Alpine A110

The original mid-engine French rally hero

BY CHRIS THOMPSON

IF YOU’RE WONDERING why the 2018 Alpine A110 looks so unusual, you might not know where its heritage lies. In 1961, the A110 debuted as a car that looks somewhat similar to its modern equivalent. It followed the principle of a light kerb weight rather than a massive power figure, and even had a series of Renault engines located at the car’ rear. This proved to be a winning formula.

The man behind the car – and the Alpine brand – was Jean Redele, a French Renault dealer and workshop owner. His passion for motorsport is one reason why the Alpine A110 became so prominent as a racer. With 1.6-litre naturally aspirated Renault engines being the pinnacle of performance for the A110, some competition cars managed outputs of about 103kW and weighed around 635kg depending on specification. It’ no surprise the A110’ looks still hold up today – it was designed by the prolific Giovanni Michelotti, who also penned cars such as the Ferrari 250, BMW 2002 and Alfa Romeo’ 2000 and 2600.

The original A110 became a rally legend, finding itself competing in the WRC among other rally series, and even has a string of victories during the 1971 Championship to its name – including one at the prestigious Rallye Monte Carlo. That same year, while Alpine wouldn’ compete in the mega Nurburgring 96 Hours, one Jean-Luc Therier borrowed an A110 to make his own privateer entry. While no-one reportedly took the Alpine very seriously at first, expecting a BMW 2800 CS to win, Therier, Jacques Henry, and Maurice Nusbaumer took victory by a margin of about eight laps.

By the end of its production in 1977, the A110 had already overlapped the production run of its replacement’ the A310, by six years. More recently, the A110 was honoured with a bewinged concept car to commemorate the 50th anniversary of its release – the A110-50, or Renault Alpine ZAR, with carbon fibre bodywork and an atmo 3.5-litre V6.