By on June 26, 2018

We recently featured a little red Renault Fuego in this Rare Rides series. Though the sporty hatchback was successful in Europe, its fortunes were more bearish in North America. Renault intended to create a Fuego II with styling based on another sporty Renault offering, though money troubles at the company meant the project never came to fruition.

The car set to provide styling for the ill-fated Fuego II is right here — the Alpine GTA.

Alpine wasn’t always under the Renault umbrella. The company started out back in 1955 as an independent builder of sports cars and racers. Typically the company used Renault platforms and components to make its cars, which intrigued the manufacturer with the diamond logo.

Eventually Renault decided to seal the deal, purchasing Alpine in 1973. Renault Alpine was born. The company was dormant for a while as it developed new ideas, but by the end of 1984 it was ready to release the first-ever* Renault Alpine vehicle, the GTA.

The rear-engined, rear-drive GTA was essentially an overhauled and modernized Alpine A310, a car developed before Renault ownership. A310s were produced from 1971 through 1984, dovetailing with the GTA’s release. The new design was much more aerodynamic than the outgoing model, achieving a record-breaking drag coefficient of just 0.28.

The GTA’s slinky new shape was comprised of many different fiberglass and plastic panels, like so many Corvettes and Saturns. This kept weight down, meaning better performance from the 2.5- or 2.8-liter PRV V6 engines. The larger displacement engine was naturally aspirated, and the very same 147-horsepower unit found in a Renault 25 sedan. The 2.5-liter version was turbocharged and made a much more impressive 197 horsepower.

These power and weight advantages provided Alpine GTA buyers with better performance than one of its main competitors, Porsche’s 944.

As per usual, Americans were left out of the ’80s GTA fun. Though Renault planned to sell the turbo version in the United States all the way back in 1986, development went along very slowly. That version had larger American-style bumpers, flip up headlamps rather than the sealed versions, and a special U.S. emissions-ready engine producing 180 horsepower. Suspension was also softened for comfort reasons, because Americans demanded comfort at the time (we don’t now). But the timing wasn’t right, and when the U.S.-spec GTA was finally ready for sale, Renault was in the midst of ending its sales at AMC dealers in the United States.

The company also had concerns about plebeian AMC dealers trying to shift an expensive performance car. Guess they forgot the Matador, eh?

A major restyling updated the GTA for its final model years between 1991 and 1996. At that time, GTA changed its name, becoming the A610. As the A610 wrapped up production at the end of 1995, Renault thought it best to put the Alpine brand on hiatus. It would not make a return to the market until this very year, when the brand new Renault Alpine A110 went on sale (again, not in the United States).

The Rare Ride accompanying our story today is a 1990 model; last of the first generation. Since it’s old enough to travel alone, someone’s imported it into the temperate climate of Missouri. But that’s only its most recent home. This teal beauty started out life in Japan, and then was imported to the United States of Canada under its more lax 15-year importation rule. With just 19,000 miles on the odometer, the seller wants $37,995. Unlike other forbidden fruit purchases, you might be able to get this one serviced; the PRV V6 had quite a reach.

*Actual first-ever, not EcoSport-type first-ever.

[Images: seller]

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18 Comments on “Rare Rides: A 1990 Renault Alpine GTA, Par Excellence...”

  • avatar

    Yummmmmm! Want!!!!!

  • avatar

    “Guess they forgot the Matador, eh?” whoa nelly – there was the AMX, the 1969 AMC Hurst SC/Rambler
    , and the AMC Rebel .

    also a cd of 28 may be good, but the Citroen DS was 26 in the 50s. Which record was broken?

  • avatar

    Cool ride, but ugh, those gauges! Just for fun I looked up contemporary Porsches, and they’re not much better. I guess I’d forgotten minimalist plastic was cool in the 80s.

  • avatar

    Its cool enough, but not something I’d care to own. Especially not at that price, though I’m not arguing that it is or isn’t worth it to the right buyer.

  • avatar

    The car of the future – today!

  • avatar
    cimarron typeR

    Great article! I had no idea these were made well into mid 90s. I see a bit of another 90s favorite , the Subaru SVX in the silhouette

    • 0 avatar

      Without pulling up google photos, my first impression was that of an older Nissan 240 and Nissan Pulsar? Have to go check my references now.

      Pretty neat ride in that it is forbidden fruit and all, but really does seem sort of anonymous in terms of styling, all but a select few car nerds would look right past it.

  • avatar

    I love it. As much as we make fun of French cars, they know how to make a good looking car, God bless ’em.

    And a word on that asking price: those pictures were taken months ago. From the paperwork on the Ebay listing, it came to the current dealer in late 2017. And the dealership is in the St. Louis area, where demand for strange-looking Frog-mobiles is, shall we say, a tad soft.

    Trust me, that dealer’s entertaining offers.

    • 0 avatar

      The Internet means a wide reach. And from experience with specialty car dealers, most of them really do know what they have, and will simply wait for that one right buyer who will pay their price. Volume is NOT their game. It’s the old you can make $10K on one or $100 each on 100 game, and the overhead is a LOT lower on selling one.

      The Internet also means you can get parts for anything, anywhere, though you might need a bit of translation help, which Google will generally provide. I just bought a couple of rare Volvo accessories from Germany for my 940, for example. plus a little Google translate = no problem at all.

  • avatar

    There’s a lot of SVO going on in the front of this thing.

  • avatar

    It’s a DeLorean with a color option.

  • avatar

    Here’s the planned US version of the Alpine – it had hidden headlights as opposed to the big flush euro lights.

  • avatar

    The first ever “first ever” was the Pontiac G6; that phrase was roundly criticized here and other places. Amusingly, many other companies have used this phrase, the latest being Ford. Heh!

    Back in the 80’s AMC/Renault made some noises about bringing this car here. I was interested, as it would have been an affordable exotic. I’d seen pics of these cars over the years and the angular 80’s rendition fit the times perfectly. However the reputation of the pedestrian AMC assembled Renaults was becoming well known and their relationship was winding down. No Alpine for me!


  • avatar

    That styling is SO RIGHT. Mon Dieu, I want. I expect the performance is tepid with the camshaft-eating PRV V6 though. And wow…we have come a long way in interior materials quality since the 1980s, have we not? This was a seriously premium car at the time.

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