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  #1  
Old 07-26-2003, 04:35 AM
Sherlock Sherlock is offline
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Visit to Alpina factory

As promised, here is some of the info I got from my visit to Alpina in Buchloe on July 24, 2003.

I was welcomed by Mr. Odwarka, "Managing Director of ALPINA US LLC”. Very warm welcome. Mr. Odwarka is a German-American who worked for ten years at BMW. He is a friend of Andy Bovensiepen. The two of them left BMW and joined ALPINA in 2002. Mr. Odwarka took me to different places in manufacturing. I was allowed to take pictures, except in the development department, and in the engines test room (2 B7 engines were in test at that moment...). The activity of ALPINA can be divided into two main areas: development and production.

A. Development.
The development department works on those elements which are modified by ALPINA, i.e:
• Engines
• Automated gearboxes
• Aerodynamics
• Brakes & Suspensions
• Tyres
• Interiors

The typical time span to develop a new model is 2 years. The development time for the B3 3.3 to the B3 S was 18 months. Testing of pre-series include tests in the Emirates and Death Valley (USA) for hot-weather testing, Gunnison, Colorado (USA) for cold-weather testing, on BMW’s Miramas road course (France), on the Nurburgring (Nordschleife), and on Michelin’s road track in Clermont Ferrand for tyres.

1. Engines.
For each new project, many different options are examined before making any decision. Pieces are hand-made for development purposes, which will never go into production. The retained solution was a single radial compressor coupled to the crank (looks like half of a turbo), and not driven by exhaust gases (first time I heard about this solution). On the B3 S, the air intake was completely redesigned from the B3 3.3., to allow better breathing of the engine and a faster rpm increase. Many intakes were hand-made and tested before the final one was chosen. The new intake is specific for the B3 S and will not be used on the Z4 (lack of space on the front grid) .Therefore the power of the Z4 will be 300 bhp instead of 305bhp. The increased volume of incoming air lead to in turn modify the exhaust. A new 6 pipes exhaust was developed, with equal lengths for each pipe. As the engine management is much more elaborated, it requires narrowing the tolerances of BMW. For example, the volume of each cylinder must be nearly the same to allow a more consistent detonation, and a continuous effort on the crank. Therefore the tolerance (which is 0,9 % on a BMW head) is only of 0,2%-0,3% on ALPINAs. How is this achieved? This process is entirely manual: each engine block and head is polished and ported until the Top-Dead-Center cylinder volumes become almost exactly the same.

2. Automatic gearboxes.
ALPINA develops manual gearboxes and automatic transmission together with its suppliers. These gearboxes are different in terms of software programming and also some of the hard parts are different, due to the higher torque output of ALPINA engines. On the BMW basis, BMW standard gearing is generally carried over, but often with different final drive ratios, as well as different set up for gear changes (rpm limits, rapidity of the shifting process). The end product is a gear box which is both physically and electronically different from the BMW gearboxes. Gears are different, pieces are reinforced, and management is modified.

4. Aerodynamics
ALPINA is, more than BMW, confronted with aerodynamic issues. All front and rear spoilers, for each new project, are tested in the BMW wind tunnel. For example, not less than 180 models of rear spoilers were developed for the new B7, which speed will exceed 290 km/h. For the B7 again, the lip of the front spoiler was modified after the road tests, when the engineers noticed that the rear differential required additional airflow. Therefore the lip was reduced by 1,5 cm in the centre of the spoiler. This lead to better ventilation below the car, but, as a side effect, decreased the ground aspiration of the car: need to again review the rear spoiler.

5. Brakes & Suspensions
Here, ALPINA does not make its own components (contrary to the above elements). ALPINA co-develops top-end elements with the best suppliers (Brembo, fitchel & sachs) , and tests them to fit their needs in terms of braking efficiency, comfort, handling. Fine tuning of the elements is made in close collaboration with the suppliers themselves. For example, Brembo worked with the ALPINA engineers to make the brakes of the B10 V8 S specifically for this car. Also, the brakes of the B3 S have been enhanced compared to the B3 3.3 : namely rear brakes have been increased (couldn’t know other differences).

6. Tyres.
ALPINA works very closely with Michelin to develop specific tyres with a unique compound made exclusively for their cars. Tyres are developed after tests are made in Clermont Ferrand, on Michelin’s road track. Michelin guarantees the exclusivity of these compounds to ALPINA for up to 2 years. Therefore the tyres which equip new ALPINAs are different from other Michelins with the same dimensions.

