1973 was possibly the most important year in Alpine history. To begin with, the French squad took absolute victory in the inaugural edition of the World Rally Championship thanks to its A110. One of the best vehicles ever seen on dirt tracks. Only swept away by the triumphs of the Lancia Stratos. At the time, the first car designed from scratch to be dominant in the rallies of the world newborn. In addition, as a climax to that victory in the 1973 season, Alpine achieved a legendary triplet during the Monte Carlo Rally.
It is sum, the French house had achieved a full claim in the rallies after the unsuccessful attempts to win at Le Mans during the previous decade. Attempts that, by the way, involved Renault with the creation of a new V8 block. Likewise, during that year of sporting victories also occurred what, without a doubt, remains the most important business event in the entire history of Alpine.
Neither more nor less than its final absorption by Renault. A natural and foreseeable fact because, not in vain, Jean Rédélé had only strengthened relations with the diamond house since he founded his company back in 1955. Furthermore, in 1969 Renault had already absorbed Gordini. Thus, after the incorporation of Alpine, the French brand managed to lay the foundations for what would be its racing department since the mid-seventies. Renault Sports. The one with which he achieved notable successes both in Le Mans and in F1 thanks to the development of turbochargers.
With all this, there is no room for the capital importance of the year 1973 in the history of Alpine. Something that, however, could not hide certain problems already on the nearest horizon. And it is that, like other brands such as Porsche or Lotus, Alpine had to balance his accounts beyond fulfilling his claims in the races with evident success. Due to this, in 1971 the still independent French house had presented its A310. Conceived as a commercial complement to the aggressive and spartan A110, this model sought to be the first mass vehicle produced by Alpine.
To do this, on its central beam chassis with the engine hanging behind the rear axle, the A310 offered a neat cabin with up to four seats. That is to say, Jean Rédélé had managed to encapsulate the nerve of his successful racing model under the skin of a GT with which to be able to tackle both long trips and some daily use. However, the public did not respond as expected. Something perfectly understandable when studying the weight/power ratio shown by the A310. Not in vain, equipping it with the necessary comforts for daily use raised its weight by about 300 kilos compared to that marked by the A110.
A fact that would not have been problematic if the mechanics had been retouched. However, Alpine was fatally continuist by providing the same A110 engine to its new model. Because of that, Many of the potential buyers called the 128CV delivered by its 1.6-liter inline four-cylinder insufficient.. At this point, the brand reacted in 1976 by providing the model with a V6 capable of increasing performance up to 152CV.
However, that not only came too late but was also responsible for some difficult behavior. What's more, the heavy block with six cylinders hanging behind the rear axle made the new A310 a highly oversteering vehicle. At least, enough to seriously compromise its handling among less-skilled drivers. So things, this GT failed to outperform its predecessor. A fact that, together with the increasingly common use of the name Renault Sport over that of Alpine, progressively made the house founded by Jean Rédélé invisible in the mid-fifties.
ALPINE GTA MILLE MILES, A COMMERCIAL OPERATION
After the somewhat errant history of the A310, in 1984 Renault launched the GTA. And yes, we say Renault and not Alpine with a fully conscious intention. And it is that, since the absorption of 1973, the A310 began to wear the diamond emblem on its front. Something that the GTA inherited, being therefore a particularly sporty option within the French manufacturer's own range. In this way, the Alpine trade name disappeared from dealers -except in some very specific special editions- and, with it, all the aura of prestige attached to it.
As it was, that didn't seem to have much significance. However, Renault was falling into what, in current terms, we could define as the “VW Phaeton effect”. That is, the one of a high-end car distributed under a particularly massive and popular label. A minor fact to any buyer interested in engineering purity. Although, in truth, quite an obstacle when we talk about those who are simply looking for a vehicle that distinguishes them with a checkbook.
Unfortunately, this horde is quite common. Especially wherever activities related to the speculative economy flourish. In fact, in 1994 Renault repeated the same commercial error committed with the GTA when presenting the Safrane Biturbo. A more than interesting performance saloon weighed down by its emblem away from the premium ranges. At this point, the Renault GTA was languishing from its very presentation. Being a sports car without a doubt very striking for Alpine purists - not in vain it still retained much of the scheme marked by the A110 - but unable to seduce those who could acquire a Porsche 944 or a Lotus Esprit.
In this way, in 1989 Renault decided to recover Alpine as a segregated brand just as it is doing at the moment. Thanks to this, the special version with 100 units known as Alpine GTA Mille Miles was launched. For historical purposes, Alpine's first return to dealerships thus being a clear commercial operation. What's more, in terms of mechanics, the Alpine GTA Mille Miles kept the V6 Turbo block with 2.5 liters already mounted since 1985. Capable of delivering 200 CV in units without catalyst depending on the country to which they were intended. By the way, the same one that also released the 25 saloon in its most performance variants in the mid-eighties.
That said, with the Alpine GTA Mille Miles, the French brand sought to create a limited series of 100 units easily distinguishable thanks to certain cosmetic changes. The first was on its exterior. Where the Renault insignia completely disappeared, thus giving full prominence to the Alpine brand. Even marked with a large A incorporated on the front hood above the left headlight. Besides, the cabin received a large number of surfaces finished in leather. All topped off with a plaque on the dashboard indicating the exact number of each unit.
Undoubtedly, a commercial operation based on maximum economic efficiency since it had not required any engineering work. At this point, the Alpine GTA Mille Miles served to reposition the image of the sports house. A clear precedent for what Renault has done again today, creating one of the most coveted GTA series among collectors.
Photographs: Renault / Artcurial