Let This Alpina B11 Make You Green With Envy
Photography by Andrey Smazhilo
If we’re lucky, every day will yield us with inspiration. We can find it in music, in books, through our travels, our family, meditation, a simple walk down to the store on the corner—it can come from any number of vectors. It just so happens that I—and presumably you—find cars to be one of the most invigorating stimuli. They are the reason I went on a rather last-minute trip through the Caucasus mountains to hunt down some modern classics, like the E60 AMG featured on the site last week.
I love traveling on my own, but it’s often better to set off into the world with friends by your side, and these journeys become even more memorable if you have someone friendly to meet you at your destination; go to the people, see the places in the process, not the other way around.
So as soon as I bought the tickets I contacted my friend Nodar, who has a developed a tendency to spend more and more time in his home city of Tbilisi, Georgia. The weather is almost always sunny there, and climate is much more pleasant compared to what we get in Moscow, especially during the winter months of the year, so I understand his reluctance to leave. Some of you might remember a few of Nodar’s BMWs featured here in the past, like his E28 Alpina replica and 2002 track car, both of which were built by the SportKB workshop in Moscow. He had also found a couple of very interesting project cars for himself in Tbilisi, but that’s a story for another time.
If someone were to ask me to describe Georgia, I would use just three words: people, food, and cars. Everyone that I’ve met in the country is supremely friendly and hospitable. For instance, some gentleman, who’d simply sold us fresh pomegranate juice, went on to invite me and my friends to accompany him for a glass or two of homemade cognac. The perfect topper to the bountiful and delicious meal we were coming from. You aren’t reading this to find authentic Georgian recipes though, so let’s get into the cars. The love for classic German metal in Georgia truly has no end, and Nodar is far from an exception to that rule. He was ready to meet me early in the morning on my last day in Tbilisi for a drive up into the mountains above the city, where we were to meet a group of his similarly-obsessed friends who’d driven their prized possessions to our informal “German car show.”
This is how I met Merabi, a friend of Nodar’s, who arrived in the gorgeous 1990 Alpina B11 3.5 pictured here. At first blush, he didn’t seem like a person who would go on talking about his cars for hours on end, but hey, first impressions are often wrong! He tells me that this stately green beauty arrived to Tbilisi from Japan, a country that has lately become like an Aladdin’s Cave for those who seek Germany’s modern classics.
Merabi has been an enthusiast for his whole life, but only recently did he begin to collect cars for himself. In his case, the it started with a BMW Z3 M Coupe that someone imported to Georgia but never purchased. Later he would sell it on to a friend of his, but the snowball was in motion. Ten years have passed since he sold the M Coupe, and a lot has come and gone in the time in between. Throughout all of it, though, this Alpina is still one of his favorites among such cars as a turbocharged E23 BMW 745i, an R129 Mercedes-Benz SL60 AMG, two E24 BMW 6-Series, among others. “In my opinion, E32-generation cars are more brutal than other 7-Series, they are a little bit different, and they might seem strange at first sight but they are special, and Alpina even more so,” Merabi says. “If you tried to compare a regular 7-Series with this B11, it would be a battle of buttons against the cufflinks. The deepness of the Alpina Grün color, the masculinity of the golden stripes, the deep Alpina air dam up front, and that massive E32 rear end are what makes this car so special to me.”
No matter the angle, the classic upright stature and the sharp lines of the car seem to simultaneously shrink and enlarge its presence—the car is decidedly large, but the dimensions and the relationship between the elements are tight and packaged without any wasted space. The traditional BMW Hofmeister kink and all the little details added by the Alpina designers and engineers make this one of my favorite big Bimmers, of any era. Was it the fastest car of its time? No, there were faster luxury sedans made even before its time, but this car still has 260 naturally-aspirated horses under its bonnet that are ready to pick a fight on the Autobahn. Then again, you don’t really buy cars like this in contemporary times for their pace. It’s about the elegance, the look, the confident presence struck by a car that looks as special on the road today as it did 28 years ago rolling out of the workshop in Buchloe.