A MASTER STROKE

By Stuart Grant with photography by Colin Mileman

Alpina BMW 2002 (7)

A combination of excellent performance and practicality combined with the ‘sheer driving pleasure’ characteristic, made the BMW 2002 an instant hit and the saviour of the German giant. These traits also saw to it that it was a natural base for tuning when going racing or supercar killing. Alpina is the oldest and best known 2002 tuning house.

BMW’s two-door 1600cc, badged 1600-2 or 1602 sold well in the States, but when new emission controls meant that the hotter 1600ti version couldn’t be sold, the US Importer, Max Hoffman, made one of motoring history’s best master strokes. Hoffman asked the factory to slot the 2-litre motor from the firm’s bigger saloons into the 1600 two-door shell, and after a few mumbles the factory obliged. A legend was born and wore the badge 2002 (2-litre, two-door). It sold well thanks to its affordable performance.

418 000 units in sedan, hatch and even cabriolet format were sold over seven years of production. In order to keep up with the game, various guise 2002s with different power outputs, improved brakes and suspension set-up left the factory. The 2002 featured a single downdraft Solex carburettor for 100bhp, the 2002ti (left-hand drive only) churned out 120bhp with a set of twin Solex side drafts and the 2002tii got Kugelfischer fuel injection, good for 130bhp. The cherry on top for the factory was the 170 horsepower 2002 Turbo (left-hand drive only). Tuners stroked and fettled various 2002s and, although the real money was in selling conversions to clients, their names were made on the racetrack. And with drivers like Derek Bell, Harald Ertl, James Hunt, Jacky Ickx, Niki Lauda, Brian Muir, Hans Stuck and Dieter Quester appearing in Alpina cars, it was no wonder the on-track successes rolled in, and the company became the must-have hot BMW supplier.

Alpina BMW 2002 (10)

Alpina was started by Burkard Bovensiepen, the son of a typewriter manufacturer (Alpina) in 1963. The story goes that he was not very impressed with the performance of his Fiat 1500 so together with a mate added a Weber carb and a lumpier camshaft, and opened up the exhaust. The result was 75 horses instead of the original 67. And a cloud of blue smoke, which turned him off the Italian brand for life. When BMW launched the 1800 saloon, Bovensiepen noticed that the owners of 1500 BMWs were left disappointed by their performance. He had seen some financial success on the stock market and reinvested it into the car tuning game as Alpina. Initially he used a corner of the typewriter factory in 1963 but moved in 1969 to his own premises in Buchloe, Bavaria where he also set up the Alpina racing team. Despite fighting door-to-door on track with the BMW works team, the two kept up good relations and thanks to the quality job Alpina were doing, BMW agreed to keeping its standard warranty on any Alpina-converted vehicle and distribute Alpina products through its chain of dealerships. Alpina remained the official BMW tuning company up until the mid-1980s.

Alpina conversions were more than just bolt-on items. Each engine was stripped back to ground, modified to suit requirements and blueprinted. Alpina offered six road-going conversion levels: A1, A2, A2S, A3, A4 and A4S (A1 being close to standard and working up to the very warm A4S), but also churned out engines for competition to meet Group 1 and Group 2 rulings. Rallying wasn’t forgotten either with a range of parts and accessories specifically designed for the abnormal conditions rallying exposes a car to. All Alpina engines featured some sort of modified cylinder head, but there is very little in the way of records. This, coupled with the fact that one could buy a set of Alpina stripes from a dealer, makes differentiating between a genuine Alpina and a clone near impossible.

Common knowledge indicates that inlet port dimensions were increased and polished, as were exhaust ports, and on the ‘S’ units the combustion chambers were hemispherical. Other parts included Alpina air filters, balanced and polished con-rods, electric radiator fan, free-flow exhaust, high-pressure oil pump, lumpier camshaft and heavy-duty engine mounts.

Alpina BMW 2002 (2)

More power is nothing without control, and Alpina obliged by fitting all but the A1 cars with vented front discs. Some owners ticked the options boxes for either a 75% or 40% limited-slip differential and oil cooler while adjustable anti-roll bars, Bilstein shocks, high-ratio steering boxes, adjustable camber front struts, bucket seats, Alpina gear knobs and front spoiler could also be specced, as could an uprated clutch, five-speed Getrag gearbox and various 13-inch wheels ranging from 5.5 to 6.5 inches wide.

