We are all familiar I’m sure, with the fabulous A110 - featuring drop dead gorgeous looks and drop dead pricing too now, with run of the mill examples (somewhat depressingly) regularly clearing the £50,000 barrier or higher.
So, as we wave goodbye to yet another once-affordable classic, consider the virtues of its younger brother, the much underrated A310. Tiny, light (980kg) and sharp as a tack, this sleeping beauty offers hassle free fiberglass bodywork bonded to a rally-bred chassis, a rear-engined 2.6 litre V6 and an interior that makes a S1 Esprit look like something out of an old people’s home. Drawbacks? There are none. There’s even room for a couple of kids in the back, provided they’re no older than about six (months).
Our hunch therefore is that prices for these diminutive French missiles won’t be earth bound for too much longer - and they’re probably more reliable than Trident too.
If you’ve never really considered an A310 before, here’s a brief overview:
Launched at Geneva in 1971 initially with a four-cylinder engine and six front lights (surely that’s the wrong way around?), by 1976 Renault had seen the error of its ways and the A310 was restyled by Robert Opron and fitted with the newly developed, more powerful 90-degree 2,664cc V6 PRV engine. With 150bhp and a major soundtrack, the A310 had plenty of appeal - especially for anyone keen to experience the unique thrill of travelling at nearly 140mph a few inches off the ground in a plastic box.
The low driving position accentuated the sporting credentials of the V6 update, which also received a black rear spoiler, useful for keeping the tail planted at high speed. In 1977 Guy Fréquelin duly won the French Rally Championship in an A310 and most importantly, if you want to attempt to recreate Guys heroics and go classic rallying yourself, then you’ll need to start with a car that pre-dates 1982 for Category C competition.
This being a 1980 car you could certainly go down that route if you so desired, but if it were us we’d be looking for a much rougher example than this one.
The basis of the A310 is a hefty tubular steel backbone chassis clothed in a fibreglass shell, which as per the previous A110 was molded in a single piece. The body is bonded to the chassis which can cause issues with water getting in where it’s not wanted and rotting the chassis from the inside out. Happily, in the case of PGF 258Y the current owner has had the chassis separated from the car, expertly repaired, protected and then replaced. This isn’t a job for the faint-hearted, so it’s reassuring that the new owner won’t have to worry about it – ever – if the car is looked after from now on.
Unfortunately, the original engine was missing when the car was acquired, so the opportunity was taken to source, fully restore and install the slightly later 2,849cc V6 as fitted to the Alpine GTA that followed the A310. This unit develops an extra few horses at 160bhp, but it’s also worth noting that a small number of ‘Pack GT Boulogne’ A310s (27 to be precise) were fitted with this engine in 1982, and in these cases the bored out V6 was further modified by Alpine and fitted with triple Weber 42DCNF carburetors. The resultant 190bhp represents the best part of a 30% increase on the standard V6, and further work to match this output would be relatively straightforward here, as the correct base unit is already installed in the car.
As can be seen from the photo gallery, the paintwork (which we believe to be the original), is perfectly presentable, although up close various imperfections can be found, as one might expect with any 40 year old. Crucially, the shell is completely free of cracking, crazing or star bursts and all the opening panels demonstrate excellent shut lines for a fibreglass car – testament to a notoriously laborious original build process.
Cosmetically the car could be happily used and enjoyed just as it then, safe in the knowledge that any chips or scratches aren’t going to develop into rust patches and the car certainly won’t deteriorate from here even if left outside. Alternatively, a full respray could be justified to bring the car up to tip-top condition visually.
All the light lenses are correct, free of chips and clouding, while the glasswear is generally good with the exception of the windscreen which has a crack (as shown on the photos). A new screen is on order and will come with the car. The process of replacing it will offer the perfect opportunity to sort out the somewhat messy seal and the required re-trimming of the dash top of course.
The desirable and rare original Gotti split rims are in good condition and are fitted with fresh Yokohama rubber all round. Suspension and brakes have all been gone through recently, during which process the car was fitted with new adjustable shocks.
Whilst waiting for the rebuild work to be completed on the replacement V6, the current owner took the opportunity to smarten up the engine bay, which now boasts bespoke new aluminium trim and overall looks commendably clean and tidy. The front ‘luggage department’ presents similarly well, with the petrol tank looking to be in fine shape whilst graciously even allowing room for a couple of bags of shopping – although to be fair these would be sitting in the space normally reserved for the spare wheel, which is currently missing. One to add to the ‘to do’ list – or perhaps better still, follow the modern trend for an aerosol of tyre gunk.
Inside the car some trim panels and pieces of carpet are currently missing (although they do come with the car) and overall, there is clearly significant work to be done here to bring the cabin back to its original, formidable best. The rear seats and surrounds are not bad at all and arguably just need a good clean, but the front seats, door cards, carpeting and dashboard all require attention.
For those who can see past first impressions however, a complete re-trim would be a relatively an easy, cheap, and above all hugely satisfying process. Many A310 parts are available via either Mecca Parts in France or Simon Autos in Germany but our advice would be to give this job to a skilled trimmer who could work his way through the cabin using what’s available here as patterns and templates.
On our test drive the car pulled strongly and sounded fantastic through its Devil exhaust system. All the gears engage smoothly and cleanly and the car steers and pulls up just as it should. We did notice some knocking from the rear over bumps which the current owner believes to be due further adjustment being required to the new shock absorbers.
All the electrics work as they should, as do the dials, with the exception of the rev counter which currently reads about 1,000 rpm higher than it should – the car apparently idling at 2,000rpm when it is clearly just ticking over correctly.
In summary then, this is a rare car built to an exotic specification with looks to match that are just coming into their own. With prices already starting to mimic those of the A110, this younger model, with the benefit of a couple of extra cylinders and more power, is looking like a smart buy right now. Mechanically very well sorted, PGF 258Y offers an enthusiast the opportunity for cosmetic improvement with all the hard and messy work already done. We struggle to see how a complete re-trim (and the fitting of the new ’screen) could possibly cost more than £3,000-£5,000 and then really, you’re good to go.
With only one other A310 currently for sale in the UK - at £27,000 - for that money the next owner could potentially buy this example and still have about £12,000 left in the kitty to spend on improvements. Where else are you going to find these looks combined with funky ‘70’s French interior design and Porsche-nobbling performance for this sort of money?!
Registration Number: PGF 258Y
Chassis Number: A31047253
Engine Number: F0011009
Please note: The chassis number confirms this as a 1980 car which was originally sold in France. On 20th May 1983 the car was imported into the UK, which is why it carries a number plate with a 1983 ‘Y’ suffix.