A SPORTY 4-SEATER
The Alpine brand undeniably established a sporty image. And yet, from the early 1960s, the Dieppe-based brand offered a four-seater model, while remaining true to its roots.
In 1968, Alpine had a wide range of cars, including Berlinettes, single-seaters, prototypes and the GT4 (far right). © IXO Collections SAS - Tous droits réservés. Crédits photo © Archives et Collections
Jean Rédélé was very sensitive to the overall harmony of a car's design, especially those of the cars he produced! The A108 2+2 wasn't entirely to his liking, because of a clear difference in appearance between the curved, recessed front and the rear, which looked like a 'big suitcase'. The new A110, on the other hand, was very appealing to him, with its front end closely resembling that of the A108 and its stern plunging towards the ground. He therefore agreed to use this as a basis for finalising the GT4, keeping the front of the A108 intact, so that customers would not confuse this four-seater with the Berlinette, which should retain its sporty image.
That said, the GT4 was indeed an A110, with its R8 powertrain mounted on the rear cradle of a centre beam chassis (which first appeared on the A108) extended by 170 mm to 2,270 mm, the length needed to accommodate the rear bench seat and leave enough room for passengers. However, the 1964 model used the Caravelle engine (see box). Height was also increased, with the GT4 measuring 1,270 mm high compared with 1,130 mm for the Berlinette. Of course, it received other elements from the R8, such as its steering, running gear and four 260 mm disc brakes. Jean Rédélé continued to shop at Renault, which supplied him with accessories: headlights and windscreen wipers from the Caravelle, a windscreen from the Floride, rear lights from the R8 and various accessories from Billancourt.
About 120 GT4s were produced in Mexico under the Dinalpin brand. © IXO Collections SAS - Tous droits réservés. Crédits photo © Renault D.R. / Archives et Collections
A 'LONG' CAREER
The GT4, with the exception of the Berlinette, was Alpine's longest-running car, despite low sales figures: only 263 models were ever produced. Presented at the Paris Motor Show at the end of 1962 at a price of 15,450 francs (23,000 euros today), it was only withdrawn from the catalogue in 1969, a total of seven model years. The first models, of which 20 were produced, were powered by the R8's 956 cm3 51 bhp engine and were labelled A108 L (for 'Longue'). All subsequent models were A110 Ls. The following year, the 956 engine was replaced with the Caravelle's 1,108 cm3 engine with 66 bhp (type V70). In 1965, the latter was retained, supported by the R8 Gordini with the same cubic capacity (V100) but increased to 103 bhp SAE. Both of these engines were still present in 1966, when the formidable engine of 1,296 cm3, refined by Mignotet, was added. With its 120 bhp SAE, it pushed the GT4 to speeds in excess of 200 km/h.
From 1967, the new 1,255 cm3 Gordini 105 bhp was added to the range. This version was called the "Type 1300", while the Mignotet was the "1300 Super". The final changes were not made until 1969, when only the 66 bhp and 105 bhp versions were offered. The engines sold by Renault over time were the ones that had the greatest impact on the development of the GT4s, which were the last models built for Alpine on the premises of Chappe & Gessalin before Jean Rédélé started his own polyester bodywork workshop in Dieppe. It's easy to see why the logo of the Brie-Comte-Robert coachbuilders is affixed to the right front wing, as is their rectangular nameplate riveted into the front boot compartment, next to Alpine's diamond-shaped one. The equipment changed very little over the seven years of production: in 1965, the diameter of the headlights was increased from 160 mm to 180 mm, the climate control was moved to the dashboard, and the Florida's door deflectors were transformed into those of the Caravelle. In 1967, the Renault diamond appeared on the front of the car, with the name Alpine spelt out in full. In the end, the differences were minimal.
The GT4, nicknamed "the Grasshopper", made its final racing appearance at the Targa Florio in 1967. © IXO Collections SAS - Tous droits réservés. Crédits photo © Renault D.R. / Archives et Collections
© IXO Collections SAS - Tous droits réservés. Crédits photo © Archives et Collections
Although it could carry four passengers, the GT4 maintained its sporty appearance. © IXO Collections SAS - Tous droits réservés. Crédits photo © Archives et Collections
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JACQUES CHEINISSE'S EARLY CAREER
A former Alpine driver who became the brand's sporting director, Jacques Cheinisse knew what motivated drivers. He established a friendly atmosphere within the ofﬁcial team that was favourable to emulation and good results in competition.
