A French Connection

Extract from Great Cars - June 1995

One of the oddest things in life is that the best things can be found in the most unlikely places. It had been rumoured among the Great Cars staff that there was a certain car guru based in deepest Dorset, at East Lulworth, and that his cars has certain Gallic charm. Simon Priestly and Darren O’Sullivan went along to be tutored in Les Auto Françaises…

Alan Matthews looks a little French. Stocky and dark, he sits behind his desk in the showroom at the Eurotec garage in East Lulworth. The garage itself is innocuous enough. You’ll find it on a gentle bend on the approach to a typical Dorset village. Except that parked outside are Alpine GTA’s, a Dimma Renault Clio 16V, a fully rally prepped Williams Renault Clio and several rather well restored classic cars. Walk into the compact showroom and Monsieur Alan can be found at one end, surrounded by his wares, and incidentally, his loves. This man, chief Eurotec, is the sole concessionaire to the French Supercar – Venturi. He is also a main dealer for Alpine, and a Renault Sport supplier. Fight your way past a brace of Venturis, an Alpine 110, a mid engined Renault 5 Turbo, a Ducati Desmo superbike and a classic BSA – and meet Alan.

But why Venturi? And why Alpines and Renaults? Well, Alan is without doubt a dedicated fan of the Venturi marque – and that is reason enough for him to take part of his living from one of his life’s loves. The enthusiasm of the man is unstoppable; enough to carry even the most jaded petrol head away.

”There are loads of Porsches and Ferraris about” says Alan “but drive one of these and while everyone is aware it’s a special car, they have to know what it is”.

And, fear not, because he’ll tell you. While you look at the car, he’ll tell you of the Alpine V6 power, 200+ BHP (408 in the 24 valve GT and 600 in the Le Mans version!) and mention acceleration figures. After this, I had to admit, Porsches do seem tame…

Renault? This boils down to Alan’s early rallying days. “Everyone was using Escorts. I wanted to be different, and I’ve always liked the mid-engined ‘5 Turbo. It’s a quite fabulous rally car – much better than the Escort – and different”.

Well, the old Escort didn’t do too badly, but then the ‘5 never really had much of a chance before its Group was banned. And with homologation road cars like these at Alan’s place, it doesn’t take long before you feel this enthusiasm rubbing off. Then there is the Williams Clio innocently parked up outside, obviously not for nothing. Alan, it would seem, is still at it. He’s in a good position to do so – he’s the only man who runs a service supplying turning parts for preparing the Clio for rally purposes, and, in fact mails items worldwide. As for the ‘5 Turbo Homologation, Alan supplies parts for these too. To the French.

So we wander outside to snap a few shots of the immaculately restored MGB and TR4a, the two Clios, the ‘5 Turbo, the GTA’s and Alan appears. Quick as a flash, he’s opened the door of the rally Clio. His invitation to ‘hop in’ is accepted with hesitation; it is only when we are sliding sideways out of the forecourt that I wonder what on earth I am doing in a rally car of goodness knows how much horsepower, with a car nut on the wheel, without having made my will. Actually, this isn’t quite true. Sensibly, Alan drove quite sedately up the road; it was only when he turned right on to a side track, that all hell was let loose. A 90 degree bend approaches and one’s right food presses involuntarily into the passenger footwell and you start to pray that he, someone, anyone will BRAKE! But Alan carries on, simply squirting the car around the bend on the throttle and then pressing on even faster down the next straight. The true realisation of safe you actually are only comes when we approach a crossroads, and the car decelerates from 70mph to 15, crosses the junction, and zips back up to some rather naughty speeds. Driving into a small gravelled layby, Alan handbrakes the car around 180 degrees and we’re off back the same way we came. Pretty soon, we are warped back to the garage and the birds are singing again. Or, was it my deafened ears?

So, we come to the end of the tale of Uncle Alan and his box of French toys, Interested in Venturi? Or an Alpine? Or a sporting Renault? Are you a serious enquirer? Get in touch with Alan to arrange an appointment – you’ll come away with a grin, some enthusiasm and maybe a French supercar.

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Auto Passion: 14th Oct 2015 16:07:00

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