History of the Alpine Brand - 1

History of the Alpine Brand - 1

08.03.2021: Alpine is the story of a brand, but it is also the story of men before being, tomorrow, the story of a renewal. I. A RENAULT ‘FAMILY’ Jean Rédélé was the first-born son of Madeleine Prieur and Emile Rédélé,

Alpine is the story of a brand, but it is also the story of men before being, tomorrow, the story of a renewal.


Jean Rédélé was the first-born son of Madeleine Prieur and Emile Rédélé, a Renault dealer based in Dieppe and a former mechanic of Ferenc Szisz – the first Renault Frères ‘factory driver’, winner of the Grand Prix de la Sarthe in 1906 at Le Mans and runner-up in the Grand Prix de l'A.C.F. in Dieppe in 1907.

Louis Renault himself had hired Emile Rédélé right at the beginning of the 20th Century.

At the end of the First World War, at the request of Louis Renault, the young Emile Rédélé settled in Dieppe and opened a Renault dealership there in rue Thiers. Two years later, Jean-Emile-Amédée Rédélé was born on May 17, 1922.
After completing his studies in Normandy, Jean Rédélé took his Baccalauréat exam during the Second World War and came into contact with people as diverse as Antoine Blondin, Gérard Philipe and Edmond de Rothschild.

He chose to be a sub-prefect before settling on a career direction and enrolling at the H.E.C. (Hautes Études Commerciales) business school in Paris. There, he achieved a joint degree in economics and business and graduated in October 1946, but not before sending a work placement report to the general management of Renault.

In it, Jean Rédélé made several ground-breaking observations about the business strategy of the nation’s leading carmaker, with sufficient conviction to be summoned to Boulogne-Billancourt by Pierre Dreyfus, the CEO of Renault. To help the company to translate its ideas into actions, Rédélé was appointed Renault’s official dealer in Dieppe, following in the footsteps of his father.

Jean Rédélé was just 24-years-old and as such, became the youngest car dealer in France.

He threw himself into motorsport in 1950, reasoning that “racing is the best way to test production cars and victory is the best sales tool”. To no great surprise, he chose the brand new Renault 4CV as the vehicle for his competition activities.


On July 24 1950, he entered the 1st Rallye de Dieppe. On home turf and up against 40 rivals, he steered his 4CV to first place ahead of a brigade of Peugeot 203s and more powerful Salmson entries.

That victory was lauded by both the press and Renault’s management who suggested Rédélé enter the 21st Rallye Monte-Carlo in 1951 in a ‘1063’, the special ‘racing’ version of the 4CV. He finished fourth in class, then runner-up in the 2nd Rallye de Dieppe. His driving career had started to take off.

Winner of the 1st Rallye de Dax, fifth in the Rallye du Dauphiné, third in the punishing Marathon de la Route which stretched from Liège to Rome and back to Liège, third again in the Tour de France Automobile, he finished his season by triumphing in the Tour de Belgique.

Jean Rédélé and his co-pilot Louis Pons participated in the very demanding ‘Mille Miglia’, a 1,500km race contested over open roads from Brescia to Rome and back to Brescia again in Italy. They won their class and broke every record, leaving their pursuers trailing more than an hour behind them at the finish.

Entered officially by Renault in the 1952 Le Mans 24 Hours, Rédélé in his 4CV was leading his class at 13.00 on Sunday – just two hours from the end – when he was forced to retire. He gained his revenge in the Tour de France Automobile in which he finished third overall, quite an achievement given the relative modesty of his car.

In 1953, Rédélé and Pons won their class in the ‘Mille Miglia’, again in the 4CV 1063 – but Jean Rédélé was itching to drive the ‘Renault Spéciale’ that he had ordered in Italy. In the Renault Spéciale’s very first outing, Rédélé won outright, defeating two Jaguars and a Porsche.