B. Production.
Once the development and the testing have been completed, the cars are ready to go into production.
• ALPINA orders & receives engine parts from BMW, suppliers common to ALPINA and BMW, or from ALPINA-specific suppliers . For example, the nude blocks come from BMW, but the intake, the pistons, the exhaust & the crank come from a specific supplier. Sometimes it comes from a common supplier with BMW , but with different specifications: the engine bottom is reinforced for ALPINAs.
• Parts of engine that need manual treatment are processed: mainly intake and exhaust ports, the cylinders, and valve polishing.
• All parts which are part of a complete engine are sent to the “engine building room”: either external parts, either processed parts.
• A technician is responsible for the building of an engine from top to bottom: he will assemble all parts until the full completion of the assemblage, and “sign-off” on the engine. All technicians are able to build equally 6 or 8 cylinders engines. If, later, the customer orders another automobile, the individual who assembled the first engine can be retrieved, and he will be assigned to build the new engine. (Unless he leaves…)
• Once the engines are made, they are sent to BMW. ALPINA works with three BMW plants in Germany: Dingolfing, Regensburg and Munich.
• Engines, as well as other specific elements (ordered by ALPINA) such are brakes, suspensions, exhaust, are assembled on BMW chassis at the BMW factory. (This is valid for all models).
• Once the car goes out from the BMW factory, they are able to drive, but do not have ALPINA seats (if ordered) nor ALPINA wheels /tyres. They are sent back to ALPINA.
• Cars receive, at ALPINA, wheels/ tyres, and special interior- decorative treatment. (spoilers, for example are put on by ALPINA). The interior treatment (mainly leather) can be awesome: I have seen a car completely dismantled to cover the entire interior with special leather from different colours (client in Abu Dhabi...).

That’s about it, from what I could see.


We discussed of new projects with Mr. Odwarka.

From what I can say, here is the news:
• The Z4 will be equipped with the 3,4 litres, 300 bhp (see above )
• The B7 will be presented in Frankfurt. The tests showed an achievable power greater than the 470 bhp initially announced. Therefore the final version will have …I guess around 500 bhp.
• The 6 series is already under development, but I couldn’t learn anything.
• The roadsters are a big success in the USA, but no other model is currently foreseen.
• The firm is currently building a new production plant (next to the current one) to expand the production capacity.
• The marketing and sales department will be reinforced, as well as the communication. Namely, the web site will be reworked, and will offer much more technical details (I suggested Mr. Odwarka to better highlight all those development efforts and modifications from stock BMW’s, as it’s sometimes hard for ALPINA users to argument about how different their car are. He fully agreed and this will be done).
• The expanding market seem to be (from what I saw on the parking) the Middle East, and USA with the roadsters.

Lastly, I mentioned Mr. Odwarka that I was sceptical about the announced power of B3 and B10, as they are pretty close, if not better in performance than M models. (See the “Blausause” test of the B3S and compare with M3…). He said: “we announce 305 bhp for the B3 S, but the key figure is NOT horsepower but torque, and not the peak figure, but the shape of the powerband. People often feel a higher performance level in everyday driving, and rightly so.”. With good reason, I imagine.


Kind regards to all the community.

Last edited by Sherlock; 07-31-2003 at 01:04 PM.
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  #2  
Old 07-26-2003, 04:47 AM
Alex Baumann Alex Baumann is offline
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Excellent write-up !!

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Thanks again for the great write-up.
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  #3  
Old 07-26-2003, 07:47 AM
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mquetel mquetel is offline
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Thanks for the really great summary of your visit and the process that Alpina uses... very interesting!

I had no idea that Alpina cars where that different, under the skin.
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Old 07-26-2003, 09:43 AM
Mr Paddle.Shift Mr Paddle.Shift is offline
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Sherlock, thanks for taking time to post about your trip to Alpina. I really enjoy reading the entire article.


Btw, AlexB recently took a picture of the front caliper of his B3 S. And we all agree that its a single-piston instead of a dual-piston. Then again, from what you posted, Kris said it's a dual-piston. Can you confirm that again?
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Old 07-26-2003, 09:49 AM
Alex Baumann Alex Baumann is offline
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Vince,

what does 'Twin-circuit' braking system mean ?

It's on the Alpina website. Click on Coupe and then on Suspension.
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  #6  
Old 07-26-2003, 09:58 AM
MotorenWerke MotorenWerke is offline
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Fantastic write-up
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  #7  
Old 07-26-2003, 09:59 AM
Alex Baumann Alex Baumann is offline
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Hey Sherlock,

you forgot to mention the wine

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  #8  
Old 07-26-2003, 10:19 AM
Mr Paddle.Shift Mr Paddle.Shift is offline
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Hey AlexB,

Well, it means that all 4 wheels are not on one single circuit design. Twin-circuit system refers to 2 wheels per brake circuit design. This is to prevent an unexpected brake failure (like a leak or something) and that the car still can stop on two wheels. I believe most cars today have twin-circuit braking system. Some of which are diagonally designed (eg front left with rear right) and some are two fronts/two rears.

I will have to email Kris again and ask about dual-piston caliper.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Alex Baumann
Vince,

what does 'Twin-circuit' braking system mean ?

