Journal: I Just Witnessed The Rebirth Of Alpine Sports Cars

I Just Witnessed The Rebirth Of Alpine Sports Cars

By Romuald Clariond
February 17, 2016

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.

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M Webb
M Webb
8 years ago

lack of a manual kills it

8 years ago
Reply to  M Webb

Not for the majority of people who are actually buying in this sector.
see below article on Porsche PDK take-up.

Porsche’s vice president for R&D, planning and processes, Bunno Brandlhuber, told Drive.

“As far as I know the take-up rates of the PDK in the 911 is up to 80 percent and in the Boxster and Cayman it is around 60-70 percent. And it is increasing. Maybe someday the question will come whether we need a manual gearbox anymore

Read more:
Follow us: @drivecomau on Twitter | on Facebook

Rob Jackson
Rob Jackson
8 years ago

At last one got past the bean counters!
Twenty four years with Renault, three tries to relaunch the brand.
This is number four..
For a mainstream manufacturer to launch a true niche vehicle takes some BIG stones. Thanks to the guys who signed off on the project, and allowed us to realise the dream. A big hand too for the team that did this car. Those of us doing the bread and butter stuff are proud of the Alpine Boys.
The wait WILL be have been worth it.
Guitar Slinger.. nice pseudonym, not so keen on your prose!
If you REALLY love cars, this should be applauded.
Caterham build a fine, focused machine. A tad chilly in winter, a litte raw, but we love it anyway.
The Caterham has fifty years of authenticity behind it, but the Alpine is no less valid for being a relaunch of a proud marque.
Porsche still make a 911, and Land Rover are hopefully going to give us a nice new Defender. That looks like the old one. Pastiche? Old friends to my eyes.
We’re relaunching Alpine.
This is a GOOD thing.
Worst case scenario GS, you might even like it yourself.

8 years ago

What a great read and great event. The enthusiasm for Alpine comes through. It’s not often a Brand that won the World Rally Championship and made some beautiful cars only to subsequently disappear, can be welcomed back when manufacturers are understandably spending money on things other than sports cars.
Targeting the Alpine philosophies of lightness of weight, driving dynamics and enjoyment and wrapping it in a modern interpretation of a loved classic has all the signs of a successful re-launch.
Indications on price are it will be below the entry level 4-cylinder Cayman so I look forward to seeing the final version later in the year and with the stated aim of selling it on five continents there is a chance it could be sold in the USA through the Alliance partner Infiniti showrooms.

xavier dumontier
xavier dumontier
8 years ago

There is no credit for catheram at all, they joined the project thinking Renault would pay for most of it, and decided to leave at a very early stage, renault sport is strong enough to carry this kind of project on their own. Easy to feel your hate there, but still, looks great, spec looks good, price too, as much as you hate it, it is gonna be a true nice car.
The renault sport division and Renault design are very capable, simple proof is this concept, now release the car, and allow us to pre order !

Guitar Slinger
Guitar Slinger
8 years ago

Rebirth or doomed from the start pretentious CaterPine catastrophe in the making ? All bets are … the later .

And errr … just when is Alpine / Renault going to give credit to Caterham where credit is due ? As for the venue chosen , references to a once glorious past etc .. marketing Smoke & Mirrors hype at its finest .. plain and simple

Apologies Mssr Cleriond . I know you’re hoping and praying for a revival in what once was an extremely innovative French automotive industry , Problem is … this aint it . More like a sad little pastiche awaiting its impending demise

8 years ago
Reply to  Guitar Slinger

As per your previous sad and inaccurate post on the unveiling story the only one “betting the later” is you.
Everyone else can see it is an exciting re-launch of a Brand that will be welcomed back by sports car enthusiasts worldwide.
Would you rather the launch venue was a supermarket car park as opposed to on the rally stage roads where the Brand had a 1-2-3 win in the Monte Carlo Rally and went on to win the World Rally Championship?
The only “impending demise” is hopefully your contributions to this otherwise upbeat and stylish site.

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