Alpine Automobile, France

Alpine Automobile, France

Alpine Automobile



Jean Redele

Dieppe, France


The Societe des Automobiles Alpine SAS, commonly known as Alpine, is a French manufacturer of racing and sports cars established in 1955. The Alpine car marque was created in 1954. Jean Redele, the founder of Alpine, was originally a Dieppe garage proprietor who began to achieve success in motorsport with one of the few French cars that were produced just after the Second World War, the Renault 4CV.

The company has been closely related to Renault through its history, and was bought by it in 1973. Production of Alpine models ceased in 1995. A few examples of the Alpine GTA were imported into the Canadian province of Quebec, with the expectation that AMC/Renault would be adding the model to their Canadian lineup. The GTA was designed by Renault to meet

North American standards, however plans to import the GTA to North America were cancelled by Chrysler shortly after their takeover of AMC.



Using Renault 4CVs, Redele 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 five-speed gearboxes replacing the original three-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 1950s. Encouraged by the development of these cars and consequent customer demand, he created the Alpine marque in 1954. It was named "Alpine" after his Coupe des Alpes successes. He did not realise that in England the previous year, Sunbeam had introduced a sports coupe derived from the Sunbeam Talbot and called the "Sunbeam Alpine". This naming issue was to cause problems for Alpine throughout its history.



In 1962, the A108 began to be produced also in Brazil, by Willys-Overland. It was the Willys Interlagos (berlineta, coupe and convertible). By now the car's mechanicals were beginning to show their age in Europe. Alpine was 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 Alpine A108 in the 1962 event. Starting with a 956 cc engine of 51 bhp (38 kW), the same chassis and body developed with relatively minor changes over
the years to the stage where, by 1974, the little cars were handling 1800 cc engines developing 180 bhp (134 kW)+. With a competition weight for the car of around 620 kg (1,367 lb), the performance was excellent.



In 1971, Alpines finished first, second and fourth in the Monte Carlo rally, using cars with engines derived from the Renault 16. In 1973, the newer A110 1800 finished first, second, third, and fifth and went on to win the World Rally Championship outright, beating Porsche, Lancia and Ford. During this time, production of the Alpine 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. Through the 1970s, Alpine continued to campaign the A110, and later the Alpine 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. In 1974 Alpine built a series of factory racing Renault 17 Gordinis (one driven by Jean-Luc Therier) that won the Press on Regardless World Rally Championship round in Michigan, US.



Alpine Renault continued to develop their range of models all through the 1980s. The A310 was the next modern interpretation of the A110. The Alpine A310 was a sports car with a rear-mounted engine and was initially powered by a four-cylinder 1.6 L sourced Renault 17 TS/Gordini engine. In 1976 the A310 was restyled by Robert Opron and fitted with the more powerful and newly developed V6 PRV engine. The 2.6 L motor was modified by Alpine with a four-speed manual gearbox. Later they would use a Five-speed manual gearbox and with the group 4 model get a higher tune with more cubic capacity and 3 twin barrel Weber carburetors. In 1987 the installation of anti-pollution
systems allowed the V6 turbo to be distributed to Switzerland, Germany, Austria and the Netherlands. 1989 saw the launch of the limited edition GTA Mille Miles to celebrate Alpine's 35th anniversary. Production was limited to 100 cars, all fitted with ABS braking, polished wheels, special leather interior and paintwork. This version was not available in RHD.



1990 saw the launch of the special edition wide-bodied GTA Le Mans. Otherwise identical mechanically to the V6 Turbo, the engine was fitted with a catalytic converter and power was reduced to 185 bhp (138 kW). This model was available in the UK and RHD versions carried a numbered plaque on the dashboard. The Le Mans is the most collectable and valuable GTA derivative, since only 325 were made (299 LHD and 26 RHD). 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 1980's.

The last Alpine, an A610, rolled off the Dieppe line on 7 April 1995, 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-50s Sunbeam Alpine Mk I). In the 1970s, for example Dieppe were building modified Renault 5s for the worldwide market. The rest of the world knew them as R5 Alpines but in the UK they had to be renamed to R5 Gordini. With the numerous company takeovers that have occurred, it is another French company, PSA Peugeot Citroen, who now own the British Alpine trademark.



The Dieppe factory is known as the producer of Renault Sport models that are sold worldwide. This was originally the "Alpine" factory that Renault took over when they acquired the brand in 1973. Some of the Renault Sport models produced in Dieppe are currently the Mégane Renault Sport, Clio Renault Sport and the new Megane Renault Sport dCi is to be built on Renault's Dieppe assembly line. All the Renault Sport track-, tarmac- and gravel-racing Meganes and Clios are also made in the Dieppe factory. In November 2012, Renault and Caterham Cars announced the purchasing by the latter of a 50% stake in the Renault's wholly owned subsidiary Societe des Automobiles Alpine to create a joint venture (Societe des Automobiles Alpine Caterham or SAAC) owned equally by both parts, with the aim of developing affordable sport cars under the Alpine (for Renault) and Caterham (for Caterham Cars) brands, which would be available in 2016. In this partnership, Caterham acquired 50% ownership of the Renault's Dieppe assembly plant assets.

On 10 June 2014, Renault announced it would be repurchasing the stake from Caterham Cars in SAAC, renaming it Societe des Automobiles Alpine. During 2015, two new Alpine concepts were introduced: the Alpine Celebration, unveiled at the Le Mans race weekend, and the CGI-created Alpine Vision Gran Turismo. In February 2016, at an event held in Monte Carlo, Groupe Renault's chief Carlos Ghosn unveiled the Alpine Vision showcar (a model close to the planned production Alpine) and announced a 2017 relaunch for the Alpine marque. The Vision was later presented at the 86th Geneva Motor Show by Alpine. The production version is to reuse the A110 name and the first official pictures were revealed on 28 February 2017 prior to the unveiling at the 87th Geneva Motor show.




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