Le French Rabbit: 1982 Renault Le Car

050216 Barn Finds - 1982 Renault LeCar - 1

Here’s something you don’t see every day. Even back in the 1970s and ’80s they weren’t too thick, at least in the US. This 1982 Renault 5-Door Le Car is in Bothell, Washington, halfway between Bellevue and Everett, and it’s on eBay with a current bid price of $102.50; but the reserve isn’t met. Get your Le Bids in now! (you knew there’d be some of that here).. Thanks to Jim S. for tracking down this French ride.

050216 Barn Finds - 1982 Renault LeCar - 2

Truth be told, and I always tell the truth, I want either of the pickups in the background more than I want the Le Car, but a guy can’t have everything. This the car, I mean, Le Car, has 129,390 miles on it and although the paint looks weirdly-faded and mottled, there doesn’t appear to be any rust on this side other than surface rust. I’d sure want to lay under this thing to check it out, though; preferably while it’s not Le Moving. The Pacific Northwest gets more than its share of precipitation so I’m surprised that the body looks as solid as it does.

050216 Barn Finds - 1982 Renault LeCar - 3

The seller says that this is a one-owner car! That’s always nice to see, no matter what vehicle it is. I can see some rust-through there on the RR wheel arch, but the seller says that it has “no dents” and has a surprisingly “comfortable ride”. I believe that. My dad, after having a succession of two Pintos as company cars, got a Le Car right around 1978 or ’79. To have a yellow Le Car in sleepy Duluth, Minnesota was quite a sight. It was a fun car, I drove it a couple of times right after getting my license and it always drew a crowd, just like it would today; probably more than most muscle cars or exotics would. It was super fun to drive, but maybe it was a combination of me just getting my license and being in thee most unusual car in town that made it more fun than it really was. Unfortunately, his company traded it in after not too many months because it was, sadly but predictably, in the shop too often.

050216 Barn Finds - 1982 Renault LeCar - 4

American Motors Corp distributed this car through its dealerships and they referred to it as the “French Rabbit, since one of its main competitors was the VW Rabbit. This was Europe’s best-selling car at the time but even using that as advertising fodder didn’t sway enough folks in North America towards AMC dealerships to pick up their own Le Cars. The 5-door, as seen here, came out in 1981 and the Le Car was pulled from dealerships in the US in 1983 and lasted until 1985 in Canada.

050216 Barn Finds - 1982 Renault LeCar - 5

Barn Finds writer, Jeff, showed us a very different animal in early-March in the Renault R5, which was basically a street-legal race car. The 5-door Le Car seen here is very much not a race car. This 1.4L inline-four cylinder has a bit over 50 hp so you’re not going to win any races, unless you’re against some sort of Russian Cycle-Car or something… I’d want a yellow 2-door Le Car like my dad drove for a few months back in the late-1970s, but this black 5-door is certainly unique. Have you ever driven a Le Car?

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Comments

  1. Brakeservo

    Weren’t there a couple of brothers up there in Duluth that raced these things??

    • Scotty G Staff

      Yes, sir; Tommy and Bobby Archer! Here is a story that Jesse did on a Le Car over three years ago now showing a race-related poster.
      http://barnfinds.com/movie-prop-1980-renault-lecar/

      • jim s

        i saw the Archer brothers race these ” back in the day “. they brought a tractor trailer load of ” rent a racers ” in addition to the cars they drove. i think there was a kit that you bought to make the car race ready which included better wheel bearings. in Europe there was a racing series just for R5s also. i think the Archers also raced the Jeep pickups in SCCA truck racing. the solid axle truck were fast and they used to bump draft the jeeps a lot.

  2. Grr

    Yes. It belonged to my college French teacher – a very seductive young divorcee who had me over to her apartment for dinner and got completely sloshed. Don’t remember how I got out of that one. She was very softly sprung and had a great ride with lots of roll in the corners – the car, I mean.

