HISTORY

Morocco Rally 1974
08.05.1974 – 13.05.1974


Photo © Gilles Vallerian

ALPINE and RENAULT victorious in the desert

The Morocco rally was an integral part of the World Rally Championship in 1973, 1975 & 1976. 4 days over nearly 4,000km distance, 11 special stages over 1,400km – 1,240km of which on gravel. In 1974, Alpine Renault brought two 1800ccm alpine`s, especially prepared for the challenge in the desert and 2 R17 to the start in Morocco.

The small berlinettes with the registration plates 2004HS76 and 2005HS76 were piloted by Jean Pierre Nicolas and Bernard Darniche, the two R17 by Jean Luc Therier and Jean-François Piot.
World Championship points did not concern Alpine that year after having won the series the year before, but they were very much concerned with the prestige events of the world and those which would bring greatest publicity.



The infamous "Transmaroccaine"

The „MAROC“ was a legendary and incomparable rally - only a "SAFARI" presented similar challenges to drivers, material and logistics. Special stages with extreme length were characteristic for the Morocco rally. The infamous "Transmaroccaine" even went on for more than 600km and made two refuelling stops necessary. The route was extremely tough on the material - unpaved dirt roads, bone dry gravel roads, river and endless desert crossings required almost superhuman abilities by the participants and their vehicles.

Photo © Editions Mauriche Louche

Special Equipment Required

The tire manufacturer Michelin had designed new gravel tires of the type RC1 specifically for the Maroc. CB radio on board was compulsory as was armouring of the subfloor with protectors made of steel, aluminium and fiberglass. Of the two Alpines, that of Bernard Darniche and Alain Mahe retired in the first of four legs with a broken gearbox, and of the two R17s of Jean-Francois Piot and Jean de Alexandris retired in the third leg with suspension failure after having been in first place for a while.



The Stage of Truth

3rd special stage, 880km

The small berlinette driven by Nicolas / Delferrier reached the town Tansikht after almost 4 days of murderous and adventurous trips across slopes, which was also the starting point for the next special stage over 240km to Rissani. At 2 o`clock at night they already went on the slopes on the Col du Tischka, situated 2,260m above sea level on the way to Marrakech.

The air was cold and became thinner with increasing altitude – Nicolas reported by radio decreasing engine performance and increased engine water temperature, which caused concern among the mechanics. The day before in Tata everything was fine, but now the alpine mechanics did not understand the world anymore. Arriving at the service point, the warning light for the water temperature glowed fiery red and the Jaeger instrument signalled even 130 ° C water temperature – the cylinder head, however, did not show any signs of overheating.

Against all warnings, Nicolas was sent back in the rally. Soon he gave the relieving clear over radio: "do not worry, the water temperature gauge does not work correctly".

Jean Pierre Nicolas was well prepared by the experience he had gained in the East African Safari Rally in 1973. He went on to win the 1974 Maroc Rally with 22 minutes ahead of his team-mate Therier in the R17.

Renault and Alpine took the top 5 places in the overall standings. However, it should be mentioned that a combination of several circumstances resulted in a drastic reduction in the quality of the entry for the 1975th Morocco Rally. Normally well supported by the French manufacturers, the event only attracted Alpine-Renault this time, the Dieppe-based team running away with victory without too much effort.

Photos © Coco Prie
Photos © Le Tahitien
Photo © Le Tahitien

In the competition department "Service Courses" the works cars were prepared for tough rally use. In the foreground, from left to right, the 2004HS76 & 2005HS76 can be seen during service work before the Morocco Rally 1974.

Photo © Editions Mauriche Louche
Photo © Gilles Vallerian
Photo © Christian Descombes

HISTORY

East African Safari Rally 1975
03/27/1975 – 03/21/1975


Photos © McKlein

Queen of Rallies

The 1953 premiere of the East African Safari Rally was held in honour of the crowning of Queen Elizabeth the second and went, for the most part, through East Africa. Starting places varied with races sometimes starting in Kampala/Uganda or in Tanzania’s capital Daressalam with a full distance of mostly 6,000km. The Safari always was an event of national importance in Kenia and bordering countries and was set and present in both media and politics.

It attracted various important manufacturers with names such as Lancia, Peugeot, Datsun, Mitsubishi, Porsche and Alpine-Renault all fighting for victory in the 1975 edition of the prestigious Safari. Winning the Safari attracted masses of worldwide media attention and was subsequently high on the wish list of big marques.

Since Alpine-Renault had won the title the year before it wasn’t focussing on collecting championship points but was merely taking part in events like the Safari for achieving best possible publicity.

Calm before the storm

Nairobi, Conference Center, Thursday afternoon 4pm – 79 cars are presenting themselves under the starters flag in front of the eagerly waiting masses.
The atmosphere at the pre-start almost seemed relaxed and picturesque and no one could have guessed the debacle that both, Renault and ALPINE would have to endure. Having arrived at the rally with 2 A110 1800 works-cars and 2 R17, none of the French manufactures cars would eventually make it to the finish with Jean Luc Thérier and Michel Vial manning the A110 1800 200HS76, which had won the Morocco rally in 1974.

