48K Mile 1983 Renault Le Car

The Renault 5, or R5 – also known as the Le Car in North America – certainly has one of the most recognizable shapes in all of the auto world. This 1983 Renault Le Car can be found here on eBay in Upper Marlboro, Maryland. The bid price is at $2,550 and the reserve isn’t met yet.

Along with the VW Beetle, the Le Car has an unmistakable shape, unlike a lot of today’s cars. They were offered in North America beginning in 1976 and I remember them well as my dad had one as a company car in the late-1970s. His company put him in Chevrolet sedans in the late-1960s and then after the gas crisis in 1973, they moved him into Ford Pintos. I know, that’s quite a change. Then came the Le Car. I drove it to a Target store when I was 16 years old and it may as well have been a flying saucer, there was a crowd around it when I came back out of the store.

This particular Le Car appears to be in great condition and has a mere 48,500 miles on it, or around what I drive in a single year. Wow. That unique Le Car body looks fantastic with nary a rust spot anywhere, as no Renault owner said, ever. The seller has provided quite a few photos and many detail photos showing edges and even an underside shot. I don’t know if this is originally an east coast car but the seller has owned it for 18 years and it sure looks like they’ve kept it in great condition.

That is one gigantic sunroof! The interior in this car looks almost like new which is incredible, but it actually is new, or the seat fabric is anyway. The seller is not trying to hide anything because they show a few areas with surface rust which doesn’t look too severe and should be fixable without too much work. The car has always been stored in a garage and never driven in bad weather, at least for the almost two decades that the current owner has had it.

The engine is Renault’s 1.4L inline-four which didn’t have much more than 50 hp, giving it a paltry 0-60 time of around 17 seconds. The seller has done a lot of maintenance on this Le Car, including a new clutch, new brake hoses, wheel cylinders, and pads, new radiator, new belts and hoses and all sorts of other things to keep it operating fine. They say that a fuse is out which caused the fan motor, radiator radio, and back-up lights to stop working so that’ll have to be checked out. This has to be the nicest one that I’ve seen in 35 years. Have any of you owned a Le Car?


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  1. LARRY

    I do remember these..never owned one though. I did drive a few of them and they handle well just not much power which didn’t matter because they were a gas mileage car…and definitely built better than the later yugo.

    Like 1
  2. 8banger Dave Member

    Haven’t heard of a fuse that controls a radiator, but you never know.

    Like 9
    • valiantguy

      The ebay listing indicates that the heater fan and radio are not working. The radiator is new. A fuse would not control a radiator, the post on barnfinds should be corrected lest a whole bunch of readers walk away with a very confused understanding of French electrical controls on Le Cars!

      Like 1
    • Ralph

      It is French…..

      Like 1
  3. LARRY

    I noticed that too…radiator fan maybe

    Like 2
    • gentooq

      definitely the radiator fan, which needs to be addressed SOON or there won’t be much of an engine left. if these little engines overheat just ONCE, they will need a rebuild. i had one that suffered this fate before i figured out what was wrong.

      it’s relatively easy to tell if the engine has suffered damage already. check the water level in the overflow bottle, then start and run the car until it comes up to temperature. if the upper radiator hose blows up like a balloon, literally, then there is a break in the head gasket between the cylinder and the coolant passages around the wet liners. this is the most common failure. the car could run like this for a while without experiencing a catastrophic failure, but i wouldn’t push my luck like that.

      one day not too long ago, i was out driving the Le Car i have now and the temperature light came on at a stop light. i got the car rolling again immediately by taking a right turn on red. i got the car home and the fan was not running, which it will normally do right after you park it. i tested the fan motor directly with a connection to a battery and it was dead.

      i replaced the fan with a unit from O’Rielly that worked out pretty well. i also got a low-ampere draw LED light and put it inline with the fan power leads. the LED is mounted in the center stack and tells me when the fan comes on. if the fan SHOULD be on and the light isn’t, it’s time to check.

      whoever the new owner is should determine the cause of the fan failure and rectify it soon, or their joy will be short-lived.

