05 September 2023
Prompted by the time of year Stephen Paul Hardy’s thoughts turn to Munich
My love of particular BMW cars started way back in the late sixties with the pretty ’02’ two-door sedans, coupés and convertible versions of the BMW “Neue Klasse” range introduced earlier in that decade. In particular the 1802, 2002 and of course the stunning coupé versions culminating in the E9 series coupés of 1968-75. I guess that, for me, no subsequent model series from BMW have quite equalled those era idiosyncratic vehicles. Granted though there have been some pretty fabulous models built since and BMW seems to have evolved in several directions simultaneously over the past few decades with particular series each becoming almost anthem images for several differing automotive lifestyle followings.
There is no doubt also that the excitement and charisma of Alpina further enhanced my love of that seventies era of BMW. Alpina decor exuded a heady mix of automotive and Teutonic joie de vivre - with good reason. Like KAMEI and AMG it was a branding image that resonated with a passionate interest in things automotive. And in much the way that the originally independent AMG at first synonymous with, then lately formally bound to, Mercedes-Benz so the Alpina charisma is inextricably linked to BMW. Alpina’s modest beginnings in the mid 1960s, specialising in tuning BMW engines, has grown into today’s much respected business of producing coveted hand-built automobiles around BMW components.
Recognised by the German Federal Ministry of Transport since 1983 as an automobile manufacturer in its own right Alpina-built cars are branded and registered as Alpina instead of BMW. The hand-built manufacture of Alpina vehicles, on a limited production scale, includes inclusion of unique components ranging from engine, suspension and mechanical parts through to interior detailing and external trim embellishments. Of the latter distinctive Alpina hallmarks include 20-spoke alloy wheels with hidden valves under the centre cap, "Alpina Blue" or "Alpina Green" metallic paintwork and interiors that typically include blue and green patterns and stitching. Thin pin-stripe bodywork decor set in gold or silver that emulate a style dating back to the seventies continues to be an option on current models.
Compared to cars from BMW's in-house performance subsidiary, BMW M, Alpina's vehicles have more emphasis on Touring, higher torque, and have their own Alpina-style shiftable ZF automatic transmissions instead of manual or semi-automatic gearboxes.
It is no wonder then that BMW automobiles - particularly in M or Alpina guise - continue to be a favourite subject with both scale model manufacturers and collectors.
The Solido catalogue for example sees regular new additions to it of diecast BMWs in both 1/43 and 1/18 and from which I have chosen…
Alpina E30 B6 and BMW M5 Competition
Two of the latest pairs in Solido’s delightful and expanding range of new 1/43 castings are the Alpina E30 B6 - 1989 in Alpina Blue (S4312001) & Diamond Black (S54312002) and BMW M5 Competition - 2020 in San Remo Green (S54312701) & Red (S54312702). In so doing they bring the choice of Alpina and BMWs own M performance models to the collector. The almost classic body style of the E30 B6 is accented with finely detailed Alpina hallmark pin-striping in silver and gold respectively whist the contemporary M5, with its unassuming almost ‘sleeper’ mode exterior, conceals the considerable power of this high-end spec BMW.
As with all the Solido 1/43 models I have showcased in previous New Model Spotlights these are all well put together, nicely detailed and well finished little 1/43 models.
Solido BMW E36 Coupé M3 ‘Streetfighter’ - 1994 (S1803911)
This striking red variation of the diecast E36 Coupé, previously released in various colours in standard (showroom) guise, comes cleverly modified to sit in Solido’s ‘Streetfighter’ catalogue theme. Representing, as the theme does, subtly yet uniquely modified vehicles this E36 Coupé with its body kit and lowered stance includes several clever little details that add to its overall charisma.
Details like the retro nod to the seventies with the Hella decorated inner pair of lights within the headlamp glazing and the distinctive yellow lensed front fog lights. Undoubtably a model that records for posterity contemporary urban custom style, this eye-catching offering will find favour with modernist collectors and probably some BMW purists into the bargain.
