1973 Alpine A110 Mulet Usine220.000-280.000 EUR - Estimate

Alpine A110 Mulet Usine

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5th in the Press on Regardless Rally with Chasseuil/ Rouget
- Incredible history
- Competition provenance
- High-quality restoration
- Just two owners in the last forty years plus

Reference Number 668996

as of 10/7/2021

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Lot 37

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59, avenue Montaigne  Phone  +33 1 42 99 20 56  City  Paris
75008 Paris  Fax  +33 1 42 99 16 39  State  Paris
France  Mobile    Country  France France
Overview
Car 1973 Alpine A110 Mulet Usine
VIN 18372 
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Known History

This Group 4 berlinetta, series number 18372, body number 6387 is a type 1600VC. The A110 1800 was registered on 3 April 1973 with the number 3697 HK 76. It has a heavy Morocco-type body, of which 8 examples were constructed in Dieppe and registered between March and April 1973.

The body was built and painted by the factory at Thiron Gardais, which was the only one producing berlinettas at that time, (the factory at Dieppe was reserved for the new A310 1600). This body chassis was given fabrication number 2251, specific to Thiron Gardais which corresponds exactly to this period at the start of 1973. It shows that this berlinetta was the 2251st to be built at Thiron, and engraving on the door hinges, rear boot, rollbar and other elements has enabled the fitted parts to be identified before painting. It also still has the T2251 fabrication plate in riveted aluminium on the front right chassis rail. The final assembly of the car took place in the competition department in Dieppe, on Avenue de Bréauté. It was at this point that the car, a type 1600 VC, was given its body number (6387) and chassis number (18372).

The factory intended to use these berlinettas for the toughest rally in the World Championship : the Morocco Rally, which some thought would be impossible for this little Alpine to win. Three of these cars were entered for drivers Darniche, Thérier and Nicolas. Four were used as mule cars, including Alpine 18372, the subject of this story!

In 1973, a mule car, practically identical to the competition cars, was reserved exclusively for reconnaissance. At Alpine, mules were developed in a particular way: at the end of the 1960s, the reconnaissance cars had certain options such as central fuel tank, short gear box and ultimately a lightweight body. It was also possible for official race cars to be used as a mule once or twice before being sold. As the factory at Dieppe entered international races and championships, the reconnaissance cars were built like factory versions: in 1973, there was nothing to distinguish the two types of car apart from one important element: the engine. The factory cars were fitted with a 1800 Mignolet MS 1796cc engine while the mules were given a standard 1600 engine or possibly an " option GS " type prepared by Alpine. Another less crucial difference was the rev counter. The factory cars had a Smiths chronometric gauge, with mechanical drive as fitted in the single seater and Le Mans cars. The mules retained the electronic Veglia rev counters, fitted with a cut-off switch as some drivers thought these were responsible for break-downs.

And so this 1800 was fitted with the full range of specific competition parts. The large Type 364 gearboxes didn't always have the most recent competition pinion gear (known as " monte carlo ") in the mules, first seen in 1973, as the 1596cc engine was not as destructive as the 1800 cc Mignotet engine ! However, we can see that 18372, when it sold to the Ivory Coast team with a 1796cc engine, received one of these competition boxes.

The protective plates correspond to those fitted to deal with the very rough Moroccan roads : bull bar-type metallic guard at the front, large polyester plate covering the underneath of the cockpit and a strong aluminium box plate to protect the engine, aptly called " Maroc ", held by tie rods mounted on rubber ball joints and metal holders under the rear sub-frame. A berlinetta appearing in the rally in Morocco weighed 100 kg more than the cars that lined up in Monte Carlo or Corsica !

The cars destined for Africa in 1973 retained the 6-inch wings that appeared at the end of 1971 on competition Alpines : wider wings at the back (seen later on the A110 1600 SC) and a slightly wider wing at the front, also known as 'small flat wings'. The other 1800s would have been equipped with flat wings to fit 7 and 9-inch wheels.

Another feature of the " off-road " versions concerned the air supply to the engine. A large air filter was fitted in the rear left wing, modified from the R8 Gordini filter. Two tubes identical to those used for the heater in the front bonnet, were directed towards the interior access to the engine, bigger on a factory car than on a standard 1600S: to avoid dust being sucked in, the air comes from the cockpit. To prevent a build up of pressure, the fresh air duct situated in the front luggage compartment on the left, takes in air through the open vent under the left headlight, not directed towards the heating but returning into the passenger compartment, above the throttle pedal. 18372 is still set up like this today.

