World Exclusive: The lost Alpine W71 (A710/A410) prototype

The final Alpine which came out under the Alpine badge was the A610/GTA which was introduced in 1986 and eventually warped in the final reiteration which came out in 1991.  This GTA was supposed to make it to the US with a Renault “Alpine GTA” badge and even had cars sent for reviews to auto car magazines; only to have it pulled in the end due to Renault’s bad state of affairs in the US market.

As it turns out, Renault was also working on another car between 1989 to 1993 known as the “W71”.  This car was a small, lightweight, 2-seater which was meant to be a modern interpretation of the original A110.  The people developing this car in Berex (the original Renault Sport factory; the site where the A442 was developed) were indeed personnel leftover from the original Alpine factory.  Their goal was to save the badge and indeed produce a car which would hark back to the glory days of Alpine; functional, lightweight, driver’s cars.   Not to say that A610 wasn’t a driver’s car—-it was.  That being said, the A610 had grown in size significantly from even the small A310 and it was full of luxury amenities and had become a hybrid of a GT car and a sports car to rival the 911 of the time.

Renault’s Berex, where a lot of the former Alpine employees still worked:

In the past few weeks, there have been numerous articles popping up online about Renault building a 50th anniversary tribute to the original A110 Berlinette (which I can confirm to you IS true….they are working on an Alpine), and a story about the people behind the ‘new’ Lancia Stratos trying to get permission to make a ‘new’ Alpine A110

In the past, there have been some grainy, incomplete photos of the W71/A710/A410 published online; but these have been suboptimal to get an insight into the car’s designs.  I was graciously provided these exclusive photos of the ‘lost’ prototype from the time of development.  If you use these photos anywhere else on the web, please credit this blog.

I was told that the hopes of all the remaining Alpine staff rested on this car ‘making it to production’……when it was killed off by Renault, it was the final stab to a great marque.

Some information about the long lost prototype that sits hidden away somewhere in France!

Yes, the prototype was totally functional. It’s handling was tested and fine tuned on Renault ‘s Aubevoye test center tracks. It’s lap time was better than A610’s lap time, despite inferior engine.  If I remember correctly, prototype was fitted with J7R, 2L NA engine 140 HP versus Z7X 2.5L turbo 250 HP for the A610. The first prototype and concept was very light (no AD, no air cond, no ABS…) but later in the project, the marketing asked for a lot of these useless things in this kind of car. Theorical weight and price increased, performance decreased. And the project was finally axed in 1992 or 1993″

As you can see, it has a completely finished interior with badges on the steering wheel and door sills.  Nice sport bucket seats as well!  Functionality of the original Alpine spirit looks preserved in this limited view.

The first Porsche Boxster concept was shown to the world in 1993, right after this A710/A410 project was killed off.  The 3rd generation MR2, which also carries some features of this car in design was introduced in 1999.  As someone who is fascinated, intrigued, and interested in Alpine cars and company history; it saddens me that Renault killed off this car.  It seems like the W71/A710/A410 would have taken the company back to the days of producing a pure sports car; in the spirit of the original brand.

I often hear people saying that the A110 was the “Porsche 911 of France”….which I don’t agree with.  I actually think of Alpine as more akin to Lotus than Porsche; a focused racing company with an intriguing history and a different way of doing things.  Whereas Lotus and Alpine both lost their way a bit in the 80s; Lotus came back strong with the Elise in the 90s…….according to the pics and information about this lost Alpine; Alpine could have come back strong with their own rear-engined ‘pure’ sports car—-unfortunately for Alpine, Renault controlled the company.  It is tragic this car was never even shown at an auto show or to the world—even though they spent almost $10 million (1989 money) developing it.  What could have been…..

The styling of the W71 was, however, influenced by the 1990 Renault Laguna Concept (photo via netcarshow)

A couple of years later, the Renault Sport Spider was introduced with obviously devoted “A210/A220” race car headlights…..but when i asked about the origins of this car and whether this Spider was actually the A710/A410 in hiding, i was told that the Spider was NOT the same as the A710/A410 in any way; however some of the same people responsible for the A710/A410 project were involved in the Spider project.  The Spider was code named “W94” and was produced between 1995 and 1997 at the Dieppe factory (now a Renault Sport factory).  It obviously carried the spirit of the A710/A410 prototype; but in a different form.

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11 thoughts on “World Exclusive: The lost Alpine W71 (A710/A410) prototype

  1. Gilberto says:

    Nice work sourcing the info and pics and, I agree, definitely more Lotus than Porsche. If they do end up building it I can see it competing with the Evora.