Solido Alpina B12 5,0l - 1990 (S1807003)
Whilst initially, in my mind, this was a model of a modern BMW it came as a shock to realise that on reflection it sits virtually halfway along the timeline between today and the end of the coveted Karmann built E9 (2800CS and 3.0 CS,CSi and CSL) series coupés. Its styling is that of quintessential top of the range BMW touring coupé very deftly captured by Solido’s model in “Alpina Green”. With substantial power under its bonnet and all the expected Alpina hallmarks these were awesome automobiles.
Long gone are the days when the interiors of 1/18 Solido models were rather bland plastic mouldings filling the cabin space. From around 2018 Solido put a concerted effort into better interior detail with its then new VW ‘Big Beetle’ being one of the first examples of multi-coloured authentic upholstery and dashboard finishes. This release benefits very much from that sort of heightened attention to detail with its representation of the extensive, customer defined, interiors installed in the Alpina B12 5,0ls complete with unique Alpina instrumentation. All-in-all a superb, well finished and carefully detailed model that totally captures the charisma of the real car.
Moving on from the diecast sector with, at 1/18, its customary opening features to the sealed resin sector, OttOmobile is also a keen modeller of the BMW marque with its 2023 releases bolstering an already extensive back catalogue coverage of the marque. Of the five models released in the past few months I have chosen two particular examples to put under the spotlight. Further to these I notice another three scheduled for release between now and mid-Autumn.
OttOmobile BMW E46 Touring M3 Concept - 2000 (OT981)
I particularly wanted to feature this model for two reasons. Firstly, models of Concept vehicles are few and far between in the OttOmobile catalogue. Secondly, I feel that models of Concept and Prototypes have an important place in any single marque collections for the additional information and conversation focus they provide. And as expressed in one of my recent Signing off columns they make fascinating collection theme subjects in their own right.
Back in the early 2000s BMW explored the potential for adding a Touring body style to its classic E46 M3 model range then comprising of Saloon, Coupé and Convertible versions. It is understood that the main focus of the intention was to compete with Audi by installing a 3.2l 6-cylinder engine developing just over 340bhp.
Finished in Chrome Shadow Metallic the paintwork of OttOmobile’s model is, as always, immaculate. The benefit of this alu-silver finish is that it encourages the eye to take in the body lines and proportions of the Concept with full attentiveness. It also provides an excellent background for the extensive black and bright chrome trim and fittings - all of which are very era typical BMW in style - including the ‘M’ badging on the tailgate. An attribute of all the BMW models covered this month (including the 1/43 ones) is how well that distinctive round, blue and white BMW badge comes across in miniature. This is particularly evident on this model with both the centre caps of the finely detailed wheels and the bonnet badges being perfect replicas. The emotive impact of the one on the bonnet of course is compounded by another BMWs hallmark feature of the ‘kidney shape’ radiator grill set underneath it.
One eye catching detail that both contrasts very attractively with the external colour scheme and further ‘lifts’ the model when the light catches it is the blue tinted sunscreen band to the top of the windscreen.
Now up until this point the Solido Alpina B12 5,0l looked like romping home with my model of the month accolade, however…
OttOmobile Alpina B10 4.0 E34 Touring - 1995 (OT944)
Perhaps tempted by my bias towards estate cars or perhaps just overwhelmed by the sheer beauty of the model this one really did it for me. Everything about it feels so right - and looks so good. Both the Alpina special metallic colours look good but for me the blue just has the edge.
Marketed between 1993 and 1995, with its B10 V8 engine delivering 315 bhp under the bonnet, Alpina’s sports estate version of the BMW 5 Series E34 surely ranks as one of the most desirable touring cars of the mid 1990s.
Visible on OttOmobile’s model are all the Alpina’s hallmark details that I described earlier: the superbly executed ultra-fine gold pin-striping and Alpina logos over the Alpina Blue paintwork, the tell-tale alloy wheel style and if you look closely the extensively equipped interior. In short, a very desirable model of a very desirable automobile that looks every inch… no, millimetre… the part of the full sized original. It is resoundingly my choice of the month...