The Willys Overland Interlagos was the first sports car to be built in Brazil, produce locally under license, the using the Renault Alpine A108. The A108 was developed and built by the independent French carmaker Jean Rédélé in 1956, based on the Renault Dauphine platform, but with a special steel backbone type chassis. The Renault Dauphine cars had been produced in Brazil since 1959 by WOB and all the mechanical components were available. Demand was so high that by the end of 1962, 131 cars inspired in the A108 were produced.
Since we first introduced you to the Interlagos back in RN #89, I have tried to learn more about these models, without much luck. Since then I have been introduced a few more of these unique cars. The first was after the original story was released. I was contacted by Club Member, Neal Brown. Neal lives in Oregon and has an original Interlagos. For some reason a previous owner had painted it pink. After hearing from Neal, I kind of put the Willys Interlagos aside for a while. Then one day my good friend Jonathan Burnette received a call about an A108 in California.
The car is a 1962 model. Believe it or not it was imported to the US when it was new. As it turns out it was imported by either a sports car dealership or an avid collector of French cars. At the time it didn’t matter how much money you had it took months if not a year to buy a French Alpine. So quite possibly it would have been easier to get the Willy’s. It was sold new in 1963 in San Francisco. It has 1963 California tags. Starting in 1964 California stopped stamping the year in the plates and started using stickers. The front tag on the car is stamped 1963 and the rear has at least twenty stickers. It was acquired in the 1970s by Lawrence Ford of Southern California.
Lawrence died several years ago and Jonathan met his son Kim Ford. Kim had the Alpine as well as a trailer full of parts that had belonged to Lawrence. Last winter Jonathan travelled to California to meet Kim and he worked out a deal to buy the Alpine along with the trailer and parts. He returned to Texas with the Alpine. After some research we determined that car was built in late 1962 it was the 24th Berlienette built and amazingly it was the only the second car to receive the 998cc engine at least according to the serial numbers.
Jonathan went to work on the car in the spring of 2011, and believe it or not, it passed Texas state inspection and is now licensed. He drove the car around Austin working out the bugs. Jonathan says the car does have the handling characteristics of a Dauphine, but the performance is much improved. The interior is superior to other Alpines of this era, as it has a very nice leather interior. Also the six volt Brazilian Bosch electrical work is much better than the US and European from the same era.
Other than a paint job, sometime before the Ford family purchased the car is nearly all original. The car was involved in a light collision and repaired, we think this is when the car was painted as the factory paint was more of a red color, as compared with the current Salmon hue.
Once word spread Jonathan had the car running, we heard from many collectors interested in purchasing the car. Being that Jonathan doesn’t do body work and especially fiberglass, the decision was made not to continue with the restoration. Happily the car has returned to California as Club Member, Shin Yoshikawa, is the new owner.
Editor’s Note: Marvin McFalls is the President of the Renault Owners Club of North America. He can be contacted by e-mail at: firstname.lastname@example.org