Profession: 'Jack of all trades' at Alpine! Jacques Cheinisse is first and foremost a sports director with very individual ideas, yet his career at Alpine and then at Renault was highly eclectic.
He joined the family business in 1958, but had one dream: motor racing. He had his eye on Alpine, a promising young brand from his home region of Normandy.
During the 1,000 km of Paris, at Montlhéry, in 1968, Jacques Cheinisse was in charge of the Alpine 3 Litres driven by Henri Grandsire and Jean Guichet. © IXO Collections SAS - Tous droits réservés. Crédits photo © Renault D.R. / Archives et Collections
At the time, the Norman was not very delicate with his mechanics: he often broke them, and so regularly visited the factory, where his car was repaired. This is how he met Jean Rédélé, the owner of the small company.
The visits stopped when Cheinisse decided to switch to another car, a solid Swedish Volvo... that would break just as easily as the Alpine! It was Jean Rédélé who got back in touch and offered to look after the Alpine race stand, as well as repairing the cars for him. That very summer he took part in a speed race on the Nogaro circuit: a different era!
In 1966, Cheinisse wore the driver's cap (or rather helmet); he was driving the Alpine A210 in the Le Mans 24 Hours. © IXO Collections SAS - Tous droits réservés. Crédits photo © Renault D.R. / Archives et Collections
Jacques Cheinisse then became sales director of the Dieppe-based company and, under his leadership, sales started booming; although Alpine's reputation was built on sporting results, he managed to develop the distribution network in France in a very coherent way, a vital 'linchpin' for sales throughout the country.
It was in 1968 that he was offered the position of sporting director. He had proved that he could manage and, as a driver, he had the necessary legitimacy. The problem was that it was difﬁcult to be on both sides of the fence: either a driver himself or a racing director, he had to choose. So he chose to run the ofﬁcial Alpine team. "One of the most difﬁcult decisions I've ever had to make in my life," he would admit many years later.
Jacques Cheinisse in conversation with Jean-François Piot in 1970. © IXO Collections SAS - Tous droits réservés. Crédits photo © Renault D.R. / Archives et Collections
A WINNING TEAM
At the time, Alpine was involved in a broad range of competitive activities: rallying, of course, but also endurance racing - in particular the Le Mans 24 Hours - and F2 and F3 speed racing. To ensure cohesion within the Alpine team, Jacques Cheinisse recruited drivers who were almost exclusively French, although there were some notable exceptions, such as Ove Anderson from Sweden, a rally 'star' at the time, whose experience would prove decisive, particularly on slippery surfaces such as snow. A mysterious alchemy created an atmosphere that would contribute significantly to Alpine's success, and Cheinisse was obviously responsible for this.
It was in this period that the brand's 'musketeers' were first mentioned, young drivers who were certainly talented, but who only reached their full potential thanks to this special atmosphere: the Andruets, Darniches, Thériers, etc., flourished under the paternalistic thumb - the drivers affectionately called him their "daddy" . For example, all the prize money from the races was put into a communal pot and divided equally between all the drivers. In this way, everyone involved participates in the team's success. As a result, the team's enthusiasm never ceased to grow.
Assistance during the Monte Carlo Rally in 1971: where Jacques Cheinisse and Jean-Claude Andruet are probably deciding on race strategy before setting off again in the Berlinette. © IXO Collections SAS - Tous droits réservés. Crédits photo © Renault D.R. / Archives et Collections
THE GT4 AND RACING
In 1965, a GT4 raced in the Le Mans 24 Hours. It was the M64GT, since its chassis was based on the bodywork of the M64 prototypes. This car was built for racing as well as rallying. Designed by Bernard Boyer, the bodywork was of course assembled by Chappe & Gessalin, and chassis no. 5146 was fitted with a 1,108cc engine in Dieppe. Quickly nicknamed "the Grasshopper", the M64GT withdrew from the race at Le Mans. 15 days later, it took part in the 12 Hours of Reims. In October, it won the GT category at the Coupes du Salon de Montlhéry. However, it was not to be seen again until February 1967 at the Routes du Nord rally. The Grasshopper was then powered by a 1,296cc engine and fitted with Lotus magnesium wheels. In March 1967, it took part in the Rallye de l'Ouest, and a month later returned to Le Mans for the preliminary tests for the 24 Hours. Its career ended at the Targa Florio in May 1967 because of a steering failure. It would never again be used in official competition.