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Cars You Need to Know About: Alpine A110

The lightweight French rally car for the road is a blast

By Leo Shvedsky
December 09 2021
Two generations of Alpine. Shutterstock

The original Alpine A110 is what you get when you cross a small, lightweight car with the heart of a rally enthusiast. This little French beasty is a legend on European rally courses and renowned for its speed and tenacity. If you thought that France didn’t have its own version of Porsche or Lotus, and you’ve never heard of the original A110, then buckle up. We’re here to tell you what’s what about the Alpine A110 –and we’ll be dammed if we allow this car to fade into obscurity. 

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The very spirit of the 60s. Shutterstock

Alpine was a niche car maker, sort of like France’s answer to Lotus. Their roots are in motorsport - founder Jean Redele was a garage owner who built a racer with a 4-cylinder Renault engine and lightweight aluminum body in the mid-1950s, and then went on to win acclaim in races around France and Italy. He began to produce customer cars after attracting attention for his successes on the rally circuit, starting a company and calling it Alpine, after the Coupe des Alps race. If that humble success story doesn’t pull at your heart pistons, then you’re a monster. 

Back-to-Back. Shutterstock  

The first iteration of A110, beginning in 1962, was a cutting-edge rally racer for its time with a steel backbone chassis and fiberglass body. At the time, fiberglass was the mid-twentieth century version of carbon fiber: lightweight but durable space-age awesomeness. Throughout its first production run until 1977, the A110 mostly used Renault engines and parts. This would eventually lead to a deeper partnership and eventual purchase of the small automaker by Renault. 

The inline four engine that it used wasn’t exactly the ultimate power machine, but this setup served the car quite well. It won the legendary Monte Carlo Rally in the 1971 season and then the World Rally Championship in 1973, among many other wins throughout its run on the European rally circuit. This was at a time when a regular person who wanted to go racing could buy a purpose-built rally version of a car straight from the manufacturers and take it to work or for a jaunt on the back roads, then go racing, and it was glorious. 

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The A110 in all its 70s racing glory. Shutterstock 

Toward the end of the 70’s, however, the A110’s days were numbered. Its four-cylinder engine kept getting upgrades and mods, but the writing was on the wall with new models like Alpine’s own A310 waiting in the wings to replace it. Finally in 1977 Alpine called it quits on the A110.  

To this day the original A110 remains the classic rally car for many fans all over the world. If you’d like to purchase one to experience it for yourself, the price of one of these icons will cost you upwards of six figures. If that’s a little too high, and you live in Europe, the newly reborn A110 is no slouch - but keep in mind that it’s not available in the United States. Totally worth the trip, though. 

Related: Inside the Mind of Chris von Koenigsegg



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