Historic Alpine Le Mans prototype preserved in French shed Page 2


Alpine A210 Le Mans prototype auction

Alpine A210 Le Mans prototype auction

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The A210 weighed about 1475 pounds and was powered by a screaming Renault Gordini 4-cylinder engine. Amedee Gordini built them in a variety of displacements for Alpine, with output from 105 to 140 brake horsepower. It ran a 1296 cc engine when it won the 1300 cc class at Le Mans in 1967, and a 1005 cc engine was used to win the 1150 cc class at Sarthe the following year. By 1969, they were revving past 7000 rpm.

Grooved Dunlop bias-ply racing tires were used initially, but Michelin worked closely with Alpine to develop its radial racing tires as well as a new racing tire without grooves that came to be known as a slick.

These Alpine Le Mans prototypes are rare. Famous for rallying, Alpine only built two dozen prototypes. The goal for these prototypes was always Le Mans. Only eight A210s were built, making Alpine chassis 1725, the car in this French shed, a very rare car.

The chassis for the first Alpine prototype, the 1963 M63, was inspired by the Lotus 23 chassis. Lotus founder Colin Chapman, still seething that his Lotus 23 was denied entry to Le Mans in 1962 and vowing to never return (Lotus never ran Le Mans again), shipped a Lotus 23 chassis to Alpine founder Jean Redele, suggesting he copy it.

ALSO SEE: Driving a vintage Lotus at the Rolex Monterey Motorsports Reunion

Apparently, the two men admired one another. Chapman and Redele shared the view the performance and handling should be achieved through the minimization of mass. Each had founded a car company around that principle, and each had done it to fuel his passion for racing.

The 1964 M64 evolved from the M63, followed by the 1965 M65. The A210 was a slightly revised version of the M65. All of the Alpine prototypes achieved success at Le Mans.

Though unfamiliar to Americans, drivers of Alpine A210 chassis 1725 were household names to French racing enthusiasts: Jean-Claude Andruet, J.P. Nicolas, Roger de Lageneste, Henri Grandsire, J. Rosinski.

Besides Le Mans, this car earned a class victory at the 12 Hours of Reims in 1967, a rural road course in France with long, high-speed straightaways near a village with a name no American knows how to pronounce. It raced around the 13-mile Nürburgring Nordschleife circuit in 1967 and 1968 in 300-mile races, in what was truly a green hell. It also raced around the Kyalami grand prix circuit in South Africa for nine hours (to promote sales of Alpine A110s in South Africa).

A cloudy history

Gerard Gombert in his prime

Gerard Gombert in his prime

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How Gerard Gombert came about this car is the subject of debate. It was part of his massive stockpile of cars, the vast majority of which were left in the woods where they rusted and rotted. A strong, handsome, stylish young man, Gombert ran a car repair and performance business for Alpine, Lotus, Renault, and other marques.

His shop and his home were nestled along the thickly wooded slopes on the southern coast of France near Draguignan, below the old mountaintop village of Fayence.

Somewhere along the line, perhaps at the end of the 1960s, he seemed to lose his way and began accumulating every car he could. Some were wrecks. The Miura S had been crashed, burned and cut up. Apparently, he would get one of these cars onto his property, pull the cylinder head off engine, set it on the ground nearby, then move on to the next project, leaving everything out in the rain and salt air wafting up from the nearby Mediterranean Sea.


 
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