French and Therefore Better: 1984 Renault R5 Turbo 2 Rally Replica

Todd FitchBy Todd Fitch

Street-going versions of Rally cars typically amount to a stock car with a turbocharged motor, all-wheel-drive, and upgraded suspension. This one is a whole different story. Few if any rally versions differed more radically from their normal models than the Renault R5 Turbo and this street-going Turbo 2. Though not a factory racer, this Turbo 2 emulates the vintage rally cars with racing numbers and period sponsor advertising. Thanks to Nate G. who spotted this French firecracker offered here on Seattle, Washington Craigslist, it’s yours for the asking price of $47,500.

The normal R5 bodywork extends outwards only as far as the turn signal block, and only the Turbo featured the fender flares, wider track, and cooling ducts seen here. Americans may remember the R5 as the “Le Car.” Apparently Le Car owners had some other names for them that can’t be posted here. I drove a stock R5 LeCar in the ’80s. It accelerated as if towing a load of firewood (I kept checking that the parking brake was disengaged), and the rubbery shifter gladly wobbled in all directions no matter what gear I selected. The stock R5 features a typical front-engine, front-wheel-drive layout like most small cars since the debut of the original Austin Mini. For the R5 Turbo, Renault’s Alpine racing engineers, working with Italian design house Bertone, went “all in” and gained approval to move the engine from front to middle and (naturally) have it power the rear wheels (some details courtesy of en.renaultclassic.com).

After an earth-shattering debut at the 1978 Paris Motor Show, every automobile magazine on the planet featured the insanely modified R5 Turbo. While not synonomous with racing in America, Renault has a rich racing history including the world’s highest-technology racing series, Formula One. This one looks a little worse for wear, and Turbo-specific bits will be difficult to locate.

The listing and additional photos never show the engine (things that make you go Hmm), but they do confirm that this is a mid-engine R5 Turbo not simply a Le Car with flared fenders offered for sale with a boat-load of bravado. To be clear, someone has added the rally and sponsor decals just for fun. This car is listed as a Rally “Replica,” and Turbo 2 models were not race cars. They had fewer fancy racing parts and were all sold as street-going cars after the homologation R5 Turbos needed to qualify the racers (some details courtesy of Wikipedia). Still this car is perfect for anyone with an eye for quirky ’80s hot hatchbacks. Call now before Jay Leno buys it to park next to his Ford Festiva SHOgun. What do you think of this crazy slice of French bread?

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Comments

  1. Reid Hall

    Probably a good deal for the price ,although you will probably want to get a brand new wiring harness ,for street and or strip.All hard work is done here, easier convert for race car .Also may take big bucks for race car plans.

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  2. Ralph Terhune

    I remember working for a Pontiac dealership from ’82-’86 that used to sell Renault LeCars and Fuegos. Biggest pieces of junk I ever worked on. No mechanic or auto body technician at the dealer wanted to work on them. The dealer eventually gave up the franchise and we threw a party to celebrate!

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  3. JimmyJ

    I know nothing about French cars. But if I ever find a Renault that looks like that on the cheap I’d be on it like a fat kid on a smartie! I remember when these ruled rally racing back in the day when I only saw them in magazines.
    They look like an insane ride!

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  4. Jean - Pierre Audin

    I have never owned the mid-engined version of either the Le Car or the Festiva, but have owned 4 Le Cars and 2 Festivas. They were both well engineered and reliable cars. Where are they all now? Saw a red Le Car several years ago in Tijuana. My last..A dark blue 4 door was able to pull a 4 wheel auto trailer complete with Lotus 18 FJ more than 250 miles.Vive La France !

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  5. Howard A Member

    A LeCar on steroids. These were popular for a short time. I think they were ok cars, but as usual, American’s burned them out, and were terrible rusters. Junkyards were full of them. Bet this is a blast too drive.

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    • RayT Member

      Howard, these were great fun to drive! It’s amazing now to think that a car with so little power — compared to today’s family cars — could feel so quick, but they did. And the handling was go-kart responsive.

      The Turbo 2 did without the really zoomy interior of the first model, but was nonetheless a blast to drive. Wish I could have afforded one back in the day. I did in fact try, but the credit union said “no way!”

      Thank goodness for the “25-year Rule.” These were not U.S.-legal when new (even the “Federalized” ones were a shaky proposition), but I’ve seen one or two plated quite legitimately in recent years.

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  6. XMA0891

    I too drove a stock four door R5 LeCar (in the ’90s). It accelerated great, and was a blast to drive. Maybe the author was indeed towing a load of firewood, or did have the parking brake engaged. (I’ll grant him one on the wobbly gear shift).
    The only real fault I ever found with my Le Car were the rear brakes – The eccentric cam adjusters were, frankly, quite a poor design. Still, all those years of driving, and I never found the time to upgrade to calipers; so they mustn’t have been that bad. I would love to take this car out on a fling. The buy-in is aggressive. Vive La France, indeed!

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  7. sluggo

    Its a cool little rally car from a certain period but certainly NOT $47,500 cool! You could build something just as, or cooler for a fraction of that price.
    I knew a few people who were into the Euro-rally car scene in the 1980s, totally foreign to me with the traditional American Muscle cars but I can and do appreciate the fun/cool factor.
    Most popular was similar years VW Rabbits and cheaper-easier and dare I say better?
    Cool find but just a pipe dream. Someone REALLY needs to be into these to spend that much money.

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  8. Martin Horrocks

    These are expensive to build and easy to get wrong, so good inspection and knowledge of the originals essential.

    Be warned, they swap ends like you´d expect a short car with huge power over your shoulder to swap ends. But before you´d expect it.

    Satndard R5 was a mega important car in Europe. First supermini and fine competition history. Suspect the LeCar was not nearly the same thing….

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  9. Martin Horrocks

    By the way, if you feel this car is expensive, original Turbo II cars start at 65000€, going to infinity for a works rally Maxi version.

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  10. Will
  11. Derek

    These were excellent tarmac rally cars; they carried on into the Group B era, with the likes of Jean Todt and Jean Ragnotti involved. They did well on the Tour de Corse and so on.
    I remember seeing two of them sitting side-by-side at a car dealer’s in London (late ’80s); one just under and one just over £8k.

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  12. Jean - Pierre Audin

    All are entitled to their own opinion. GM has come a long way in the last 50 years.To call any French car “a piece of junk” is like the pot calling the kettle black. European cars engender an emotional and physical connection sorely lacking in so many domestic 20th Century products. I drive a French car and have owned all major brands except Panhard and Simca. Innovative engineering and style…But not for everyone.

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    • sluggo

      Good for you Jean-Pierre, I agree. GM-Ford & Chrysler have come a LONG way over the years and looking at buying a new truck. Years back the choices were clear, but nowdays they all are pretty good. Suff changes…
      Living outside the US I learned to appreciate other viewpoints, I strongly suggest everyone at least TRAVEL and learn new perspectives…
      But the only issue remaining to be resolved,, under the seats of a French car, when we find debris from years of use and drivethru meals do we call them “French Fries” “Freedom Fries” or ” pommes frites, patates frites, or simply frites.”???

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