Alpine A 220

Rédaction : Albert Lallement  

The last of a line

End of 1967, the Alpine team created the A 220 chassis, a follow-up of the previous A 210s, in order to more efficiently exploit the new V8 Gordini 3-litre engine.

Unfortunately, the racing results of this new chassis were not convincing enough at that stage for Alpine to remain officially committed to endurance racing after the 1969 season. However, all expectations seemed fulfilled for the Société Automobiles Alpine due to the great technical potential of its new A 220, entered in the Prototype category. Including the particularly ambitious aim of winning the Le Mans 24 Hours under the new rules.

At the 1968 1000 Kilometers of Paris, the Alpine A 220 achieves one of its best results. This is the car of Patrick Depailler and Gérard Larrousse who finished in 6th place. © IXO Collections SAS - Tous droits réservés. Crédits photo © Renault D.R. / Archives et Collections

In 1967, the V8 engine designed by Amédée Gordini was installed in a modified A 210 chassis, which was named A 211. This new engine was encouraging for Alpine, but the aerodynamics of the chassis proved to be somewhat dated and the performance of the entire car did not meet the expectations. So it was decided to build a new chassis that was better suited to the dimensions and specific characteristics of the voluminous V8. This change of direction came rather late, but it happened that the organisation of the 24 Hours was postponed from mid-June to the end of September due to the events of May 1968. These three precious months were used to catch up and to establish four A 220 chassis in Group 6 (Sports Prototypes), because as of January 1968, the International Sports Commission had limited the engine capacity of this category to 3,000 cm3.

The lateral positioning of the water radiators on the 1968 A 220 has helped to refine the aerodynamics of the front bonnet. The small air intake between the headlights is the oil cooler. © IXO Collections SAS - Tous droits réservés. Crédits photo © Renault D.R. / Archives et Collections

Tubular chassis

As with the previous A 211, the chassis of the A 220 is built around a tubular frame made of chromium-molybdenum steel, with titanium components to save weight. A roll cage is embedded in the roof panel, creating a true survival cell. In addition, the door sills have been raised and enlarged to accommodate the soft rubber fuel tanks with a total capacity of 120 litres. For the first time in Alpine's history, the cockpit is equipped with a right-side steering wheel and a right-side gearshift lever. The stretched polyester resin and fibreglass bodywork features lateral water radiators to improve the aerodynamics of the front bonnet, which also includes large, streamlined headlight lenses. The suspension is independent with superimposed triangles, transverse arms and push rods combined with Koni spring-shock absorbers. The braking is provided by ATE-Teves ventilated discs mounted in the magnesium wheels.

On this 1968 A 220 technical exploded view, you can see the tubular structure of the chassis, and the arrangement of the water radiators on the sides in front of the rear wheels. © IXO Collections SAS - Tous droits réservés. Crédits photo ©  Renault D.R. / Archives et Collections

Revamped V8

The Alpine A 220's Type T62 V8 engine consisted of two 1,500cc four-cylinder blocks joined together at a 90° angle. The block is made of cast iron while the hemispherical cylinder heads are made of aluminium, with a valve angle of 60°. The timing chain drives a double camshaft per cylinder bank. This very light engine (140 kg without accessories) has a five-bearing crankshaft. It is dry-sump lubricated and water-cooled. On the version fitted in the 1968 A 220, the bore was reduced by 2 mm (85 mm) and the stroke lengthened by 3 mm (66 mm) for an unaltered displacement of 2995 cm3. The engine was powered by four Weber 46 DCOE vertical twin carburettors and ignition was provided by Magnetti-Marelli distributors. Power output is rated at 310 hp at 7,500 rpm with a maximum torque of 35 mkg at 5,800 rpm. The ZF 5DS25 5-speed longitudinal transmission is attached to a Borg & Beck dry single-plate clutch.

At the 24 Hours of Le Mans, the Alpine A 220s are characterised by a specific colour on the front and sides of the car, like the orange colour used by the Grandsire-Andruet team in 1969.  © IXO Collections SAS - Tous droits réservés. Crédits photo ©  Renault D.R.

The 1969 version

After a somewhat mixed 1968 season, the Alpine A 220 underwent several modifications and was renamed the A 220-B. The most important one was the relocation of the radiators to the rear of the car. But with this cantilevered position, the engine and transmission were not sufficiently cooled, which caused several engine failures due to overheating. Apart from the adaptation of the bodywork to this new position, the chassis remained identical, except for the use of De Carbon dampers and Girling brakes (32 mm diameter). The first A 220 version of 1968 was built in four units (N° 1730 to 1733). Then, from the following year, five more A 220-B chassis were produced, combining the intermediate versions A 220/221 (N° 1734 and 1735), and A 222 (chassis N° 1736 to 1738). However, all these cars are generally grouped together under the name A 220,  the characteristics of each chassis differed from one to the next, depending on the modifications made regularly. At the same time, Gordini considered a 32-valve, mechanically injected version of the V8, but because of time constraints, this was not developed. In the 1969 configuration, the Gordini block produced 315 bhp at 7,500 rpm and the car's curb weight was now 755 kg.

