Once Destined For Japan, This Alpine A610 Is Now Prowling Paris
Story and photography by Pierre-Emmanuel Alain
The original French version of this story first appeared on Alpine Planet
It is a late afternoon in late April when Alain Calfoun meets me at my home to go pick up his Alpina A610 in Chartres, where it is waiting at the Alpine specialists at NG Sports. It’s about an hour’s drive to reach the car, and during the trip I learn that Alain spent many years in the culinary industry, but has always been the kind of person who melts for motorsport. He says it was around the age of seven, bouncing on the knees of his father, that a young Alain was first bitten by virus as we call it.
It was a childhood spent fantasizing over cars until years later, at age 15, when Alain could finally start to learn to drive on his own. Not all that long afterwards he crossed the point of no return by acquiring an Alpine A110 1300 G. He tells me driving it on the road was nice and all, but the circuit was where he needed to be, competing alongside his friends and fellow enthusiasts. So, in 1975, he purchased another A110, only this time a 1600 SC race car set up for Group 3 competition.
He does well with the car in French competition, and decides to move up another rung, this time in the form of a 1600 Group 4 car in 1977, and then a year later a Group 5 Alpine, an 1860 Mignolet. Also in 1978 came an Opel Commodore set for Group N rallying. He took a break from racing between 1980-1983 though, and returned to rallying with a 3.0-liter F-series Porsche in 1983. Another, longer time away from racing would follow, until the late and much-missed Alpine driver Louis Douillet helped him rekindle his competitive spirit, and so Alain was again racing French cars, driving in the Renault Clio Cup from 1992-1996. Even though he was not as trained nor as committed as some of the other teams, he managed to often find his way into the top third of the results regardless.
Alain remained involved with auto racing in some form or another, but in 2012 he set off down a different path: building a collection. His choice of cars falls within what we call in Europe “youngtimers,” similar to “modern classics.” Cars like the Renault Clio Williams and Peugeot 205 GTI characterize Alain’s lot, and we were in the car on the way to pick up his latest, a red Alpine A610.
All older cars have a history of some kind, and this was no exception to that rule. When the A610 was released in 1991, Alpine was becoming increasingly international, particularly their dealings in Japan. Recall this was the time when the Japanese economy was just about to enter “the lost decade,” but on the run-up they were buying all sorts of sports cars. This car, number 530, was headed to the land of the rising sun literally so (it was in a container already and everything), until it and the 19 other A610s in the container were sent back on the grounds that the Japanese importer had just filed for bankruptcy.
The car was returned, and it made its way back to Alpine in Boulogne. Patrick Seiter, a friend of Alain’s, would take ownership of this red car sometime after its return, and would sell it to Alain in 2015. We are en route to pick it up from NG Sports after a service because every car that Alain owns, Alain drives. He doesn’t put them to sleep for weather concerns, preferring instead to drive them in sun, wind, rain, snow, anything. They all get the same treatment though, and he takes care of them thoroughly, his motto being to keep the cars alive in more ways than one.
Eventually, we arrive at NG Sports in Chartres, the unofficial temple of the A610 in France. We will do a full report on its owner, Nicolas Gozillon, soon. We enter the garage and the atmosphere is a world apart from the world outside the door; Alpines are simply everywhere, and it’s hard to linger on one for more than a few seconds for the temptation of the others, but Alain’s stands out in its beautiful red dress (brought to you by paint code 774!).
After hanging out and having a good time chatting at NG Sports with like-minded Alpine enthusiasts, we head back towards Paris. A few days later, Alain and I meet up in the city to take some photos of his gorgeous A610, hitting some notable spots during the sunny spring day. We make our way to the Parc de Saint-Cloud, in front of the Alpine showroom in Boulogne, and then into Paris proper before finishing up the day near Chantilly. It was a series of days well spent in the company of somebody who shares my passion for Alpine. Thanks Alain, for a nice time spent with even better company!