In 1973, five off-road and four " mixed " mules were built, the latter reserved for competitions on tarmac such as the Tour de Corse, the Ronde Cévenole or on solid ground such as the San Remo rally. Thanks to the invaluable archives of Gilbert Harivel, we know that 18372 was given to Jean Luc Thérier for reconnaissance on the Morocco Rally. After hundreds of kilometres of stony terrain, the car was then lent to the Écurie Aseptogyl set up by Bob Neyret and Jacques Terramorsi. The dentist from Grenoble, supported by Rédélé, pulled off a great media stunt in setting this up with the best female teams, chosen for their driving skill and charm. Nevertheless, he returned to his first love for the 1973 Morocco Rally, entering in a Citroën DS. He reserved the mule 18372, fitted with a new engine, for Marianne Hoepfner and Yveline Vanoni. According to the book by Christian Vella " Champion du Monde des Rallyes ", this was a 1600 Dudot engine (cf annexe 2). Emblazoned on the 1973 Alpine blue paintwork (reference 341) were large stickers for Mure toothpaste.

In the first section, Hoepfner finished joint 11th, and the team remained in this position during the next three trials, finishing the first stage in 11th position, ahead of many more experienced drivers such as Consten, Metha, Le Tahitien, Ponnelle and… Jean Paul Hoepfner ! The second stage was 1000km long and took the teams to Marrakech. The Aseptogyl team found themselves in 17th place. In the first trial of the next stage, the famous Col de Tizi N'Test, Hoepfner had her best result, finishing 10th ! Unfortunately, during the following 200km stretch, the right rear wheel shaft broke and Bob Neyret's girls were forced to retire.

The berlinetta continued to be used extensively for reconnaissance during the glorious year of 1973. There was a victory in the Austrian Rallye des Alpes for Bernard Darniche, a result contested by the Warmbold/Todt team who were not alone in being astonished by the team's knowledge of shortcuts …. ; in the Italian San Remo Rally, where the archives note the car as " broken down " ; and finally 18372 completed the World Championship by meeting J.L. Thérier again, this time on the island of Corsica. It was the season's high point with a victory for Nicolas and Vial followed by a memorable party. Jean Luc, who was not a big fan of reconnaissance work, remembers spending just three days on the mission with this mule !

In 1974, at 31617 kilometres, 3697 HK 76 was officially entered by Alpine for the Rallye de Dieppe, to be driven by an elected official from the city council ! M. Michel Fihue, responsible for sports, enjoyed himself at its wheel. Gilbert Harivel recalls that after the 1971 title, the city medal was awarded by this mayor to Jean Rédélé, Desjardins, Cheinisse and the whole team of mechanics…Fiheu was present at this ceremony. He covered 2500kms in this factory mule, before returning it to the racing department.

In September 1974, this berlinetta was reunited with Marianne Hoepfner for reconnaissance on the Tour De France Automobile. Rented once more by Aseptogyl, she used the car to prepare for the event in which she would drive an ex-factory A310 Group 5 car.

Before being sold to the Ecurie Côte d'Ivoire, the car underwent a major service at 38464 kms. The front crossmember was changed following the tough rallies and reconnaissance work and a reinforced Maroc-type crossmember fitted (various strengthening to the side-bars, welding, steering support etc)

THE SALE OF THE MULE :

At the start of 1974, Bob Neyret and Jean Claude Bertrand created the Ecurie Côte d'Ivoire (ECI). Bertrand is well known to African rally enthusiasts and considered to be kind of founder of major events on the continent. Having taken over the running of the Bandama rally in the Ivory Coast, he succeeded in promoting it to an international status, attracting some of the biggest drivers worldwide. His stroke of genius was the Côte Côte rally, from the Ivory Coast to the Côte d'Azur, which was to be the first stage of the 5/5, a rally across five continents ! Bertrand, who had anticipated the move to restrict what cars could do in Europe, and understood that drivers' wanted greater freedom, brought together trucks, motorcycles and cars in the same rally. Bringing to mind the Paris Dakar ! During the côte-côte, a certain Thierry Sabine, on a motorbike, got lost in the desert. Bertrand, a genuine adventurer with no interest in courting the media, set off in the small rally plane and spent hours looking for the lost rider. He found him just in time, saving him from a certain and painful death. Sabine later repaid his thanks by setting up the Paris Dakar, which has been a huge media success. Meanwhile, Bertrand was carrying out extensive reconnaissance in South America for the second stage of the 5/5, where he discovered some extraordinary roads. He clearly had ideas ahead of his time….

