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Alpine is a make that made its name skidding along the most vertiginous roads of the Alps, engine screaming and
back wheels defying the cliff edges and sheer drops - with the rage of a warrior and the grace of a ballerina

Cet article est en anglais, pour la version française, c'est ici :


The Alpine A310 was a bit of a spoilt child who wanted to live like a jet setter but finally lead its family to total bankruptcy.  What family! A family of kings and queens.  A family of genius ideas, hard work and racing podium places.  A family made of passion and terrible risks taken in the name of industrial improvements and better performance.  The A110, the most famous of all the Alpines, won some terrible battles and made her name skidding along some of the most vertiginous roads in the Alps.  Her engine screaming and her back wheels defying the cliff edges and sheer drops - with the rage of a warrior and the grace of a ballerina.

A warrior and a ballerina - that's what an Alpine had to be.  Quite a challenge for the new A310.  Within a few years the gorgeous rounded shapes of her ancestor had disappeared and in the beginning of the 1970s the Alpine was a futuristic, edgy and pointy vehicle.  She was more aggressive and more suggestive - just as were all the dream cars of this blessed era of automotive creativity.  She had to be like the A110 but, more than that, she had to be even better.  She was confident.  She wasn't only dreaming about hairpins in the mountains she also wanted to be a motorway queen.  She had the mind of her time.  She wanted more of everything.  Alas, the technical solutions chosen by her creators were still from the 1960s.  Well, there was nothing really bad – once well set and in good hands Miss A310 was far from being a catastrophe.  But still something was missing. She was as swift as the ballerina but the glorious warrior seemed to be gone.  Who could replace him? So Renault thought of calling on one of the greatest warriors of all times: a Viking.

Peugeot-Renault-Volvo, PRV, I'm sure you know what I mean... Well the new Alpine was finally hitting the target in competition but she was still lacking a certain something of civilised monstrosity. So she got two extra cylinders in the name of the PRV. She was a lady but with that engine she wanted to become a queen.  She wanted a better life.  The rallies and races weren't enough any more.  In her pit-stop she was dreaming of Relais & Châteaux.  She wanted to share her parking with the superstars.  Some even say that she wanted to choose her own place, but for that she had to be there first.  And to be there first, four cylinders were not enough.  She needed six, in a V shape would even be better.  The PRV was far from being an art masterpiece – it was the result of a fruitful association between industrialists and bankers but certainly not born of royal blood.  Anyway, once associated with the lightweight frame of the Alpine and its very aerodynamic bodywork, it should do the trick. Even better the all new Alpine A310, called V6, was to be fitted with the running gear of the magical R5 turbo.  Now she had everything to become a proper missile on the motorway and still have a lot of fun in the Alps.  At last she was worthy of her name AND her era. 

I was born just after the Alpine A310 so, to be honest, I really don't remember anything about her successes or victories.  Worse, I wasn't really into cars before the age of ten.  Still, I remember very well, the very first time I saw an Alpine A310.  It was in 1983.  And when I saw it I didn't question myself about her lineage or her racing accolades.   Or the number of cylinders.  Or her potential rivalry with the Porsche 911.  I just opened two big eyes and let my gaze fall, with wonder, on a four wheeled thing that was three times lower than any other car.  She was like a space ship that had come from outer space to rule the road.  And obviously her only purpose in life was speed.  Nowadays I don't see cars that way – but trust me (or remember when you were ten) at that age a car had to be fast and to scream.  I mean, in that time, fast meant cool.  But now I've grown up and I took some time to know a little more about Mr Rédélé. And it's a good thing because now I understand why she matched perfectly with my ideas about what a car should be.  And here's my conclusion: The Alpine A310, whatever some will say, is the heir of the A110.  Her shapes, her heart or even her philosophy make her a real Alpine.  She is even the link between the glorious past of the French make and her own time.  And that was a very special time – it was the end of the 1970s and the beginning of the 1980s, a time when one particular concept was more important than anything else – modernity.  They say that kids always tell the truth - it's because their eyes see the truth and their heart starts to beat way before their brain has the time to pollute the view with complicated concepts and useless comparisons.

Have you ever tried a Porsche 911?  And an Alpine?  Well yes - the Porsche is by far the better car.  It's more reliable.  It's faster.  It's merely more efficient.  In the beginning of the 80s the 911 was light years ahead of the French sports car.  And so what?  She has a carpet dashboard.  You can't sit in an Alpine – you have to wedge yourself in.  The pedals are not even in line with the seat!  And when you start her – you can hear all sorts of plastic noises and feel lots of vibrations.  And that's what makes her alive!  And beyond that she is actually comfortable.  Her engine, although I call it 'The Viking', is civilised and easy going but still able to give diabolic pushes every time you press on the accelerator.  And her frame – oh my God!  She's just stuck to the road.  You'd really have to mistreat her to end up in a ditch! Better, if you can call yourself a pilot, she'll go wherever you point the front wheels, and the back will follow.  She jumps, she screams, she turns – she even skids and, in good hands, she does that impressively fast.  One could almost believe I'm talking about the almighty Berlinette.  But no, I'm talking about the A310, shaped like a rocket with her pointy nose and her wide buttocks.  And that's the car I saw for the first time on a Sunday in 1983.  

The one I'm showing here is actually a 1983 version although it was delivered in June '82.  Anyway, the Alpine company was living on such a day after day basis that being from '82 or '83 doesn't mean much. Each car is almost unique. This one's owner's name is Jean-Marc.  And it was bought brand new by his father. To make it short, she's a family jewel. She's not been restored but everything still works perfectly well. Well, I say that she's not been restored but I must admit that Jean-Marc is a really knowledgeable person and he and his father took very good care of her.  She's been very well maintained and throughout the years she's even had a few opportunities to go and have fun on some local racetracks.  Despite what many people think, the Alpine is a real sports car but is still able to be a good everyday car if you live in town.  I must say that I'm really grateful to Jean-Marc who let me wedge myself into the driver's seat and go for a few kilometres of bliss.  I'm not a pilot so I didn't make her scream or skid.  But I did learn one thing – when I was ten, in 1983, my eyes weren't wrong!

Big thanks to Jean-Marc, for letting me play with his Alpine and his precious knowledge about this piece of French automotive history

And big thanks to my lovely Nicky for her help in translating this looong story