Rare Rides: A 1990 Renault Alpine GTA, Par Excellence

Corey Lewis
by Corey Lewis
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]
Corey Lewis
Corey Lewis

Interested in lots of cars and their various historical contexts. Started writing articles for TTAC in late 2016, when my first posts were QOTDs. From there I started a few new series like Rare Rides, Buy/Drive/Burn, Abandoned History, and most recently Rare Rides Icons. Operating from a home base in Cincinnati, Ohio, a relative auto journalist dead zone. Many of my articles are prompted by something I'll see on social media that sparks my interest and causes me to research. Finding articles and information from the early days of the internet and beyond that covers the little details lost to time: trim packages, color and wheel choices, interior fabrics. Beyond those, I'm fascinated by automotive industry experiments, both failures and successes. Lately I've taken an interest in AI, and generating "what if" type images for car models long dead. Reincarnating a modern Toyota Paseo, Lincoln Mark IX, or Isuzu Trooper through a text prompt is fun. Fun to post them on Twitter too, and watch people overreact. To that end, the social media I use most is Twitter, @CoreyLewis86. I also contribute pieces for Forbes Wheels and Forbes Home.

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  • Geozinger Geozinger on Jun 27, 2018

    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! Bummer.

  • HotPotato HotPotato on Jul 01, 2018

    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.

  • ToolGuy Friendly reminder of two indisputable facts: A) Winners buy new vehicles (only losers buy used), and B) New vehicle buyers are geniuses (their vehicle choices prove it):
  • Groza George Stellantis live off the back of cheap V8 cars with old technology and suffers from lack of new product development. Now that regulations killed this market, they have to ditch the outdated overhead.They are not ready to face the tsunami of cheap Chinese EVs or ready to even go hybrid and will be left in the dust. I expect most of their US offerings to be made in Mexico in the future for good tariff protection and lower costs of labor instead of overpriced and inflexible union labor.
  • MaintenanceCosts This is delaying an oil change for my Highlander by a couple of weeks, as it prevented me from getting an appointment before a business trip out of town. Oh well, much worse things have happened.I also just got a dealership oil change for my BMW (thanks, loss-leader prepaid plans!) and this didn't seem to affect them at all.
  • Kwik_Shift_Pro4X Gonna need more EV fuel.
  • Lou_BC There's a company in BC that has kits for logging trucks and pickups. They have "turn key" logging trucks too. What they market is similar to what Ram wants to sell. The rig runs on batteries and a generator kicks in when depleted. On the West Coast logging in the mountains they found that the trucks run mostly on regen braking. The generator doesn't kick in much. Going up mountain, the truck is empty.
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