The collaboration between Renault and Caterham officially ended today, with the French company acquiring Caterham’s remaining stake in Alpine.
It marks the end of the road for the Anglo-French collaboration, leaving Renault the sole owner in Société des Automobiles Alpine.
Renault-Caterham deal: the collapse
Today’s announcement terminates the 50-50 partnership signed in November 2012 between the two companies, a partnership that started with the promise of building two sister sports cars, one from Alpine and one from Caterham.
The brands announced that they will continue the development of these models on their own, with Renault sticking to its initial plan of bringing back to life the historic Alpine brand in 2016.
The company says that the design of the new Alpine is 90% ready, with the interior design to be finalised in summer 2014.
Alpine: a history lesson
Alpine’s historic values are based in numerous motorsport successes with founder Jean Rédélé wanting to boost the brand’s development through racing. Rédélé was racing Renault 4CVs, modified by his dealership, featuring lightweight aluminium bodies and when the customer demand became significant enough, he created Alpine in 1955. The name came from his greatest victories he enjoyed in the French Alps.
The first model was the A106 and it was using a reinforced chassis from the 4CV and a glassfibre body. In 1958 Alpine presented the A108 which was propelled by a tiny, 845cc engine and in 1963 the A110 Berlinette was introduced, perhaps the most famous Alpine of them all.
The Berlinette had a kerb weight of around 620kg and in racing guise the little car was making 180bhp from a 1.8-litre engine. In 1971 Alpine saw its cars finishing in the top three positions of the Monte Carlo rally with Ove Andersson in the first place. The A110 went on winning the World Rally Championship of 1973, cementing the fame of Alpine as one of the most capable brands in rallying.
Alpine at Le Mans
Alpine was successful in ralling and by 1968 was receiving the whole Renault motorsport budget. But Rédélé knew that in order to establish himself as a respectable sports car manufacturer he had to enter and succeed in the 24 Hours of Le Mans.
The first attempt came in 1963, after a class win in the Nurburgring 1,000km where three Alpine M63 s entered the famous race but after a fatal accident where Brazilian Christian ‘Bino’ Heins lost his life after going off on some oil left by Bruce McLaren’s Aston Martin, Alpine withdrew from the race, only to return the next year and take the 1150cc class win.
Alpine continued participating in endurance events such as the 12 Hours of Reims, Monza 1000km and Spa 1000km dominating the 1300cc class. In 1968 Alpine tried to go for the first place overall in LeMans with the three-litre V8 A220s but they were uncompetitive against the Ferrari V12s, the Matra or the Ford V8s.
In 1973 Renault fully acquired Alpine and now the dream of winning Le Mans was more feasible than ever, thanks to the full support of the mother company. After a long line of successful racers, 1978 was the year of Alpine Renault to conquer the prestigious endurance race with the A442B.
The era after the Berlinette
Alpine Renault replaced the ageing A110 and its successor, the rear-engined A310 was considered the French 911, with the hottest version packing 193bhp from a 2.9lt PRV V6. Next in line was the GTA, a complete redesign of the A310, making heavy use of polyester and fiberglass for the body panels in order to keep the weight down. The V6 Turbo Le Mans edition had 204bhp in its peak edition from its turbocharged 2.5lt V6, allowing it to reach a top speed of 153mph and dealing with 0-62mph in 5.7 seconds.
The last Alpine badged model was the A610, introduced in 1991. The A610 wasn’t visually different enough from its predecessor, despite the fact that it was a brand new car.With well-sorted dynamics and its V6 bored out to 3.0 litres, it produced 272bhp in its more potent form, making it able for a top speed of 180mph. Its commercial struggle led eventually to the shutdown of Alpine in 1995.
With core values like these and a motorsport pedigree most of your competitors envy, Alpine is set to make a loud return in 2016. All we have to do is wait and see.