Nicolas unfogettably had endured a crash during training in Africa the year before, were hed had rammed a VW Bus and hurt himself quite badly, not to mention completely destroying his Berlinette. Subsequently, Nicolas was not able to withstand such a tough rally anymore and Jaques Cheinisse started looking for a local driver. He found one in the form of young Robert Combes, who, together with co-pilot Gerry Davies, was set to pilot the second works-car 2004HS76.

Both works Alpine, that should be said from the beginning on, would eventually not finish the challenge that is the Safari Rallye. Even the Peugeot 504 of Hannu Mikkola/Jean Todt, which was a firm candidate for the win and is pictured here next to the Berlinette of Thérier and Vidal, crashed heavily and did not make it.

After the crash of both Berlinettes, Jean Francois Piot driving his R17 seemed set to be the one achieving a relevant result for Renault but also ended up crashing while holding 4th place.

Massive steel front protectors and rear underside protection made of fiberglass should protect the alpines from major damage. Bernard Darniche / Alain Mahè in the 2004HS76 are passing this water crossing on gravel ground with maximum speed. Still, Combes managed to hit a tree stomp near Kitui at full speed and all the protection was not able to withstand the massive forces, causing massive damage to the front suspension. He lost 50 minutes upon reaching Kitui and a further 56 minutes until the Service Point Kibwesi, where the damage was finally repaired.
The final retirement then came shortly before Mombasa, where, just like with Thérier, the fine sand was the culprit, this time forcing its way into the clutch.
At the end of the rallye, only 17 of the 79 participants had made it to the finish line.

„Safari“ specifications

Part of the special equipment for works Safari prepared Berlinettes was, among others, the footstep and its handlebars at the rear. This was used in muddy terrain, where the co-pilot was able to provide more traction at the rear by stepping onto it. Also worth noting is the special air filter on the left rear arch, which made it possible to also draw fresh air from within the cockpit itself.

Photo © McKlein
Photo © McKlein
A typical feature of Safari cars was the obligatory searchlight, which had to be present on all participating cars. The roof antenna is proof of the installed CB-radio equipment, which was simply a necessity to not get lost in Africa’s Savannahs.
Next to the two works Alpines, a few more of the charismatic French cars took part in the rally. The French team Bob Neyret/Jaques Terramorsi took part in their ex-works car and so did Willem van Dyk in his private A110. Last but not least, the private driver and “Wildlife Sculptor” Robert “Rob” Glen participated in his newly bought A110 1800, which had been works-prepared specifically for the Safari.
Photo © McKlein
From todays point of view this scene seems almost unbelievable – Wearing shorts, an open shirt and loose shoes, Michael Vial can be seen sprinting back to his car in front of various onlookers after timing control at a checkpoint.
Photo © Editions Mauriche Louche

rien ne va plus

Jean Luc Thérier can bee seen flying along in his works Berlinette seemingly not caring about the various locals watching the cars next to the sandy and dusty terrain. Water and Oil temperatures are both in the green giving no cause for concern. Still, they are driving on some of the dustiest sections in the whole rally and slowly but surely, things are getting worse. The engine is breathing dusty, red sand and starts to stutter and looses power ..., rien ne va plus!

Even with a special air filter system present in the car, this malicious substance still managed to reach the engine, causing the early retirement of Thérier and Vidal.

HISTORY

second life in finland

In january 1977 the former 2005HS76 found it`s new owner in finland. Timo Makela purchased the ex-works car with a small spare parts package directly from the factory. The rigors of a Morocco or Safari Rally were obviously no more visible. What`s waiting henceforth in finland on this particular ex-works berlinette, should be a real metamorphosis.




Metamorphosis

In the hands of its successive owners in the north of finland, the ex 2005HS76 has been modified uncompromising for rallycross or ice racing. Initially changed only moderately, at the end the car was hardly recognizable.
Special thanks to Jukka Suvisalmi for help and suppport researching the car history.

SAR

search & rescue

leaving france

Only a handfull of workscars left their home country France in the mid-1970`s, after they were no more competitive on the rally tracks anymore.
Private drivers of different nationalities and origin, took advantage in the mid-70`s and used discarded works-berlinette`s of the former "equipe tricolor" for their purposes. Whether on rally's, hillclimb, on race-track, autocross or even ice-racing, hardly no opportunity was left out to destroy these cars.
The fate of these vehicles was varied, but often it ended up in a true metamorphosis of this former factory rally cars and only a few remained the following years in original condition. Former workscars with significant history found their way to new owners around the globe. Whether Austria, Switzerland, behind the iron curtain to Hungary or Bulgaria, but also across the pond to the United States or Canada - but seldom more than one example was sold in the same country.
Finally Finnland was the final destination of the former victory car from the rally Morocco 1974, then piloted by Nicolas / Delferrier. The car carried the french registartion plate 2005HS76 and was prepared after the 1974 rally season for the heavy East African Safari Rally in 1975 by the factory. Thérier/Vial has driven the car in africa, but they retired with engine brakedown.

