I’ll admit it: I’m kind of a wheel geek. I get especially excited for original hard-to-find wheels for classic cars, like the set of three-piece BBS wheels I have on my 1991 318iS—a wheel that enthusiasts would have put on their E30 3 Series BMWs thirty years ago. Sure, there are nice classic-wheel reproductions out there, and I’m not judging anyone who chooses to go that route, but for me it has to be authentic and original. I suppose if I wasn’t into wheels, it would be something like watches instead.
When I was searching for a unique set of classic wheels for my E30, I wasn’t just looking for one particular set. I had multiple irons in the wheel-search fire, so to speak. My “top three” list also included an original set of Alpina sixteen-inch twenty-spoke wheels—the wheels that came on the various E30 Alpina flavors like the C2, B3, and B6. It really came down to what I could find first, in acceptable condition, for an acceptable price. During my search, I took a couple of day trips to look at sets of wheels that didn’t work out. They either had missing parts or required significant restoration on top of an already-high and firm asking price. “I know what I’ve got,” was an all-too-common phrase. Believe me when I say the thought of “wouldn’t it be cool if the manufacturer had a new production run of classic wheels?” crossed my mind more than once.
Well, guess what? Alpina has done just that with their classic twenty-spokes—in the proper four-by-one-hundred bolt pattern, sixteen-inch diameter, and staggered seven/eight-inch widths for perfect E30 fitment no less! And they have “ALPINA” stamped into them, if that puts your mind at ease like it does mine. Alpina partnered with their original wheel manufacturer, Ronal, to reproduce the wheels, noting that “production processes and materials have advanced in the last 29 years since the wheel was first manufactured, hence tools had to be adapted and renewed, with the objective of course, to achieve the highest possible quality and originality.”
Alpina calls attention to the lockable wheel cover, describing the covers as “a novelty back then and today, a trademark of the company and more up-to-date than ever.” These aren’t simply flat plastic covers with a sticker. Alpina says, “a brass cylinder lock protects the wheel bolts and thus the wheel from unauthorized access. The cover itself bears the Alpina logo and is milled from aluminum.”
While the covers and locks are nice to have, I prefer seeing these with black centers, like on Tom Kapikian’s E28 Alpina B7 Turbo. Kapikian’s five-lug twenty-spokes don’t share the same bolt pattern as the new E30-specific set offered by Alpina, but the wheel’s timeless design looks great on so many classic BMWs. When I reached out to Kapikian, he said he had heard about Alpina’s new production run and that “the price of the new ones are very close to what you’d pay for a refinished set of originals. I think if I were looking for Alpina wheels, I’d opt for the new ones.”Cue dream sequence: I’d have mine with black centers, just like Kapikian’s set. I like some meat on the sidewalls, so the sixteens are the perfect balance of classic looks, performance, and tire availability. Have you tried looking for tires in fourteen or fifteen-inch diameters in the last few years? There aren’t a lot of choices these days. If you’re an E30 nut like me and you’ve been looking for the perfect set of wheels for your project, here’s your chance, just in time for the holidays. —Mike Bevels
[Photos by Mike Bevels and courtesy of Alpina.]