Few men can have started a motor company with such a clear vision of producing cars that would be aimed at competition. Few can have had as much success as Jean Redele with the Alpines he created. To have won the World Rally Championship and the Le Mans 24 hour race within 24 years of starting the company was a remarkable achievement. To have the vehicles he produced considered a national icon with an international reputation is nothing short of outstanding.
When in the 1950’s Jean Redele competed in rallies with a Renault 4Cv he immediately looked at ways to improve the performance and his chances of winning. He used a format that was characteristic of all Alpine cars; lightweight body tuned rear engine driving the rear wheels. The fact that the 4CV, Renault Dauphine and the Renault 8 all used rear engines was the key to Alpines’ designs. His first model was the A106 launched in 1955; this was followed by the A108, the first to use a backbone chassis, and forerunner of the most famous of Redele’s cars the A110 “Berlinette”. Announced in 1962 using Renault 8 mechanicals it developed, with the aid of Gordini and Mignotet engines, into the World Rally Championship winning car of 1973.
Alpine was the official competition arm of Renault and when in 1974 the fuel crisis hit motor manufacturers hard, particularly those producing high powered sports cars, Renault stepped in and took over Alpine completely. By this time Alpine was producing more luxurious GT cars namely the A310 which was followed by the GTA and their final model the A610 which ceased production in 1994.
Alpines had one difficulty when it came to selling cars in Britain. The name “Alpine”, which Redele chose because of his success in the Coupe des Alpes rally, was owned in Britain by the Rootes group, having been used on a much earlier Sunbeam-Talbot. The first Alpines sold in Britain in 1986 were sold as Renault GTAs, although the trademark ”flying A” did find its way onto later cars.
Although Alpines as such are no longer produced, the factory at Dieppe still proudly displays the huge flying A on the factory wall and Alpine’s successor “Renault Sport” continues in the Alpine tradition with such models as the Spider and V6 Clio. Enthusiasts live in hope that one-day that same flying A will reappear on a new sports car leaving the factory.