Ultra rare RHD car comes with a royal seal of approval – now all it needs is PH's blessing…
By John Howell / Sunday, 22 January 2023 / Loading comments
Most people seem to agree that when it comes to the BMW 7 Series, the best – at least in terms of styling – was the E38. Svelte and classy but not lacking any road presence, either. The perfect combination for a luxury barge. Sensible people would go for a 728i, the more adventurous a 740i, and those with deeper pockets a 750i, because nothing tops a V12 if you can afford the running costs. The ultimate E38, then, and with some James Bond kudos in there for good measure. But you can go one up from a 750i, though, and this is it: a very rare Alpina B12.
Personally, I am not a fan of Alpina’s stripes – they’re fine on a period ‘70s piece but look fussy on anything newer. Even so, the gold decals on this car wouldn’t put me off. It’s too good in every other respect to zone in on that one thing. It’s ex-Brunei Royal Family, which usually means two things: low use and no-expense-spared maintenance. The former seems true, judging by just 26,000 miles showing on the clock, and after taking a magnifying glass out to scrutinise the pictures, the Schwarz paint seems impeccable. But then apparently the car’s lived its life in a temperature-controlled garage, so what else would you expect? Apparently, it just needed a bit of detailing to deepen its lustre and a marque specialist to replace those mechanical parts that might have degraded even while it sat motionless.
You will have to have long arms and deep pockets to grab this one, though. But then it’s a rare car – records show that Alpina made just 202 E38 B12s, and most of those were left-hookers. According to the vendor, examples of RHD cars like this one were in single digits when new, and there’s every chance that number has decreased now a quarter-of-a-century has passed. This being PH, we specialise in the special stuff, so as rare as a right-hand-drive B12 is, this is the second one that’s popped up in the last couple of years. The other one was the subject of a Brave Pill, but that one wasn’t like this. It had covered 183,000 miles and was up for £25,000 – so does that help justify the price tag of this one or make it seem even loftier? That quarrel could go either way.
The B12 started life as a high-ticket item, of course, but being an Alpina – and the pinnacle of its range at the time – that’s to be expected. Having personally visited the Alpina factory in Buchloe in 2016, and interviewed the boss Andreas Bovensiepen (son of Alpina founder Burkard), I can confirm you’re getting more than just a body kit and power boost. The company is engineering-led, and even before BMW’s takeover, was deeply embedded into the BMW fold – to the degree that its cars are part-built and painted in Alpina colours on the OEM production lines.
Once that’s done, they’re shipped to Buchloe to have the rest of the work completed, including all the trimming and the mechanicals. In this case that meant slotting in a redesigned M73 V12 to full Alpina spec. The changes included the increase in capacity from 5.4 to 5.7 litres, new cylinder heads and lightweight forged, Mahle pistons. As a result, the 750i’s outputs were swelled from 322hp and 361 lb ft, to 382hp and 413 lb ft. Both healthy increases. The B12 also came with Alpina’s Switchtronic gear changes for the five-speed auto. Bearing in mind this was before the advent of paddles in most cars, it was a relatively novel thing to be able to flick through the gears using buttons on the steering wheel.
The interior trimming is beautiful, and includes Lavalina leather that isn’t coated in plastic so it still breathes. And here it comes with contrasting embroidered stripes that add a bit of colour. I know driving the thing is what it’s all about, but don’t you just want to sink into the back seats and relax? I certainly do. The only odd thing about the B12 is that Alpina didn’t use a bespoke speedo. They usually do, and my understanding is the B12’s top speed was 173mph, which means you’re going to run out of numbers on the Autobahn. The advert concludes: ‘In an age where electric cars crawl our streets, dare to be different by buying one of BMW’s best creations, tuned by Alpina no less.’ Normally I’d flinch reading guff like that, but in this case, maybe it’s valid. What a car.
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