  3. Howard A Member

    Actually, growing up and living in Milwaukee, we saw quite a few of these. Renault was big in Wisconsin, and I believe this was sold at AMC dealers, and kind of got their foot in the door for the Reliance. All I really remember about them was how badly they rusted. Junkyards were full of them. I think they were good cars otherwise. French always build good cars. Great find, like I say, most rusted away, so this is rare.

  4. Gary

    After learning to drive in the 69 Toyota Crown, the next car to ‘move’ into was the 1979 Renault 17 Gordini. That was a fast, 5-speed car. It was white with red striping & red interior. Horrible reliability. The car attached is one I found on the internet, not the one I had. But it is similar with the striping and fabric sunroof.

  5. grant

    Haven’t seen one of these in forever. Certainly a lot of rain in the PNW (although it’s sunny and 85 in downtown Portland as I write this) but we don’t use road salt so there’s a few survivors around.

  6. Terry J

    There was a LOT more to it than AMC selling a few Renaults. Renault bought a large interest ( 40%) in AMC and AMC gratefully accepted the much needed cash. Unfortunately for Renault, the American market was not hungry for small French cars. In another big move after a few years, Renault sold it’s interest in AMC to Chrysler. Another head scratcher. But alas, the Penta Star found itself owning the Jeep, so it wasn’t all a bad idea. :-) Terry J

  7. Red Riley

    Test drove one in around 1977. It seemed like fun little car that would be great for short commuting and city parking. This one’s got too many doors. I just can’t understand the purpose of four doors on something small and sporty.

  8. Clayton

    I’ve been driving LeCars for the last 30 years…have quite a few and love them!

    Like 2
    • Jesse Mortensen Jesse Staff

      Wow, that’s impressive Clayton!

    • De

      CAn I buy one? Help me find one please. I sold mine in 1983 when I got married. : ( It was a beautiful multi blue sport version with extras. My first car. I miss her!

  9. AMCFAN

    There is a back story on why Renault sold AMC. Chrysler’s purchase of American Motors was due to the death of one man. The Director CEO of Renault Georges Bessie. He made a profit within two months of taking over in 1985. He believed by taking Jeep global was the direction the company needed to take. For the first time in years AMC was making money and for the first time had new product. Then Chrysler came knocking.The board wanted to sell. Bessie refused and was gunned down in front of his house getting out of his limo. He was shot in the head and chest and fell to the sidewalk. Less then 5 weeks after his death the deal was completed with Chrysler.

  10. James HGF

    Renault presents le car, the most luxurious in the world complete with white side wall tires as seen on the streets of Paris in 1950. The old film, somewhat like an old British Pathé newsreel, lightens as it progresses, alas there is no audio:

    http://www.ina.fr/video/CAF92004358/la-regie-renault-presente-le-car-le-plus-luxueux-du-monde-video.html

  11. James HGF

    A 1951 Brochure for a smaller more agile (?) LE CAR by RENAULT for the twists and turns of narrow mountain roads perhaps:

    http://lesrenaultdepapier.fr/CouverturesCatas/Car37pl_51.JPG

    The “horizontal diesel” means that the engine lays on its side. It’s located as a true mid-engine under the floor with the transmission located roughly halfway between engine and rear axle. By now you know the English translation of le car.

  12. Frenchbuff

    I rode in a Le Car yrs ago and was shocked how comfortable the ride was, as a friend slammed his across deep drainage gutters we had to cross to enter a main road. Those torsionbars front & rear ate up the gutters as though the car had the same suspension as My Citroen DS19 with its hydropneumatic system. I was impressed, and yrs after that I found a couple of Renault R16s, also with torsionbars all around and again a terrifically comfortable ride, and again almost as good as my Citroen’s more complex suspension. The French really know how to coddle their derrieres.

  13. StickerHead

    When I was at tech school in the late 80’s, a classmate had one. He would drive it hard & beat it. I was shocked at how he would drift the car around corners & jump curbs. I kept thinking he was going to break one of the 3 lug nuts on his wheels. I think he had that car for 15 years – pretty impressed, lol

    • PRA4SNW PRA4SNW Member

      That’s the biggest thing I remember about these cars: the 3 bolt wheels. I thought that was really odd, and probably dangerous.

