To be welcome, even invited, to drive flat out over an alpine pass in a raging blizzard at night-that's priceless

This ex-Works car, fitted with a Mignotet-built and -tuned engine, started its racing career in the 1968 Tour de Corse driven by Jean-Francois Piot. The rally was won by Jean-Claude Andruet in a sister car. Next year "our car" won the Rallye des Routes du Nord with Jean Vinatier and Marcel Callewaert on snow-covered roads-one of only twelve finishers out of 65 starters.

Two weeks later, Vinatier was second at the Neige et Glace rally on dry and sunny roads behind the powerful Larousse Porsche 911R. If the Porsche had been uncatchable on the fastest stages, Vinatier was supreme on the snow-covered climbing road of the Revard. In good form since the beginning of the season, Vinatier won the Lyon-Charbonniéres rally with the same car in front of Chassault (911T) and Andruet (Alpine 1440). With the introduction of the new 1600S models, the 1440s were retired and stored away.

In the late 1970s, Alain Bernardet, future editor of Sport Auto magazine, often visited Marc Mignotet's workshop, where he went through a course of instruction. Mignotet offered him one of the four complete 1440 engines remaining, which were no longer competitive for top-level racing.

At the same time, Bernard Pierangeli-the Alpine sales manager and head of the Centre Alpine at Boulogne-offered an ex-Works A110, which could be fitted with this engine. It is important to note that at that time Alpine used to sell its racing cars fitted with stock engines in order to fund other projects. The 1440 engine was installed in the car still registered 4842GG76, which corresponded with its racing condition in the 1968 and 1969 seasons.

Never restored, the 1968 Renault A110 Coupe now shows 46,000 kilometers (28,500 miles) on the clock. The engine, stamped 1440CCN4M (M for Mignotet), is still in the car, like the specific 5-speed transmission. The interior is still absolutely original, including the bucket seats and the Moto-Lita wheel. The lightweight body shows some scars from the racing events in which it participated.

This is a very important A110 Coupe not only in the Alpine story but in the history of French motorsport in the late 1960s. Few racing Alpine A110s are in such original condition and without modifications, and even fewer can boast such an important race record. These two factors make it one of the most sought-after Alpine 110s we have ever offered and without a doubt a Holy Grail for the keen Alpiniste.

SCM Analysis


Vehicle:1978 Chevrolet Corvette Indianapolis 500 Pace Car Replica
Years Produced:1978
Number Produced:6,502 Pace Cars (46,776 total)
Original List Price:$14,219.21
Tune Up Cost:$150
Distributor Caps:$19.99
Engine Number Location:Pad on front of block below right cylinder head
Club Info:National Corvette Restorers Society 6291 Day Rd. Cincinnati, OH 45252-1334
Alternatives:1978 Pontiac Firebird Trans Am; 1978 Chevrolet Z/28; 1978 Ford Mustang King Cobra
Investment Grade:C

This 1968 Alpine Renault A110 Coupe sold for $138,198 at the Artcurial “Automobiles de Collection” auction in Paris on February 9, 2008. Had everything been as it seemed, this was a fair enough deal with no questions.

But just before the sale, there was a bit of a flap as the auction company discovered the subject car most likely was not the car with the history described in the catalog (and above). It appears actually to have been a late 1967 A110 1300 that was probably an ex-factory team car (with unknown history) when Bernardet purchased it and installed the 1440 engine. Artcurial printed a letter and attached it to the windshield (in French, of course) explaining the problem to potential bidders. At issue here is whether you’re buying a true piece of history or a really cool and correct bitsa vintage rally car, and how much it really matters. We’ll discuss this more later.

Jean Rédélé, a garage proprietor from the English Channel port of Dieppe, started racing Renault 4CVs in the early ’50s. Though the 4CV was not very impressive as a sporting vehicle, as it was basically a French variant on the VW Beetle concept, Rédélé enjoyed significant success. He gained class wins at the Mille Miglia and the Coupe des Alpes, among others.

In the process, he devised many performance modifications for the car, particularly a 5-speed transmission to replace the stock 3-speed. To improve performance further, he built some aluminum bodies for the 4CV chassis and raced them at Le Mans and Sebring, again with strong class showings. In 1955, he formed the auto company Alpine, named in honor of his success in the Coupe des Alpes (and blissfully ignorant that across the channel, Sunbeam had claimed the same name). He would produce sporting cars using Renault engines and drivetrains.

