The Chrysler Alpine arrived in the UK with fanfare of heavy publicity in the spring of 1976, with the promise of being the car hoped to save Chrysler, who was best known for filling up the news columns with strikes and financial woes.
The start of the cars life was unsettled too, the first Alpines (which were badged as Simca’s in their native country) were French-built but the announcement that production would be shifted to the UK didn’t bode well for relations within the organisation.
Despite this, British styled car actually was well-received initially, buoyed by a European Car of the Year award and good test reports. Sales started well enough, and doubled in 1977 but only just in the top ten best-sellers. Mechanically based on the well-regarded Simca 1100, it used proven mechanics and was packaged in a modern 5-door hatchback, distinguished by its large deformable bumpers.
It was comfortable with a large boot, offering balanced handling and ride-to-suit. The honeymoon period was largely trouble-free with the odd niggling faults but within two years, noticeable issues were starting to tarnish the allure of the car.
Picking up a reputation for prematurely worn brakes and exhausts, followed by paint blisters caused by rust and the eventual ‘Simca death rattle’, which made them sound worse than they actually were.
The fleet market tended to stay away from them too due to the perceived added costs of spares and servicing despite their eventual UK production, but the main reason for the problem for the Alpine was due to the spectre of failure of a company that might collapse at any moment.
Even when Peugeot stepped up in 1978, the confidence in the brand was not restored. Apathy and a lack of image consigned most to the crusher by the ’80s and the car remains unlamented to this day. It’s thought that survivors are in the (low) single figures today and while it has a certain Gallic charm, it never captured the public imagination and has suffered from that ever since.