Interestingly, Alpina stuck to using Solex carburettors for the A1 (40 DDH) and A2 (45 DDH) conversions but swapped to a pair of Weber 45 DCOEs for the A3. A4 and A4S cars got Alpina-tweaked Kugelfischer injection. In race tune Alpina Group 1 engines developed 10 horsepower more than standard by taking advantage of the manufacturing tolerances, and the Group 2 (more modified) lumps, initially carb-fed, were good for 205bhp before fuel injection saw a rise to 220 horses.

Competition success streamed in with the highlight being in 1969 when Dieter Quester powered a turbo-charged Group 5 Alpina to the European Touring Car Championship honours. For 1970, turbos were not allowed and Alpina stepped up to the plate with a 1600 BMW driven to the title by Toine Hezemans. With rule changes, and the fact that the 2002 was becoming long in the tooth, Alpina racing attention moved across to the larger BMW 3.0CSL. Success continued and even more focus was put on road cars by the firm. So much so that in 1983 Alpina became a car manufacturer in its own right, but still partnered BMW.

The duo continued – and continues – to collaborate on technological development and produce a range that combines luxury and understated exclusivity with exceptional power and ability. And with the benefits of BMW engine technology in the efficiency and emissions stakes, carry out these performance attributes at a low environmental cost. Working closely with BMW, Alpina simultaneously develops models long before a new model is launched, ensuring each BMW Alpina builds upon the virtues of its BMW counterpart and provides technical information and replacement parts to the BMW network.

*Subsequent to the writing of this article, Alpina was bought out by BMW.

Alpina BMW 2002 (17)

TUNE YOU MY CHINA

In April 2002, Nick Coetzee stumbled across a classified advert in Car magazine. The very last item listed read: ‘1974 BMW 2002tii’, and although it didn’t say much else other than ‘one-owner car in need of some work’, it piqued the Port Elizabeth-based BMW fan’s interest. With the car in Johannesburg, Coetzee sent a relative’s mechanic to view it and was told, “If you don’t buy it, I will.” The princely sum of R10 000 crossed hands and the tii headed to the Eastern Cape a week later aboard a truck. Coetzee picked it up in Uitenhage and drove it home. While looking through the paperwork, he found the original purchase invoice from BMW Concessionaires in the UK – it cost £2 740 and there was an extra 10 pounds added for the km/h speedo.

The car wasn’t in bad shape, and best of all, was 100% original and untouched. Sure, the body showed a bit of age with a few nicks and scratches, but nothing major. Coetzee cruised in the 2002 for a few months and entered it in a track session at Aldo Scribante. It puffed a bit of smoke on overrun and the right rear re-tread gave up the ghost. It was then that the decision to completely strip and rebuild the car was made. In true enthusiast style he undertook the task with the ‘I mean how difficult could it be?’ attitude. And true to form, the stripping further emphasized the point that a rebuild is a walk in the park. But then work, moving houses and life slowed the progress. He never gave in though, slowly adding new bits and pieces to his collection and doing countless hours of research, fettling and pottering. To make moving to his third property a little easier, he sent the bare shell into the body shop.

Initially the plan was to race the car, so naturally it couldn’t be standard. Rather than hotrod the car, he liked the idea of doing an Alpina A4 tribute. This covered all the go-faster bits he wanted while keeping the car pure. Apart from all of the new parts sourced from the UK, Germany and the USA, he scoured the Internet looking for the hard-to-find Alpina bits. And bought a second 2002 that came with the original 235/5 Getrag close-ratio dog-leg box and limited-slip diff. He put his old parts into this second vehicle and sold it on. Still on the hunt for good bits he bought 2002 number three, a Gauteng-based Colorado Orange 2002ti, and took the original interior out of the car. This was a special cockpit with original Recaro bucket seats, which came out as options in BMW and Porsches of the era. In pristine condition, there was not even the need for an upholstery session.

All in all, the build took about eight years, eventually finished for the George Car Show in 2012. It was well worth it, with the only item still on the shopping list being a set of Alpina Throttle bodies, to complete the transition. As it stands, she is no different from an original – apart from the fact that Coetzee built the machine and Alpina didn’t. Every part on the car is either new or completely refurbished.

Alpina BMW 2002 (52)
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