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A shortened version

After several endurance events in 1968 and 1969, the chassis A 220 N° 1731 was to experience a unique second life for this particular model. The driver Jean-Pierre Jabouille managed to convince the Alpine team to enter it in rally competition. To do this, the long rear bonnet was reduced, made possible by the fact that the chassis had side radiators, while the front end was modified and the passenger area was fitted with a second seat for the co-driver. On 27 July 1969, they finished 3rd in the Chamrousse Hill Climb driven by Jean Vinatier. Vinatier then entered it in Nogaro on 17 August (retirement) and the shorter A220 was entered for the last time in the Critérium des Cévennes the following November by the Jabouille-Guénard team, who retired.

On this bird's eye view of the 1968 A 220, you can see the aerodynamic flap installed between the rear wings, designed to increase the car's stability at high speed. © IXO Collections SAS - Tous droits réservés. Crédits photo ©  Renault D.R. / Archives et Collections

Success at the 1968 1000 Km of Paris

The eighth edition of this non-campionship event was held on the circuit of Linas-Montlhéry on October 13, 1968. Two weeks earlier, during the 24 Hours of Le Mans, Alpine-Renault had performed well given the very high level of their competitors, with an 8th position in the general classification. However, despite not being among the favourites at Montlhéry, the Alpine A 220s were to create a surprise by finishing in the top six, just behind the powerful Ford GT40 and in the middle of a fleet of Porsche prototypes. This race was a great opportunity for Alpine to confirm the promising performance of this car. Jean Guichet and Henry Grandsire finished 4th, while Patrick Depailler and Gérard Larrousse finished 6th.

The slim, elegant lines of the Alpine A 220, inherited from its predecessor, the A 210, were to be subject to some aerodynamic problems. © IXO Collections SAS - Tous droits réservés. Crédits photo ©  Renault D.R. / Archives et Collections

The cream of France's drivers

The Alpine factory team included a number of French drivers competing in the new Alpine A220 in 1968 and 1969. These included experienced drivers such as Jean Vinatier, Jean Guichet, Alain Serpaggi and Mauro Bianchi. There were also some rally drivers such as Jean-Pierre Nicolas or Jean-Luc Thérier, as well as R8 Gordini Cup competitors such as François Lacarrau (1967 Champion) or Christian Ethuin. Over the next decade, some of these names would work their way up to the highest level of international competition: Patrick Depailler, Jean-Pierre Jabouille, Gérard Larrousse, Bob Wollek, Jean-Claude Andruet. One of the best writers of the French automobile press, José Rosinski, the co-founder of the magazine "Sport Auto", was also there...

This profile of the 1968 Alpine A 220 displays the longitudinal and central rear layout of the engine and gearbox. © IXO Collections SAS - Tous droits réservés. Crédits photo ©  Renault D.R. / Archives et Collections

The Alpine A 220 at Le Mans

During the Le Mans 24 Hours in 1968 and 1969, no less than eight Alpine A 220s were registered, two of them by the private team Savin-Calberson, the others belonging to the Société Automobiles Alpine based in Dieppe. From a distance, the cars could be distinguished by the different colours of the bodywork. In 1968, three cars dropped out and only the factory car No. 30 (chassis No. 1734) driven by André de Cortanze and Jean Vinatier made it to the finish line and finished in 8th position. The following year, they failed bitterly as none of the four cars lined up were able to finish the race, all suffering from engine failure. Alpine only officially returned to the Sarthe in 1972 with Renault's support, participating in the European 2-litre Championship.

The A220's streamlined headlights (here Depailler and Jabouille's at the 1969 24 Hours of Le Mans) are framed by small side spoilers offering better support at the front. © IXO Collections SAS - Tous droits réservés. Crédits photo ©  Renault D.R. / Archives et Collections

Marcel Hubert

Along with engineers André de Cortanze and Richard Bouleau, Marcel Hubert was one of the key people behind the creation of the A 220 chassis. Born on 30 May 1923 in Montgeron (Essonne), he graduated from the Conservatoire des Arts et Métiers. He started his career in 1946 as an Aerodynamic Engineer at the Bureau d'Études Scientifiques et Techniques. Then, whilst working for the preparator Mignotet, he became a consultant for Alpine in 1962 and joined the company in 1967. He contributed to the creation of all Alpine-Renault prototype chassis from 1963 (M 63) to 1969 (A 220), then Renault-Alpine from 1973 (A 440) to 1978 (A 443), including the winning A 442/B at the Le Mans 24 Hours in 1978. He died in Dieppe on 5 March 2015.

Alpine-Renault A 220 (1968)

Engine: Type Gordini T62, 8 cylinders in V, rear central longitudinal

• Displacement: 2,995 cm3

• Bore x stroke: 85 mm x 66 mm

• Power: 310 bhp at 7,500 rpm

• Fuel supply: 4 horizontal Weber twin barrel carburettors

• Ignition: Marelli coil and distributors

• Timing: double overhead camshaft per bank, 2 valves per cylinder

• Transmission: ZF type, rear wheel drive, 5 speed + M.A.

• Tyres: Michelin, 23 x 15 (front) and 29 x 15 (rear)

• Brakes: ATE ventilated discs (front and rear)

• Length: 464 cm

• Width: 169 cm

• Height: 99 cm

• Wheelbase: 230 cm

• Front track: 134.4 cm

• Rear track: 134.4 cm

• Weight ( empty ) : 705 kg

• Maximum speed: 320 km/h

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