In creating the ECI, Bertrand and Neyret made an impression that was not lost on the competition department: on 7/10/74 they bought five 1800 off-road versions !

All the berlinettaas were equipped with 1800 Mignolet MS engines, and the new rounded wings homologated that year were fitted to the cars. Previously they all had 6-inch wings front and back, with the flat wings reserved for the " mixed " cars. The round wings were fixed with rivets and not integrated into the body.

18372 was one of five cars sold. At the time of sale, having covered exactly 38,464 kilometres (note the precision of Gilbert Harivel's archives !), the car was immediately entered for the Rallye Press on Regardless in America that was part of the 1974 World Championship. There was a strong Alpine and Renault presence along with an armada of R17 Gordini Group 2 cars.

ECI entered the following teams in Press On Regardless : Ambrosino/Regnier, Neyret/Trautmann, Turco/Passat, Hoepfner/Vanoni, Chasseuil/Rouget and the locals Legault/Thibault. 3697 HK 76 was given to Chasseuil who was the first of the ECI team to finish : 5th overall.

The following year, ECI loaned 18372 to the Ivorian team Choteau/Brouns. Adolphe Choteau owned a truck company in Abidjan. The team retired from the event for an unknown reason.

There are no details of other races 18372 may have participated in. The car was taken back by Alpine from ECI, probably during the sale of a competition A310 to the Aseptogyl team. We must not forget that the Le Mure team had contributed a large part of the funds required to buy the 5 or 6 " off road " Alpines. The factory re-registered the car with the same number on 27/11/75 with a duplicate that in effect cancelled the export to the Ivory Coast.

According to Harivel's archives, it was bought during 1975 by racing driver Jean Pierre Nicolas who had taken over the family garage in Marseille. Shortly afterwards, a young medical student, with the same name as the well-known racing driver but not related, became the new owner of the car, with 44 000 km on the clock (some 5,500 more than at the time of its sale in 1974). The freshly prepared front block, the lights, bumpers and front protection plate were missing. He stored it in a garage, where it stayed for the next 38 years !

18372 IN 2009, WHEN DISCOVERED BY THE AUTHOR :

During the years it was stored away, various ill-intentioned individuals removed the Gotti bi-metal wheels, the Group 4 windscreen washer nozzle and the " chinese cap " fitted in place of the oil filter on the engine block. Otherwise, it is remarkably complete, and it is difficult to believe that this car has covered 44,000 km in reconnaissance, 2 Morocco rallies and one POR. The luggage compartment is set up to the exact specification of the last generation of off-road cars : double oil radiator on the water radiator, double fan, specific circuit breaker, battery mounted above the driver's legs... The windscreen is clearly original : dated January 1973, it is fixed with several metal brackets, as is the rear windscreen. The rounded wings that were fixed on in 1974 by pop rivets, are indeed from Alpine : a small rim on the rear wings at the level of the wheel arch makes confirms this.

Let's continue by working backwards : this car is still registered 3697 HK 76 as it was in period. The registration document is still in the name of Alpine, the current owner has had the sale certificate for the last 33 years and has never registered the car in his name. The drivetrain has suffered from the storage conditions : the carburettors and all mechanical parts are heavily oxidised. However, the air filter, from an R8G filter, is still fitted on the car…this is connected directly to the passenger compartment by ventilation hoses to protect the engine from dust. The rocker cover is in metal from Mignotet. The front axle has all the features of a special factory off-road model : Maroc wishbones, tie rods, direct steering, big brakes, specific reinforcements on the front cross member, suspension struts…

Moving on to the cockpit : this is remarkably well preserved and has the flexible SUPERFLEXIT fuel tank in the back, attached to a filler on the rear right wing closed with a LEBOZEC helicopter cap. It has a genuine Alpine roll-cage. The seats are Mod Plastia as were fitted to factory cars from the summer of 1972. The dashboard is specific to factory cars of this period including the position of the trip master, specific power outlet, oil temperature gauge, cap and lighting for the HEUER chronos…Note that several switches have been removed, including the large machine tool switch to cut the ignition. The rev counter is a standard Alpine Veglia piece, the SMITHS rev counter was not fitted to mules.