      Like 4
      • gentooq

        that’ll teach me to respond without reading the *actual* eBay listing. i don’t know scotty at all, let alone well enough to chastise him for introducing an inaccuracy into the car information.

        from the auction listing “At this point, the only items that can use attention are the radio and heater blower (both had been working but both stopped; I believe that there may be a common fuse that needs to be replaced); and the back up lights are not coming on (maybe the same fuse?). One turn signal light bulb is out which I will try to address if possible before the auction ends.”

        it’s NOT the radiator fan, but the HEATER BLOWER fan.

        the radio and the heater blower share fuse #4, according to the haynes manual circuit diagram. this leads to a high likelihood of it being a fuse issue, but rather than an outright failure, the fuse may simply have become dislodged a bit. the ceramic torpedo fuses are notorious, at least in my experience, for becoming slightly dislodged and causing intermittent failures.

        the back-up light hangs off of fuses #1 and #2, as does most of the rest of the engine electrics. this is most likely a loosely mounted, loose wire on, or failed back-up light switch.

        Like 3
  4. AnalogMan

    I owned a twin of this car, red with the enormous sunroof (though mine was a 1976 model I had in the early 80’s).

    These cars are a lot more fun to drive than you’d think. It had much more character and personality than a typical econo-box of the time. It was surprisingly roomy inside for such a tiny car. The sunroof truly is gigantic, exposing virtually the entire roof. Friends of mine would delight in standing up on the back seat through the roof as I drove (don’t try this at home, totally unsafe and probably illegal). Like any French car (especially of the time), it felt quirky, spunky, and ‘exotic’ (as exotic as a bottom-of-the-line economy car can be).

    What amazed me most about the car was the ride. The French have always had the magic of achieving a plush, comfortable ride that was also sporty and not wallowy mushy. Around that time I also previously had a Renault 16 and later a Renault 17 (yes, I wasn’t right in the head), and along with the Renault 5 they all shared that same amazing magic carpet ride. Even though the Le Car was the entry-level economy model, it still had it. I could drive that car at 35 mph over unpaved pothole-strewn dirt roads and the passenger compartment would be serene and steady. But at the same time the suspension was sufficiently firm and responsive to have fun on winding (paved) roads, pretending I’m driving from Nice to Monte Carlo.

    At the time there was a SCCA racing class for Le Cars. I used to go to Lime Rock CT to watch them (yeah, I know, yet more proof of my illness, most people would go to racetracks to watch Corvettes, Cobras, Aston-Martins, etc., I went to see Le Cars race). It was side-splittingly, can’t-breath roll on the ground funny. These little cars would corner on 3 wheels, and about every 10th one would roll off the track onto its roof around the Big Bend hairpin turn. It didn’t stop the racing, the driver would just get out, roll it back upright, and get back in the race. I would always sit up on the hill to get a good view of the action.

    Reliability, well, not so much. French cars developed their reputations for good reasons. I was a poverty stricken grad student at the time, and a Renault 5 was probably not the smartest choice for someone on a limited budget and with no indoor garage to work. I had a ’68 VW Beetle immediately prior to the Le Car, which was worlds better in reliability (but also infinitely inferior in ‘sophistication’ and plain old comfort). Engine access was more difficult than you’d think for a small engine in a basic car. Lots of vacuum hoses from the early emissions control systems. Mine had recurrent electrical (ignition) problems (despite only having about 50k miles) that required regular tows (or pushes) back home.

    These were not common on the road even back in the day. There can’t be many left, and this one might be one of the nicest left in this country (save for the mid-engine Turbo Renault 5, which is a completely different animal). If this one is as rust-free (or minimally rusted) as it seems, it could be a very inexpensive way to be the only one at your local Cars & Coffee. Parts availability might be limited in this country, but I would imagine they’re still available in Europe.

    I hope someone buys this and keeps it going.

    Like 14
    • LD71

      I owned several R5’s, raced them at Lime rock in the races you watched! Great fun as with anything at Lime Rock, but the work at the track & after the race was long and difficult. I understand your memory saying they drove away after the rollover, but having seenand experienced that situation, I can say most went on the rollback! This car on sale looks great, but it would help to know a French mechanic if you’re gonna own it!! LD71 :D

      Like 6
      • AnalogMan

        LD71, that’s amazing! If you climbed into an R5 and raced it at Lime Rock, you have bigger cajones than the guys driving Porsches or Corvettes. I’ll buy you a beer anytime to hear your stories!

        Like 3
      • LD71

        Analogman anytime, let’s meet at LRP in the spring, or before! Ignition * at * netzero * dot * net

        Like 1
  5. Blueprint

    The Le Car name was only used in the US. Up here it was sold under its real R5 name and was a top-10 seller in Quebec (of course).

