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The French film daredevil and star of 'Breathless' was known for his action hero adventures; but it's less well known that Jean-Paul Belmondo also loved cars. No wonder he looks so pleased to be slipping into the driver's seat of a Renault Alpine A220...

An article for the French magazine 'Paris Match' brought together two of the nation's heroes: the photographer Philippe le Tellier and Jean-Paul Belmondo who, in the course of his acting life, would appear in some 85 films. The article gave the movie star and self-confessed car enthusiast the chance to taste the thrill of driving the prototype Alpine A220 which – with its 3.0-litre V8 Gordini engine – was set to uphold national honour in the 1968 Le Mans 24 Hours. Yet, in the end, only one of the four A220s survived to reach the finish line of the great French race. Unlike his American alter ego Steve McQueen, Jean-Paul Belmondo never actually raced, leaving that to his son Paul, who drove in Formula 1 in the 1990s. But among the treasures in his garage were a Ferrari 250 GT Cabriolet, a Maserati Ghibli and even a Morgan 4/4. On Bebel's wrist (as the French affectionately nicknamed their action hero) was always a Rolex Daytona (recently sold at auction in Geneva). But what particularly impressed us was that, for his Alpine A220 experience, the star chose to wear not jeans and a leather jacket, but the outfit of a rather stylish gentleman with petrol in his blood.

Eric Killorin

Sat Nov 30 2013 20:58:24 GMT+0000 (Coordinated Universal Time)

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