      • Daymo

        Lots of French cars had three-lug wheels – and they showed that only 3 lugs were no more dangerous than having 4 or 5!

  14. Blueprint

    In Canada, the car was marketed under its original name – Renault 5, and it was a top-ten seller in Quebec, of course. They were everywhere! The mid-engine Group B version was the R5 Turbo – R5 is just the basic car’s name.

  15. SunbeamerStu

    Incrédule! Comparing this car to a Rabbit is an insult to Rabbits everywhere. Friend bought a new LeCar in ’82 or ’83. A POS. Always at the shop. Barely able to get to freeway speed. Just not a fun car in any way. And rather fugly to my eye, but each to their own.

    Of course, being a Rabbit fan, I was, and remain, biased.

    One time I drove the car with over-inebriated friend in the passenger seat. Had to pull over quick to have him puke. Didn’t make it. He puked on the partially rolled down window, inside the door, inside the car, outside the car….

    Last time I rode in a LeCar.

    • Rspcharger Rspcharger

      Accidental Report, sorry.

  16. jake

    Back in the day we used to watch with big smiles the Renault LeCar Cup races that were ran at Road America prior to the IMSA races!!!! In 1984 bought 5 of these for $900 and sold them all to folks in the LeCar Cup series for a profit of $1000, lol……..

  17. PH

    Learned how to drive a stick in one of these….dump the clutch and go.

  18. Andrew

    I lost my virginity in a R5 back in 1988 at the side of a highway. They said it couldn’t be done….. Le great times be had.
    First car in the world with plastic bumpers as we know them today.

  19. Paul B

    Four doors were for the family, and these were small personal and family cars in Europe, so either 2 or 4 door models were great fun. They were supremely comfortable as others have written here. They also lacked the toughness US drivers needed, and dealer service was terrible. Another sad example of French auto marketing failure in the US. I thought the R5 concept was great. I enjoyed driving the cars. But I’d never have owned one at the time after the problems my friends reported. Today? Maybe, as an amusing collectible.

  20. Renault mechanic

    Ahhh, 12″ wheels, three lugs, manually adjusted drum brakes and blown head gaskets… Fun, fun, fun.

  21. Monsieur_le_baton

    everyone in the UK at least raves about the gt turbo or the gordini turbo R5 – but the secret car of choice was the R5 Monaco – looked like a regular R5 but had a 1.7 16v engine from the Renault 19 – these were uber fast for their time – and even in regular guise were real street sleepers

  22. Paul R

    Le Junk! LOL!

  23. Michael

    While in the USAF stationed in the UK from 1982-1984, one of my co-workers had one. If I remember correctly, it was a manual transmission and the shifter came out of the dashboard rather than the floor. Can anyone confirm?

    • Daymo

      The very early cars did indeed have a gear stick coming out of the dash, just like the 2CV, using the same push-pull twist action. It was a carry-over from its predecessor, the R4/6 range.

  24. David

    I lived in Martinique back in 1985, and one of the local rental places rented Le Cars (which were called Renault 5’s there) I had two different ones rented…the first one was a dreadful piece of junk which burned oil so badly that whenever I drove to my apartment in the Fort-De-France suburb of Cluny, it would leave the worst cloud of blue smoke in the air… The second one (after the first one eventually died) was a nice little car which I enjoyed driving… I toured the entire island with that car on several occasions, and found it a very agreeable little convenaynce.

  25. Vicki

    My very first car was a1982 LeCar. I also learned to drive a stick in it. It stayed in and out of the shop, but “baby” as it was nicknamed was fun to drive when it was running well.

  26. Dallas Hotz

    Yes I owned one yes like this one when I lived in iowa some years ago. For a scoot around town car it was great. I loved my le car soooo very much then was involved in a wreck and lost it. Flat broke my heart. So now I’m older and disability forced retired and would love to have another one. I like the idea of of 1 owner.

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