Forbidden Fruit: 1987 Renault Alpine GTA

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As it’s now become a bit easier to import machinery previously forbidden in the U.S., all sorts of interesting vehicles have begun popping up for sale. One of my favorites has to be this 1987 Renault Alpine GTA here on eBay, which wears a scant 19,525 miles and was sold new in Japan. These vehicles sport a rear-engine layout, powered by a turbocharged V6 in a light-weight body. The car is available in Los Angeles with a Buy-It-Now of $25,000.

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With such low mileage, the interior remains in excellent condition, The leather-wrapped three-spoke steering wheel is all business, and the cockpit is clearly driver-focused. The black leather bucket seats do show some sign of wear, but the tiny back seat appears unused (I’m not sure what you’d put back there besides groceries). The seller notes that the A/C is not blowing cold and the audio system appears to be in-op, but given it’s an aftermarket headunit, this may be more a wiring problem than a major failure.

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The turbocharged six-cylinder motor pushes out approximately 200 b.h.p. and resides in an exceptionally light shell. The Alpine made liberal use of fiberglass body panels to give this highly-aerodynamic vehicle its low 2,600 lb. curb weight. In watching the video of the car, it is clear the previous owner took painstaking care of it, with every service and replacement part noted in extensive record books. Although it’s always risky buying a car sight unseen from another country, the service records can help put a potential buyer’s mind at ease.

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The Renault Alpine GTA was made in exceedingly limited quantities and did not enjoy a long production run, increasing its exclusivity and desirability today. The integrated bumpers and glass-ensconced headlights give this GTA a seriously aggressive look, but also help it achieve the slippery drag coefficient that contributed to a 0-60 time of 6.3 seconds. Critics of the day often compared the GTA to the Porsche 944, but with a more compliant ride and comfortable cabin, thanks to reduced wind noise. Given a choice between the two, I’d take the Renault any day of the week. The question remains, however, if that exclusivity factor will lead to this Japanese export finding a new owner.

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  1. RayT

    While I prefer the gorgeous Alpine A110, these are neat cars. I remember seeing a couple in California when they were new; there were people who knew how to get exotics into the country with (apparently) no ill effects even then, though most picked more familiar cars, like Ferrari Berlinetta Boxers and Renault R5 Turbos.

    The only potential drawback is that the GTA used a version of the PRV engine also found in DeLoreans. I have no personal experience with them, but have heard they could develop problems. I would definitely worry about getting replacement parts for engine and car.

    $25K doesn’t seem out of line if the car has been treated as well as claimed. It’s an absolute bargain compared to the German coupes from the same period that also had their engines stuck out behind the rear wheels!

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  2. JW454

    This car just screams “The 1980s”. It’s not my cup-o-tea but, it looks like a nice car.

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  3. DolphinMember

    These V6 engines had a design fault that led a lot of them to have rapid wear in the valve train. I test drove one that wasn’t too old that had a loud knocking in the valve train. When I researched it I found out that it was a frequent problem with these engines. Volvo ended up dropping the V6 option and went back to offering only their I-4 engine. Maybe there is a fix that cures this problem but I have not heard of one.

    That and the rear engine placement would make me hesitate to buy an Alpine GTA.

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  4. Ken B

    BS have seen/driven a lot of these PRV cars – and none if taken regular care developed problems… YES Vovlo did drop it – due to economical reasons – they went the turboway in the 240 series – and remained faithful to the others in the 760/960 non-turbo versions till the end of production and introduced their 5-cyl in the new V70 – S60 (later also found in various souped up Fords) until they started the flagship S80 with a V8. spareparts for the engine is easy and cheap to get unless you go through DMC – bodyparts a bit more difficult if you are not used to dealing with imports and as such from France – then not so bad actually..

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  5. Dan h

    I will never be legal in California (unless your Jay Leno, car has a federal emissions sticker, you have a letter from the manufacture stating its within emissions compliance, or, it was built prior to December 1968) otherwise, fat chance.

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    • Dan h

      IT will never be legal in California is what I meant to say. Lol

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  6. Squad41

    I love everything about this except for the price. This would be well-bought at $17K-$20K.

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  7. Scotty GStaff

    Good grief, what a car!

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  8. DolphinMember

    Actually, it’s not BS. The early PRV V6 did have reliability problems, and most Volvo mechanics who worked on them and could speak freely about it would tell you that. Even Volvo fans will warn you off the V6. Mechanics will tell you that if the early engines aren’t maintained “religiously”, with no going over the oil change interval, the engine will start to get its oil galleries gummed up, and cams & followers will wear prematurely. It’s a Volvo, and people buy them to run up big mileages, and they don’t always have oil changes “religiously” on time. No surprise there. The I-4 engine didn’t have those problems.

    Most Volvo owners who have owned one will tell you the V6 cars are expensive to fix, which might have played a role in not getting oil changes done religiously on time. Mechanics will tell you that they are difficult (and expensive) to work on because the engine + accessories are complex and fill up the engine bay.

    The same mechanics will tell you that the later V6 engines were improved, I think with improved oiling, but even the later 24 valve engines had valve train problems due to premature wear.

    Maybe you were driving late 12-valve cars that people had good luck with, but a lot of people didn’t have good luck with the early ones. But since the early V6s were from the 1970s, before the internet, there aren’t many comments about them online. Most of them are no more.

    FWIW, I lived through that period and I researched the engines because I was in the market. The early V6 wagon that I test drove had valve train clatter that you could hear down the street. It was also so front heavy that I never saw any reason to bother with a V6 Volvo. The I-4 cars were lighter up front and I think performed better than the V6 because they weighed less. The Turbo I-4 cars would run rings around the V6 cars.

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    • St. Ramone de V8

      I have to agree. I’ve had several Volvos, all I-4 but one wagon. Great shape, well kept, so I bought it, even though I had heard about issues with that PRV. It surely proved to be a bad engine for me, and once the valve problem was evident, I couldn’t give it away. This Renault is weird, and I liked it, until I read about the PRV virus.

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  9. Doug M. (West Coast)Member

    Isn’t anyone but me haunted by the similarity to the infamous Renault Fuego recently posted??

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  10. Rick

    Love the car. Too many non-stock hose clamps for my taste.. especially love the one holding the smaller hose inside the larger hose for the turbo oil feed… yikes…

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  11. alan

    $25 k is at least $10+ k too high. The mileage seems artificially low considering the completely washed out drivers seat. There are others on offer in the market place in better shape for under $15k .

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  12. Harry Loyd

    I thought it was KIT at first glance. I’m your Michael Knight.

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  13. Bobsmyuncle

    No one is questioning this;

    “As it’s now become a bit easier to import machinery previously forbidden in the U.S.”?

    What is the story here?

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