Wednesday 27th March 2019,
Inopian

Alpine Automobiles (1955-1995): Le Lotus Francais

Founded by Jean Redele in Dieppe, France, after much competition success with Renault-based cars. Alpine had several `signature` features that continued throughout the company`s life. Alpine`s long collaboration with Renault finally led to Renault`s take-over of Alpine in 1974, in that same year Renault absorbed the Gordini tuning operation.

The most obvious `signature` was that all Alpines were rear-engined. The Alpines used Renault parts and running-gear almost exclusively. Alpine`s own tubular back-bone chassis was another feature common to all models. This chassis design gave the cars a hugely rigid but lightweight platform. Most of Alpine`s successes came from rallying where the stresses of special stages are enormous. More success came with circuit racing with class victories at Le Mans and Sebring.

Jean Redele was an early pioneer of glass-fibre bodywork which allowed Alpine to produce interesting, lightweight and attractive body-styles. Unlike most French cars of the period, the Alpines were neither `weird` nor ugly. They appealed to many enthusiasts world-wide but cost was always a prohibitive factor.

From 1954 onwards Alpine had problems over their name. Sunbeam had called their new car `Alpine` and much aggravation was caused to the French company, notwithstanding the difference in pronunciation ( the French Alpine is pronounced Alpeen) For that reason UK Renault Alpines were badged as `Renault Gordini` until the Sunbeam Alpine name transferred, by way of Chrysler Europe, to Peugeot-Talbot-Citroen.

By 1995 Renault had become disenchanted with the unprofitable GT niche market and shut down the Alpine operation. Renault Sport took over the Dieppe factory which produces `advanced vehicles` to this day. Rumours of an Alpine `comeback` abound, we await developments eagerly.

Note; Inopian catalogues the histories of road cars. Any cross-over with competition cars is, wherever possible, avoided. Any reader with knowledge of Alpine may wonder why we will exclude the Renault 5 Alpine. This car was a Renault 5 badged as an Alpine but built by Renault. In our opinion this car belongs in the Renault category. The real Alpine 5 was mid-engined, built by Alpine exclusively for rallying. It was not available for road use. One or two may have come into private hands but no one has contacted us with information yet.

Note to readers;

We work hard at research but we keep choosing obscure cars with little archival data. Inopian`s doors are always open for comment, criticism and correction. If you do come through our doors please ignore the Rottweilers, they are just Teddy-bears really. (vegetarian too !!!)

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About Bev Roberts

Speed, the smell of hot oil, the roar of a straight-through exhaust and the scream of an engine at max revolutions. They have all been a large part of my life for almost 50 years. It is time to share my experiences with you, dear reader. Do you want to know more? Read on through my `Full Bio` and many articles.

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I was born in Hereford UK in 1948 and brought up in Gloucester UK. I played Rugby football internationally as a schoolboy. At the age of 17, a new and wet driving license in my paw, I entered motor racing. I was supported and financed by my parents and so my journey began.

In 1965 I bought a 1293cc Mini-Cooper `S` and campaigned it for a season. Having quickly made some good friends in the racing fraternity, several interesting opportunities came my way. I joined a sports-car team and raced in the Le Mans 24 hours in 1968 and 1969 in a Lola T70. Mechanical failure defeated both efforts. During that period I owned and raced a `D type` Jaguar and an AC Cobra. In those days cars like that were available and not too expensive, now they reside in museums and private collections. I had a chain of interesting cars through my youth including Jaguars, Minis, Mustangs and Lotus-Cortinas.

As a young driver I had my share of accidents too. Often the car would only be worth scrap-metal value by the time I got it home! I worked for an Aston-Martin/Jaguar dealership for a while, which enhanced my experience and gave me the opportunity to sample some very exotic machines, Ferrari, Facel-Vega, Iso and Maserati to recall a few of them.

At the end of 1969 I moved to South Africa to work on my uncle`s farm but the S.A. government had other ideas and drafted me into the army. After five years had passed I was thanked and released from the service. While I was there I bought a beige Cadillac Eldorado, previously the property of Marilyn Monroe. While I was away on a patrol my girlfriend had it re-sprayed pink! I was unimpressed by both the joke and the bill for the work!

When I returned to UK in 1974 I left it behind. On my return I found that the once-mighty British motor industry was in decline and was headed for oblivion. Motor racing was now very expensive so I turned to commercial transport. Driving large trucks gave me freedom and a chance to see some of the world. I don`t remember ever making a career choice but for the next thirty years a truck was my home. For about ten years in that period I owned two trucks of my own.

I also owned a famous MGB-GT, known as `Lucky`. If you`d like to read `The Story of Lucky` there is an article in Inopian`s archive. I finally retired, due to ill-health, in 2008. Since I had varied knowledge and many experiences on our subject I decided to share the stories of the cars I enjoyed (and hated) with the new generation.

Enjoy Inopian… it is constructed and written for you.

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