Rear-engined coupe makes an intriguing budget Porsche 911 alternative
Rear-engined, two-plus-two sports cars that were hand-built in low volumes don’t come cheap – with the exception, that is, of the Renault Alpine GTA and its variants, the GTA Turbo and A610. So if a two-wheel-drive 911 on bald tyres and a wet road just isn’t exciting enough for you (and if your budget is more hot hatch than supercar), then the currently undervalued GTA should really be on your wish list.
Launched in 1984 and made available in the UK in right-hand-drive form two years later, the GTA was intended to pick up where the Alpine A310 had left off. By then, the Dieppe-based tuning company had become a wholly owned subsidiary of Renault, which hoped to capitalise on the smaller firm’s history of success with models such as the A108 and A110 while increasing capacity to a commercially viable level.
But, after an initial flurry of enthusiasm, production dropped from ten cars a day to around three. The GTA and its facelifted successor, the A610 of ’91, were sales flops and proved to be the last cars to carry the once-revered Alpine name. Production ceased in 1995.
Who knows what the problem was, but the less than cast-iron reliability of Renault’s alloy V6 probably didn’t help, especially when combined with the slightly kit-car looks resulting from the polyester and glassfibre body panels. But, seen from the right angles and in the right colour, the GTA could look almost pretty.
Early, 2.8-litre, normally aspirated cars produced an uninspiring 158bhp, but the 2.5-litre turbo version made nearer 200 – only to be strangulated when regulations demanded the addition of a catalytic converter. Things got interesting again with the ultimate A610, however, which offered 3 litres, 275bhp and 175mph in high-pressure-turbo form, plus an improved chassis to keep it all in line.
Currently priced in the £7000-12,000 range, a GTA/A610 presents an appealing, if quirky prospect. Just don’t forget that it’s a Renault, or that it’s made from plastic.Words: Simon de Burton
This article originally appeared in evo magazine