Alpine A110 Buying Guide
The Alpine A110 is enjoying a resurgence following the launch of Renault’s new homage. Here's what to look for when buying one of France's best
How much to pay
• Project £28,000-30,000 • Good £50,000-70,000 • Concours £70,000-100,000 •
Running costs ★★★
DIY Friendly ★★★
The Alpine-Renault A110 remains one of France’s best-regarded competition cars, and with good reason. The little rear-engined Renault-based GT made Alpine, its parent company, the first ever World Rally Champion manufacturer to bag six rally victories, upon the launch of the competition in 1973. Recently, interest in the marque has been re-sparked by Renault’s new Alpine A110; launched 40 years after the original ceased production.
While the Alpine made a good competition car back in the day, it also makes an excellent road-going classic. Much like contemporary Lotuses, its reliance on mainstream mechanicals makes it a relatively painless ownership prospect today; albeit one that will put a smile on your face every time you turn the key. If the idea of owning a rally legend appeals to you, this is the classic you should look for.
Your AutoClassics Alpine-Renault A110 inspection checklist
The Alpine-Renault A110 uses a series of four-cylinder Renault engines, derived from Renault 8, Renault 8 Gordini and Renault 16 models. Many have had engine transplants – while a 1600S engine in a 1300 would increase its value, anything not originally fitted to an Alpine would have a negative effect.
The Cleon-Fonte 1.1 and 1.3-litre engines used in early cars were also derived from the Renault 8. They tend to be pretty robust in practice, although given the sporting nature of the car it’s likely that they will have been driven hard – check the history file for evidence of regular maintenance, and walk away if you’re in any doubt. More than half of the 7500 made used this engine in either standard form, or the 115bhp Gordini variant.
The Cleon-Alu used in later cars was drawn from the Renault 16TS, and was also used in the Lotus Europa. Many earlier cars will have been upgraded to this engine for competition purposes, so this is the most likely engine to find under the bonnet. Again, there are few issues with this unit – and owing to the desirability of the A110 there are several specialists in France or Germany who can help you get pretty much anything you need, brand new.
While the engines were shared with Renaults, the Alpine A110 gearbox is unique to the car, and until recently replacement casings for pre 1973 cars were all-but impossible to source. These featured mounting points for the swing arm suspension, and have since been remanufactured.
Fortunately for a gearbox which is unique, the internals are robust and not prone to damage unless the car has been substantially modified for racing or rallying purposes. Thanks in part to this and due to the number used in competition in period, parts for the gearboxes are available off the shelf from places such as GBS Alpine in France.
Suspension and brakes
While the chassis is unique, most of the suspension construction is derived from the Renault 8 – Renault’s newest saloon at the time the A110 was launched. Coil springs and wishbones were used at the front, while the rear used a swing arm system. Post-1973, the A110 had the rear suspension of the new A310 grafted in – a double wishbone setup, meaning the car had fully independent suspension for its final years. Braking was by four wheel discs from new.
As the suspension mounts to the chassis, which in turn is bonded into the body, there’s little flex to worry about. Any issues felt over bumps should be investigated before purchase. All components are still available – and not only to standard specification, but parts suitable for competition use can be had off the shelf too, if you want to upgrade your car. Standard parts are relatively inexpensive, owing to their more prosaic origin.
Bodyshells were formed in two pieces, an upper moulding and a lower moulding. Be wary of any car advertised as restored, and ask the seller if the body was separated during restoration. If not, the restoration can only be counted as partial and you can’t be certain of the condition of parts of the chassis. Ideally, the shell will have been stripped before paint too, rather than receiving layer upon layer which can noticeably change the curvatures of the panels. Cars with suspect paint are worth considerably less than well restored examples.
New chassis are available off the shelf and can be swapped, but we would advise that an existing chassis be repaired where possible. Quality repairs will be no weaker than a new chassis, and it’s significantly easier. One thing which might warrant a mention here is the wiring loom – early cars used brown wiring throughout with colour markers on the ends. If the markers have fallen off (and they do) it can be hard to identify which wires go where. Cars that have been rewired to a colour key are therefore more desirable for anything other than concours use.
Given the myriad variants of Alpine A110, and the fact many have been modified for competition use, it isn’t really appropriate for us to advise you as to precisely how the interior should have been. For one, your potential car may never have been supplied to an original spec.
The majority of switchgear was shared with contemporary Renaults, Peugeots and Citroens, and should be both cheap and easy to find at events such as Rétromobile. If secondhand won’t do, Alpine specialists do stock trim items.
Barring the seats, the majority of the interior was trimmed in diamond-quilted vinyl on most cars from new, and this should be fairly easy for a trimmer to replicate if it’s damaged. Original seats were cloth or vinyl, though leather was an option and the majority of cars you’re likely to find these days will have been fitted with competition bucket seats.
Original seats were unique to the model, and replacements will be difficult to find now if you’re pursuing a concours example. The rare GT4 model, with its longer wheelbase, has a rear seat – though again this may have been removed in the quest for light weight if the car has seen competition use. If this is missing, it will be an especially difficult component to source.
- 1962: Alpine A110 launched to replace A108, offered with engine from the Renault 8.
- 1963: Alpine A110GT4 launched, with altered roofline and longer wheelbase.
- 1966: FASA-Renault begin Spanish production.
- 1968: Alpine allotted entire Renault competition budget.
- 1969: New plant opens in Dieppe. GT4 discontinued.
- 1971: Alpine wins Monte Carlo rally.
- 1973: Alpine wins Monte Carlo rally and World Rally Championship.
- 1974: Alpine bought by Renault in wake of fuel crisis and bankruptcy.
- 1977: A110 production ceases in Dieppe.
- 1978: Spanish production ceases.
There aren’t many cars which handle quite like an Alpine A110, and certainly not so many that capture your imagination in quite the same way. Let’s face it, as much of a rally icon as a Ford Escort is, it’s not as cool, and while there’s a lot of commonality with an early Lotus Europa, the Lotus lacks the works-backed competition appeal of the A110.
Renewed interest means that prices are likely to climb in the near future, and so we would advise buying one now if you’ve been considering it. Mechanical parts can be obtained relatively easily, it won’t cost a fortune to run and it will fit in the average domestic garage with ease. If your budget is limited, look for the rarer A110 GT4, which offers a similar experience with a substantially lower purchase price.
|Alpine-Renault A110 1600S|
Picture courtesy of Rota Archive
Want to read more about the Alpine A110? Here's 'When the Alpine A110 Ruled the World'.