I Just Witnessed The Rebirth Of Alpine Sports Cars
Photography by Romuald Clariond
I’ve witnessed the rebirth of Alpine.
Every manufacturer can be called “special” by the people who are its fans, followers, aficionados—call them what you want. But there is absolutely no doubt that Alpine is special in the automobile landscape. Founded by Jean Rédélé, who was a true car enthusiast and owner of a large Renault dealership, the little marque gets its name from its babies’ exploits rallying the Alps roads, and especially at the legendary Rallye Monte-Carlo.
These roads were the reason Alpine chose this place to celebrate its rebirth, and it was very special to be there as an incurable petrolhead—and local. A hundred of the finest Alpine A110 Berlinettes had arrived in Monaco for a few of days to celebrate the marque’s rebirth, coinciding with the reveal of a final show car before its production model is shown in less than a month’s time.
At 1 PM, Carlos Ghosn—CEO of Groupe Renault—arrived in the Alpine Célébration concept that had been updated to look like the Alpine Vision show car he was about to reveal. If the Célébration was featuring the iconic Alpine blue, the Alpine Vision, announced as “80% identical” to the production model, was presented in a white dress. Why? Perhaps to remind onlookers of Col de Turini, the favourite playground of the classic A110.
Even under wraps, I could make out the neo-retro style of the car before the reveal. Yes, the front lights are the same shape as the cutesy Renault Wind’s. Yes, the rear lights remind nearly everyone of an Audi. But in person, it works.
On the mechanical side, Alpine didn’t say much about the technical details of the engine, only announcing a zero-to-100 km/h (62 mph) in 4.5 seconds, identical to the Alfa Romeo 4C.
The very-likely-a-four-cylinder turbocharged engine gets a dual-clutch gearbox, and if I could notice the shift paddles behind the wheel, I could not help noticing there was no handbrake inside its beautiful interior.
A great mix of leather and metal won’t likely be this nice in the stock car—but let’s get back to the important things—we need a handbrake!
After 3 PM, it was time for the whole bunch of A110 Berlinettes and the Célébration to drive to the summit of Col de Turini, and more precisely to the Hôtel-Restaurant des 3 Vallées, a hotel that showcases the whole history of Rallye Monte-Carlo on its walls.
Our tool for this climb was an A110 1300 S, the same car that gave us the 1973 World Rally Champion. I met Bruno, the owner, who had bought that beautiful Berlinette from a friend of his, the former boss of Renault in Mexico and Portugal, who had unfortunately passed away two days before.
He’d taken great care of his Alpine and only wanted to sell her to Bruno, whom he knew would take the same care. And when you see the engine that looks straight out from the factory, you know its ex-owner was absolutely right!
Bruno is a true car enthusiast: the Clio V6, Megane RS, and a Renault 11 Turbo Group A that he still uses for modern rallies. He’s a really nice guy, and I think I could not get better company than him on this way up. Paraphrasing as they say in France, ‘random makes things good’. Part of the fun on the way up to Turini was because ahead of us was another stunning A110 with Cyril Abiteboul in the passenger seat, who is currently the Managing Director of the Renault Sport F1 Team.
Up at the 3 Vallées, Alpine boss Bernard Ollivier has put a plate above the fireplace: the rally-style plate features the Alpine logo, the date, and the hashtag #weareback.
As night descended, we also plunged back to Monaco. The next morning, before Bruno and his friends go back to Vaucluse in the south of France, we went to have a coffee in the port. And on the newsstand adjacent to the Monaco Grand Prix grid, Bruno spotted in the window a miniature Alpine almost exactly the same as his.
In the middle of the coffee, he stood up and said he was going to buy the toy! Random really makes things good. Back to the parc-fermé, we just had to do a couple of pictures of Bruno’s two toys, and it was time to go.
I’m sure none of us will forget Alpine’s rebirth.