The 1958 Alpine A108 is a forgotten gem that put Alpine on the global Map. It also inspired the original A110by Dim Angelov, on
When it comes to high-performance sports cars, Alpine is rarely the first brand to come to mind. Nowadays, the brand is has been revived and the Alpine A110 is a faithful reboot to the original 1961 A110. What many don’t know, however, is that the original A110 is actually an evolution of an older model – the much less known A108.
A108 is the second Alpine model ever made
The Alpine A108 came in 1958 and succeeded the 1955-1961 Alpine A106. The idea behind the A108 was to utilize Renault Dauphine engines on the A106 platform, essentially creating a budget-friendly, rear-engine, rear-wheel-drive sports car. Actually, the A108 stayed in production until 1965, despite the A110 coming out in 1961.
It came with a variety of engines
Throughout its production cycle, the Alpine A108 received three different engines, all of which were inline-four. They also featured an OHV (pushrod) design and water cooling. The first one was an 845 cc (51.6 cu. in) engine, which came from the mass-produced Renault Dauphine economy sedan. The engine developed 37 horsepower (28 kilowatts).
The bigger, 904 cc (55.2 cu. in) engine came in 1960, and with it a significant bump in power – 53 horsepower (40 kilowatts). The biggest engine offered on the A108 was a 998 cc (60.9 cu. in) that made 65 horsepower (48 kilowatts) and 52 pound-feet (70 Nm). According to a test carried out by Auto Zeitung in June 2020, an Alpine A108, equipped with the 998 cc engine, managed a 0-62 mph (100 km/h) time of 15.9 seconds and a top speed of 167 km/h (103.8 mph). An achievement considering the 65-horsepower A108 had an advertised top speed of 170 km/h (106 mph) in the early 1960s.
|0 to 62 mph (100 km/h)||15.9 seconds|
|Top Speed||167 km/h (103.8 mph)|
All engines could be equipped with a three, four, or later on a five-speed manual gearbox with a dog clutch. None of the A108 engines made it into the sportier A110, as they did not provide sufficient performance.
It came in a variety of body types
When the A108 first came out, it was only offered as a coupe. In 1960, it was joined by two other body types - a 2+2 coupe and a cabriolet, both of which were 2.8 inches (7.0 cm) longer. They also featured a newly-developed chassis with two supporting cradles on each end. The front cradle would accommodate the steering mechanism, while the rear one would “hold” the engine.
It was very lightweight
I think we can all agree that lightweight cars are becoming increasingly rare in our time. And although the modern-day Alpine A110, with its curb weight of 2,381 pounds (1,080 kg) is very light according to modern standards, it’s still fat compared to the original’s 1,556 pounds (706 kg) curb weight. But if you think that’s light, there’s more. The Alpine A108 tips the scales at 1,323 pounds (600 kg), and that’s for the bigger 2+2 coupe and convertible models. The improved, 1960 Berlinette weighed only 1,168 pounds (530 kg), while also boasting a more rigid chassis, courtesy of Jean Rédélé.
Foreshadowing the A110
You could say that it goes without saying, but in 1961 came another version called the Berlinette Tour de France, based on the shorter coupe version of the A108. Visually, the car had new headlights placed behind “wind-cheating” perplex covers that gave it a look closer to that of the A110.
The car also had more chrome and additional air vents on the sidewalls in front of the rear wheels. In addition, the rear wheel arches are extended by a line that gives the impression of a shorter rear overhang.
Another distinctive feature is the big grille at the rear, which allows for better heat dissipation.
The taillights come straight from the Dauphine, but are mounted upside down onto the rear fins.
In Brazil, the A108 went by a different name
The Alpine A108 was also produced in Sao Paulo, Brazil thanks to an agreement with Willys-Overland. In this part of the world, the Alpine A108 was known as the Willys Interlagos. As with the French-built A108s, the Interlagos was built in all three body types – Berlinetta, 2+2 coupe, and convertible. The car also had a fairly successful racing career. Production in Brazil ended with 822 units produced at Santo Amaro, Sao Paulo. For comparison, around 650 of its predecessor - the Alpine A106 - were made.
Alpine A108 production numbers
By 1965 a total of 1,500 A108 were produced in Dieppe, France. Of those, 300 were built between 1958 and 1960 and had straight headlights. The Tour de France version was produced between 1962 and 1964, despite the A110 already being on sale. We already mentioned the 822 Willys cars, built in Sao Paolo, Brazil, which brings total production numbers for the A108 to 2,322 units.
Why the Alpine A108 is significant
Despite the A110 being a more popular model, the A108 is actually the more significant car for a couple of reasons.
The A108 is Alpine’s first Berlinette and it also sets the beginning of Alpine’s molding into a proper carmaker.
The A108 was also the first car to offer a complete lineup of fun sports cars and thanks to the Willys Interlagos versions, it managed to become an international brand.