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.
Like other road-going Alpines the A110 made heavy use of mass-produced Renault parts. But while the A108 was designed around Dauphine components, the A110 was updated to use R8 parts. Unlike the A108 available first as a cabriolet and later as a Coupé, the A110 was delivered only with "Berlinetta" bodyworks. The main visible difference with the A108 Coupé was a restyling of the rear body that gave the car a more aggressive look. Like the A108, the A110 featured a steel backbone chassis with fiberglass body. This design was influenced by the Lotus Elan, Colin Chapman being a major source of inspiration for Alpine designers at that time.
Jean Redele, the founder of Alpine, was originally a Dieppe garage proprietor who began to achieve considerable competition success in one of the few French cars produced just after World War 2.
Using Renault 4CVs, he gained class wins in a number of major events, including the Mille Miglia and Coupe des Alpes. As his experience with the little 4CV built up, he incorporated many modifications, including for example, special 5 speed gear boxes replacing the original 3 speed unit. To provide a lighter car he built a number of special versions with lightweight aluminium bodies: he drove in these at Le Mans and Sebring with some success in the early 50s.
Encouraged by the development of these cars and consequent customer demand, he founded the Societe Anonyme des Automobiles Alpine in 1954. The firm was named Alpine after his Coupe des Alpes successes but in those days, La Manche was very wide! Alpine did not realise that over in England the previous year, Sunbeam had introduced a sports convertible derived from the Sunbeam Talbot and called the Sunbeam Alpine.
Alpine then took the Michelotti cabriolet design and developed a 2+2 closed coupe (or ’berlinette’) body for it: this became the A108, built between 1958 and 1963. By now the car’s mechanicals were beginning to show their age. Alpine were already working closely with Renault and when the Renault R8 saloon was introduced in 1962, Alpine redeveloped their chassis and made a number of minor body changes to allow the use of R8 mechanicals.
The A110 achieved most of its fame in the early 1970s as a victorious rally car. After winning several rallies in France in the late 1960s with iron-cast R8 Gordini engines the car was fitted with the aluminium block Renault 16 TS engine. With two dual chamber Weber 45 carburetors the new engine was able to deliver 125 hp DIN at 6000 rpm. This allowed the production 1600S to reach a top speed of 210 km/h.
The car reached international fame during the 1970-1972 seasons competing in the newly created "International rally championship for makers", winning several events around Europe and became considered to be one of the strongest rally cars of its time. Among notable performances the car won the 1971 Monte-Carlo Rally with Swedish driver Ove Andersson.
Then in 1973, when the buy-out of Alpine by Renault was complete the International championship was replaced by a new "World rally championship for makers". Renault decided to compete in the World championship with the A110. With a team featuring Bernard Darniche, Jean-Pierre Nicolas and Jean-Luc Thérier as permanent drivers and "guest stars" like Jean-Claude Andruet (who won the Monte-Carlo that year) the A110 won in all races where the works team was entered except the Swedish Rally, making Alpine first rally World champion.
Alpine A110 was produced in Brazil under the name Interlagos, a young driver named Emerson Fittipaldi drove one in several races.
Alpine A110 was produced in Mexico under the name Dinalpin, from 1965 to 1974 by Diesel Nacional (DINA), which also produced the Renault vehicles.
Alpine A110 was also produced in Bulgaria under the name Bulgaralpine, from 1967 to 1969 by a cooperative formed between SPC Metalhim and ETO Bulet, whose collaboration also resulted in the production of the Bulgarrenault.
In 1974 the Lancia Stratos, the first car designed from scratch for Rally racing, was operational and homologated. At the same time, it was obvious that the A110 had reached the end of its development. Attempts to use fuel injection bring no performance increase. On some cars a DOHC 16-valve head was fitted to the engine but was proven unreliable. Chassis modification like the use of an A310 double wishbone rear suspension, homologated with the A110 1600SC also failed to increase performance. On the international stage the Stratos proved to be the "ultimate weapon" making the A110 as well as many other rally cars soon obsolete.
Alpine Renault continued to develop their range of models all through the 1980s. The A310 developed into the GTA range, commencing with normally aspirated PRV V6 engines, but later adding turbo charged variants. These were available from Renault dealers in the UK and the country’s motoring press are belatedly recognising the GTA series as the ’great unsung supercar of the 1980s’
Sadly the last Alpine, the A610, rolled off the Dieppe line late in 1994, Renault abandoning the Alpine name. This was always a problem in the UK market. Alpines could not be sold in the UK under their own name because Sunbeam owned the trade mark (because of the mid 50’s Sunbeam Alpine Mk I). In the 1970s, for example Dieppe were building modified Renault R5s for the world wide market.The rest of the world knew them as R5 Alpines but in the UK they had to be renamed to R5 Gordini!. Strangely enough with the numerous company takeovers that have occurred, it is another French company, PSA (Peugot/Talbot/Citroen) who now own the ’Alpine’ trademark.
In total between 1962 and 1977, Alpine built around 7500 A110s and including the estimated production from the licenced factories in the rest of the world, total numbers were around 10,000. Alpines were fitted with many engine sizes and there were a number of model variants. The largest volume made was of 1300cc V85 cars: the higher powered 1300S and 1300G models were fitted with the Renault R8 Gordini engine and formed the basis of Alpine’s first international successes. However, the majority of competition successes were achieved with the 1600S model.