Excitement will continue to build around the legendary French sports car brand Alpine at the 2016 Goodwood Festival of Speed, with no less than two show cars previewing its imminent new road-going sports car.
The Alpine Vision and Alpine Celebration will showcase Alpine’s thinking for this exciting new sports car, the Celebration two-seater regularly running up the Goodwood hill.
Also performing some high speed climbs will be the very Alpine that won the 1978 Le Mans 24 hour race, the victorious Alpine A442 B to run with its 2016 contemporary, the Alpine A460 LM P2, winner of the prestigious race of the 24H of Le Mans last week-end.
Alpine will also enjoy an impressive presence at the Cartier Style & Luxe display on the lawns close to Goodwood House. Not only will the very first Alpine, known as ‘Le Marquis’, be present for inspection, but also the very latest in the alluring shape of the 2016 Alpine Vision show car.
There will be five more fascinating Alpines besides, including a Willys Interlagos, this the Brazilian-built version of the A108 that was the forerunner to the famous A110, as well as a rare A110 cabriolet and the 1977 Meyrignac concept car produced by a budding car designer as the ultimate Curriculum Vitae.
The legendary A110 will also be represented, with a 1964 example that was once the star of a French TV series, and the very last A110 ever made.
The presence of all these cars will underline Alpine’s fascinating and illustrious past in glamorously entertaining style, besides heightening the already considerable anticipation of the marque’s soon-to-be-revealed production sports car.
1978 Alpine A442 B
This is the racecar that won Alpine outright victory in the 1978 Le Mans 24 Hours, with Jean-Pierre Jaussaud and Didier Pironi. Its success was the culmination of five years of work, the A 442 B evolving from the first normally-aspirated A 440, the A 441 and then the turbocharged 442. There were many wins in Sport World Championship events on the way, but plenty of heartache before Alpine’s ultimate goal was scored.
The A 442 B was powered by a 2.0 litre turbocharged V6 that enabled it to hit a staggering 223mph on the Mulsanne straight and set what was then the fastest-ever lap time recorded by an Alpine at La Sarthe. On the day of its victory Renault President and CEO Bernard Hanon, who had set Alpine’s Le Mans goal, announced that the team would withdraw from endurance racing to contest Formula One.
2015 Alpine Celebration
This compact, subtly curvaceous sports coupe is both a signal of intent, and an homage to the storied history of Alpine that lies behind it. Created in 2015 to celebrate 60 years of the Alpine sports car brand, this mid-rear engine two-seater is a strong hint at the all-new sports car that Alpine will go on sale in 2017.
The deep blue colour scheme is the same shade that adorns the Alpine prototypes that made a triumphant return to endurance racing in 2013, this livery also referencing earlier Alpines that played such a pivotal role in the brand’s earlier Le Mans adventures between 1963 and 1969.
Of these the A110 coupe is the most famous, and it’s this car whose sculptural ghost can be seen in the Alpine Celebration, from the slender nosed, gently domed and creased bonnet to the inset paneling in its flanks, the distinctively raked D-pillars and the curving wrap of its rear screen.
But the Alpine Celebration flaunts plenty of 21st century features too. Carbon detailing underlines the high-tech features of the car’s body, from its spoiler to the side sills, diffuser, rear air intakes and mirrors. But more than these details it’s the Alpine’s compact form and wide-track stance that are most potently suggestive of the kind of dartingly quick, agile performance that has made legends of these cars.
2016 Alpine A460 LM P2
Alpine sports racing cars have had glittering histories on the racetrack, most notably as winners of the Le Mans 24 hour race in 1978 with the Renault Alpine A442B. The Alpine name is once again present in this world famous race, and the series that it’s a part of, the A460 competing in the LM P2 class.
The Signatech-Alpine team has already seen considerable success, winning the 2013 and 2014 European Le Mans Series with the 4.5 litre V8 A450b. The A460 shares the same 550hp engine and six-speed sequential gearbox, but differs in being constructed as a closed coupe rather than an open-roof car in the interests of enhanced driver safety and improved aerodynamic efficiency. It’s the first closed-cockpit Alpine since the A220 of 1969. The A460 also has a new FIA-approved chassis that complies with the 2017 regulations.
Winner in LMP2 Category of 2016 edition of the 24H of Le Mans with N. Lapierre, S. Richelmi and G. Menezes, the A460 has also scored top 10 placings in the first two races of the season and won at the recent Spa-Francorchamps round with car N°36. The two cars in the Signatech-Alpine team are identified by national flags: French for the N°36 prototype, and Chinese for the N°35 prototype. The latter is in the hands of Frenchman Nelson Panciatici – a cornerstone of the team since the programme’s early days in 2013 – and Chinese drivers David Cheng and Ho-Pin Tung. The N°36 car – the number which claimed back-to-back ELMS crowns in 2013 and 2014, as well as a top-three finish in the LMP2 class at Le Mans in 2014 – is shared by Frenchman Nicolas Lapierre, the USA’s Gustavo Menezes and Monegasque Stéphane Richelmi.
