The Alpine-Renault A310 wasn’t the first of the "private enterprise" Alpine Renaults. Its predecessors, designed and manufactured by Jean Redele’s company in Dieppe, France, appeared in the early Fifties. By the Sixties, Alpine was much closer to the Renault factory technically and commercially. Its mainstays in these years were the A108 and A110 series, fast but fragile rear-engine coupes with Renault running gear and fiberglass bodies. But these were cramped little two-seaters more suited to racing or European rallying than normal road work.
A new model was long overdue by 1971, and Alpine-Renault surprised everyone that year with the new Alpine-Renault A310, a much larger, more spacious, and altogether more practical machine. It was so different from the 1957-vintage A108/A110 that both the old and new models continued in production for a number of years. The former were high-strung two-seaters for youngbloods (rather the “Corvette types” of France), the latter more sophisticated long-distance GTs.
Even so, the Alpine-Renault A310 followed the established -- and famous -- Alpine-Renault formula in many ways: rear-mounted engine, steel backbone chassis with all-independent suspension, many standard components from the Renault parts bin, separate fiberglass body. Compared with the A110, it was longer, wider, and far roomier, with genuine 2 + 2 seating and graceful, modern styling (some compared its front end to that of the Ferrari Daytona).
The original Alpine-Renault A310 used the most powerful Renault production engine then available, the overhead-valve 1.6-liter four from the R16, matched to a 5-speed all-synchromesh transaxle. Automatic wasn’t available, and never would be. This chassis was capable of handling a lot more power. Even so, the four’s 127 bhp gave the French coupe a 131-mph top speed.
Unfortunately, the Alpine-Renault A310 was dogged by quality control problems early on, and many prospective customers shunned its rear-engine layout (the DeLorean encountered similar resistance in the Eighties, though it never seemed to bother Porsche’s 911). Then came the first Energy Crisis in 1973-74, which only compounded the sales difficulties. As a result, Alpine-Renault soon found itself in financial hot water. But Renault came to the rescue by buying the firm, and Alpine has seen steady expansion ever since.
Autumn 1976 brought the definitive Alpine-Renault A310, powered by a new 90-degree V-6. This engine, jointly developed by Peugeot, Renault, and Volvo and used in so many other cars in the late Seventies/early Eighties (including the DeLorean), suited the Alpine-Renault A310’s character very well indeed. It offered an easy 150 bhp, pushing top speed up to about 137 mph and making this the world’s quickest rear-engine production car apart from the Porsche 911.
Exactly 2334 four-cylinder Alpine-Renault A310s had been built in five years, but the new V-6 sold even better, helped by further improvements: standard 5-speed gearbox in 1979, upgraded interior appointments from late 1982. Production continued at Dieppe until 1985, when the Alpine-Renault A310 gave way to the new GTA. Sales were confined largely to Europe (mainly France and Germany), but a few Alpine-Renault A310s made it to the U.S. via the infamous “gray market” of the late Seventies/early Eighties.
Whether four-cylinder or V-6, the Alpine-Renault A310 was essentially a car for younger, more tolerant drivers. No matter how hard Renault tried to disguise the rear-engine location, it couldn’t banish the layout’s characteristic tail-out handling behavior, which could feel quite spooky in some circumstances.
Nevertheless, theAlpine-Renault A310 always sold well by Alpine-Renault standards, and the small purpose-built factory was kept busy to the very end. Clearly, Renault judged the Alpine-Renault A310 a success, for its successor was very much the same type of car.