2003 BMW Alpina Z8 Roadster Could Be The Ultimate Cruising Machine

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BMW has made some enticing machinery over the past century, but few of its modern creations could be considered to be “exotic” quite like the Z8.

In a style perhaps more typical of Detroit (think Plymouth Prowler or Ford Thunderbird), Munich green-lit the retro roadster for limited production based on positive public reception to a show car. But it didn't make many of them.

The manufacturer built 5,148 of them between 1999 and 2002. But then it handed the project over to its closely associated tuning partner Alpina which made another 555 examples. Only instead of making them more hardcore, the Alpina V8 Roadster was softened up into a boulevard cruiser.

The 4.9-liter V8 that produced 400 hp and 370 lb-ft of torque in the Z8 was replaced with a 4.8-liter Alpina unit, retuned to deliver less power (375 hp) but more torque (383 lb-ft) for an easier manner. The six-speed manual was ditched for a five-speed automatic, the suspension was retuned, and the wheels fitted with softer-sidewall rubber.

In a clear sign the market for which the changes were intended, 450 of those 555 units went to the United States (where it was the first Alpina sold directly through BMW dealerships). One of those examples, in classic silver over red with 14,809 miles on the odometer, is now heading for auction in Santa Monica, where RM Sotheby's expects it will go for about $230,000.

That's towards the higher end of what "standard" Z8s are trading for these days, which just goes to show – whatever the orientation – what scarcity (and the Alpina name) can do to a vehicle's residual value.

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