Cartier Style & Luxe
1954 Le Marquis
The Alpine marque was born out of one man’s obsession with making his Renault 4CV go faster. The 4CV was a small, rounded, rear-engined and popular machine of quite some charm, and Jean Rédélé reckoned it might go faster still if it wore a lighter and more aerodynamic body.
He turned to the young and hugely talented Italian designer Giovanni Michelotti to help realise his dream, the idea being to have coachbuilders Allemano make the one-off bodywork in aluminium. The 4CV Spécial Sport turned out to be a major giant-killer in the 1953 Dieppe rally.
At much the same Rédélé had become interested in glassfibre technology, had grown keener to become a car manufacturer in his own right and had heard about a wealthy American industrialist by the name of Zark W. Reed. Reed wanted to build plastic-bodied sportscar to sell in the US against MG and Triumph. The two met, and Jean Rédélé devised a plan for Reed’s Plasticar company to build a glassfibre-bodied based on the original version of the Michelotti car called the Marquis. The project ultimately came to nothing, but provided inspiration for the A106, and 2 “Rédélé Speciales” versions ordered from Italian coachbuilder Allemano.
The car on display at Goodwood is Jean Rédélé’s own 4CV, as rebodied by Allemano to Michelotti’s design. After spending nearly 60 years in the USA as a consequence of the deal with Reed, this flame that lit the Alpine fire was repatriated to France by Jean-Charles Rédélé, the son of Jean.
1954 Alpine A108 Interlagos
Jean Rédélé was not only a successful engine tuner and racing driver, but also a Renault dealer (at only 24, in Dieppe) and a Renault-sponsored business school graduate. As a consequence, his desire to become a small-scale producer of Renault-based sports cars was underpinned with considerable business acumen.
Rédélé quickly appreciated the potential of having a car brand, and planned to develop one based on some key principles. His cars would be innovative, equipped with simple but competitive mechanicals beneath a lightweight, attractive body, whilst using the greatest number of mass-produced parts possible in order to ensure reliability and maintenance costs relative to the car’s performance.
His second aim was to boost his company’s French activities by offering international licences for overseas manufacture. Realising that his cars were relatively straightforward to assemble and that their Renault mechanicals made them reliable and easier to repair, he set about finding partners in markets where Renault was already present. Eventually Alpines would be assembled in Brazil, Spain and Mexico in some quantity, and in smaller numbers in Bulgaria.
Rédélé forged his first agreement with Willys Overland do Brasil, who already produced Dauphines under licence. The aim was to produce local versions of the Alpine A108, badged as the Willys Interlagos. Over an impressive 4-year run between 1962 and 1966, approximately 1,500 units were produced.
This particular Willys Interlagos was bought in the early 2000s by a French Renault employee working in Brazil. When he returned to France the car came with him, but needed work that he was unable complete. Renault Classic bought it from him, and fully restored it for the Retromobile classic motor show in 2015.
1964 Alpine A110
Unveiled in 1962, A110 is Alpine’s most famous model, but it was essentially an update of the earlier A108. Both shared a similar steel backbone chassis to which a glassfibre body was attached, and both were mechanically derived from popular rear-engined family Renaults. In the A108’s case that was the Dauphine (1956-68), whereas the A110 was based on the later 1963 Renault 8. Technical gains from this updating included an engine with five main bearings rather than three, disc brakes all-round and a radiator repositioned to the rear to improve luggage space.
The Renault 8 engine necessitated a redesign of the rear bodywork to accommodate it, this restyle eliminating the air intakes in the car’s flanks and tidying what had been a fussily complicated moulding for the rear wheel arches. More slender rear pillars, a flatter engine lid and Renault 8 tail lamps produced a more mature and satisfying design that was even prettier than the A108.
That was one of many reasons for the A110s huge success. Around 7500 of these specialist sports cars were made during a 16-year career that saw examples manufactured in Spain, Mexico and Bulgaria as well as France, while its motorsport achievements included netting the World Rally Championship in 1973 and many other victories besides.
This 1964 Alpine A110 appeared in the 1967 TV series "The Adventures of Michel Vaillant", the star a rally driver who appears in 13 wonderfully nostalgic and cheesy episodes that can be found online. The car rolls during episode 2 and despite appearing to suffer little damage, was left unrepaired for decades. During the early 1990s Jean Rédélé and his son Jean-Charles decide to restore the car, but being superstitious, Rédélé senior decided to paint the car in a beautiful metallic grey-blue rather retain its original green.
1965 Alpine A110 cabriolet
The 1962 Alpine A110 Berlinette coupe is by far the best-known version of this famous car, but a year later a 2+2 GT4 coupe and a cabriolet were also unveiled at the 1963 Paris motor show. Although in production for seven years to 1969, only around 30 A110 cabriolets were made – surprising, given how pretty the car is.This particular example belongs to Alpine itself, and was left in a somewhat unloved state in a corner of the Dieppe plant for many years. Happily, in 2015 it was completely restored by the Classic division, allowing us to wonder once again why so few were sold.
