Go on, admit it. You’d totally forgotten about the Chrysler Alpine hadn’t you? When was the last time you saw one? I’d hazard a guess that the last time I saw one was approximately 3.26pm on 12 October 1984. And it was a strange metallic orange colour. Or actually, it could have been rust, which was about to become a major problem for the Alpine (see later in the article).
It may be so long ago that you saw an Alpine that you have totally erased the image of the car from your mind. So here’s a reminder.
Following the shock of seeing the athletic, sweeping lines of the Alpine, prepare to be hit by a double-whammy. The Chrysler Alpine was actually voted European Car of the Year in 1976. It beat the BMW 3 Series into second place by some 50 votes. This is something the chaps in Munich don’t tend to include in their current sales literature.
The Chrysler Alpine (renamed the Talbot Alpine in 1980) and not to be confused with the Sunbeam of the same name, was designed by Roy Axe, who went on to play a part in giving the world the Montego and Maestro. Weighing just over 1000kg, the Alpine was by today’s standards, an incredibly lightweight car. Indeed, a 5-door hatchback weighing little more than a VX220 Turbo, would be somewhat of a power-to-weight ratio dream.
Unfortunately, it was the Alpine’s, shall we say, minimalist approach to build quality that eventually led to it’s downfall. Indeed, the reason you don’t see any Alpines on the road today is that they are all hidden away in heated garages within enthusiasts’ private collections. No wait, that’s not right. The reason you don’t see them anymore is because rust was a serious issue and there are rumoured to be only 15 left in the UK. The Alpine’s lack of rust protection is rivaled only by the Lancia Beta.
But it wasn’t just the build quality that hampered the Alpine’s chances of success. The car was also caught up in the political turmoil that surrounded British car manufacturing of the time, with Chrysler’s American owners growing increasingly sick and tired of constant strikes and shutdowns.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, PetrolBlog couldn’t find a single example of the Alpine for sale today, therefore making it one of the rarest cars in the UK. I’m pretty sure that once upon a time, the Alpine would have been a common sight in the country. OK, so not as popular as the Cortina or Cavalier, but common all the same. Then, they seemed to disappear overnight. Maybe quite literally, with rust reducing the car to dust by the time the milkman did his rounds the next day.
Today, footage of the car is rare, other than this timeless advertisement from the past. Look out for rare footage of the Cheeky Girls before they were famous, as well as a cameo appearance from J.R. Hartley and his dog.
Edit, October 2019: sadly, the television advert has long since disappeared from YouTube. Main image © Hagerty.