Real Alpina? 1986 BMW 528E

This 1986 BMW 528e is an unusual assortment of parts, featuring some very desirable period-correct upgrades. However, the seller calls it an “Alpina Package” car, which raises some questions about what we’re actually looking at here. Alpina is BMW’s in-house performance shop, much like Mercedes-Benz’s AMG division. Cars built by Alpina are often full of both mechanical and cosmetic upgrades, and worth a mint. This E28-chassis 5-Series seems more like a standard European-market model gussied up with some cosmetic add-ons and no real changes in the horsepower department – but I could be wrong. Decide for yourself here on craigslist where it’s listed for $13,999 in Mooresville, North Carolina.

Now, the 528e is a European market car, as it has the slimmer euro bumpers and the H4/H1 headlights that many owners of U.S.-spec cars choose to upgrade to. The rear spoiler may be the real-deal Alpina spoiler, but it could also be a very good copy of what comes on the genuine Alpina B9 3.5. The stripes going down the sides are another feature from the original Alpina design, but whether it left the factory with this scheme is what I’d want to know as a potential buyer. You can find the replica sticker kits all day long, and frankly, all of the add-on parts seen here are possible to find in various BMW forums and message boards. The 528e still resides on its original TRX wheels and tires, and it appears to have an aftermarket exhaust.

The interior is standard E28 stuff, with the so-called “Comfort” seats, generally considered less desirable than the optional “Sport” buckets with their thick side and leg bolsters. So, if it weren’t for the rear spoiler, chin spoiler, and graphics going down the side, you’d be hard-pressed to call this anything other than a standard entry-level E28, save for the fact that it wears Euro bumpers and lighting. The steering wheel is just a standard U.S.-spec sport package three-spoke wheel, and someone has removed the BMW roundel logo from the center and replaced it with an Alpina badge. Now, the automatic isn’t a total shock, as many B9 cars were destined for the Japanese market, where automatics are generally preferred.

Under the hood, this is your bread-and-butter M20 inline-six cylinder. The hot-rodded E28s typically used the 3.5L M30 inline-six as its basis for upgrades, so this is another wrinkle in determining just how much of an Alpina this Alpina really is. The seller claims a previous owner worked for BMW in Munich, so it’s entirely possible an employee traveling back and forth to the U.S. bought a Euro-market car and kitted it up with the parts readily at his disposable overseas. Without a numbered dash plaque and supporting documentation, it’s hard to draw any direct connection between this car and Alpina, other than having the good fortune to wear some rare parts that a BMW enthusiast won’t have to spend months hunting for.

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  1. alphasud Member

    I had a 88 535i that I fitted euro bumper and 16” BBS wheels. After that it was like the frog that turned into a prince. US bumpers really made this chassis ugly. For those who owned the e28 tell me you remember how the sound of door closure was so satisfying. My W126 has a similar vault like sound. Really like the car but the eta engine is a bit of a bummer in a bimmer. Great engine don’t get me wrong but eta stood for efficiency. Has a diesel redline but only makes 130 ponies if memory serves.

    Like 7
  2. Jim

    No way that is an Alpina. There were no models based on the 528e. I had an 87 B10 when stationed in Germany. They were based off the 535i. Not to mention that the speedo is in MPH, missing BBS wheels and wrong stickers. Still has the m20 2.7 in it. E stood for economy.

    Like 9
  3. Terry

    Just about every larger BMW from the 80s is a beautiful car, but the two-tone paint on this looks gawd-awful. I don’t remember the factory painting them like that.

    Like 2
  4. Djjerme

    Where to start..

    Faux Hartge strips?

    Alpina did offer the C Pack in the early 80’s that gave you an M20 head (ported, C1 cam, stamped with serial#), Bilstein suspension, and some other bits. This was only available with E30 suspension bits though.

    ..and yes, the only E28 based Alpina builds from Bucheloe was M30 based (So only B series). Synter May have done a few customs, but highly doubt it..

