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Renault’s Alpine plans hasten slowly

Party: Alpine’s Celebration concept is said to provide design hints for Renault’s all-new 21st century "Berlinette” that has hit the test track in prototype form in France.

Alpine’s past celebrated as Renault plots the future of the born-again brand

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Renault logo10 Sep 2015

By RON HAMMERTON

RENAULT’S plans to resurrect the 60-year-old Alpine brand will be top of mind this weekend when no fewer than 758 historic Alpine cars and their owners gather at Alpine’s spiritual home in the French port town of Dieppe.

The biggest-ever gathering of Alpine aficionados, race drivers and former and current staff members will serve to keep the dream alive as Renault-backed Alpine engineers and designers continue to hone the born-again Alpine production range, the first prototypes of which are already plying the highways and byways of France in disguise.

The launch date for the first new-breed Alpine car, a mid-engined sports coupe, has reportedly slipped out to 2017 in Europe and perhaps later for Australia where Renault Australia is keen to add the flagship Alpine brand to its range.

But Renault insists the Alpine revival is still advancing, with the focus on getting the product right ahead of launch.

Rather than a rival for Porsche’s Boxster, the first new Alpine sportscar appears to be more of an Alfa Romeo 4C challenger, with a small but feisty turbocharged four-cylinder engine mooted to fill the slot between the seats and the rear axle in a feather-weight body.

It has been 20 years since Alpine-badged Renault-based cars emerged from Alpine’s factory at Dieppe. In the interim, the plant has been responsible for building the acclaimed Renault Sport variants of Renault cars such as the Clio and Megane.

That same plant is now undergoing an overhaul in preparation for the re-birth of Alpine – full name Societe des Automobiles Alpine – which these days is 100 per cent owned by the Renault Nissan Alliance.

New facilities at the factory will include the latest aluminium panel presses to produce the light-weight construction panels and structural elements for the new generation of Alpine thoroughbreds that, if European reports can be believed, will also include a crossover vehicle, perhaps with links to a future product being developed with Renault’s Japanese partner Nissan.

The project to revive Alpine started in 2012 with the unveiling of the Alpine A110-50 concept car to mark the 50th anniversary of one of the most famous Alpine models, the A108 Berlinette.

Later that year, Mr Ghosn announced the formal rebirth of Alpine with a design project for what he dubbed “a 21st century Berlinette”.

While that design and engineering project has continued behind closed doors, Alpine has revealed a glimpse into its future with two more design exercises – the Alpine Vision Gran Turismo and the Alpine Celebration.

The Vision Gran Turismo was the result of a design competition between 15 in-house designers at Renault, and while the winning design initially came in digital form for the PlayStation game of the same name, a prototype was subsequently fashioned out of metal and plastic.

The Celebration is a show car that was designed to celebrate the 60th anniversary of the founding of Alpine by Jean Redele, a successful French rally driver in the 1950s and 1960s, and the son of a Dieppe Renault dealer.

The car was revealed at this year’s Le Mans 24 Hour race. More recently, it has been given a fresh makeover for this weekend’s event.

Back in the 1950s, Redele’s rally car modifications formed the basis of his hot-shop business that was formalised in 1955, with Renault’s blessing.

Redele got the name Alpine while on a successful rally foray in the French Alps.

In keeping with its motor sport roots, Alpine revived its racing program in 2013, this time in LMP2 sportscars. The Signatech-Alpine team won the European Endurance Championship in its first season with the V6-powered A450, going on to snare back-to-back crowns on 2014.

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