Rumors of Renault reviving its mothballed Alpine sports car brand have been floating around forever, but recent whispers suggested Renault would partner with Daimler to breathe new life into the brand. That rumor is partly true: Renault is indeed reviving Alpine with a partner, but that partner isn’t Daimler: it’s Caterham.
Although the liaison seems a bit unusual, remember both firms are already linked through motorsport. Caterham’s F1 team – which, once upon a time, tried to call itself Team Lotus -- makes use of Renault’s 2.4-liter V-8. Now, the two firms will pair up to create road-going sports cars – and, in the process, revive Alpine.
Both Caterham and Renault now own equal stakes in Societe des Automobiles Alpine Caterham, a new joint venture hinged upon the Renault Sport/ Alpine factory in Dieppe, France. Both Renault and Caterham will co-develop a new two-seat sports car that will be sold under both the Caterham and Alpine names within the next three or four years. As such, it’ll be the first time the Alpine name has graced a production vehicle since 1994.
“Our ambitions of reviving Alpine depended on our ability to find a partner in order to ensure the economic profitability of such an adventure,” Carlos Tavares, Renault’s COO, said in a prepared statement. “Right from the start, we wanted to place the Dieppe plant at the heart of the project. Today, through our partnership with Caterham, we can enter a new phase: the design of a car that will embody the very essence of Alpine.”
Founded in 1955, Alpine started off tuning Renault production cars, but quickly began developing bespoke, Renault-powered sports, racing, and rally cars of its own. The firm opened the factory in Dieppe in 1969, but was bought outright by Renault in 1973. The Alpine name continued to be used on production vehicles 1994, when Renault re-branded the operation – and its products – under the Renault Sport name. As part of the new joint venture, that factory – which will continue to produce the Clio Renault Sport, Megane Trophy V-6, and Clio Cup – will also build the new sports cars.
Renault’s release notes the new cars “will be distinctive, differentiated, and carry the respective DNA of Alpine and Caterham Cars. Autocar reports the new two-seaters will use an aluminum frame, much like the late Renault Sport Spider. Despite sharing a basic architecture, the two models will boast unique styling, tuning, and perhaps configuration – Autocar suggests Renault’s foray will be a coupe, perhaps resembling the recent A110-50 concept car, while Caterham’s might be a roadster, allowing it to compete with arch rival Lotus’ famed Elise.
Many details – including powertrain choices, engine positioning, and so on – remain unknown at this point in time. Expect more to emerge as we slowly crawl towards the Alpine/Caterham’s debut in 2015/2016.
Source: Renault, Autocar