Alpina B3 3.2-litre convertible

The TotallyMotor Verdict


Welcome back to our TotallyMotor Used Car Reviews. Our Classified Scout has been on the case again, and he’s the kind of guy that likes to hunt down bargain, bigger-fun motors with perhaps a little more character (and bravado!) than your more 'sensible' brand new cars, and for a whole lot less cash. That guy is me; Dan, the TotallyMotor editor.

I've had my nose in the online classifieds, scouring for ads of a more interesting nature, so that you don't have to. So if budgets are tight and you're looking to save a few pounds, or just fancy something a little different on the drive, then this feature is for you.

This week we're down at Frankie and Alfie’s used car dealership in Basildon, Essex, after spotting some motors of note in their online classified ads. Established in 1998 and specialising in more dash for less cash with a varied stock of driver’s cars and hot hatches. Even some family-friendly cars, too. They can also help to arrange finance for their customers. 

I’m greeted by head of sales, Dan, who shows me around their busy forecourt, packed with many a motor I’d be happy to own. Dan explains that they’ve always got something a little more interesting than your average in their regular stock of 50+ cars, and that he and owner Chris have been in the business for years, and their families before them. 

And just so you know; the company name comes from Chris’s kids with family portraits on the office wall to prove it. These guys clearly live and breathe cars and can track down pretty much anything your heart desires. But I’m not buying today, although this first pre-owned offering from their forecourt has me smiling with fond, fast memories. 

How about this convertible Alpina B3 3.2-litre convertible for starters, priced at £7,989?

The Alpina B3 3.2-litre was made between 1996 and 1999 with a total of 342 built. So it’s now quite a rare car. Alpina have long been associated with the BMW brand from a performance tuning and extra luxury styling point of view, with many a leather-clad collaboration bearing the Alpina badge. Recognised as a car manufacturer in their own right; we’re not looking at aftermarket add-ons here – Alpinas are built in Bavaria with designs and upgrades firmly based on BMW models.

This featured car is one of the later B3s, rolling off the production line in 1998 with some rather pleasant Alpina-badged extras and only covering 61,000 miles since, with the last owner of several years keeping her mollycoddled with minimal use and regular washes. 

Actually based on the 328i model, the B3 featured many trademark Aplina upgrades from their factory, including a sharper front splitter, new front and rear anti-roll bars, new rear springs, bigger front brake discs with floating calipers, and, of course, those classic multi-spoke Alpina alloy wheels. 

The most important upgrade was to the straight-6, 328i engine, which, hence the name, has grown from a 2.8-litre to 3.2-litres. The 2.8-litre engine produced 193bhp from the BMW factory, but after the Alpina engineers worked their magic power went up to 265bhp – a very ‘useable’ chunk of get up and go.

Alpina increased the displacement and fitted Mahle lightweight pistons, reworked the combustion chambers, reprogrammed the Siemens ECU and designed and installed their own exhaust system to match the new engine characteristics and bring a deeper, more playful note to the power-party. 0-62mph now comes quick in 6.5secs and there’s a potentially very naughty 160mph top speed capability. 

Inside the special 3-Series holds many special Alpina features with bespoke leather seating, leather hand-stitched steering wheel with shifter buttons, real wood veneers over the dashboard and extra Alpina instrumentation. The whole space exudes a quality fit and finish, and bear in mind that this would’ve been a very expensive car when new. 

This Frankie and Alfie’s Alpina shines deeply in her metallic black coat with the interior and wheels also showing signs of previous-owner-love. These are usually enthusiast-owned cars; people that appreciate the rarity and heritage of the Alpina badge, but as usual, always look out for a nice stack of service history to confirm the car’s historical honesty.

The silky-smooth straight-6 engine is a work of engineering art and will cover moon-and-back miles if you treat it right, and in general, this series of the 3-Series is an extremely well screwed together car. Top-notch components from BMW and Alpina make up the B3, but some more complex parts can be expensive to replace, so it’s not a car to run on a really tight budget. The 3.2-litre engine will like a drink if you push it hard, but if you let the velvet-6 do its torquey thing and waft around town at lower revs, you should see an average 20mpg+ economy rate. 

Check the convertible roof and all the obvious potential rust areas like wheel arches, sills, the scuttle panel, exhaust and glass edges; as you would any 12-year-old car. 

Dan and the Frankie's team have been through this B3 in detail and will happily tell you what they’ve done to get her ready to take centre stage on their forecourt, but even these cold-and-wet-January TotallyMotor pictures clearly show how pretty and purposeful she is. 

The B3 was designed to be a capable yet comfortable cruising car, so expect performance, grip and balance from the rear-driving chassis and strong, straight-6 heart. A classy, classic and quick BMW that you won’t find duplicated in a car park near you any time soon. Picture yourself with the roof down, tunes up and sun shinning, and if a smile spreads across your face then maybe it’s time to get some Alpina in your life. 

For more details on this car and other Frankie and Alfie’s used cars, see their website or call the Dan or Chris. or 01268 273900

By Daniel Anslow

Follow us @totallymotor


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