Up Close And Personal With The Devil’s Finest
Story and Photography by David Zu Elfe
We had already been there a solid seven hours before I was able to witness one of devil’s finest. The starter had to crank for some time as the car had sat there in the corner for well over two months, but the second number #8 roared to life, I knew why this would be the best day at work, ever.
A few months earlier, in February, after the initial release of my first feature on Petrolicious I received a message with another potential candidate, a guy who likes Alpine A110s.
Fast forward to 4:10 am, on June 3. After a single phone call and nothing more than a dozen mails back and forth since february, I check the back of the old wagon for the last time. The gear is prepared, the moon still bright and my level of caffeine dangerously low. So, I go on to get my assistant for the day and off we are, the sun slowly rising, the coffee freshly brewed, and our Volvo groaning at full throttle towards south. Moments like these erase the feel of fatigue and as we get closer to our destination, the roads go from boring to less annoying to simply awesome in a matter of miles. The scenery around Stuttgart is truly breathtaking—and saying Germany isn’t beautiful is nothing short of a bold lie.
7:10 am. I still tend to get quite nervous during the last few minutes before the production finally gets going. The subject opens the door.
2:15 pm. Two cups of coffee, a tasty lunch, and an interview later, we finally decide to start one of the beasts peacefully sleeping in this showroom. The past few hours have been spent filling every single SD card I own with a lengthy interview, and while those backed up onto my laptop, I went on to do as many detail shots as possible. We had to use all of the time we had, already knowing that it’s going to be a long day.
2:16 pm. The roar begins. The showroom is a huge space, but there are six cars here. Six astonishingly beautiful, incredibly rare, and extremely capable ex-works Alpine A110s restored to a level of originality that beggars belief. And we set out to move one of them.
Number 8, you’re up.
There is no muffler. Out of its white manifold is unleashed an automotive symphony of intensity and brutality, and it seems impossible that this car can even drive half as good as it sounds…but it does.
While still looking at the tilted screen of my camera and trying to get a grip on the laws of physics, I dare to take a look at my surroundings: the next thing I feel are four Michelin race tyres giving up to the lateral acceleration of this revving monster, and we start sliding on all four wheels. As he cures the slide with even more power to the rear, the smile on my face is already burnt in. I don’t care about the composition anymore, or about the camera at the front of the car. All I want to hear is the scream of the bewitching engine, the 1,300-cc inline 4-cylinder that maestro named Gordini created to rev beyond all sanity.
To me, the sixties are the golden years of automotive design. While craftsmanship and beauty still had their place beside the engineering maniacs that created these machines, the French achieved something that hadn’t been done back then, and hasn’t been done ever since: They created a car that is magnificent, ferocious, but not excessive.
It is not as flamboyant as a Ferrari, not as reliable as a Porsche, not as usable a Volvo, and certainly not as cheap as a VW. But they way they built this car, with pedals so small, every drive is like playing the piano with your feet, with a roof so thin it can be dented with a touch of a finger, and with a weight so low that four moderate men could carry it around, is completely unique.
As the day closes with a crystal clear sky and a setting sun, our second car of the day, #54, one of five ever built factory safari cars, is positioned at the side of a beautiful road for the final shots of the day, I begin to realize that this day packed with fiberglass, petrol, and beauty is the perfect reason to love what I do. Never has a car left an impression like this on me. And I highly doubt there will be anything like this…
“Owning an Alpine is like being in a relationship with a beautiful women. Some days, it’s exhausting, but in the end, it’s about maintaining the passion, highlighting her beauty, and loving her.” –Jürgen Clauss.
I want to thank Jürgen, his beloved wife, and his son Patrick for their hospitality and this amazing day. And I want to thank my dear friend Jonas, who proved himself to be the best friend and assistant one could have. You can learn more about the firm alpineLAB on its website.