Courtesy of Bonhams
One of the great names in post-war French motorsport, Alpine was the brainchild of Jean Rédélé, who began in the early 1950s by developing a competition version of the popular little Renault 4CV, which won its class in the Mille Miglia three years running. By 1958, Rédélé was using a sophisticated tubular steel chassis, and in 1961 he introduced the A108 Berlinette Tour de France, which featured a tubular backbone frame, double wishbone front suspension and a Renault Dauphine swing-axle setup at the rear. It was developed into a potent — and often unbeatable — rally car, using a variety of Renault power units. In 1963, Alpine launched the A110 Berlinette, which became the mainspring of production, its rearward weight bias giving it outstanding cornering characteristics for rallying. In 1969, A110s finished 1-2-3 in the Coupe des Alpes and came third in the Monte Carlo Rally. The following year, Alpines again came third in the Monte and won the Italian Acropolis and Tour de Corse rallies. Alpine driver Jean-Claude Andruet became European Rally Champion. By 1971 the marque’s competition record had endeared Alpine to Renault to such an extent that they were appointed as its official competition wing. More successes followed from 1971 to ’73. Most illustrious of the Alpine range was the A110, an outstanding example of which is presented here in its most-popular 1,600-cc form. In production from 1962 through to 1977, this charismatic sports two-seater rivaled the Porsche 911 for performance while being even more exclusive. The hand-built Alpines left the factory at the rate of only 10 per week in the late 1960s and early 1970s. This matching-numbers A110 was delivered new in Italy, having left the factory on April 7, 1971. Finished in blue with black leather interior, the car is described as in generally very good original condition, benefiting from a major service by Severi Auto Classic carried out in July 2014. Accompanying documentation consists of a French Carte Grise, current Contrôle Technique, Renault Certificate of Conformity, ASI homologation certificate, and a copy of the Auto Capital article (July 1991 edition) in which this car is featured.

SCM Analysis


Vehicle:1971 Alpine A110 1600S coupe
Number Produced:1,833 (1,600 French-built)
Original List Price:$10,000
SCM Valuation:Median to date, $130,900; high sale, $145,772
Tune Up Cost:$385
Chassis Number Location:Front compartment, on riveted plate on cross member
Engine Number Location:Riveted plate in engine compartment, on block under cylinder head on water pump side
Club Info:Renault Alpine Owners Club
Alternatives:1971 Porsche 911S, 1973 Lancia Stratos, 1972 Renault Alpine A110, 1972 Alfa Romeo Junior Z 1600
Investment Grade:B

This car, Lot 125, sold for $97,877 (€86,250), including buyer’s premium, at Bonhams’ Grandes Marques à Monaco sale in Monte Carlo on May 13, 2016.

As Fiat inspired numerous Italians (and one notable Austrian) to tune their humble sedans for speed and create competition specials, so did Renault in France.

The most famous of the French competition builders were Amédée Gordini and Jean Rédélé, and the place their passions and work came together was in the Renault Gordini-powered Alpine cars. Renault had been involved in motorsport since the end of the 19th century. While the commitment to racing may have waxed and waned at Renault through the years, it never went away.

Although Gordini had come to Renault after a long association with Fiat and then Simca, Rédélé was a Renault man from the very first, and the company always had its eye on his accomplishments.

That the Régie bought full ownership of Alpine by 1973 tells one all they need to know about how successful the operation was — and the glory it reflected on any number of humble sedans. Timing is everything, and by the time Renault made its move, Alpine was riding high in international rally competition.

Having won the first year of the World Rally Championship in 1973, the Alpine A110 reign was short. The sensational Lancia Stratos won the championship from 1974 through 1976.

It’s interesting from that point of view to consider the competitive set of the Alpine. The A110 1600S is most often compared to the Porsche 911, so let’s look at what the Porsche offered in 1971.

Light and fast

From their 2.2-liter flat 6-cylinder engines, the 911S delivered 180 hp, the 911E 153 hp and the entry-level 911T 123 hp. The A110 had 138 hp, but its 1,367-pound (650 kg) curb weight compared quite favorably to the 2,315 pounds (1,050 kg) of the Porsche.

As Alpine is from France, the nation that invented the Index of Performance, it’s not surprising that power-to-weight ratio means so much to the capability of these cars. Their fiberglass bodies and simple lightweight interiors even made the road cars seem more like competition models.

So what about the Stratos — the car that knocked Alpine off the rally championship throne? The Stradale, or street, version weighed a hefty 2,161 pounds, but it brought 190 hp of Ferrari V6 power to the fight. For a car to use off the rally stages, however, the A110 was arguably a bit friendlier, although it was not the relative boulevardier the 911 was.

The A110 also had the look of a racer. Not pretty, certainly, but it was aggressive, purposeful, muscular and distinctive. It looks best in the signature metallic blue or bright yellow colors in which they’re most often seen. With a front end packed with big head- and driving lights and its deep-dish alloy wheels and big tires that completely fill the flared wheelarches, this is a car that means business.

Alpine to race again

Renault recently unveiled a contemporary Alpine sports car that takes inspiration from the A110. The new car is said to be the first in a line of performance cars under the Alpine badge and will include a return to competition. This will certainly not hurt the values of the vintage models — if only by raising the awareness of their existence through the marketing of the new cars. Those who are the target audience for the new Alpine are unlikely to want an old one, so a tripling of value isn’t likely.

A good deal on an important car

On the day of the sale, the U.S. dollar was trading at $1.132 = €1.00, which was a bit weaker than it had been in the weeks previous — but exactly where it had been the year before. As this piece was being written, the dollar sat at $1.11 to the euro. So this sale isn’t a story of currency fluctuation.

Relatively few of these cars can be found in the United States, and they change hands infrequently.

A good bit over $100k could be reasonably expected for the most-desirable variant — a French-built 1600. That this car was described in the catalog as being in “generally very good original condition” with a recent service means it’s a car that you wouldn’t hesitate to use as it was intended, without worrying about rock chips and scars on the fiberglass body.

I attended the sale, and while I didn’t inspect the car closely, the panel fit was as casual as it usually is on these models, and the paint was presentable. The interior showed both wear and care, and the engine compartment appeared to be in as-last-driven condition.

This price for our subject car is not far out of line with where they’ve been selling for the past two years, which indicates that they are still trading in a fairly thin market.

Still, as we’ve seen a high at auction of $145,544 at RM Sotheby’s Paris sale in February 2015, this car with some needs represented a good deal for the buyer in a usable, rare, important and fun car. Well bought. ♦

(Introductory description courtesy of Bonhams.)

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