    Edit: up here meaning Canada 🇨🇦!

    Like 3
    • Laurent Herjean

      Didn’t Montreal use to have roadsigns where the symbol of a car was actually a Renault 5? That’s what I seem to remember from my trips there over 20 years ago, but my memory could be failing me…

      Like 2
      • B

        Yes and years before that, an image of the Renault Dauphine was used to represent a junk yard!

        Like 2
      • Blueprint

        Your memory is fine! Yes we did have those signs back then, in the good old days prior to the current anti-car administration in Montreal.

        Like 1
  6. Mike Harrel

    They only sold 5 1/2 million R5s worldwide and they are still frequently seen in Europe. They have a reputation for being bulletproof. I don’t own one, but I would imagine parts are readily available.

    Like 5
  7. Brakeservo

    A French Mini, and the R5 Turbo was the Cooper S version I suppose. I almost bought one years ago but a friend who was the service manager for a Renault dealer (see, that’s how many years ago it was) did his absolute best to dissuade me from doing so. Bought a Mercedes instead, a decision he heartily endorsed.

    • gentooq

      brakeservo, i would rather the Le Car any day, but how did YOU like the mercedes? unless, of course, you were purchasing the mercedes for your friend. ;-)

      • Brakeservo

        The Mercedes was a far better buy for me – a non-running 1959 219, it had been the personal car of a notorious “Watergate” criminal who had let it sit while he was off in prison after having so seriously overheated it, the head not only warped to the point where the head gasket blew, but the camshaft itself broke into several pieces! I rebuilt in in the winter in my driveway in Santa Fe, NM and drove it to Portland, Oregon several times before personal finances made me sell it – but because of the prior ownership and notoriety attached to it, it went for a pretty good price! No way the R5 LeCar would have done that!

        Like 2
  8. S

    Have two one round headlights 79? From lectric car company ? from the east coast Us… imported as glider no engine (like jet industry escorts).. lectric leopard
    one 80 with sunroof converted to electric. nice light body so acceleration is good
    Lithuim in both now
    Parts hard to get in us
    Need a windshield for one soon….
    3 bolt wheels
    Rust easily
    Always some work to do esp switches that dont work right..

    • gentooq


      for your windscreen, check with Pilkington Classics. I got a new windscreen from them for a pretty fair price about two years ago.

      if you need the gaskets, check with Der Franzose. you will have to have a friend receive them somewhere else (I had a friend’s brother in Canada do it for me) and re-ship, because the *only* country on the face of planet earth to which they will NOT ship is the USA. I got a full set of brand new front and rear gaskets for my car, along with the front windscreen. a previous owner didn’t appear to know what they were doing and bonded the windscreen in. removing it for a glass-out re-paint shattered it.

      good luck with your lectric leopards.

  9. Troy s

    I remember that name well..Le Car…saw a lot of them around and us kids always had interesting names for them that I cannot repeat here.
    One of the classics from my childhood/early teens…geeesh.

    Like 1
  10. Genemak1

    Trivia question: Which side of the LeCar/R5 has the longer wheelbase, left or right side?

    Like 1
    • gentooq

      left-hand side, by 30 mm.

      Like 2
      • Mike Harrel

        Wow! The left is 3 cm longer than the right?? How does that happen?

        Like 2
  11. Dab

    Torsion bars one in front of the other is how that happens

    Like 2
  12. TVC15

    I had one of these back in the 80s in N.Y.C I would park it nose first into the curb , never got a ticket !

    Like 1
  13. 71FXSuperGlide

    My older sister had not one but two of these vehicles. I recall driving one as a newly licensed teen and remember how cool the manual was, but also thinking it being a front wheel drive that it drove like a truck.

    I would think obtaining parts for these might be a challenge.

  14. Miguel

    I sell the taillight lenses, or the whole tail light in amber/red or all red if any of you need them.

  15. james Renn

    Had one in the 80’s purchased from the French Embassy in Washington DC where its job was to deliver paper work to the world bank. Wonderful sun roof and zippy in town. Like TVC15 lived in a tight parking area in Historic Annapolis. Shortened the tail pipe so when I parked at right angles to the high curbs it did not bend or load the exhaust. If there was 7 feet between other parked cars then sliding in like a motor cycle was a breeze. Maybe time for another one..Randy R.

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