Video : Thames TV on the Chrysler Alpine

The Thames TV ‘Drive In’ programme reviews the Chrysler Alpine in 1976, and comes up with some interesting conclusions, treating it as an imported car.

Enjoy this retrospective about this British-designed and assembled car, and then take some time to delve into Thames TV’s treasure chest

1976: the year of the Alpine

The Chrysler Alpine development story is one of the more popular in-depth pages on AROnline. Given the car wasn’t exactly a resounding success here, despite modern styling and engineering, a good dealer network to call upon and a reputation for great fuel consumption, far too many company car drivers stuck to their Ford Cortinas.

Perhaps it wasn’t a car to excite or engage in quite the same way as Ford’s or Vauxhall’s offerings at the time. Judging by the lack of enthusiasm from Thames TV’s reviewer, Peter Hughes, in the programme Drive In this was a very common phenomenon in 1976. However, given its hatchback layout, roomy interior and front-wheel drive packaging, it really should have met warmer reception than it did.

Perhaps had it emerged from the design process as the car that the British, rather than French arm, of Chysler Europe wanted, it may have sold more. Unfamiliar with that? Read the Chrysler Alpine development story to find out how it could have been based on the Chrysler Avenger estate, and been stubbornly rear-wheel drive.

More on Thames TV’s Drive In programme

While we’re here, we should spare a moment for the Drive In programme, which broadcast between 1971 and 1977 and carried car reviews and other motoring stories. Presented by Shaw Taylor (above) and fronted by contemporary journalists including Autocar‘s Chris Goffey, Richard Hudson Evans and Tony Bastable among others, it’s very much an old-school way of showing cars on TV.

The good news is that Thames TV’s YouTube channel is now releasing reviews and reports from the programme, and you can catch up with these in the playlist below. When Drive In went off air in 1979, it was replaced by the shortlived Wheels programme – but, in reality, it was superseded by that young upstart from Birmingham, Top Gear.

Enjoy the videos…


Keith Adams


  1. The Alpine wasn’t a bad little motor for the money, it was roomy, fairly practical and managed most tasks with ease.

    • Had it been better rustproofed and had a better range of engines, it could have really hurt Ford. On paper, the Alpine was a very good car, it looked stylish, the boot was massive, it had a really good ride, was economical in fuel, and the GLS models had electric windows and headlamp washers. Just imagine if the Alpine was a well made car that people wanted to buy in 1976, it could have been a huge success.

  2. There are some gems on that channel. I just watched a test on the Lotus Elite. The main criticism was that it cost £6,000.

    If only I could go back in time, I’d buy 7 – one for every day of the week – instead of my one Discovery Sport.

  3. For it’s time I thought that the Alpine was pretty looked quite stylish,the only thing that dates it was the white bumpers, it should have sold far more than it actually did

    • Agree about the white bumpers. They tended to look dirty very quick – better if they were colour coded but that trend hadn’t actually started in ’76. Chrysler pioneered the style of having steel wheels painted in off white rather than silver…

  4. I worked very near a Chrysler dealer at the time the Alpine was released and I was able to have a close look at them back then. Inside and out, it definitely looked more modern than many of its contemporaries, but there was also something very flimsy and lightweight about it which would’ve put me off buying one if I’d been able to afford it at the time.

  5. A fascinating film clip, it’s amazing how different motoring programmes were back then.

    And indeed car magazines, can you imagine an Autocar road test of a family car going under the bonnet and evaluating accessibility of the major components now!

  6. We Brits might have been a bit sniffy about these cars but Johnny Foreigner certainly seemed to know a good thing when he saw one. We travelled to Belgium and NL quite a lot in the late ‘70s and their roads were full of Chrysler Alpines / Simca 1307/8s and of course Simca 1100s. The only BL cars I remember seeing in any sort of quantity were Minis.

  7. The Chrysler badge in America was always associated with the most upmarket and desirable of the Chrysler Corporation’s cars, and Alpine was a name associated with Rootes sports cars, so the Alpine could have been promoted both ways. Engines and poor rustproofing aside, the Chrysler Alpine is a very upmarket and modern looking car for 1976, certainly far more modern than the Hillman Hunter it mostly replaced, and few cars in its class were as comfortable or rode as well. I’d imagine had the Alpine been fitted with the engines from the Chrysler 180/ 2 Litre, it could have become a very good car.

  8. I wanted my dad to get an Alpine until I had a go in one. The engine sounded like a bag of nails compared to the A series in our Marina, the handling was laughable in the wet as the over-riding sensation was terminal understeer and a close look at the scenery, coupled with a very basic and plain interior and it had negligible rust proofing or sound proofing. Oh, and a gear change that reminded me of a Maxi. It should have been a great car, but it wasn’t.
    If BL had made it as a Marina replacement it would have sold by the bucketload, with an A series for the base model and a B or O series for the faster models plus a decent interior….
    Yes, it looked good, yes it was practical and yes it had loads of room inside, but the build quality was utterly dire and it rusted faster than the most basic Fiesta Popular. The interior might have satisfied French buyers but I found it incredibly stark and plain.
    Another great example of a car that might have been.

  9. Dad replaced his 1972 Avenger estate with a burgundy 1979 Alpine in 1982. He kept it for the rest of the 80’s. I was 11 when he got it & remember it was very comfortable. Then he replaced it with a Montego.

  10. The Alpine wasn’t particular cheap when it was launched, the base model was priced considerably above its British rivals, and was promoted as some kind of upmarket, futuristic hatchhback. Had it been built like a BMW and been fitted with far better engines, the Alpine could have been considered a worthy alternative to upmarket Cortinas and Cavaliers. Yet the poor Simca engines, poor rustproofing and high prices kept buyers away, and in the Talbot era, when it received a light restyle and a five speed transmission that considerably reduced engine noise, the poor old Alpine became a bargain alternative to a Peugeot 305 or Citroen BX and was kept alive with price cuts and increases in equipment levels.

  11. I imagine after Avenger prduction ended 1981 some fleet buyers with existing contracts would have switched to the Alpine & Solara.

    Certainly I remember a fair amount around in the 1980s before rust killed them off.

    • The Alpine and Solara came good after 1981 as rust protection was improved and a Peugeot five speed gearbox was far less rubbery than the Chrysler one and cut down on engine noise considerably. Also the cars decent economy, value for money and huge boots would have won over some fleet managers.

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