French an­swer to Porsche

Rutherglen Reformer - - Drivetime - Ian John­son

Driv­ing through France a cou­ple of years ago I was over­taken at high speed by a car that re­ally pro­voked a sharp in­take of breath.

It was very fast but not a Porsche or Fer­rari I dis­cov­ered when I drew up along­side it at a cof­fee stop. It proved to be an Alpine A110, France’s an­swer to Ital­ian and Ger­man ex­ot­ica and a car that stormed its way to dozens of rally vic­to­ries.

Like the Porsche it was rear en­gined and rear drive and was Alpine’s em­i­nal sports car.

It shot to fame fin­ish­ing first sec­ond and third in the 1971 Monte Carlo Rally and charg­ing away with the World Rally cham­pi­onship in 1973.

The first Alpine ap­peared in 1955 mak­ing its de­but in the Mille Miglia race.

It was the brain­child of rally driver and Re­nault dealer Jean Redele and spawned a se­ries of cars that led to the won­der­ful A110 which has rightly earned the nick­name of the French Porsche.

I got out of my car to have a look at the A110. It was cer­tainly a looker and was at­tract­ing a lot of at­ten­tion.

It was one of those all-out sports cars that made few con­ces­sions to road com­fort but were very quick off the mark and some ex­am­ples were said to be able to reach 130mph.

This one pos­si­bly was one of them with its op­tional five-speed gear­box.

The owner, a man in his 50s, was re­turn­ing to his car when I asked him about the han­dling which was al­legedly quite tricky. His re­ply was a smile and a typ­i­cal French shrug. He was not giv­ing away the se­crets of the A110 that eas­ily.

Redele used the name Alpine for his cars but may not have re­alised that in Eng­land the Sun­beam com­pany had, the pre­vi­ous year in­tro­duced a sports coupe called the Alpine and this nam­ing prob­lem was to cause prob­lems for Alpine through­out its his­tory.

The first French Alpine, the A106 used the plat­form chas­sis of the orig­i­nal Re­nault 4CV and the range started to de­velop re­sult­ing in the A110 which had a long pro­duc­tion run for its day – be­tween 1962 and 1977.

Pub­lished fig­ures state that 8,139 were pro­duced and all were left hand drive. Although pop­u­lar in a num­ber of coun­tries it was never mar­keted in the UK which was a great shame.

Alpine went on to pro­duce a num­ber of other ex­cel­lent cars and formed an as­so­ci­a­tion with Re­nault and in re­cent times the Dieppe fac­tory has turned out suc­cess­ful Re­nault­sport mod­els.

BORN TO RUN The A110 achieved most of its fame in the early 1970s as a suc­cess­ful rally car

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