Renault’s close association with Alpine was rooted in a shared racing philosophy. Until 1971 the collaboration was restricted to nimble, rear-engined coupes that broke easily and lacked both space and comfort. They were terrific for racing or rallying, but not a lot of fun for normal driving. The advent of the Alpine-Renault A310 in 1971 changed the perception of both companies, and the driving public.
It was longer, wider, and roomier than its predecessors, though still conceived to the same Alpine-Renault formula of a rear-mounted engine set into a steel skeleton chassis and a separate fibreglass body. It was also faster, but unreliable. Only in 1976, when Renault had bought Alpine outright to redeem the company from financial catastrophe, did the A310 fulfil its destiny. With its new, 90-degree V6 engine, it became the only serious challenger to the Porsche 911 as the fastest rear-engine production car in the world. It looked the part.
A single aerodynamic line swept up and over from the front windscreen – but every curve was bitten off by a geometrically-severe, angular ridge. The A310 V6 needed its new, little black rear spoiler to control its new capability; and with the wheel rims newly-styled to look like the old, four-inch, reel-to-reel tape drums, it resembled a mobile, flattened bullet. Inside it retained Alpine’s excellent driving position, but Renault now added a wholly unexpected level of comfort.
It had grown up in every way, and it sold. The A310 V6 soaked up punishment and it was reliable, but it was still a relatively lightweight, rear-engined sports car with every reason to fishtail when pedal hit metal. That, and Guy Frequelirt’s victory in the 1977 French Rallye, made it specially attractive to a younger and mostly male generation. The car’s acceleration might snap your neck, but it was enormous fun.
COUNTRY OF ORIGIN: France
FIRST MANUFACTURED: 1976 (until 1984)
ENGINE: 2,664 cc V6
PERFORMANCE: Top speed of 137 mph (221 km/h); 0-60 mph (97 km/h) in 7.5 secs
YOU SHOULD KNOW: The A310’s V6 engine was a joint development between Peugeot, Renault and Volvo. Throughout the late 1970s and 1980s it powered dozens of different marques and models, including the DeLorean.