Used car buying guide: Renault Alpine GTA
Only those of a certain age are likely to recognize the Renault Alpine GTA and its successor, the A610. Although they were well evaluated, Alpine was an obscure brand, and when production of the A610 ceased in 1995, it quietly slipped away.
It only resurfaced in 2017 with the arrival of the Alpine A110 and now it is also the name of the renamed Renault Formula 1 team. In short, things are finally improving for Alpine and people are starting to talk about their old performance coupes again.
The GTA was launched in the UK in 1986. It had a steel frame with stabilizers and the body was a combination of plastic and fiberglass panels. They helped reduce the weight of the car to just 1140 kg. The engine (buyers could choose between two V6s, a 158-horsepower 2.9-liter carburettor and a 197-horsepower 2.5-liter turbo) was mounted in the rear. The turbo version could crack from 0 to 62 mph in 7.0 seconds. Both used the same five-speed manual transmission, but the fourth and fifth gears were slightly higher in the turbo model. Be warned: the 2.9’s carburetor is a complicated Solex unit that requires a lot of tedious adjustments to its vacuum hoses to fuel the car smoothly. For this reason, a four barrel Holley conversion is popular.
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The GTA had a very low drag coefficient, which was achieved in part by some clever work on the nose. The only way to get air to the radiator, however, was to deflect it with a hood or plastic shovel. Some owners did not appreciate its importance and many hoods were broken or thrown away, causing the engine to overheat. Make sure your find has its hood.
In 1990, the special edition of Le Mans on a turbo basis arrived. It had a larger body with BBS-like wheels made by ACT. Only 26 right-hand drive cars were made and it is the most sought-after and valuable model today, with prices ranging from £ 15,000 for a project car (if you can find one) to £ 35,000 for one in good condition.
The successor to the GTA, the A610, was launched in 1991. Don’t be fooled by its very similar silhouette: it only shares its windows with the GTA. The mechanical layout is the same, however, and the engine is a version of the older 2.9-liter GTA unit, turbocharged and enlarged to 3.0 liters to produce 247 hp; good for 0-62 mph in just 5.9 seconds. However, purists don’t rate it as well as GTA. It’s much heavier and, with its ABS and electric power steering, more complicated. On the other hand, it is better built, more refined and more comfortable. It should have worked well, but only 68 right-hand drive units were sold in the UK, meaning an A610 is extremely rare today.
Finally, a word on the parts. Because they have been shared with other Renaults, the mechanical bits are relatively easy to use. It is a cut that is not. For example, tail lights are next to impossible to find and, when you do, terribly expensive. That’s why you should buy the best GTA or A610 you can afford. A good deal will still cost just as much in repairs and renovations.