His cars were fast, too. The A110 locked-out the podium on the Monte in 1973 and won the World Rally Championship in that, its inaugural year. Subsequently Alpine was absorbed into Renault from where it went... well, not quite so well, longer-term. Renault eventually canned Alpine in 1995 off the back of the A610, a good car, but one which hardly anyone bought.
But now it's back. And whatever you think of this Alpine A110 - a slightly retro-styled small coupe, which I happen to think is achingly pretty - I do believe it's worth doffing your cap to the people who've made it happen, because when you look at the numbers, it's quite a bold move. This isn't just a new model, it's a new brand.
The Dieppe factory, where Renaultsport Clios and race cars are still made, has been modified extensively for the new Alpine coupe to be built there too. In total - Clios and all - it can make no more than 10,000 cars a year. There'll be the creation of a new dealer network, and all of the aftersales support that goes with it, all of which sounds expensive.
But nothing sounds so expensive as the fact that today's new Alpine A110 has an entirely new, built-from-scratch all-aluminium platform, all of its own. Caterham was in at the start, too, you might remember, but it bailed in 2014 and Alpine was left to go it alone.
It's packaged really impressively. Extrusions are bonded, riveted, in places (near the engine) welded, with pressed body panels atop. It's all aluminium bar some steel rivets and a plastic roof. There are double wishbones front and rear, which occupy more lateral room than, say, struts that Alpine could have carried over from a Clio. Yet the engine fits between them at the rear, while the 45-litre fuel tank fits between them at the front; an unusual position but Alpine wanted it there because it helps give a 44:56 weight distribution.
There are some other really key numbers here, but a Nurburgring lap time isn't one of them. Alpine says that laptimes aren't a priority, that speed isn't the biggie.
All of which is, I suppose, a roundabout way of saying that, look, I know the fact that at (gulp) £50,000 or so, the Alpine looks expensive for a tiny coupe with four cylinders, but I don't know how you'd do it more cheaply. Even if they sell 4,000 of these a year that's £200m. Perhaps it's no surprise, then, that when Alpine talks about this car's launch, it references Mini. This, it seems, could be the start of something bigger. Something that'll justify the expense on this car. Alpine boss Michael van der Sande won't be drawn, beyond saying "we will have the lightest, most agile car in whatever class we're in."
All of which means? It means the A110 is brilliant. Sure, they still could have taken all of these ingredients and got them wrong, but they haven't. The A110 rides well, there's a touch of a good Lotus Elise, or modern McLaren, about the way it both absorbs bumps and yet retains impeccable control of its body movements.
It steers precisely, too; lightly, and perhaps not quite as reassuringly as a Porsche 718 Cayman but with sufficient road feel when you look for it. A button on its diddy wheel adjusts the drive mode, with Sport and then Track bringing a bit more anger to the engine note and response, gearbox response and steering weight, and lessening the ESP (which has a separate off button) but leaving the general dynamics well alone.
The A110 is probably better off without, then, because it might spoil what is one of the most delicately balanced, rewarding and perfectly composed sports car chassis I've driven in years. The engine and 'box? They're fine. The engine's a little boosty at times, but sounds zingy enough - it probably has the measure of a Cayman's noise. The gearbox doesn't: there wasn't the money to do a DCT and a manual, so they did a better DCT, they say. There are wet rather than the dry clutches you'll find on a Clio (and an extra ratio) but while mostly it's fine, it occasionally feels like you've pulled neutral on lift-off when you expect some engine braking. And the interior, though sweetly designed and very accommodating for big occupants, feels a touch lower rent than a Porsche too. Which is, I suppose, inevitable in a 1,080kg car (1,103kg in this launch spec).
Toyota GT86, you can overlook the foibles because without them the car would not be the car it is: it would be heavier, duller, slower. The wonderful thing about the Alpine is that it has a bit more power than that Toyota yet weighs 135-150kg less, and it has a more rounded dynamic ability too. Enough for it to challenge cars at any price, not just at its own. So break-out the bunting and the hashtags: Alpine is back, in sensational style.
SPECIFICATION - ALPINE A110
Engine: 1.8-litre, 4-cylinder turbo
Transmission: seven-speed automatic, rear-wheel drive
Power (hp): 252@6,000rpm
Torque (lb ft): 239@2,000rpm
Top speed: 155mph
Weight: 1,080 - 1,103kg