Alpina's Bavarian headquarters took a BMW 1600 2-door sedan (then BMW's smallest car), installed a super-tuned 2-liter BMW engine (BMW's biggest engine) and all the attendant devices necessary to bring the chassis specifications in line with the engine.
The only visual sign that anything other than a stock BMW 1600 stood before you was the word "Alpina" on the left front fender. Closer inspection revealed much more - making it arguably Europe's best "sleeper" of the era.
The engine was a BMW 2-liter unit, similar to the one used in the BMW 2000 TI model, announced in 1966. Alpina then raised the horsepower from an already impressive 135 hp to 160 hp by replacing the standard 40 mm Solex carburetors with 45 mm twin-choke Webers, fitting a high performance camshaft, raising the compression ratio from 9.3:1 to 10.5:1, and installing a set of very efficient tubular exhaust headers.
Unfortunately, the transition to the 2000 TT's 12-volt electrical system wasn't made at the same time - many felt the 12-volt alternator would have been a nice detail as a replacement for the 6-volt generator used on the standard BMW 1600. Apparently, the reason Alpina did not make the switch was due to the number of electrical components that would have had to be juggled simultaneously - a formidable task, and deemed not worth the effort.
Alpina didn't stop with engine modification - even though the 2000's chassis was already one of the best. With Teutonic thoroughness, they went through the entire car to ensure that every component was changed to be worthy of the improved performance promised by the engine. A 5-speed transmission with well-spaced gears replaced the standard 4-speed (compensating for the narrower power range of the super-tuned engine), and a 3.89: 1 final drive with a limited-slip differential replaced the BMW 1600's 4.11: 1 open differential.
All this needed additional stopping power and it was there in the form of special ventilated front disc brakes to replace the BMW 1600's solid disc units, and bonded metallic linings used in the rear. of harder driving, while the suspension commponents were reinforced. The rear semi-trailing arms were stronger, as were the front spindles. Anti-sway bars were installed at both the front and rear, and for improved steering response, the steering was quickened by changing the ratio from 17.6:1 to 12.8:1.
An Alpina tachometer was installed in place of the standard BMW 1600's clock. It was a good trade in a time where most cars were devoid of tacho's, considering time passed quickly in this little stormer, and drivers needed to keep tabs on the engine, which felt like it would rev forever but had a strict red-line of 7200 rpm. An Alpina leather-covered steering wheel replaced the standard BMW's plastic wheel, along with very comfortable Recaro bucket seats for both driver and front seat passenger. These seats were really buckets, deep and long and giving the lateral suppport usually (at the time) found only with the seats used in NASCAR stackers.
The only downside was the ease of entry/exit and rear seat leg room suffered as a result of their installation. The vacuum servo brake booster, which most road testers of the time liked on the BMW 1600, was retained. Only a severe thrashing could enduce fade, and the brake ballance was excellent, as was stability. The Alpina was also shod with excellent Michelin XAS tires, running on 5.5 x 13-in. wheels or larger 6.00-13 tires running on 4 x 13-in. wheels as found on standard BMW 1600s. These wheels also added one inch to the front and rear track.
The parts that made the Alpina BMW 2002 so special...
The suspension, too, was special. Aside from heavy-duty springs front and rear, adjustable Koni shock absorbers were used on the rear suspension - adjustable for bounce and rebound separately and without removing them from their mounting points.
The front shock absorbers (part of the MacPherson strut suspension) were also stiffer, but not adjustable, making the Alpina BMW is equally superior to the BMW 1600 in the handling department, and the standard BMW was always very good.
The heavy-duty suspension, together with the available power and excellent brakes, made the Alpina 2000 so responsive that, in all the reviews we have read, not one has been critical. As tall as the BMW 1600 body was, the Alpina cornered with very little body lean, indicating that the anti-sway bars did their job well.
The steering got progressively heavier as the car was cranked harder and harder into a turn, providing an excellent means of gauging just how hard you were cornering. While this is true of all cars to an extent, German cars of the era seemed to have particularly good steering sensitivity when compared to others.
The steering wheel, gear shift lever, and the pedals were all in exactly the right place for the driver, deep in the comfort of the Recaro seat. On the down side, some road reviews noted that the shift linkage was poor - sloppy and remote.
In fact, some thought it as bad as the linkage imprecision in rear-engined cars, but the BMW was a front engine. Later examples may well have undergone adjustment to the linkage so that there was some improvement. The engine also tended to load up when idling. The "enrichment valve" (Weber's substitute for a choke) used a spring which kept the valve closed, but it wouldn't take much to have the idle mixture running too rich. Others complained that the float levels were invariably out of adjustment in the Webers.
Any teething issues experienced by new owners, with the benefit of hindsight, can be adjudged as insignificant when weighed against all the exceptional qualities of the Alpina 2000. The handful of lucky owners no doubt loved the little car. But it was expensive, the sticker price in 1967 nearly being that of a Porsche 911. That made the Alpina appealing to those that liked the "sleeper" attributes of the car, because, despite all the modifications to the engine, the Alpina 2000 could be driven (provided you could prevent the urge for a fang) with the ease and tranquility of a Volkswagen. But put your foot down and both you and the car would turn into Mr. Hyde. It could blow away many lazy V8's then on the market, and give the 911 a run for its money...