In 1954, Rédélé and Pons won the ‘Mille Miglia’ – an event that would become their trademark race – and then the Critérium des Alpes. “I thoroughly enjoyed crossing the Alps in my Renault 4CV, and that gave me the idea of calling my future cars ‘Alpines’. It was important to me that my customers experienced that same driving pleasure at the wheel of the car I wanted to build,” said Jean Rédélé.

By the end of a 1954 season that had been every bit as successful as 1953, Jean Rédélé had gained a reputation as a top driver. That meant a lot to him even if, deep down, he knew he would soon have to choose between driving his cars and managing his business.

In 1955, as soon as Jean Rédélé received his "Rédélé Spéciale", the second car produced expressly for him in Italy, he finished second in the "Mille Miglia", a race won by Jean-Claude Galtier on "Rédélé Spéciale".

That one-two convinced Jean Rédélé to create his own brand: it would be called ‘Alpine’ and would be based in both rue Forest in Paris and avenue Pasteur in Dieppe.


Jean Rédélé quickly saw the potential of a car brand, which he wanted to build based upon the following basic principles: a car of innovative design, equipped with simple yet competitive mechanics underneath a lightweight, attractive body, whilst using the greatest number of mass-produced parts possible to obtain a low cost price and low maintenance cost in relation to the car’s performance.

The second principle developed by Jean Rédélé was to boost his company’s domestic activity with the provision of international licences.

Commenté [T1]: Glossaire Renautlt donne 'mechanicals' et 'mechanics' pour 'mécanique'. Toutefois 'mechanicals' me semble très bizarre, et je ne l'ai jamais vu/entendu auparavant. Mechanics or mechanical elements?

The limited liability company ‘Société des Automobiles Alpine’ was founded on June 25, 1955. In early July, Jean Rédélé himself presented three A106 Coachs (‘A’ for Alpine and ‘106’ relating to the reference number 1062 of the 4CV, which had served as a source for parts). The first car was blue, the second white and the third red. That said it all. “A French car waving the colours of our flag both on the roads and in competition.”

On October 6, 1955, Jean Rédélé officially launched his brand and cars during the 42nd Paris Motor Show.

The ‘Société RDL’, founded by Jean Rédélé and based in Dieppe, commissioned a convertible from Giovanni Michelotti and it arrived in early 1957. The pure and simple lines of this convertible would set the tone for all future Alpines.

In 1958, the A106 evolved into the A108. To begin with, the car used the original platform, before changing, in 1960, to the genuinely innovative ‘backbone frame’ chassis, the real key to the Alpine’s agility.

After 251 cars had been manufactured, the ‘Coach’ and then the coupé made way in turn for the convertible and the Berlinette.

The myth was born.

Equipped with the same engine as the Renault Dauphine, the A108 soon gave birth to the A110, which benefitted from the Renault 8 as a parts bank.

With the A110, commercial success was achieved. The production of the A110 made continuous progression, victories in rallies were piling up, the success of its prototypes at Le Mans made Alpine famous (‘The world’s fastest litre of petrol’) and Henri Grandsire, French F3 Champion in an Alpine, starred as cartoon character Michel Vaillant on television behind the wheel of Alpine-Vaillants!

The A110 was continually evolving – first with a 1108cc engine, then 1255cc, then 1565cc and then 1605cc. Aesthetically, the changes were minor but numerous: a front grille with four headlights, widened wings, a front-mounted radiator, a removable rear skirt and so forth... until 1977, the model’s final year of production (the 1600 SX with a 1647cc engine).

Meanwhile, some 7,500 Berlinettes had been produced, and the car had shone in every competitive arena it had entered (rallying, circuit racing, rallycross, hillclimbing, ice-racing, etc.).

Commenté [T2]: Glossaire Renaut contient 'cabriolet' et 'convertible'
Commenté [T3]: Glossaire Renault

- Christophe Deville, photos Groupe Renault Communication

Permanent-URL: http://www.automobilsport.com/history-alpine-brand-1---220136.html

08.03.2021 / MaP

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