Pour une fois, cet épisode de “The Petrolhead Corner” sera en français… Ok sorry, switching back to our usual English. But I could have gone French all the way, as today’s topic is bleu, very bleu. As some of you might know, I’m French, I love cars and I love sports and vintage engines – hence this weekly car-related column. As such, without surprise, I have a special thing for Alpine, which represents a lot as a Frenchy, but also on a personal basis. So today, The Petrolhead Corner puts his baguette under its arm and drives to the French countryside.
Image by Petrolicious
If you think French cars, you have Renault, Peugeot and the likes… Nothing to drive me crazy (pun intended), in all fairness. On the other side of the spectre, there’s Bugatti. Yes, it has Italian roots, it is owned by Germans but cars have been produced and are still manufactured in French Alsace, near the German border. But let’s be honest, those cars aren’t for mere mortals. Right in the middle, there’s a French treasure, a small company, infused with passion, named Alpine. Closely related to Renault, but with a DNA of its own. A few years ago, this name came back on the forefront of the “accessible” sports car segment with an A110 revival car… And boy, it does look good.
Alpine is something that most Frenchies know and somehow cherish. On a personal note, I can remember family photos where my father, at the end of the 1970s, was proudly pausing in front of his newly-acquired white A310 with a V6 engine, aviator Ray-Ban glasses and pilot’s leather jacket included (sorry dad… not even mentioning the brown velour interior of the car!) A childhood memory that will remain my own Alpine story. And most French petrolheads have one too.
Old and new – image by Romuald Clariond
If there’s one car to remember as THE iconic Alpine, it is the A110. This small berlinette (this was its nickname in France) wasn’t the first model of the young brand (it was preceded by the A106 and the A108) but it is the one that marked commercial and racing success. This car won approximately every rally event in Europe – including the legendary Monte-Carlo, where its small size, its rear-engine and its lightweight architecture were simply perfect. The A110 is a legend of French motoring and Renault recently relaunched the brand, with a new Alpine A110, inspired not only by the design of the small berlinette but also by the entire concept: light, not overpowered, fun, agile, made for corners… A truly successful re-edition.
Waking up the (old) A110
What’s better than a cold, sunny morning, empty twisty roads and the key of a lightweight, purely mechanical sports car… (personal definition of heaven, to me). Small, light, fast, and loud, the racing Alpine A110 is joy painted blue. Classically greatly produced, Petrolicious has here a video of an owner waking up his racing-oriented A110… cracks and pops included! More at petrolicious.com.
Chris Harris on the A110 – Stiffness isn’t needed!
I must admit I am privileged, as I had the chance to drive some of the finest post-2000s sports cars… And if there’s one thing in common to all of them – Italian, German, British cars – if how stiff these modern machines are compared to pre-1980s sports cars. Stiffness isn’t per se something manufacturers are looking for. It is the result of an increase in power, tyre-sizes and wheel-diameters, crash protection devices… All things that add to the car’s weight and require them to add stiffness to both the chassis and the suspensions. Stiffness is good on track, and can be good on-road too… Until you reach the limits of the car. Stiffness makes cars less progressive in the way they react. In the old days, when a car was about to slip, it was first giving you a phone call to let you know, so you could counteract. Nowadays, take even a GTI, R-something or RS-thingy and you’ll understand stiffness. Problem is that once the limit is reached with an RWD 500hp-plus car, a mere driver can’t do anything, anymore.
One of the main specificities of the new Alpine A110 is how soft-sprung the car is, how it allows some roll… And that, dear readers and petrolheads, is good. And this is all due to lightness. The A110 doesn’t need 20-inch wheels and 400mm ceramic brakes. It doesn’t need massive, wood-like springs either. I know it might sound weird, but a car that has some roll (the good kind of roll, the wanted and controlled one) becomes more agile, more predictable, more understandable. And more fun! And as Chris Harris is showing in his review, the A110 is all about cornering, with a smile on the face.
Video by topgear.com.
The Plus-version, the Alpine A110S
There was not one but three versions of the Alpine A110 already existing. The A110 Première Edition, which came to market in 2017 and was limited to 1,955 units globally. Now there are the Pure and Légende, as classic non-limited models. All were basically the same cars, with the same engine/chassis settings. Recently, Alpine has launched a new, sportier, stiffer (but not too stiff) and more powerful version named the A110S. Basic principle: the same lightweight coupe with higher-positioned engine power, focused chassis setup and refined design elements. The track-oriented version, if you will. And with 300hp for 1100kg, this should be sufficient to give a lesson or two to GTI cars.
More on the new Alpine A110S, here at drivetribe.com.
The Tissot Alpine Chronograph – Wrist-worn or dashboard-mounted
And because MONOCHROME was and still is 99% focused on watches, we had to insert something quite special here, but still Alpine-related; the Tissot Alpine On Board Automatic. Indeed, available as an accessory with the new Alpine A110 car, Tissot as developed a watch – obviously a chronograph – to be worn with the car… or to be affixed to the supporting frame, made from a special aluminium, which is attached to the car’s multimedia screen. Honestly, that’s one cool car-related watch!
The Tissot Alpine On Board Automatic is a 45mm chronograph with Valjoux movement and classic black-and-blue (Alpine blue, of course) design. The case has a rather special shape, due to its detachable nature. But it matches the car pretty well!
Price: EUR 1,950. More details at tissot.com.
This post first appeared on Monochrome Watches - An online magazine dedicated to fine watches.