1970 Renault-Alpine Berlinette : Classic Cars
Alpine was a French manufacturer of racing and sports cars that used rear-mounted Renault engines.
Jean Rédélé, 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 the Second World War. The company was bought in 1973 by Renault.
In 1971, Alpine achieved a 1-2-3 finish in the Monte Carlo rally, using cars with engines derived from the Renault 16. In 1973, they repeated the 1-2-3 Monte Carlo result and went on to win the World Rally Championship outright, beating Porsche, Lancia and Ford. During all of this time, production of the Alpine A110 increased and manufacturing deals were struck for A110s and A108s with factories in a number of other countries including Spain, Mexico, Brazil and Bulgaria.
1973 brought the international petrol crisis, which had profound effects on many specialist car manufacturers worldwide. From a total Alpine production of 1421 in 1972, the numbers of cars sold dropped to 957 in 1974 and the company was bailed out via a takeover by Renault. Alpine's problems had been compounded by the need for them to develop a replacement for the A110 and launch the car just when European petrol prices leapt through the roof.
Through the 1970s, Alpine continued to campaign the A110, and later the Alpine A310 replacement car. However, to compete with Alpine's success, other manufacturers developed increasingly special cars, notably the Lancia Stratos which was based closely on the A110's size and rear-engined concept, though incorporating a Ferrari engine. Alpine's own cars, still based on the 1962 design and using a surprising number of production parts, became increasingly uncompetitive. In 1974 Alpine built a series of factory racing Renault 17 Gordinis (one driven by Jean-Luc Thérier) that won the Press on Regardless World Rally Championship round in Michigan, USA.
In fact, having achieved the rally championship, and with Renault money now fully behind them, Alpine had set their sights on a new target. The next aim was to win at Le Mans. Renault had also taken over the Gordini tuning firm and merged the two to form Renault Sport. A number of increasingly successful sports racing cars appeared, culminating in the 1978 Le Mans win with the Renault Alpine A442B. This was fitted with a turbo-charged engine; Alpine had been the first company to run in and win an international rally with a turbo car as far back as 1972 when Jean-Luc Thérier took a specially modified A110 to victory on the Critérium des Cévennes.
1971 also saw Alpine begin construction of open wheel racing cars. Initially in Formula Three within a year they were building Formula Two cars as well. Unfortunately without a competitive Renault Formula Two engine available the F2 cars could neither be known as Renaults or Alpines while powered by Ford-Cosworth and BMW engines and were labelled Elf 2 and later Elf 2J. A Renault 2.0 litre engine arrived in time for Jean-Pierre Jabouille to win the European Formula 2 Championship in 1976. By this time Alpine with Jabouille driving had built a Formula One car as a testing mule which lead directly to their entry into the Formula One world championship in 1977. A second European Formula 2 championship followed with René Arnoux in 1977 with the customer Martini team, before Alpine sold the F2 operation to Willi Kauhsen to concentrate on the Le Mans and Formula One programs.
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