This Bizarre BMW Got 88 MPG Back In 1981


alpina-bmwThis isn’t the first time in history that automakers have expressed a keen interest in fuel efficient vehicles. Back in the early 1980s, every automaker was making high MPGs a top priority. Hybrids seem to have the market on fuel efficiency cornered right now, but this blast-from-the-past Alpina BMW built for the 1981 Shell Kilometer Marathon.

While Alpina may be better known for its high-performance luxury sedan, in 1981 the company entered this custom BMW into the Shell Kilometer Maraton, which is today referred to as the Eco-Marathon. But hybrids weren’t a thing back in 1981, so instead Alpina went for extreme aerodynamics.

The result was a custom BMW 323i, perhaps one of the least aerodynamic cars ever built…at least from the factory. By the time Alpina was done with it though, this aerodynamic BMW would manage to get over 105 mpg on the Imperial testing scale. Using the U.S. method, that works out to about 88 mpg…in a 1981 BMW using a standard gas engine!

Of course it’s hideous to look at, and we can’t imagine people lining up to buy such a malformed ride like this. But it is a demonstration of what is possible without hybrid technology; apparently aerodynamics can go a long way.

Source: Jalopnik

About the Author

A writer and gearhead who loves all things automotive, from hybrids to HEMIs, can be found wrenching or writing- or else, he’s running, because he’s one of those crazy people who gets enjoyment from running insane distances.

  • Granite Stater

    Aerodynamics do not determine mpg by itself.  It is the area cross-section of the car that determines resistance.  Sharp noses only reduce the noise factor. 

    • For sure, but there’s a lot more going on as well – the reduced drag and rolling resistance combine with driving the car at a steady-speed which happens to be its most efficient rpm, etc., etc.

  • A repost of what I attempted to say earlier:

    The back of the car is where most of the drag comes from.  This pointy nose only helps as much as a grill block and a gap sealing does.  This is a low drag car:

    Someone got 173MPG in a heavily modified Honda back in 1973:×348.jpg


    • 100%, but BMW isn’t arguing that this is as far as someone can go – they were looking for something that was cool, could generate press, and that was still recognizable as an E30. They got all of that in the early 80s with this car.

  • shecky vegas

    Awww, it’s as cute as a warthog!

  • Bruno Secundo

    Very sexy! Kind of like a very aerodynamic rolling coffin.