Fiberglass was just arriving as a viable body construction material, so Rédélé built the first Alpine, the A106, as a fiberglass coupe based on the 4CV platform. Relatively light and aerodynamic, if pitifully underpowered, they achieved enough success in 1956 and ’57 for Rédélé to consider a successor car based on Dauphine mechanicals. This time he went to Italian designer Michelotti for a stylish cabriolet body and designed the very stiff tubular backbone chassis with fiberglass body that was to characterize Alpine cars for the next 15 years. The cabriolet was quickly followed by a 2+2 coupe variation on the Michelotti design that became the A108 and was produced between 1958 and 1963.

Alpine became Renault’s performance division

By the early 1960s, Alpine was very closely associated with the Renault factory. When Renault introduced the new R8 saloon in 1962, Alpine was already redesigning the 108 to accommodate the new, larger mechanical package, and in 1963, the A110 was introduced. The A110 proved by far to be Alpine’s most successful car, with roughly 8,000 produced between 1963 and 1974. There were, of course, substantial mechanical changes over the years as Renault produced newer, bigger, and more sophisticated components, but the basic look of the A110 remained constant.

Alpine also became Renault’s de facto performance and competition department, with 100% of Renault’s competition budget going to Alpine by the late 1960s. French pride required a strong showing in endurance racing, primarily at Le Mans, so Alpine created a series of purpose-built road racers (A210, A220), but the primary marketing focus was on European rallying, particularly winter rallies like Coupe de Alpes and Monte Carlo. There, Alpine carried the flag against Germany’s Porsche 911, Italy’s Lancia Fulvia, England’s Minis and Cortinas, and the Mustangs and Falcons from the U.S.

In the mountains and snow, the Alpine Renault A110s were formidable competitors. Light, small, and wonderfully balanced (though still underpowered), the Alpines were at their best when the conditions were awful. If the sun came out they were doomed, but winter mountain rallies didn’t see much of that. (Think about it, have you ever seen a period photograph of a winter rally that didn’t show blowing snow and drifts?)

This car is where the glory years started

The glory years for the A110s were between 1968 and 1972, and started when Marc Mignotet tackled the horsepower problem. He took the R8 Gordini engine from the 1300 and stretched it out to 1,440 cc, basically as big as you could make the iron-block R8 and have it live, so that it made about 140 horsepower. Combined with the A110’s light weight of about 1,350 lb, this put the car in a league with the 911s when it came to sheer hill climbing ability, and though a rear-engined, iron-block, swing-axle design doesn’t inspire confidence, they were apparently sweet to drive. In late 1969, the 1440 engines were replaced by the new, R16-based alloy-block 1600TS engines, and the resulting A110 1600 was a dominant rally force until Lancia launched the Stratos at the end of 1972.

The 1968 Alpine Renault A110 Coupe described in the catalog was pretty much where the glory years started for Alpine, and as such, would be very important if you’re into that kind of thing. The car actually presented probably didn’t have the history described, but was at worst a wonderful and accurate representation of the era and quite probably a 1967-68 team car fitted with a correct team engine, just with unknown history. The issue is how much value gets assigned to history versus the “go play with it” value of a cool and highly acceptable vintage rally car. My take is that, assuming the buyer understood the situation, the market for these cars is more in useable fun than in specific history.

Unrestored and un-run for many years, this Alpine Renault A110 probably needs about $25,000 thrown at it before anyone sits on the starting line at the Historic Monte Carlo Rally, so we’re talking about $165,000 or so in true sales value here. A quick browse through the SCM database suggests that if you want a significant team rally car of that era, that’s pretty much what you’re going to have to spend to own it, with or without history. To be welcome, even invited, to drive flat out over an alpine pass in a raging blizzard at night, though, that’s priceless.

One Comment

  1. Matthew Cockburn

    These are pretty cool cars, though there doesn’t seem to be a market, at least based on the lack of coverage at SCM. The Alpine Renault A110, or any variant, doesn’t even exist in the Pocket Price Guide.