The ALPINA 20-spoke wheel design is now an iconic trademark, despite the fact that it has been in use for over 50 years. Here is a quick synopsis of ALPINA’s long and storied history behind the wheel.
The Green Light from Munich in 1968
It wasn’t until 1966, when Porsche debuted the 911 S with its new Fuchs wheel design that German automakers caught on to the growing international trend toward sporty light alloy wheels. Large BMW 2800 CS coupé’s FPS aluminum wheels were the first light alloy wheels to arrive in Munich in 1968.
This was the go-ahead for Alpina to begin! Founder Burkard Bovensiepen saw a promising commercial prospect when he realized that the potent BMW ALPINA automobiles required specialized wheels.
Borrani spoked wheels and British Minilite ELECTRON wheels were already part of the ALPINA accessories programme at this time. When you consider that previously BMW only offered one set of wheels and tires for each model, you can see how this represents a genuine alternative for customers.
Aftermarket wheels were available at virtually every auto parts and tuning shop in the country, so the product never took off commercially. When compared to the competition, it became apparent that an ALPINA light alloy wheel needed to be unique, aesthetically pleasing, and technologically advanced in order to stand out. It was essential that it be original and creative.
Burkard Bovensiepen was firm in his belief that to be useful, a “light alloy wheel” must be just that. Therefore, only the spoked wheel concept was viable. The technical difficulty arose from the need to distribute the forces uniformly across the rim well. In order to accomplish this, a minimum of five spokes were required.
The Beginning of an Odyssey in 1970
The journey itself can be a good place to come up with an idea that will change the world. After leaving Opel, the second largest automaker in Germany, in July 1970, Alois Wiesinger moved to Buchloe, Germany, to work in the motorsports division at ALPINA. But at first glance, it didn’t look like his job duties were very interesting.
“Our racing wheels break,” Bovensiepen said, was a telling line. Due to the limitations of the technology at the time, the ALPINA design made it hard for any company to make a similar product. When the wheels shrunk and holes formed in them, every other one had to be thrown out. Wiesinger took out a small amount of sand from the mold between every other spoke as the last resort. This created a material build-up or connection between two spokes. The starburst-shaped rims were made of magnesium alloy and were cast into the sand. At this point, it was a big step forward.
Alois Wiesinger rounded off the joints and chose a conical spoke profile so that the metal would flow more easily into the mold and the forces would be spread out more evenly. The basic idea behind the design, though, stayed the same: 20 smooth spokes with a matt black recessed center that made the chrome wheel nuts and chrome hub cover with the ALPINA logo stand out. As part of its accessory plan, ALPINA introduced 13- and 14-inch light alloy wheels with widths starting at 5.5 inches in 1971.
Burkard Bovensiepen KG
Thanks to its good relationship with ALPINA, BMW was able to start making a lot of its own 6 x 14″ wheels. The 20-spoke wheel became a cultural icon with a lot of help from BMW. BMW kept the ALPINA look on the then-new 3 Series (E21), but in later model updates, it was less noticeable. But ALPINA has never changed the way its classic wheels look. This design has become the symbol of bmw Alpina rims that everyone knows right away.