Click above for high-res gallery of the Alpine A310

We see rear-engine, 6-cylinder sports cars from Europe every day. They always have a Porsche badge on them and usually "911" in their name. Whether in Carrera, S, Targa, 4, 4S, GT3, Turbo, GT3 RS or GT2 trim, they are great cars but so common that they barely stand out anymore. The occasional 356 is always a pleasant surprise, but especially in Southern California, those too are almost every-day sights. So when we saw this particular rear-engined European sports car, we were quite thrilled. It's a 1980 Alpine A310! And not just any A310, this one had a full on Fleishmann Group IV body kit plus a massive rear spoiler that must make this puppy stick like glue as it approaches its 130+ mph top speed. While several thousand A310s were built between 1971 and 1984, none were officially imported into the States. Seeing one "in the wild" is such a treat, even if it happens to be at a dealership that specializes in rear-engine European sports cars.

Alpine was affiliated with Renault a bit like AMG is with Mercedes. They started out as tuners and racers but were eventually bought and incorporated into the Renault operations. They had a pretty good racing record with the older Alpine A110, particularly in rallying, where they won the Monte Carlo Rally and World Rally Championship in 1973. The A310 was their follow-up. It started life powered by a tuned Gordini four-cylinder engine with up to 125 hp, but eventually featured the PRV 2.7L V6 later used in the De Lorean. Even with just 150 hp, these little fiberglass flyers could keep up with a contemporary Porsche. Think of it as a Lotus Exige built by the French, with a back seat, and the engine hanging in back of the rear axle. Okay, maybe the Exige analogy is a bit of a stretch, but with its tubular steel backbone chassis and fiberglass body, it was light, quick and a good handler, which makes it a fun sports car and a delight to see in person.

All photos copyright © 2008 Frank Filipponio/Weblogs, Inc.

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