French answer to Porsche
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