Reviewed by Unique Cars and Parts
Our Rating: 4
Alpine started life in 1957
- then being a tiny French sports car specialist. The most successful model came in 1963
and was known as the Alpine A110. This car had a tubular spaceframe chassis and a rear-mounted engine, provided by local car manufacturer Renault
. The four-pot engine originally displaced 998cc., but was soon enlarged to 1300cc in 1969
But it was when Renault put a modified 1600cc engine borrowed from the R16 that the Alpine became a world beater, taking the first 3 places in Monte Carlo Rally in 1971
and World Rally Championships in 1971
. Compared with its main rival, the Porsche 911
, the Alpine A110 was a lot lighter because of the compact body that was made of glass-fibre. Although the engine was less powerful, its nimble handling
made it better the 911
in rally races.
The successor to the Alpine A110
was the A310, initially powered by tuned 17TS/Gordini four-cylinder engine, still rear-mounted. The maximum power reaching 127 PS (93 kW; 125 hp), thanks to the use of 2 twin-barrel 45 DCOE Weber carburetors. But by the time the new model was released, France was no longer renowned for building spectacular motor cars. The tendency towards workhorses of greater or lesser luxury produced vehicle ranges which were only beginning to sparkle a little more with what could be termed, true driver's cars. Needless to say, the A310 Coupe was one of them.
The A310 was a traditional Alpine design closely related to the highly successful A110
models which had previously dominated rallying. It had a new fibreglass body, was powered by a 108kW version of the all alloy V6 engine and had coil spring wishbone rear suspension rather than the tricky swing axles of the earlier car. There was still the steel backbone chassis which Colin Chapman
adopted for his Lotus Elan
and subsequent designs, but it was a dead heat as to who followed the trend first, Alpine's Jean Redele, or Chapman
The Robert Opron re-Design
the A310 was restyled by Robert Opron and fitted with the more powerful and newly developed 90-degree 2700cc V6 PRV engine. As used in up-range Renaults, Volvos and Peugeots this lifted the car into the lower echelons of the sports car league, where the Porsche was a dominant player. The basis of the A310 was a hefty tubular steel backbone chassis, clothed in a tough fiberglass shell. Like the ill-fated De Lorean DMC-12
, which used the same PRV powertrain, the engine was mounted longitudinally in the rear, driving forward to the wheels through a manual 5-speed gearbox. With 108 kW on tap, the A310 PRV V6 was Renault's performance flagship capable of 220 km/h (137 mph) and neck straining acceleration. Despite the tail-heavy weight distribution (like Porsche 911
), handling was safe and rewarding.
Front suspension for the A310 was by wishbones while large disc brakes
were fitted all round. Steering was by rack and pinion which was surprisingly light despite a high ratio and a small steering wheel. The engine- hung out at the rear, was the same single overhead camshaft per bank V6 as used on Volvo's 264
, Peugeot's 604
and Renault’s 30
, and was fed by Solex carburettors rather than fuel injection. Its 108kW (150 bhp) came at 6000 rpm with 204Nm of torque available at 3500 rpm. Ahead of the back axle line was a light-weight five speed gearbox as fitted to the Renaut 30TX. Thus the gearshift linkage was reasonably short although as rubbery in feel as most Renaults of the era. Thirteen inch diameter, seven inch wide alloys were fitted all round, those at the front were shod with 185 section Michelin TRX tyres
with 205 section covers at the rear as a means of negating natural oversteer.
The good looking compact fibreglass body fitted to the 2270mm wheelbase helped bring all up weight down to 990 kgs, providing more than enough driving interest given the advantageous power to weight ratio. A civilised racing car, the A310 was well trimmed inside with a the creature comforts and instruments you could want. It sat very low to the ground, making entry and egress a little difficult – but you were rewarded for the effort once you got behind the wheel. Once seated a straight arm driving stance was essential because the steering
wheel otherwise fouled the knees of average sized people. Body-hugging bucket seats, and the high central backbone of the chassis combined with a wrap around facia to provide a distinct cockpit environment. There were rear seats, but these were pretty much for looks only – you would not have wanted to sit in them, unless you were a dwarf.
Behind the Wheel
Ride was something of a surprise. Though tight, it had a soft feel about it which bred definite confidence in wet conditions. Sometimes the handling could be tricky, but you would always have confidence in it, thanks to good throttle and steering response, not to mention surefooted braking from the meaty four wheel discs. Visibility was not as good as it might have been. To the rear it was almost negligible thanks to the sharply sloping rear screen and high shoulder humps over the rear wheel arches. In the rain forward visibility was not brilliant, the short arms of the windshield wipers hardly reaching the upper part of the screen. But in the dry visibility was good.
Performance wise the A310 would have you travelling at well over 100 km/h in second, 160 km/h plus in 3rd, and approaching 225 km/h in fourth and fifth gears. Even in the wet the A310 was capable of covering a standing 400 metres in under 1 6 seconds. The handling was excellent. It was easy to step the rear out on power, but steady operation of the throttle and avoidance of really late braking resulted in neutrality during the turning-in phase. Bends approached a touch too quickly were also no problem to the car, and if the tail did start to move out it was easily snapped back into line by a twitch of the steering. Naturally, hard acceleration out of corners, even when pointing straight ahead, resulted in considerable wheel-spin, even in third. This was obviated when accelerating up through the gears, by a single plate clutch which lacked firm first time bite.
Then again, although the gearshift linkage was fairly direct, the shift pattern could cause the odd stumble when changing up. With such a willing engine it wasn't too hard to over-rev the thing at times, but with the tachometer going as high as 9000 rpm, presumably it could take the odd bit of abuse. In fact the chassis was so good that many road testers lamented the fact that Alpine did not fit Renault's turbocharged V6 engine instead.