Sunday, March 30, 2014

Alpine A110: slow but steady

The A110 project continues at a slow but steady pace.

The orange peel was sanded off and another coat of blue put on, which still shows some orange peel but is better than the first attempt ... I suspect it won't get any better than this unless I switch to an airbrush, a complication and expense I am reluctant to engage in.

The chassis is finished, requiring just minor paint touchups here and there. The kit came with a full-length skid pan which I have decided not to use, even though the pan is molded in clear plastic.

The lovely little twin-cam, with double-barrel Webers and a tubular header leading into a single muffler, is a tight fit under the rear deck, and I suspect #4 sparkplug, along with the alternator belt, had to be removed from inside the car. Next: interior details. Once the paint has hardened (in a week or two), I'll start on decals and trim prior to a coat of gloss to seal it all up properly.

If there ever was a car less well suited on paper to the Monte than the Alpine, with its peaky little motor hung way out back, surely it must be the 1964 Ford Falcon Sprint driven by Bo Ljungfeldt (details here). I know from experience, acquired many years ago in my 1972 Chevelle, that a big V8 with torque all over the map, combined with rear wheel drive, can be very exciting, but not particularly quick, in slippery conditions. Of course my Baldini winter tires and lack of a limited slip probably didn't help, but still, the weight is not where you want it for traction.

In this vein I picked up a kit of a Falcon which I intend to build up to mimic Ljungfeldt's 1964 Monte Carlo winner.

Now before the purists all object that the 1964 Monte was won by Paddy Hopkirk in a Mini, I'll point out that the Falcon won on number of stages won and overall time elapsed, but the Mini won overall due to the various formulas used to handicap bigger motors such as the Holman & Moody 300-HP version of the venerable 289 lurking under Ljungfeldt's right foot. Ljungfeldt was classified second, with an 850 cc, 2-stroke Saab driven by the legendary Eric Carlsson in 3rd, so the rules clearly favoured little engines.

So let's all agree the Mini won according to the rules but the Ford won on time. The kit, by a new company called Trumpeter, appears to be very detailed, and will go well next to my model of the 1967 winner (another Mini). The only challenge will be decals as the Ford kit does not include these. To the Internet.

Originally posted 30 March 2014

Friday, March 7, 2014

Alpine A110 progress

Progress on the Alpine continues at a pace consistent with having a day job. The water-cooled, 1.6 litre inline 4 must have weighed a fair bit, based as it was on a Renault 8 (some references say 16) iron block, so it must have contributed to the 'handling', such as it was, in unpredictable ways, given its location way out back. And I am guessing that the Alpine-designed twin-cam head with a pair of big double-barrel Webers must have made for a fairly sudden onslaught of torque, further wreaking havoc with the handling. I once drove a Porsche 912 (an early attempt at a cheaper 911) with a peaky little 4-cylinder motor and similar carburation; the throttle was an on-off switch with nothing below about 4500 RPM, then suddenly everything worked. I can't imagine crossing that torque boundary with a tail-happy car in snow with skinny little tires, even if we are only talking about 100 or so horsepower ... at least it's got a proper A-arm rear suspension setup, not swing axles.

Nonetheless Alpine A110s took first and second (and either third or fourth, depending on whether you believe Wikipedia) in the 1971 Monte Carlo rally. Next best was a Porsche 914/6, the lovely little mid-engine roadster equipped, in 914/6 guise, with a 2-litre 911 engine instead of the standard VW Beetle motor. The 914 might have been the Miata of its day if it had been sold with a VW badge at a big discount, but that is a story for another day.

Alpine got into financial trouble by the mid-70's, and was bought out by Renault. The last Alpine, the A610, was built in the mid-90's; today the factory in Dieppe is the base for the RenaultSport division of Renault.

Getting back to the kit: chassis bits are painted and either assembled or close to it; interior bits are painted and need assembly and decals for the instrument panel. The smaller bits are not entirely up to Tamiya standards, with mold separation lines needing to be removed; it's obviously an older mold and could use a good cleanup. The body needs sanding to get rid of the orange peel, which is clearly visible in the photo and due to my use of spray paints rather than investing in an air brush; this will be followed by decals and metal transfers which will be time consuming. Stay tuned.
Originally posted 7 March 2014

Monday, March 3, 2014

Alpine A110

Having been prevented from shoehorning a Porsche 956 motor into the storage locker of a VW pickup by the unavailability of the Hasegawa VW pickup kit (, I've decided to tackle Tamiya's kit of the Alpine A110 that won the Monte Carlo in 1971.

It will fit in nicely with the other rally cars in the collection: the Mini that won the Monte Carlo in 1967, Lancia Stratos (1978), Audi S1 (1986) and a pair of Peugeots (1985 205 and 2001 206). Some of these are shown in the photos; the Audi and the 206 (not shown) have not been started.

The engine compartment of the 1985 206, nominally a FWD econobox, contrasts with the basic layout of the Mini.

Quite the evolution, really. The Mini had a stock 1275 cc pushrod motor making something like 65 horsepower with a pair of SU carburettors (the spell check doesn't like the British spelling here). Race upgrades consisted mainly of an undertray, extra headlights, a roll cage and snow tires; the rules were pretty strict and the aluminum valve cover was disallowed in favour of the stock stamped steel version.

The Alpine had a 1600 cc Renault motor hanging out the back, probably pushing 100 horsepower by virtue of a twin-cam conversion and a pair of Webers, but it was still very close to the road car. It was very pretty but the handling must have been extremely tail-happy, being based as it was on the Renault R8 which made the Corvair look good. Yes, that's a watercooled inline 4 in the tail of the A110 ... it's just missing the valve cover and a few auxiliary bits, and some of the paint needs tidying up.

The Stratos (below) demonstrates the early shift in rally car design from modified production car to purpose built racer; it was built for rally first and only a handful were ever sold to the public as road cars. The mid-engine 2.4 litre V6 came from the Ferrari Dino 246 and was a couple of generations ahead of the vaguely agricultural long-stroke motors in the Mini and Alpine. The Stratos was one of those designs that stood out for being completely outlandish but extraordinarily sexy, even before considering the Ferrari motor. What a tightly wound, muscular little thing it was.

The Audi was purpose built for rallying and few if any were sold for the street in this particular form. The front-mounted 2.2 litre 5-cylinder motor was turbocharged. The chassis was one of the first applications of Audi's quattro 4WD system. Unlike the sensuous Alpine or the muscular, strutting Stratos, it was all German efficiency: big square fender flares and a tail full of radiators. Function trumps style.

The 205 was a pedestrian FWD econobox with monster 4-cylinder turbo motor mounted in the back seat and driving all four wheels. A number of other manufacturers went the same route, with the Renault 5 Turbo and the Austin Metro 6R4 being prime examples. At some point the sanctioning bodies decided that something a little closer to an actual road car was needed, hence the 2001 206 with motor mounted in front where it would have been in the equivalent econobox. The turbo and 4WD were considered acceptable modifications.

I will post more as progress is made. The wet paint acquired a cat hair on the roof that will require some sanding and another coat, meanwhile the drivetrain is moving along as illustrated by the pictures above.

Originally posted 3 March 2014