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Manufacturers / France / Alpine


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Alpine vehicles


1950


Redele
Alpine Redele Speciale  (1953)

Jean Redele, the founder of Alpine, was originally a Dieppe garage proprietor who began to achieve considerable competition success in one of the few French cars produced just after World War 2.

Using Renault 4CVs, he gained class wins in a number of major events, including the Mille Miglia and Coupe des Alpes. As his experience with the little 4CV built up, he incorporated many modifications, including for example, special 5 speed gear boxes replacing the original 3 speed unit. To provide a lighter car he built a number of special versions with lightweight aluminium bodies: he drove in these at Le Mans and Sebring with some success in the early 50s.

Encouraged by the development of these cars and consequent customer demand, he founded the Societe Anonyme des Automobiles Alpine in 1954. The firm was named Alpine after his Coupe des Alpes successes but in those days, La Manche was very wide! Alpine did not realise that over in England the previous year, Sunbeam had introduced a sports coupe derived from the Sunbeam Talbot and called the Sunbeam Alpine. This naming problem was to cause problems for Alpine throughout its history!

A
Alpine A 106 Coach concept (1955)

In 1955, he worked with the Chappe brothers to be amongst the pioneers of auto glass fibre construction and produced a small coupe, based on 4CV mechanicals and called the A106. It used the platform chassis of the original Renault 4CV. The A106 achieved a number of successes through the 1950s and was joined by a low and stylish cabriolet. Styling for this car was contracted to the Italian designer Michelotti.

Under the glassfibre body was a very stiff chassis based on a central tubular backbone which was to be the hallmark of all Alpines built.

Alpine then took the Michelotti cabriolet design and developed a 2+2 closed coupe (or 'berlinette') body for it: this became the A108, built between 1958 and 1963


1960


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Alpine A 108 Berlinette concept (1960)

By now the car's mechanicals were beginning to show their age. Alpine were already working closely with Renault and when the Renault R8 saloon was introduced in 1962, Alpine redeveloped their chassis and made a number of minor body changes to allow the use of R8 mechanicals.

This new car was the A110 Berlinette Tour de France, named after a successful run with the A108 in the 1962 event. Starting with a 956cc engine of 51bhp, the same chassis and body developed with relatively minor changes over the years to the stage where, by 1974, the little car was handling 1800cc engines developing 180bhp+: with a competition weight for the car of around 12.5cwt(620Kg), performance was very high!

Alpine achieved increasing success in rallying and by 1968, had been allocated the whole Renault competition budget. The close collaboration allowed Alpines to be sold and maintained in France by normal Renault dealerships. Real top level success started in 1968 with outright wins in the Coupe des Alpes and other international events. By this time the competition cars were fitted with 1440cc engines derived from the Renault R8 Gordini. Competition successes became numerous, helped since Alpine were the first company fully to exploit the competition parts homologation rules.


1970


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Alpine A 110 S concept (1970)

In 1971 Alpine achieved a 123 win in the Monte Carlo rally using cars with engines derived from the Renault R16. In 1973, they repeated the 123 Monte Carlo result and went on to win the World Rally championship outright, beating Porsche, Lancia and Ford. During all of this time, production of the A110 increased and manufacturing deals were struck for A110s and A108s with factories in a number of other countries including Spain, Mexico, Brazil and Bulgaria.

1973 brought the international petrol crisis, which had profound effects on many specialist car manufacturers worldwide. From a total Alpine production of 1421 in 1972, the numbers of cars sold dropped to 957 in 1974 and the company was bailed out via a takeover by Renault. Sadly for Alpine, their problems had been compounded by the need for them to develop a replacement for the A110 and launch the car just when European petrol prices leapt through the roof.

Through the 1970s Alpine continued to campaign the A110 and later, the A310 replacement car. However, to compete with Alpine's success, other manufacturers developed increasingly special cars, notably the Lancia Stratos which was based closely on the A110's size and rear engined concept, though incorporating a Ferrari engine. Alpine's own cars, still based on the 1962 design and using a surprising number of production parts, became increasingly uncompetitive.

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Alpine A 310  concept (1971)

In fact, having achieved the rally championship, and with Renault money now fully behind them, Alpine had set their sights on a new target. The next aim was to win at Le Mans. Renault had also taken over the Gordini tuning firm and merged the two to form Renault Sport. A number of increasingly successful sports racing cars appeared, culminating in the 1978 Le Mans win with the Alpine A442B. This was fitted with a turbo charged engine: Alpine had been the first company to run in and win an international rally with a turbo car as far back as 1972 when Jean Luc Therier took a specially modified A110 to victory on the Criterium des Cevennes. The Alpine engineer who built this car's engine was Bernard Dudot. He was later in the team which developed the Le Mans engines and headed Renault's outstanding Formula one efforts before moving to Peugeot at the end of 1997. Other successful Alpine recruits include Jean Todt, whose career began as a codriver in the Alpine team, and who is now Ferrari's Formula 1 team manager. and Jacques Cheinisse: after a successful driving career, he was competition manager of Alpine in the 1970s, and became head of Renault production. Andrew Cowan, now head of RalliArt who run Mitsubishi's WRC programme, was 5th on the RAC Rally in 1970 using a works loaned A110! And of course Ove Anderson, head of Team Toyota Europe, won a number of events when a works Alpine driver including the 1971 Monte Carlo rally.


1980


GTA
Alpine GTA  concept (1985)

Alpine Renault continued to develop their range of models all through the 1980s. The A310 developed into the GTA range, commencing with normally aspirated PRV V6 engines, but later adding turbo charged variants. These were available from Renault dealers in the UK and the country's motoring press are belatedly recognising the GTA series as the 'great unsung supercar of the 1980s'

Sadly the last Alpine, the A610, rolled off the Dieppe line late in 1994, Renault abandoning the Alpine name. This was always a problem in the UK market. Alpines could not be sold in the UK under their own name because Sunbeam owned the trade mark (because of the mid 50's Sunbeam Alpine Mk I). In the 1970s, for example Dieppe were building modified Renault R5s for the world wide market.The rest of the world knew them as R5 Alpines but in the UK they had to be renamed to R5 Gordini!. Strangely enough with the numerous company takeovers that have occurred, it is another French company, PSA (Peugot/Talbot/Citroen) who now own the 'Alpine' trademark.

Fortunately, the Alpine factory in Dieppe continues to thrive: in the 1980s they built the special R5 Turbo cars, following the rear engined formula they have always used. They built all Clio Williams', Espaces and the Spider. The factory still proudly bears its Alpine badges and built early batches of the mid engined Clio. In France there is a large network of Alpine enthusiasts clubs: clubs exist in many other countries including the UK



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