Words: Mike Ryan
Photos: MV Agusta and Renault
Collaborations between motorcycle manufacturers and car companies aren’t completely unheard of, but they’re rare enough to attract attention when they do. Such was the case when a collaboration between MV Agusta and Alpine was announced last December.
According to MV Agusta, the collaboration draws on the common passion of both MV Agusta’s and Alpine’s customers for “breathtaking design and beautifully engineered products”.
Timur Sardarov, CEO of MV Agusta, added that many Alpine customers are also big MV Agusta fans, and vice-versa, so something that combines the two would “bring the two worlds together”.
Beyond being premium brands, both MV Agusta and Alpine share a long and successful history in racing, so a union between the two made even more sense.
The result of that union is a limited-edition version of MV Agusta’s Superveloce 800 that takes the three-cylinder supersport bike and gives it a stylish new look that was inspired by Alpine’s reborn A110 sports coupe.
MV Agusta should need no introduction to the JUST BIKES audience, but it’s likely many of you haven’t come across Alpine before. Not a huge surprise, as Alpine has always been something of a niche brand, even at the height of its popularity in the 1960s and ’70s, and even moreso here in Australia.
Alpine (pronounced ‘al-peen’) was founded by French garage owner, Jean Rédélé in 1955. Rédélé had made a name for himself tuning Renault’s compact, rear-engined 4CV model for rallying, achieving some success with it in the early 1950s, including an outright win in the 1954 Alpine Rally that inspired his company’s name.
What started as simple mechanical tweaks soon became more complex, including comprehensive engine upgrades and gearbox transplants. The Frenchman next turned to create lightweight fibreglass bodies to sit over the Renault running gear. In this form, the first Alpine car – the A106 – was released in 1955.
Competition was the sole focus initially, with virtually all of Rédélé’s customers buying their A106 to go racing. Expanding Alpine’s market to road cars would follow soon after, along with a new model, the A108, in 1958.
What would become the signature Alpine model, the A110, arrived in 1962. It was still a race-focussed, high-performance, fiberglass-bodied rear-engined sports coupe, but the A110 had a few more creature comforts compared to the earlier models.
By the late 1960s, the A110 was going from strength to strength, with Rédélé’s ties with Renault seeing Alpine cars being sold and serviced through Renault dealerships. To meet demand, a new factory was built at Alpine’s HQ in Dieppe, with assembly operations springing up throughout Europe and even as far afield as Brazil.
The high point for Alpine came in 1973 when an A110 won the inaugural World Rally Championship, but hard times followed with the first Arab oil embargo, leading Renault to purchase Alpine soon after.
With the financial security of Renault behind them, Alpine expanded their competition operations into sportscars and open wheelers. The former was successful, with an outright win at the Le Mans 24 Hour Race in 1978, but the latter wasn’t, at least not initially. In the cut-throat world of Formula 1, Renault struggled and even left the sport for a few years in the 1980s. In the 1990s, Renault returned as an engine supplier, delivering world championships for the Williams and Benetton F1 teams, but wouldn’t win a championship under its own name as a constructor until 2005.
In the meantime, the A110 had evolved into the A310, GTA and A610, but none of these successors managed to capture the hearts of enthusiasts like the A110 had. A dwindling market saw production of Alpine-badged road cars come to an end in 1995 and the Dieppe factory turned over to manufacturing regular Renault cars.
The allure of the Alpine brand, and the A110 in particular, meant a revival always on the cards, but it wasn't until 2012 that an Alpine revival was made official when Renault presented the ‘Renault Alpine A110-50’ concept.
Marking 50 years since the original A110’s debut, the concept also previewed elements of the production car that would follow, but a messy collaboration with Caterham delayed the release of the all-new A110 until 2017.
With clear styling links to the original, the new A110 would inspire the MV Agusta Superveloce Alpine that was announced in December.
Italian Body. . .
At its heart, the MV Agusta Superveloce Alpine is almost unchanged from the current Superveloce 800. The “almost” is due to the 2021 version of the Superveloce 800’s 798cc three-cylinder engine being modified to meet Euro5 emissions rules. Using an upgraded engine management system that’s also been fitted to the latest Brutale 1000 RR, MV Agusta's technicians managed to meet the Euro5 standards at the expense of a single unit of horsepower – 147hp, instead of 148hp. That still translates to a listed 108kW at 13,000rpm and 88Nm at 10,600rpm, along with blistering acceleration and a 240km/h top speed.
The steel trellis frame and aluminium swingarm, along with the slipper clutch and up-and-down quickshifter for the six-speed gearbox are all standard Superveloce 800 features that are unchanged for the Alpine version.
Other elements carrying over include 43mm Marzocchi forks with full adjustability and a Sachs monoshock offering the same. A pair of 320mm floating front brake discs are gripped by Brembo radial monobloc 4-piston calipers, with a 2-piston Brembo caliper on the 220mm rear disc. ABS is standard and includes a special ‘race mode’ that’s part of an electronics package that includes launch control and traction control with eight levels of intervention, cruise control, Bluetooth, GPS and enhanced functions via the MV Ride App.
The 17-inch alloy wheels carry over from the standard Superveloce 800 but are given a special finish, in line with the rest of this model’s cosmetic makeover to create the Alpine limited edition.
. . . in a French Suit
While it carries Alpine badging, the look and finish of the Superveloce Alpine was just as much a product of MV Agusta’s Monaco Design Studio as it was of Alpine’s styling team.
Reflecting the collaboration, stylized Italian and French flags grace the front mudguard.
Working with their counterparts at Alpine, Monaco Design Studio took the Superveloce 800 base and added distinctive touches like the machined detailing on the alloy wheels, Alcantara seat with blue contrast stitching, carbon fibre trim parts and an Alpine-branded tank strap and filler cap.
The blue paint the Superveloce Alpine wears is said to be identical to the ‘Alpine Blue’ of the modern A110 and is complemented with ‘Ago Silver’ and a matte Avio Grey finish on the trellis frame.
Finishing touches include Alpine’s ‘A’ badge on the fairing and an individually numbered plaque on the top fork yoke.
Here and Gone
When MV Agusta and Renault jointly announced the Superveloce Alpine project on 10 December, they said the special edition would be limited to 110 units globally, with pricing of 36,300 Euro (around AU$57,000 direct conversion), which is a substantial premium over the regular Superveloce 800 that starts at $33,990 locally.
As well as exclusivity, that price did include the Superveloce’s optional race kit as standard. As fitted in the images pictured, the kit adds features like dedicated engine maps, a three-exit exhaust system with Arrow mufflers, carbon fibre rear mudguard, the Serie Oro special fuel cap and tank strap, rear seat cover and an anti-theft tracking system.
In announcing the Superveloce Alpine, MV Agusta’s Sardarov said: “We are confident that this new, superb limited edition will be met with enthusiasm by bikers and motorsport fans around the world.”
His confidence proved well-founded, as despite the premium pricetag, the entire allocation of 110 units sold out within hours of its launch.
Will the MV Agusta Superveloce Alpine be more memorable than MV’s last auto-themed collaboration – the F3 800 ‘Solarbeam’ concept created with Mercedes-AMG? It’s certainly more attractive, but only time will tell if this French-flavoured Italian becomes a modern classic.