Finally, it has a MOMO steering wheel with no holes in the spokes to improve rigidity, as mounted on the factory cars. The cockpit in in lovely original condition, the felt parts in need of a clean, and still with the striped rubber mats that were fitted to the first A110s in 1965 and also used in competition cars. You have to smell the interior of a genuine berlinetta, the unmistakeable smell of polyester and leatherette being part of the A110's soul !

The gearbox is a genuine Monte Carlo box fitted by the factory : numbered MC 13 (42 numbered boxes were fitted by the competition department). Gilbert Harivel's archives tell us that this one was installed with a torque of 9x32, limited slip and a Monte Carlo " Alpine " second gear, as opposed to the original R12 Gordini Rallye second gear. The gear ratios are shown on the aluminium plaque on the left-hand side of the box. (the number MC13 is stamped on the right-hand side, near the filler cap) with the following :

9x32

Limited slip

14x43 (1st)

16x36 (2nd)

22x37 (3rd)

27x35 (4th)

31x32 (5th)

This aluminium plaque is rarely found on the MC boxes. It must be noted that a genuine factory MC gearbox has an oil dipstick above the differential, accessible from the engine hatch in the cockpit.

The engine in the car today has the plaque " 1600 GS, numéro 1650 " on the block. This corresponds to a 1596cc engine fitted by Bernard Dudot at Alpine, intended for the " competition-client " cars or mules. But as the car was fitted with an 1800 MS Mignotet for ECI, it is likely that this engine was taken out when it was sold, either by ECI or by Alpine, or more likely by Nicolas in Marseille, and replaced by the current engine. A good 1800 Mignotet was worth half the value of a berlinetta at that time !

This engine has a Mignotet cylinder head : the M 35, corresponding to a 1596cc engine from the preparer in Gennevilliers. Harivel's archives confirm that this is the cylinder head from the engine that allowed Jean Claude Andruet to finish 3rd in the 1971 Monte Carlo rally, the famous event that had opened the 1971 season with a 1-2-3 finish for the marque from Dieppe.

18372 TODAY :

Untouched for nearly four decades, the car was bought in 2014, one of the last major barnfind discoveries, by an enthusiast Renault dealer who already owned a 1600S. He launched into a full restoration of the highest quality. A connoisseur, he knew to approach renowned professionals, and was careful to conserve the authenticity and original condition of the car. Exceptionally, the car still has its period registration document and the original registration, 3697 HK 76 : note that there are only three ex-factory Alpines to retain their original registration : a mule (48 GX 76) and two competition A110s : 7087 HE 76 and 8695 HG 76 !

Gilles VALLERIAN

18372 : RACE HISTORY

1973 - N° 16 :

5/1973 : Recos Rallye du Maroc - Thérier/Delferrier

8-13/5/1973 : Rallye du Maroc-: Hoepfner/Vanoni - AB

09/1973 : Recos Rallye Autrichien - Darniche/Mahé

10/1973 : Recos Rallye San Remo

11/1973 : Recos Tour de Corse - Thérier/Delferrier

1974 - N° 11

1974 : Rallye de Dieppe - Fihue

9/1974 : Recos Tour de France - Hoepfner/Laurent

30/10-3/11/1974 : Press On Regardless - Chasseuil/Rouget - 5ème

1975 - N° 52

22-23/2/1975 : Rallye du Maroc - Choteau/Brouns - Ab

18372 : OWNERSHIP HISTORY

3/4/1973: registration 3697 HK 76 Factory ALPINE Dieppe

7/10/1974: registration 3697 HK 76 Team Côte d'Ivoire Abidjan

27/11/1975 : registration 3697 HK 76 duplicate of the registration card by Alpine Dieppe

Beginning 1976: registration 3697 HK 76 Garage Nicolas MARSEILLE

During 1976 : registration 3697 HK 76 Jean Pierre Nicolas (homonyme) Marseille

July 2014: registration 3697 HK 76 current owner Carcassonne