A Cross-Border Love Affair with the Alpine A110
Photography by Jonas Greiner / Story by Joerg Brosowski
If you travel the world and meet all kinds of people, you’ll eventually find that despite all the cultural and political differences there is one common denominator. There is a global love for cars in one way or another, and often, people prefer cars from countries other than their own. This is the story of a German enthusiast who fell for French curves.
The Alpine A110 Berlinette was first introduced at the Paris Auto Show in 1962, a sports car based on Renault components. Porsche was almost left speechless at the 1968 Monte Carlo Rally when Alpine came out of nowhere, dominated the German team and was so close to a big upset.
In the early seventies, our friend was close to pursuing a professional cycling career. Day after day his training rides took him and his teammates across the countryside in an area best known as the epitome of German engineering and its automotive industry. Not far from the Mercedes-Benz and Porsche headquarters, every once in a while the cycling team encountered a strange blue sports car. For Jürgen Clauss, each and every chance meeting was an earth-shattering experience that not even the finest Porsche 911 could reproduce. Low and wide, loud and bold, with breathtaking agility zooming up the hills—this car was going to alter the course of Jürgen’s life.
It was an uphill family battle for Jürgen to buy a rundown Alpine A110 and trade in his like-new Golf GTI. But the Alpine was seductive and sexy, a worthwhile candidate for a restoration, n’est ce pas? The French love affair became more difficult after the Alpine was purchased. Jürgen’s work ethic dictated that a error of a thousandth of a millimeter might as well be as large as the distance from Earth to the moon and could result in discarding an entire day’s work. So how could he deal with all the haphazard solutions contained in this low production car, assembled by hand in a small garage in Paris where a work day was best enjoyed with a glass of warm red and a Gauloise?
Although driving the nimble, light-weight, two-seater with the rear-mounted, four-cylinder motor was sheer pleasure, the romance was troubled. After another technical failure and the fact that his work load did not allow him to overcome the technical built-in shortcomings, Jürgen parted with grievances and his Berlinette.
Eventually the garage was vacated and all spare parts were sold, but what seemed to be the end of the road for the German-French relationship wound up being the beginning of something even bigger. After a while, it became apparent that the empty garage was just an obvious symptom for something missing from Jürgen’s life. And thus, he started searching for a top of the line Alpine A110S that would be worth a complete restoration. It was a pursuit of happiness made possible by acknowledging the perfect imperfections of the French motor racing legend. Its German counterpart and competitor, the Porsche 911 of the same era is ahead in terms of engineering, quality control, and reliability. But the Berlinette is second to none when it comes to charisma, beauty, and details you learn to love, not to mention the sound and power-to-weight ratio.
Every Alpine that left Jürgen’s workshop in the years to follow, neared his self-imposed objective, to build the perfect Alpine: fully original as per factory specifications and just as authentic in its spirit as a rally car in disguise on the road.
Alpine won numerous national and international championships, whether in road racing, hill climbs or rallying, and it was Jürgen’s ultimate goal to restore an all-original competition car with significant history. You would think that with Alpines in high demand to race on the weekends it would be easy. But think twice. Most of the race cars were highly modified to be compliant with new regulations, crashed or simply lost. And then there are those that pretend to be real race cars once driven by the famous French Musketeers like Jean-Pierre Nicolas, Jean-Luc Thérier, Jean-Claude Andruet and Bernard Darniche.
There was no turning back. Wanted: A true racing legend dead or alive.
The effort to find a true former Alpine works competition car would easily fill an entire book. It was a treasure hunt that no one else would have ever undertaken. You always regret chances not taken. And Jürgen is now fluent with all the French acronyms and found real competition cars (“voiture usine”), resurrected them from ruins, and enjoys the drive and the stories behind them. The French Berlinette has found her perfect match.
After more than thirty years of passion for the Alpine A110 Berlinette Jürgen produces the finest and most authentic examples of this French Grand Tourisme. Today his alpineLAB provides a platform for all who share his believe that this is not only one of the finest GTs ever built but are convinced that purity and originality matters.
Finding is one thing, but restoring it to perfection is another.
Click here to visit alpineLAB’s website.