It's on the Alpina website. Click on Coupe and then on Suspension.
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  #9  
Old 07-26-2003, 11:14 AM
Sherlock Sherlock is offline
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I will upload the pics on Thursday next week as I'm not at home until then and pics have been downloaded on my home PC.

Re. the one/two piston calipers question, I asked the question "does the B3S have two pistons calipers" and Mr. Odwarka said "yes, they are enhanced compared to previous version".
I will send him an Email to get again his response on this very point.
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  #10  
Old 07-26-2003, 12:13 PM
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The HACK The HACK is offline
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It can only be confirmed if Alex takes the wheels off of his car.

The calipers does appear to be a single pot but it's entirely possible it's two opposing calipers (meaning, it's not the floating caliper design that BMW is so damn fond of using) clamping down on the rotor. Too bad there's so damn many spokes on the Alpina wheel, otherwise with an open spoke design it'll be easy to see if there's an outbound caliper piston.
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Old 07-26-2003, 12:31 PM
Alex Baumann Alex Baumann is offline
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Hack,

on the Alpina website it says "floating calipers front and rear, front: inner-vented"

I'll take the wheel off and take a pic
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  #12  
Old 07-26-2003, 12:32 PM
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The HACK The HACK is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Alex Baumann
Hack,

on the Alpina website it says "floating calipers front and rear, front: inner-vented"

I'll take the wheel off and take a pic
Well, from the other picture you took then we'd have to assume it's single piston calipers. Man Mr. Paddleshift was all ready to plunk down some dough to get them Alpina brakes too.
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Old 07-26-2003, 01:13 PM
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The pic in the B3 3.3 parts catalog looked like a floating 2-piston similar to the original UUC BBK.

But the pic Alex took earlier does look like the standard 1-piston ATE unit.
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Old 07-26-2003, 04:15 PM
Mr Paddle.Shift Mr Paddle.Shift is offline
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I am of course hoping that it'd be a dual-piston design. Cos those are the only calipers that will fit behind Alpina wheels without spacers!
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Old 07-26-2003, 05:18 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Mr Paddle.Shift
I am of course hoping that it'd be a dual-piston design. Cos those are the only calipers that will fit behind Alpina wheels without spacers!
I have a feeling the old UUC BBK will fit...
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Old 07-30-2003, 01:11 PM
Sherlock Sherlock is offline
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Pictures added here: Alpina Factory Visit
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Old 07-30-2003, 01:14 PM
Alex Baumann Alex Baumann is offline
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Gorgeous pictures, Sherlock !!

Thanks for sharing

Look at that red coupe !

Heh, that B10-BiTurbo has Hamburg registration plates

Hmm, that Z4, did it only have Alpina wheels or was there something special under the hood ?
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Old 07-30-2003, 02:03 PM
Akakubi Akakubi is offline
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Awesome write-up and pics!

I am blown away by Alpinas and this is just a candy.

As for the brakes, could those be M3 calipers/rotors/pads? Considering the power of the B3 S, it would only make sense to use standard M3 brkaes to save the costs. I do agree that BMW could use better setups however...
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Old 07-30-2003, 04:12 PM
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I was wondering what model that was going on...
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Old 07-30-2003, 04:50 PM
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What's with the door trim on that red coupe? Is that just taped up or is it really a different color?
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Old 07-30-2003, 04:54 PM
Alex Baumann Alex Baumann is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by doeboy
What's with the door trim on that red coupe? Is that just taped up or is it really a different color?
It has the Chrome Line Exterior, hence chrome door trim.
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Old 07-30-2003, 05:23 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Alex Baumann
Did anyone notice this pic ?

Hmm, what that might be ?

E60
Your eye is better than mine, but I would have guessed Z4.
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Last edited by Alex Baumann; 07-31-2003 at 02:04 PM. Reason: Pic is not released for publishing. (Alpina GmbH) Sorry for the inconvenience. Thanks
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Old 07-30-2003, 05:26 PM
Alex Baumann Alex Baumann is offline
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Well, I must admit that you're right. The foglights are matching the ones on the Z4.

Errr, I need more coffee
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  #24  
Old 07-30-2003, 05:37 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Alex Baumann
It has the Chrome Line Exterior, hence chrome door trim.
Thanks for the explanation.

Interesting... I wonder what other "customizations" are available for Alpina buyers...
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Old 07-30-2003, 05:41 PM
Alex Baumann Alex Baumann is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by doeboy
Thanks for the explanation.

Interesting... I wonder what other "customizations" are available for Alpina buyers...
The most customizations are in the interior. You may get the Alpina badge on the seats or blue/green stripes (as in my car). In addition to this, you may also order Alpina custom leather (Lavalina), which is a bit luxurious than the Nappa.

Plus, the Individual options are also available for Alpina cars (ie paint and leather)
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