The time had come. The car was as finished as I could make it right then and we had booked to go to the big Alpine & Renault Show at Brustem in Belgium. I had cut the front to replicate the 4-cylinder front of the original car, couldn't find any of the correct Cibie auxiliary lights, so bought alternatives and it all looked quite effective. But the car had not really been anywhere in over a year, so the first step was its roadworthiness certificate. I was apprehensive at the test centre. A crowd gathered to take a look at this strange vehicle. The tester could find nothing wrong and a fresh certificate was issued. Phew!
I used the car for a couple of days to give it a 'shake-down' and nothing fell off, nothing broke and all the components functioned as they should. So loaded up, we went to Brustem. This would be a real test as no-one had seen the car and although many people were waiting for a look, I remained nervous as I had no idea of the reception we would receive. All I can say now, after the event is...WOW!!! There must have been at least half-a-dozen people around the car at any one time, all vying for the best position to take photographs. Even when Alison and I walked back to the car to sit in and rest, it felt like being in a fishbowl. I have no idea of the number of pics taken of the car, but it must have been thousands. The event itself was interesting and we had a good time meeting old friends, making new ones and talking Alpine for a whole weekend. And at the end of the event, the car won "Best Car at Show" which was a huge surprise as there were around 600 Renaults and Alpines there over the weekend.
There were so many appreciative comments from visitors, other Alpine/Renault owners and stand holders that I was convinced that the car looked as it should. Some people thought it was the original and had been in Dieppe last year! All in all a good event and I have to say that the car drove superbly, didn't miss a beat all weekend and got us back in one piece.
All of which serves to strengthen my confidence in the car - because the next trip was 1200km to our house in France. We had planned to visit, en route, Bernard Decure in Rouen, Jacky Cauchy a little further on and Le Mans to at least see the circuit. As it turned out, Jacky Cauchy was on holiday, we hadn't got Bernard's telephone number to arrange time and place, and there was a Peugeot meeting at Le Mans (on the Bugatti Circuit), so it all went a bit pear-shaped. But at least we visited the excellent Le Mans museum and drove through part of the 24-Hours circuit. In the rain and with heavy traffic, we drove the Mulsanne Straight, Mulsanne Corner, Indianapolis, Arnage and back. Poisson Dieppois had in some respect, come home! The car was back, even if only in replica form but somewhere inside, we had a feeling of completion.
Bernard, et al managed 137 laps in race conditions. We succeeded in driving part of the circuit in 20 minutes. That didn't matter a bit. The replica had driven the same road as the original and it felt special to do that. Like walking in the footsteps of a famous person, to us it was exactly the same. We hope to meet Bernard with the car and listen more to his experiences, his hopes and his acceptance of things that might have been.
And so we drove the remainder of our journey home without thinking about failure or whether or not the car would make it. Of course it would. And of course, it did. It will now stay in France with my ex-DeLorean A310. Two special cars in my garage. What a privilege.
But neither car will retire. They will be and are, used regularly.
Poisson Dieppois was to appear at Val De Vienne circuit to attend the 16th Annual meeting of AGC 86, our French Alpine club. This time, it would be at a race circuit and the car would take to the circuit for the first time since the build.
In normal road driving, the car feels sure-footed, as if hewn from the solid. I'm convinced the large rear wing plays a big part in the stability. Now it could be tested properly. At race speed.
For the bottom two pics, I have added a pic of the original car (right) as a reference, as both pics were taken from almost exactly the same angle. Apart from the different colour caste, the results are good. The car again proved itself as a stable, well-handling car. As the engine is somewhat worn, the next job in France is to rebuild the motor and maybe add a few horsepower more. And fit centre-lock wheels. Just to finish it off. Well, you have to, don't you?
I hope you have enjoyed following the car's progress over a year and a bit. I have built the first Poisson Dieppois replica and it has sparked others to do the same, including scale models, Scalextric bodyshells etc. Soon I will have a book available plotting the course of the original car's life and showing my replica build. Details will be on this website quite soon. Cheers! Click on the buttons (below left) to see the car in action on YouTube. If you can't open the links, please let me know. Note: The first part of both videos is the same - but keep watching!