The challenge of a Safari Rally were at best a piece of a cake, compared to what the vehicle should now expect after it`s sale in 1976 to Finland.

Henceforth this particular A110 1800 was used in autocross and ice racing, which went hand in hand with substantial modifications on the car. The final blow was given to the vehicle from a unknown owner, most likely after the current owner in the 1980s. The vehicle was completely modified - the chassis with engine,transmission and suspension were removed and deprived of all attachments.



lost and found

This "kit car" found its way to Germany, where we first had contact with this berlinette. Because we already had a project in work, we took distance from the purchase of this surely interesting, but also extremely complex restoration. The vehicle was repeatedly offered for sale at this time and emigrated at that time probably also through the hands of several owners before we found it again in summer of 2014, by a lucky coincidence. Almost 10 years after our first meeting has passed and the car remained unchanged – no one had taken the recovery of this former works berlinette.

A lot of time passed during this time range and our assessment and also the importance to the restoration of such a project significantly changed. The decision for immediate purchase of the residual substance of 2005HS76 was only a matter of form. Admitted – only less remained of the original substance, after we had separated the kit car from the original. However, components and characteristics of the original vehicle still exist, which where clearly documented and justified a recovery of the vehicle.

Restoration

blood, sweat & tears



The perfectly original recreation of an ex-works rally car is both time-consuming and costly. A lot of the original parts will have inevitably been lost and finding and carefully adapting them to the vehicle can be a rather tedious process. Most parts do not simply fit and need hours and hours of careful reworking and adapting without necessarily revealing any noteworthy progress. Well, this is to be expected when restoring handmade French sports cars produced in limited numbers and not one of the prestige vehicles made in Stuttgart that will most probably not need quite as many hours for adapting parts during a restoration. At least this is what we are imagining after conducting these seemingly never ending tasks.

An important milestone is the painting of the bodywork and all its parts. In this state of restoration, most of these compulsory tasks will have been done already and all parts will have been proven to fit at least once to guarantee perfect fit and finish after the painting.

After having stripped the vehicle completely, the tedious and plainly annoying tasks of adapting parts should be well and truly behind us and the next step should most definitely show progress – the paintjob. Caution is needed here as well though and a perfect finish needs a lot detailing work beforehand. Panel clearances are screaming for reworking. Polished out edges and corners and lost light edges also want to be restored. How easy would the replacement of a Porsche 911 door or hood be compared to replacing them on an Alpine? No wonder then that the hours add up quickly here as well and that it can easily take up to 250 hours to prepare everything for painting.

Enough with the moaning though. We did choose it ourselves after all and since the car is now freshly painted, there is more than enough reason to be both happy and pleased.

We did finally finish the true to original paintjob and can now finally step into the great part of restoration. White gloves are being readied as we speak to attach the countless parts to the car, where they will find their final resting place.

We will report back on the restoration progress in due course.

back on track

Never say never

When we first crossed paths in 2005 it turned out to be just a brief encounter, nothing else. She looked pathetic, I was actually appalled by her appearance. Being so meticulous and a great supporter of originality, I could not understand at all how a car could be have been treated like that. It was not about patina, regular wear and tear of numerouous battles, it was about being neglected to an extent that was beyond believe.
I was not the only one who was scared to death taking on a resurrection that would cost not only a fortune but most all would take several years from a decent life. At that point in our life we had to pass.
Nine years later, we were stunned to see that same car at a car dealer site when randomly looking for some parts. The story is that she was transported from Finland to Germany, France and back to Germany, ending up a mere two hour drive from our place!
Although being passed to several owners, she did not change a bit since we first made her acquaintance.
The immediate reaction: This must be destiny, and in a blink of an eye the desicion was made to acquire her.





roll out with handicap

When the restauration finally came to the long awaited end, we decided to document the first roll out as a petrolicious video shoot. This was a bad idea, or may be not. It actually documented the day in a life of an enthusiast trying to cope with the attitude of a Berlinette that can have a life on her own. We ran into several technical issues which had to be resolved on the spot. Today we look at the pictures as evidence of how rewarding life can be when you demonstrate the dedication to create something spectacular.


Aristoteles was right

During the restauration we hit several roadblocks which would have others forced to surrender. Not with us. Assembling a Berlinette to its full glory requires an incredible commitment and is a strong proof point of Aristoteles claim that the whole is more that the sum of all its parts. The satisfaction to see all pieces come together to one amazing sports car is priceless.

one man standing

Without a doubt, she gave me a hard time. How often did I image the mechanics for whom working on these cars was their daily job back in the days. I felt bad for them going through all that grief getting everything to work properly. I give them all the credit for keeping up the passion, that driving force that created a legend. I started fully motivated, and I went through a lot of pain and frustration. The two and a half year nuts and bolt one man only restauration took its toll. But when the going gets tough the tough get going.





picture book

A110 1800 Gr. IV works "Marokko Rallye 1974" im Detail

Please click to enlarge
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