It’s common practice for car manufacturers to produce models for race purposes. French company Alpine are no different, as they looked to expand into the sports racing world during the 1960s. One of the most enduring race cars to have come out of Alpine is the A220. Inspired by the prototype Alpine M62, the A220 competed in different races, though the car is remembered more for how it looks. We’re looking into the history of the A220 to see how it was designed.
The beginning of the A220 goes back to 1962, when Alpine chief Jean Redele requested to Renault Gordini-tuned engines for a sports car programme focused on the 24 Hours of Le Mans. Redele acquired a 1-litre inline-four engine and he set out to build a prototype capable of winning the index of performance award.
Redele contacted Lotus founder Colin Chapman to discuss the idea of mounting the engine on a Lotus 23-based car. However, Chapman declined and engineer Len Terry stepped in to create a car that was similar to the Lotus. The final chassis was created by heavy vehicle engineer Richard Bouleau. Named the M63, the car won in its debut race at the 1963 Nurburgring 1000 km. But none of the M63s entered into the 1963 24 hours of Le Mans finished.
Problems were addressed in the creation of the M64 and the car won the index of performance in the 1964 24 Hours of Le Mans, as well as the 12 Hours of Reims. Major success in the Le Mans still eluded Alpine, so they went back to the drawing board.
Birth of the A220
In 1968, new regulations prevented four to seven litre engines being used, hindering Alpine rivals like Ferrari and Ford. The marque came up with the A220, which was larger than previous models. It featured a right-hand drive that made it better for circuits. The A220 had a sleek, sporty body and plush interior.
During the 1968 24 Hours of Le Mans, the A220 still wasn’t enough, with only one of four finishing. Due to the poor results, Alpine withdrew from sports racing in 1970, focusing on rallying. The much coveted Le Mans victory finally came in 1978 with the Renault Alpine A442.
Today, the Le Mans A220s can be considered a collectors item.