Presented at the Paris Auto Show in 1963, Jean Redele unveiled the Alpine A110 after his prior successes with the A106 and A108. The A110 was a true departure for the company as styling was largely revised and the Dieppe-based firm began building one of their more respected models that would remain in limited production for over a decade.
The A110 was equipped with various powerplants throughout its production. In the 15 years, only 7,812 examples were built, including the world famous Group Four Rally cars that won three world championships in the late 1960s, and in the early 1970s were defeated only by the mighty Lancia Stratos.
The model presented here is one of the French-built Dieppe A110 1300-cc cars tuned with the larger intake, exhaust valves and twin valve springs. It features the gas-flowed stage 2 reworked cylinder heads producing an estimated 140 bhp. Braking is provided with the special mountain brake kit utilizing larger discs and calipers. Though this example is currently detuned for practical road use with a single carburetor, it still offers more than ample performance with a smoothness one might expect from a fully rebuilt specialty engine.
In 1990, this Alpine was submitted for a no-expense-spared restoration by one of Europe’s leading specialists, AMA of Holland. Work on the car included the fitment of a new chassis and body with later panel upgrades. The interior was fully restored and utilized all new leather upholstery and new Wilton carpeting. Additionally, the Alpine was so well painted that it became the poster car for Protech Paint Protection. This Renault Alpine is a unique and important collector car that can be enjoyed on a daily basis.
This car sold for $30,800, including buyer’s premium, at RM’s Monterey auction, August 17, 2001.
I am intimately familiar with this Alpine, because it belonged to a colleague and a next-door neighbor. It was a 1969 model of the 1300 Super variety, and was superbly restored in Holland. I thought enough of the car (in spite of the missing Webers) to offer in June of this year $25k for it, cash on the hood, as we say. I was told that the selling price was $45k and not a penny less, which in my humble opinion was full retail on a very sunny day.
The Alpine is not nearly so well known in the US as, say, a 911, or even an XK 120 or an MGA. The base of its popularity is Europe and Australia, perhaps made up of those who watched the cars race and rally in the late ’60s and early ’70s. As an aside, French auction house owner Herve Poulain was nearly unbeatable, in local but fierce competition, driving an Alpine in that period.
The Alpine was your “average” rear-engined car, with what was for its time an innovative double Y chassis and fiberglass monocoque body. It did not suffer from the usual ills of rear-engined cars, and was equally at home on dirt and ice (rallies) or on the pavement (road courses or just street). To me, the Alpine combined the best of all worlds. It was an okay street car; you could overcook the corner and catch the tail with relative ease, which you can’t do with a mid-engined car. You could drift it like a front-engined car, yet it had the traction of a rear-engined machine. Its fiberglass body had a pleasing shape, yet, without the help of a wind tunnel, was surprisingly aerodynamic, leading to a great top speed.
An auction is a very accurate measure of any car’s value, but only at that location and at that very instant. This car had a mediocre spot, early on the first night, at an otherwise very strong auction. Bidding is only a partially rational activity; it is also a very emotional event. This car had no “fire” on the block, of the type that can lead to high bids. Perhaps it would have done better at a Paris-based Poulain auction, where there would be more potential customers who knew what it was, and then again perhaps not. Perhaps it needed to be hand sold to a European Alpine enthusiast—we’ll never know. That’s part of the mystery of the marketplace for collectibles, whether art, sculpture or French sports cars.
On the European continent, I would have expected this car to be worth around $35,000. With twin Webers reinstalled and proper global marketing, the car might bring as much as $45,000.
Someone very smart or just lucky—or both—bought it for only $30,700. Congratulations to the buyer; not only well bought, but stolen. This is a superb, fun car. May he or she enjoy it for a long, long time.—Raymond Milo