1977 Alpine A110 Berlinette
Being a performance brand, it wasn’t long before Alpine was offering more powerful engines in the A110, especially as the car was showing strong motorsport potential.
The engine options evolved in loose synchronicity with the development of Renault’s own engine range. The early A110’s were available with a very modest 55bhp 956cc engine (later to sell by the hundreds of thousands in the Renault 5) but it wasn’t long before 66bhp and 95bhp 1108 engines were offered, the latter Gordini tuned. Even 95bhp may not sound much, but it was very effective indeed in a car weighing just 544kg.
By 1966, a 1300 cm3 was available with 105bhp and 120bhp, this coming from the 1255 cm3 of R8 Gordini, and in 1967 Alpine could make use of the 1470cc engine from the new Renault 16. When this engine was enlarged to a 1.6 litres, the 1600S A110 became a 130mph car.
Its highest output emerged in 1972, the Renault 16 TS engine producing 140hp. At this point the A110’s development was at its zenith, as was its motorsport success, the car winning Renault the World Rally Championship in 1973. Even at this point, 11 years after the model was launched, the A110 still had four years of life remaining.
The very last car of a run of 7,176 examples was a 93hp A110 SX. Finished in rare “Norman green”, it was equipped with Alfa Romeo taillights which were specified for some foreign countries (Germany, Switzerland, Italy), though not for France. But because supplies of the correct Renault 8 taillight had been exhausted, this French market car was fitted with them too.
It was delivered new to Jean-Pierre Limondin, an Alpine engineer who used it daily for two years before selling it - and without quite realizing how important this particular car would become. The new buyer fitted it with an 1800cc engine, as used in Group 4 rallying, this more powerful motor remaining with the car for 15 years.
In the early 2000s Limondin decided he would like to try and buy his former car back, together with its carefully preserved original engine, and began a series of long negotiations with its owner. Limondin succeeded three years later, and on 5 September 2009, the last A110 Berlinette was returned to its first owner complete with the original engine.
1977 Alpine A110 Meyrignac
If you’re a budding car designer, what better way to get noticed than to build your own full-size car? That’s what teenager Denis Meyignac decided in 1969, and set about creating his own sports car. He build a 1/5 scale model of his design which he presented to Alpine boss Jean Rédélé, who was sufficiently impressed that he provided Meyrignac with the chassis and (1600S) mechanicals needed to turn the design into a real car.
There were many setbacks along the way, but Meyrignac’s car was finally displayed at the 1977 Geneva motor show. Apart from the fact that its creation was largely the work of one young man, the prototype startles with its one-piece lift-up canopy that incorporates the doors, roof and windscreen in a single assembly. The car is well received, but Meyrignac’s ambition is not so much about getting the car produced as getting himself hired as a car designer.
And his bold plan succeeds. Meyrignac is initially taken on as a freelance to work for the Renault Formula 1 team before being offered a job by the French Automotive Design Studio SERA. There he contributes to the development of no less than 35 vehicles.
In January this year, Renault Classic discovered that Denis Meyrignac still owned his long abandoned Alpine concept car, and offered to restore it for display at Goodwood as a testament to the passion for Alpine. It’s as dramatic a car today as it must have been in 1977, and all the more so when you consider that it is largely the work of one man, who started on it when he was a teenager.
2016 Alpine Vision
The Alpine Vision, as its name implies, is an exciting foretaste of the new road-going, two-seater sports car that the French sports car marque will unveil at the end of this year. Unveiled in Monaco in February, the Vision is a solid hint at how Alpine’s brand new sports car will look, besides previewing the car’s broad mechanical make-up. As with Alpines past, the powertrain will be mounted behind the passengers in a mid-ships position.
Both the Vision and the car that it previews have been conceived with a series of goals designed both to deliver a great drive, and to extend the dynamic character of Alpine into the 21st century. These include:
The exhilaration and thrill of driving an Alpine
The agility of a lightweight, elegant design that focuses firmly on the essentials
The authenticity of a sports car that follows in a long line of illustrious Alpine models
Fundamental to all these characteristics is the car’s low weight, a key element of every road-going Alpine from the past, as well as a compact and potent engine. In the Vision’s case, this combination allows it to accelerate to 62mph in under 4.5 seconds, and we can expect similar performance from the production version.
The Vision also embodies the thinking behind the design of Alpine’s new sports car, its silhouette, proportions and visual character entirely contemporary but at the same time presenting sculptural echoes from the marque’s illustrious past. Those echoes can be found in the wraparound rear windscreen, the slender, quad-headlight nose and the curvaceous indentations along the Vision’s flanks, all of these referencing both the A108 and A110.
To be manufactured in Dieppe, France at the factory long associated with Alpine, the new sports car will go on sale in 2017, initially in Europe and subsequently across the rest of the world.