What If? Quick Take: 2022 Alpina Coupe S
Welcome to What If? Quick Take, a new feature from imaginative illustrator Abimelec Arellano and Hagerty. While the cars shown in our regular What If? features are full 3D renderings and can appear in any number of images, the Quick Takes are off-the-cuff expressions of Abimelec’s imagination. Each one is accompanied by a short story. Enjoy! — Jack Baruth
As Bob rounded the corner towards the dealership, he saw that the front doors were both wide open, he saw a sullen kid in a Cintas shirt putting a final layer of elbow grease on the deep blue paint of the hood, and he knew the fix was in.
Pryor, the dealership sales manager, caught Bob as he walked up the concrete ramp, hands clasped apologetically in a lovely brown Canali suit that was just a little too hot for the weather. “Bob, glad you’re here. I want you to know—” Bob cut him off with a wave of his hand.
“Save it. Is that my car? This ugly automatic transmission piece of …”
“Bob, don’t be that way. Listen. What happened was …”
“What happened,” Bob snapped, “is that my father-in-law called you half an hour ago, and told you to make sure I left with this car and no other.” Pryor made a motion that was somewhere between a bow and a shrug.
“Oh, Bob, I don’t know if I would put it that way. Ronnie is worried about you. He emphasized how much he cares for you. And… the best news of all is that this Alpina is paid for! Ronnie wired the funds, already. Instead of having a car payment, you’re just going to have… a car! Isn’t that better?” Pryor was subtly putting distance between the two of them, perhaps reading the language of Bob’s coiled body. While he hadn’t done much lifting in the past decade, largely due to the endless 80-hour weeks put in on his father-in-law’s business, Bob had once been a college powerlifter and those hard years had shaped his basic frame into a menacing V-shape just under six feet tall. Yeah, there was a four-inch layer of fat on it now, but Bob knew he still looked like he could rip the door off the showroom. Something he was actively considering, in fact.
Bob earned $307,000 a year plus the occasional bonus. That was still serious money in the Midwest, even if his coastal friends laughed at him. But he couldn’t spend it. His father-in-law, a miserable and vicious man who controlled the lives of his two daughters in the smallest details, had certain prejudices. Going broke on a house was acceptable; his sister-in-law and her husband were struggling beneath the weight of a two-million-dollar detached condo in Wexner’s neighborhood. The most extravagant travel was par for the course, although the old man distrusted Europe and Asia so instead they just took ten-grand-a-day family trips to Vegas and Destin and Sun Valley.
Bob didn’t want any more house than the monstrosity he’d already been pressured into buying, and he sure as hell didn’t want to spend another weekend at the Bellagio. He wanted to buy: guns, cars, motorcycles. The guns were all in a massive reinforced basement room, where Ronnie couldn’t see them. Everybody thought he had two motorcycles, something against which his father-in-law continued to rail, but in reality he had nine, with the other seven in a storage unit rented under his brother’s name just in case the owner happened to be a pal of the family and nobody had told Bob.
Cars, on the other hand, were a problem. Every few years Bob decided he would go car shopping, but the moment he told his wife about this, some new Toyota or Lexus SUV would appear in the driveway—a gift from the father-in-law “so you can concentrate on your investments.” It was really about control. Ronnie wanted Bob to drive a certain thing, behave a certain way. But that wasn’t compatible with who Bob was. In his youth he’d scraped to own an Integra GS-R. He wanted something that made him feel the way the Integra had.
This morning he’d mentioned something about it to Jessica at breakfast. “I want a Porsche GT4. With a manual transmission. I have the money. I’m going to order one.”
“Honey, you know my dad won’t like that.” And the discussion had become an argument, then a shouting match, then Bob had climbed into his GX460 and headed towards the local German-car store. He knew it well, having accompanied Jessica’s wastrel brother to the place for a series of M-cars, Porsches, and lately a Ferrari 488. The brother could do whatever he wanted. He was a cokehead, a criminal, a disgrace. Everybody knew that Bob was the real heir apparent to the family empire. It was all on Bob’s shoulders. “You’ll crash a Ferrari,” Ronnie had said, pressing a blunt finger into Bob’s chest, “and my grandchildren won’t have a father, and the business … My God, Bob, you know we need you.”
It was a forty-two minute drive from their six-thousand-square-foot soft contemporary to the dealership. Jessica must have called her father the minute Bob left, and the old man must have come to the instant conclusion: Let’s humor Bob and get him a sports car. But not too much of a sports car. Not a Cayman GT4 with a stick. Not a GT3. Not an M4. This soft, weird-looking Alpina that had probably been a showroom paperweight. Bob could see the sticker from where he stood. Eighty-six thousand. For something with white leather and a mandatory automatic. No more power than a regular Z4 M40i. Just more … stuff.
