Big things with little cars
Big things with little cars

I’m really excited about this one, as my Frenching-up continues. As a student of Le Mans and racing history I’m also really excited to do a more detailed post, as Jobjoris and edu-petrolhead and others do to help educate us all. I often don’t have time for such detail in my own posts, but this one is too good not to.

Illustration for article titled French Friday: Alpine Le Mans longtail
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This is an old 1:43 Solido model of the Alpine A220 in 1968 Le Mans livery, found on eBay. The real version of this car placed 8th overall, driven by designer, engineer and driver André de Cortanze who was relatively fresh to the Alpine squad, and Jean Vinatier, an amazingly accomplished wheelman who competed in everything from the final Mille Miglia in 1957 to the Monte Carlo Rally and Le Mans.

Illustration for article titled French Friday: Alpine Le Mans longtail
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Running to the FIA’s new 3.0 Liter Prototype rules, themselves intended to curb the domination of the big-displacement Ferraris and Fords (which they were unsuccessful at until 1972), the diminutive Alpine had a 3.0L Renault-Gordini V8, developed from the ubiquitous 1.5L Gordini four found in such cars as the R8 and A210. Despite initial promise, this engine never truly met expectations as it proved generally unreliable and developed significantly less power than its contemporaries. Most notable among these is the all-conquering Ford-Cosworth DFV that was just coming on song at the time in single-seater competition, and would soon find its way into endurance sports cars.

Illustration for article titled French Friday: Alpine Le Mans longtail
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The slippery and light Alpine proved as good a match as the engine could hope for, making the most of the available power through superb aerodynamics. But reliability issues struck the other team cars, and this was the only one of four 220s entered to finish.

Illustration for article titled French Friday: Alpine Le Mans longtail
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Looking similar to the 4-cylinder A210 it was developed from, the 220 was an all new but evolutionary car, Alpine-Renault’s first attempt at the upper levels of endurance competition. There was a pre-prototype, the A211, known as “Grandmother” that bridged the gap between 210 and 220. This was essentially a 210 with the new V8 stuffed in the back for testing.

Illustration for article titled French Friday: Alpine Le Mans longtail
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Discouraged by the lack of success with the V8, Renault pulled back from top-level sports car racing until returning in the late 1970s, ultimately to win Le Mans overall in 1978 with the turbo V6 Renault-Alpine A442.

Illustration for article titled French Friday: Alpine Le Mans longtail
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I’m in love with this model. The body is all metal, weighty, and is in fantastic condition. For as old as it is, the panel gaps are impressively tight, especially those of the engine cover. It also has uncommonly good detailing for an older piece. I hope you like it as much as I do. Enjoy!

Illustration for article titled French Friday: Alpine Le Mans longtail
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Illustration for article titled French Friday: Alpine Le Mans longtail
Illustration for article titled French Friday: Alpine Le Mans longtail
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Check out this great article from ClassicDriver about the car’s development, which also features some incredibly cool photos, including a couple of this car pre-livery.

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