    Also, no Alpina plaque or Alpina VIN. Though this could have been a H&B conversion here in the US, but I don’t recall them doing any E28’s, only E21 and a couple E30’s.

    Speedo is wrong, but if this had been imported (which by all indications it didn’t), whomever did the DOT conversion may have grabbed a bone stock US speedo. I’ve seen worse.

    Also, I’m suspecting that rear spoiler is fiberglass, the actual Alpina one is rubber, and more squared. This looks like a cheap Hartge knock off you can get on FleaBay.

    Should I keep going?

    There’s nothing on this that is Alpina.

    Alpina converted cars (they didn’t get unfinished shells until the 90’s) have tons of uniques parts that this has none of.

    Alpina means (and stamped with Alpina part number) suspension, exhaust, head, cam, radiator, intake boot, pistons, crank, DME, accessory gauge and harness, steering wheel, shift knob on manual, the automatics had an “adjustable” automatic (sport mode), seats, door panels, wheels, spoilers (front and rear) badging, VIN tags, tire inflation stickers…etc.

    So you can see it wasn’t just stickers and a fake badge.

    So again, why do this to an 85 eta?

    Maybe they thought it was one of the rarer ‘83 528’s that was a one year only high compression, stroked M20. But not many of those still exist…

    Like 13
  5. Djjerme

    Andre this is a euro sourced car, then where are the non-US market side markers in the front fenders.

    Yah. This is $1000 car. GLWScam

    Like 3
  6. TinBox

    Safe to say Alpina would never do a performance conversion based on the doggiest car available – the Eta motor was a low rpm low power engine designed for efficiency and nothing else.

    Like 3
    • Jim Bennett

      Very safe to say that….lol

      Like 1
  7. Gerard Frederick

    Back in the late 90´s I had a 528e with white leather interior. The on board computer failed regularly until I simply forgot about all the info it provided; it was easy to live without it. The front suspension went south at about 130 k miles and needed all the bushings etc. replaced. Cost factor — about $1200. The power antenna was replaced, only to fail again shortly thereafter and then the timing belt snapped at around 135.000 miles another $1700.00. I sold it for $3100 afterward. Good riddance.

    Like 1
    • Pat Gill

      Timing belts were due every 40,000 miles, you could push that to 60,000 if it was retentioned, they on ever snapped if they went well past their sell by date………………… well they did not snap, the teeth came off… lack of correct servicing, what did you expect.

      Like 5
  8. inkatouring

    I don’t pretend to be as expert as some, but I own two 1980s Alpinas ( and, so I know a little about the cars from Buchloe.

    That car is as much of an Alpina as the Plymouth Valiant my mom had when I was a kid. Maybe less.

    Like 6
    • Djjerme

      Nice! I’m putting my B6 2.8 back together after tearing it all apart for a repaint. Wish I had the ambition to document it online better.

      Like 1
      • inkatouring

        You have document that! Contact me on the footer of the web site, please.

  9. Matt

    I worked at a racing supply house in the ‘80s that sold all of the stock-on and bolt-on stuff seen here. It seems every car with an Alpina, Hartge or AMG sticker on it is suddenly a werks vehicle.

  10. JCA

    Wow. Common sense would tell you that Alpina wouldn’t start with a 2.7 auto 528e to make a high performance build. They would start with a 535i. The body looks great though. I’d love to find euro bumpers like these for my 533i

    Like 1
  11. Russ Ashley

    I had a 1982 528E and it was the most troublesome car I’ve ever owned. Yes, it was a nice car to drive and the doors did sound solid when you closed them, but it had so many problems that I didn’t enjoy owning it. I still don’t want another BMW or any other German car to this day.

  12. Harry

    Alpina is not BMW’s “in house performance shop”
    Alpina has independent car manufacturer status and BMW has approved them to modify their cars.

    Like 2
    • M Compact

      Exactly; in Europe you can buy Alpinas at any BMW Center. In the US we only get a couple of Alpina models. That said, I had a 2007 B7 press loaner and it was an absolute hoot.

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