where to put them, as I have already sat down it is then difficult to get them in my pockets. In the centre console they have a tendency to rattle so I often ended up with the keys on the seat between my legs. This often meant that I would exit the car and leave the keys behind, sometimes in full view whereas stopping, turning and removing the key ensures that it is in my hand upon leaving. Simples!

Start Button

This is the Mercedes version, but most manufacturers are using something similar. Push once to start, once to stop. As simple as a key really.

The other evening Number 2 son dutifully came to pick up his aged parents from a pub. He arrived in my car and whilst he waited patiently for me to finish my beer I mentioned, not for the first time, my dislike of stop/start buttons and why could we not use a simple key.

The Button

As we got in the car he reached down and removed the offending button with a simple click and inserted the Mercedes key in time-honoured fashion!

To misquote PG Wodehouse: Never has my flabber been so gasted! It was an epiphany.

A key in a lock

This is how it should be! Good old Mercedes.