Few men can have started a motor company with such a clear vision of producing cars that would be aimed at competition. Few can have had as much success as Jean Rédélé with the Alpines he created. To have won the World Rally Championship and the Le Mans 24 hour race within 24 years of starting the company was a remarkable achievement. To have the vehicles he produced considered a national icon with an international reputation is nothing short of outstanding.
In the 1950’s Jean Rédélé competed in rallies with a Renault 4CV and he immediately looked at ways to improve the cars performance and his chances of winning. He used a format that was to become characteristic of all Alpine Renault cars, a lightweight body and a tuned rear mounted engine driving the rear wheels. The fact that the 4CV, Renault Dauphine and the Renault 8 all used rear mounted engines was the key to Jean Redele's designs. His first model was the A106 launched in 1955, this was followed by the A108, the forerunner of the most famous of Rédélé’s cars the A110 “Berlinette”. Announced in 1962 using Renault 8 mechanicals it developed, with the aid of Gordini and Mignotet engines, into the World Rally Championship winning car of 1973. Manufacture of the A110 continued until 1977.
Alpine involvement in motorsport and its success slowly won over Renault - Three Coach A106 , one blue, one white and one red, were shown to Pierre Dreyfus, Managing Director of Renault, at Renault’s Boulogne Billancourt HQ in July 1955 but that did not result in any support from Renault. Many at Renault saw Alpine as competition for their sporting cars and did not want any support given to Alpine because Renault were sponsoring others. However, as Alpine became more successful and Renault wanted to gain more positive publicity there attitude changed and in about 1967 Renault passed the funding of their competition activities to Alpine and Alpine became the de facto Renault competition department. In 1973 the fuel crisis hit motor manufacturers hard, particularly those producing high powered sports cars, Renault stepped in and bought a controlling financial interest in Alpine with the name changing from Société des Automobiles Alpine to Société des Automobiles Alpine Renault. By 1977 Alpine was producing more luxurious GT cars - the A310, originally launched with a 4 cylinder engine was launched with the V6 PRV (Peugeot,Renault,Volvo) engine and this was followed in 1985 by the GTA (Grand Tourisme Alpine) in both 2.8 litre V6 carburettor and 2.5 V6 turbo charged engine forms along with a special wide bodied Le Mans model of which only 26 were imported into the U.K. and their final 1990s model the 3.0 litre V6 A610 commenced production in 1991 and ceased production in 1995.
Although the Dieppe factory ceased the production of Alpines it was still used to produce iconic cars such as the Renault Sport Spider and the Series 2 Clio V6. Since then, many of the Renault Sport Clios and Meganes have been made there.
Alpines had one difficulty when it came to selling cars in Britain. The name “Alpine”, which Rédélé chose, was owned in Britain by the Rootes group, having been used on a much earlier Sunbeam-Talbot.
The only Alpines officially sold in Britain in right hand drive form were the Renault GTAs of which some 550 were imported and the A610 of which only 67 were imported the latter bearing the famous trademark ”flying A” in the Intercooler Grill.
The Alpine factory on Avenue de Bréauté in Dieppe now continues the long and successful Alpine tradition with the launch and manufacture of the new Alpine A110. The factory has seen an extensive refit, has been enlarged and the workforce increased by some 90 employees to cater for the demand for the new A110.
The A110 was launched at the 87th Geneva International Motor Show in March 2017, boasting a 1.8 litre turbo charged in line 4 cylinder engine that puts out some 248 BHP and 236 lb-ft of torque giving it acceleration of 0 to 100 km/h (0 to 62 mph) in 4.5 seconds, and has an electronically limited top speed of 250 km/h (155 mph).
The car went on sale in the UK in 2018 and on the 24th of September 2019 7,176 examples had been built, surpassing the number of original Alpine A110s built from 1962 to 1977. The car has received many accolades including one from James May of Top Gear fame who commented after a test drive in the car, “the Alpine A110 has 248 BHP, weighs the square root of diddly and is the greatest thing to come out of France since the Mouli Cheese Grater…!”
You can find out much more about the individual Alpine models under 'The Cars heading on this web site.