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Willys Interlagos, the Alpine A108 manufactured alongside the Jeep

Today Alpine represents the sportier side of Renault. However, there was a time when it functioned as a company loosely associated with the manufacturer of the diamond, creating models such as the A108. Not only marketed in the Renault network but also manufactured in its French factories. This fact was extended to those operating under Renault licenses in Spain, Mexico and even Brazil.

When we talk about motorsports, it is logical that designers, engineers and manufacturers come to the fore as well as all kinds of mechanical issues. However, beyond pure theory this too is a world dominated by business sense. Thus, for the automotive industry, marketing and finance may become as important as engineering itself. In fact, there is not one thing without the other, as manufacturing quality is complementary to proper business management. However, the form and manner in which this has been done throughout the XNUMXth century changed a lot depending on the decade.

At this point, the first thing to keep in mind is to see motorsports as a direct child of the Industrial Revolution. A time when the world-economy was on the rise, weaving more and more ties of interdependence between different countries and markets. However, until very recently -and even at this very moment- national economies defended their most vulnerable sectors through protectionism against imports. For this reason, any car manufactured abroad paid such customs fees that it automatically ceased to be competitive with the local product.

In this way, in countries like Spain, most of the automotive sector had to rely on production under foreign license. The only way to enter any protected market in a solvent way. Precisely the approach that underlies the foundation of SEAT or FASA. Manufacturers in national territory of technology devised in Italy and France respectively, thus being able to be the protagonists of the mobile fleet until in the mid-XNUMXs import quotas began to relax as we integrate into the European Union. Something that we know well in our automotive history, although at the same time it is a reality also experienced by countries with a historical deficit in terms of engineering.

BRAZIL, A COUNTRY MANUFACTURING UNDER LICENSE

Like Spain or Brazil, both the United States and France, Italy and the United Kingdom have used high customs fees to shield national automobile production from imports. However, there is a big difference. And it is that while some countries have been and are powers in technological matters, others have barely managed to develop their own designs. A second group in which Brazil, Spain, Argentina or even Mexico have historically been found. With extensive automobile industries but, in most cases, always operating under foreign licences.

In the case of Spain this is obvious with SEAT and FASA. But also with Fadisa (Alfa Romeo), Santana (Land Rover), Lambretta Locomociones SA (Lambretta), Viasa (Jeep) or Barreiros (Chrysler). For this reason, in the case of the Spanish love of the world of the classics, what happened in Brazil after the fifties will be easily understandable. Specifically since 1953, the year Volkswagen do Brasil was founded. fact that kicks off the establishment of FIAT subsidiaries and even Alfa Romeo.

And this is where the interesting part comes in. Since, despite working under license, the respective subsidiaries in each country had certain margins of manoeuvre. A narrow but prolific gap of which models came out as exotic as they are valued today for their scarcity. In this sense, perhaps the best known is the VW SP. A striking sports coupé based on the popular 1600. But also the FNM Onca. Where lines blatantly similar to those of the first Mustang met with mechanics of Brazilian origin and the grille of an Alfa Romeo.

ALPINE A-108, ITS EXPANSION AROUND THE WORLD

Based on a central beam chassis that characterized the Alpines until the arrival of the A610, the A108 is the second model of the company founded by Jean Rédélé arriving on the French market in 1958. In addition, thanks to the large number of mechanical components taken from Renault models - the engine was taken from the Dauphine - also helped establish stronger ties with the house of the rhombus. So much so that from this moment until the arrival of the purchase of Alpine by Renault in the seventies, both companies worked in perfect symbiosis.

For this reason, the Alpines were not only marketed in the Renault network, but also assembled in its factories. A decisive point in the history of the Alpine A108, since in this way went from being manufactured in France to also being made in Spain, Mexico and Brazil. In the case of Spain, it was obviously within the framework of the FASA facilities in Valladolid. Where the Alpine A108 was the perfect prelude to the Alpine A110 berlinette. In Mexico, Diésel Nacional SA was used to manufacture the so-called Dinalpin. A really interesting case because they came to produce the GT4. The little known 2+2 variant of the A110.

And in Brazil the local manufacture of the Alpine A108 was made with no more and no less than Willys Overland. The American manufacturer of the Jeep, who had a good deal with Renault in the country since he had assembled the Dauphine under license at his facilities along with his usual range of SUVs. In this way, Jean Rédélé himself intervened in the negotiations with Willys, achieving that it manufactured under license the Alpine A108 under the name of Willys Interlagos. The curious and unexpected connection that made possible the appearance of this small and light sports car in the tropical country, coming from the same facilities where the Jeeps were manufactured.

Images: RM Sotheby's

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Written by Miguel Sánchez

Through the news from La Escudería, we will travel the winding roads of Maranello listening to the roar of the Italian V12; We will travel Route66 in search of the power of the great American engines; we will get lost in the narrow English lanes tracking the elegance of their sports cars; We will speed up the braking in the curves of the Monte Carlo Rally and we will even get dusty in a garage while rescuing lost jewels.

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