FEATURE BY MIKE LAWRENCE
The death has occurred at the age of 85, of Jean Redele, founder of the Alpine marque. Jean Redele was born in 1922, the son of a Renault dealer, and he was always to have close affinities with the company. There was a period when the success of his cars gave Renault some much needed glamour and eventually Renault would take over Alpine and preserve the name as its specialised sports car branch.
After taking a degree in engineering, Redele joined his father's business which he helped keep afloat by his skill in repairing old cars and farm machinery in those difficult days after the Second World War. In the early 1950s, he competed with some success in events such as the Alpine Rally and the Mille Miglia in a modified Renault 4CV saloon and, in 1955, he founded Societe Automobiles Alpine.
The prototype car (A106) was little more than a Renault 4CV floorpan with a two-seat fibreglass coupe body, styled by Michelotti and made by Chappe Freres in Paris. It did, however, offer the option of a five-speed gearbox developed by Redele together with a company called Claude Engineering. Redele drove one in the 1955 Mille Miglia and so it was launched as the A106 'Mille Miles'. With one of these cars, Maurice Michy won his class in the 1956 Mille Miglia.
This success was a rare instance of an Alpine competing abroad and for the next few years the marque was rarely seen outside of France. The Mille Miles continued in production until 1960, using Renault Dauphine components as they came on stream, but the most significant model was the 1961 Berlinette Tour de France which was built on a backbone chassis, a feature which became an Alpine trademark.
Some other French constructors had tried to form a relationship with Renault and the company gave them some limited support. It seems that Renault was actively looking for a partner in motor sport on an informal basis and decided that Alpine was the outfit to back.
The Berlinette began to establish Alpine's reputation but it took until 1963 before a team of Alpines appeared at Le Mans, which is in sharp contrast to other small French manufacturers. This was with the M63 which was designed by Len Terry (and renamed the M64 in 1964, the M25 in 1965 etc.) These were successful at Le Mans, and Alpine also entered single-seater racing.
In 1964, Alpine made a Formula Two/Three car based on the Brabham BT6 with, it must be said, Ron Tauranac's permission unlike some of the other Brabham copies such as the Birel. Over the years Alpines developed along more individual lines but were rarely seen outside of France. For a long time, the weak link in the chain was the use of Renault engines. Patrick Depailler, however, was the 1971 French F3 Champion in an Alpine A360 and won the support race at Monaco the following year.
By that time, Renault engines were producing as much power as Ford-based units. Production of single-seaters came to an end in 1974 when the 1.6-litre Formula Three was replaced by the 2-litre F3.
Alpine also made two Formula One cars, neither of which raced. The second became the development mule for Renault's own entry into Formula One.
Alpine was superbly successful in rallying in the late 1960s. The cars were similar to Porsches in that they could confuse at first but, once you clicked, you were smitten.
Redele continued as a member of Renault's competition department until he retirement. The guy who had built a special for his own use ended his career being involved in Formula One and lived his life with Renault.
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