    • Syed says:

      thanks Gilberto—–i will be very interested to see what Renault does to celebrate the 50th anniversary…….i hope it is something good!

  2. Automobiliac says:

    This is a great great article. After thinking about it for a bit and looking at all the pictures, I think it all came out for the best: The Sport Spider was by far a more innovative, contemporary, beautiful, and racey design than the one they killed. In particular, the original Spider as launched (not pictured) had no windshield–just a wind deflector to reduce buffeting. So it was a truly pure, lightweight racing-oriented vehicle very much in keeping with the Alpine legacy. It’s a shame they didn’t call it the Alpine Spider, but Renault Sport had been supplanting the Alpine “brand” for a long time starting in the 70s when they took over the Le Mans effort from Alpine. I never connected the Spider headlights to the A210s before but I think you are spot on there. Makes me love the Sport Spider even more. I desperately wanted one in High School, and I still want one now.

    • Syed says:

      Thanks bradley—-i figured you would enjoy this! I agree about the Sport Spider being better designed, however i’m guessing the Alpine cues added to the Spider (headlights, etc) were sort of a reactionary measure after their proper “Coupe” was killed off by Renault—after all a lot of the original Alpine folks were working on this W71 prototype. The Spider, however, was built/developed at a different factory (Dieppe, site of the original Alpine factory)—whereas the W71 was being developed at Berex (Renault Sport factory)….kinda confusing! ha. These days, however, the Renault Sport factory IS the old Alpine factory. I agree though—-i love the Renault Spider……a handful of them were imported into the US, however i’m not sure if they are ‘street legal’….i’ve actually been looking into the issue.

  3. Pierre says:

    Great job. Thanks for your articles, I’m glad I found your site!

  4. […] on the comeback of France’s last great sports car brand, Alpine, friend of Jalopnik IEDEI uncovered exclusive photos of the final, secret Alpine prototype. […]

  5. timothymcn says:

    Thanks for this.
    Definitely ahead of its time – seeing some R8 in that rear end.

  6. Great blog! I found this post from Jalopnik, what an incredible story, I’ve never heard of this prototype before. One of my Twitter followers mentioned a website to me, with more pics and info about the Alpine W71 project, check it out: http://renaultconcepts.online.fr/alpine/w71.htm

  7. Dane says:

    Interesting time for French sports cars. This Renault looks to have had a similar design brief to the Matra M25 proto of 1989:

    http://www.carstyling.ru/en/car/1989_matra_m25/

    Dane

  8. SETHalpine says:

    Auto-plus magazine had referred to it, as A410, but the inscription on at least one of three prototypes was A710.
    Two different front facades, at least two profiles and 3 rear were made
    http://alpinerenault.free.fr/outils/forum/viewtopic.php?f=55&t=4497&hilit=A710+W71&start=320

    1: clearly written on the plates 71 W 1990: more classic side rear quarter, as the tailgate, headlights flashing with typical GTA rounded on the side (this is the drawing more that Auto-plus had published) The rear lights are round-type as the future spider

    2: Profile not really great with this release tailgate quite right (like Targa) + louver to the hood .. headlights like the future (but before ) Porsche Boxster
    By cons, it is with this rear that Auto-plus had shown the new Alpine, with the lights making the whole width. BUT another No. 2 had the “reflector” central, replaced by a piece body-color, and this time two exhaust pipes instead of a central one.

    face the most successful for my taste being the No. 1 with the rear of No. 2, that was the choice of the magazine, even showing a green version of a roadster with flanks of Laguna inspired concept, much more dynamic as those projects W71, which, it must be said were noy very pretty from this side, and a little bit too high with 1m25.

    Unfortunately, to be profitable, the car would target 40,000 copies, too much for this kind of market…
    Instead of staying on the manufacturing techniques used in Dieppe, targeting lower production, …the equation presented for the A710, wasn’t possible, not economically viable .

    The Spider Renault was really born Alpine, its design clearly inspired by the short version of the A220, often called “A220 Cevennes”, but finally ,Renault has decided to create a new brand ( Renault sport..) in order to profit of the F1’s success…

  9. Nate says:

    A pity it never reached production, one could only imagine how this Alpine would have evolved as it would potentially be uprated to the 150 hp 2.0 unit from the Renault Clio Williams / Renault Spider as well as potentially feature the 172-200 + hp 2.0 from the mk1-3 Renaultsport Clio.

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