Pryor must have been itching to get this thing off his hands. Ronnie would have called him, and Pryor would have manipulated the situation expertly. Ronnie was too much of a salesman himself to know when he was being sold. Now it was Bob’s car. Bob’s free car. Even though he had over a million liquid and could have paid any price for a GT4. Wait … was that a GT4 being rolled off the showroom floor in back?
“Hey,” Bob said, pointing past Pryor, “are you guys seriously moving a GT4 out of the showroom so I won’t see it?” Pyror convulsed in apologetic fashion.
“Oh, no! Bob, that one’s sold, we’re taking it to detailing.”
“But you aren’t starting the engine. You have three guys in suits pushing it. So I wouldn’t notice.”
“Oh, ah … it’s a very sophisticated vehicle. You, ah, don’t want to start it just to move it. Bad for the oil.”
“I want it. I’ll give you two hundred grand flat.”
“Bob, it’s sold.”
“No it’s not. Two hundred grand. Right now. I’ll wire it to you the same way my father-in-law did. You can keep the Alpina. You can sell it again. You can push it off Hayden Falls for all I care.” Now Pryor was hunched over like he was suffering from an ulcer. Which he probably was.
“Bob, we just … can’t take your money. I’m sure you understand.”
“I most definitely do not understand. You want to spell it out for me?” Pryor straightened up until he was towering over Bob, but somehow he still conveyed an air of supplication.
“Bob, you know how Ronnie is. We need his business. He’s good for fifty trucks a year on the Ford side of the house. He doesn’t forget an insult. He’s told me to make this happen. Can you let me do my job? Can you let me give you a free Alpina? And then you can call Stoddard in Cleveland if you need to. Hell, Bob, I’ll give you some numbers myself. On the side. After we do this. Now can we do this? Can we do this?” It was too much for Bob, who had been raised poor and polite. He uncoiled his body, unclenched his fists. Walked over to the driver’s side of the Alpina. The detailer kid opened the door and held it for him.
Oh, but it wasn’t that bad, once you were in it. White leather, polished wood. Alpina logos inset with gold. As an idea, the car was unspeakably dumb: BMW’s deal with Toyota prevented them from selling a Z4 coupe but somehow Alpina didn’t count. So it was a super-Supra wearing an Alpina badge, chock-full of BMW roundels on every part. Bob’s broad shoulders were a tight fit against the frameless window when the door was closed. He tried to take a moment for gratitude. He thought about the home in which he grew up. Even now it was barely worth a hundred grand. He thought about all the late nights he’d worked. At restaurants, parts counters, then for Ronnie. Bob took a breath, started the engine, rolled down the window.
“Okay, Pryor, I’ll take it.” The older man beamed.
“Tags are already on, and your wife has power of attorney so she DocuSigned it all, already. You can just drive away. Give me the keys to the Lexus, I’ll have one of the kids return it to your house later. Go enjoy yourself. Bob …” and here Pryor paused for a moment, to weigh the propriety of what he was about to say. “Bob, it’s a sweet life. If you’ll let it be.”
“Thanks for that,” Bob replied, and with a flick of the wrist he put the Alpina into Drive. Behind him, he could see the salesmen start pushing the GT4 back into place.
Ten minutes later, he was on the freeway, heading nowhere in particular. He should get some lunch. A steak, maybe. His phone was already paired to the car—how had they managed that?—and it was cranking “Stranglehold” through the Alpina’s lovely sound system when a call came in.
Bob took a breath and clicked the green icon to answer it. “Ronnie. What can I do for you.”
“Bob. I hear you’re the owner of a new sports car.” The old man’s voice was like a machine that broke rocks into words, omnipresent in the Alpina’s surround sound.
“Well, yes, I am, Ronnie. I … didn’t expect I would be the owner of this car. But I am.” There was silence in response, then more gravel, vibrating the Alpina’s interior:
“Well, is there something you want to say?” The freeway exit ahead, through some unconscious coincidence, led directly to their biggest competitor, a placid and diffident third-generation rich kid who had repeatedly offered Bob serious money to divorce Jessica, switch companies, and bring all his proprietary knowledge along for the ride. Bob swung the Alpina into the exit lane. For a moment. Then he flicked the left turn signal on, floored the accelerator, and blew past the exit at a hundred and twenty. It was still quiet inside. Quiet enough for the response he had to give.
“Ronnie,” Bob said, each word seemingly tied to a piece of him that was ripped out as he spoke and fell bloody into the Alpina’s wool floormats, “I’d like to say … thank you.”