Renault, Caterham partner to build a sports car and revive Alpine brand

Renault-Alpine-A110-50-concept-heroFrench carmaker Renault is looking to revive the defunct Alpine (“al-peen”) sports car brand, and it may get help from an unexpected source. The French giant is looking to British boutique carmaker and Formula 1 team Caterham to make the 21st century Alpine happen.

According to Autocar, the project will yield two sports cars, one badged as an Alpine, the other a Caterham, that will use a common platform. Caterham will build its version in England, and the revived Alpine will be built at the old Alpine factory in Dieppe. The venture is called Societe des Automobiles Alpine Caterham, and each company has a 50 percent stake.

“This innovative partnership with Caterham embodies a longstanding ambition: the creation of a sports car with the Alpine DNA. It carries both opportunities for the Dieppe plant and the development of its historic expertise,” Renault CEO Carlos Ghosn said in a statement.

Caterham is known for the 7, a minimalist sports car with motorcycle fenders. The 7 was originally built by Lotus, but Caterham took over production after Lotus moved on to more substantial sports cars.

The Alpine project expands an existing partnership between Caterham and Renault. Caterham’s Formula 1 car uses a 2.4-liter V8 from the French carmaker.

What will the fruits of Caterham and Renault’s labors look like? Renault recently showed the racy Alpine A110-50 concept car, but the production car will probably be less exotic.

The engine will probably come from one of the Renaultsport hot hatchbacks. That means either the direct-injected and turbocharged 1.6-liter four from the Clio RS, which produces 200 horsepower, or possibly the 265 hp 2.0-liter turbo engine from the Mégane Cup.Caterham 7 and Formula 1 car

The new sports car may use an aluminum space frame, something Renault pioneered in the 1990s with the Renaultsport Spider roadster. Whether the car will be rear-engined (as some past Alpines were) or mid-engined is unknown, although it will probably be rear-wheel drive. The Caterham and Alpine versions may also have different body styles, possibly resulting in a Caterham convertible and an Alpine coupe.

Alpine was founded in 1955 and started out tuning Renault production models. It quickly moved on to developing its own sports cars, such as the A110, using Renault components. It was bought by Renault in 1973 and, like Abarth and AMG, became an in-house tuner for its parent. The Alpine name was used on performance Renaults until 1994, when it was replaced by the Renaultsport brand.

It’s hard to see how a collaboration between hallowed brands like Alpine and Caterham could go wrong, so this paternership is definitely one to watch. Development work is already underway, with the revived Alpine set to debut in 2015 or 2016.