Freaky French Folly: 1984 Renault Fuego

Scotty GilbertsonBy Scotty Gilbertson

In keeping with the Scotty G tradition of showing unusual, some would say oddball, vehicles, I present this 1984 Renault Fuego. This fregger (more on that later) is listed on eBay with a somewhat ambitious $4,500 buy it now price and no tab to make an offer. It’s located in Cortland, New York and according to the seller, it’s reliable enough to drive anywhere. Would you drive this one home?

I was a subscriber to Motor Trend magazine from 1976 up until recently when I finally cancelled my subscription to concentrate on older vehicles. I was pretty tired of seeing one $50,000 melted bar of soap car after another every month. But, in the early-1980s, I wrote to Motor Trend and it would be the first time of seeing my name in print. I said something like, “I’m sure that the new Renault Fuego is a nice car, but the name sounds like Elmer Fudd saying “fregger.””, or something like that. I know, pretty juvenile, but hey, I was a juvenile at the time! This car only has 33,000 miles on it and for once it’s believable.

This car has a lot going for it but it has two huge strikes against it, too. The current owner has sorted it out, mostly. They regularly drive it on extended road trips and drive it to car shows where it’s always the only Fuego there. But, it’s a non-turbo car which isn’t as desirable as a turbo Fuego would be, if a turbo Fuego would even be desirable. And, are you sitting down?.. it has an automatic transmission. I know! You’d really have to be an oddball car lover to dream about a non-turbo, automatic-laden, Renault Fuego. But, on the plus side, the body is pretty nice, other than a few dings and some small areas that are bubbling with fancy French rust. There are some fiddly and/or fidgety French foul-ups going on, mainly with a few electrical items.

Look at that, il a un intérieur rouge! I mean, it has a red interior! And a very nice one, at that. The seats look about as close to being like-new as any that I’ve seen in a car of this vintage. And, we may as well just say that the rear seat appears to never have been used, it’s that nice. There’s a decent amount of storage space when the rear seat backs are folded down for carrying your French accouterments, whatever they may be. But, then there’s this thing.. There are no engine photos showing the non-turbo 2.2L inline-four, which by 1984 had 110 hp. In case you were wondering, the turbo version for the US had 107 hp and with the new bump in power for the naturally-aspirated engine, 1984 would be the last year for the turbo. This is about a 2,300-pound car so that isn’t terrible power, but it probably wouldn’t fly today, literally or figuratively, for a company’s flagship model. Have any of you owned a Fuego? Come on, don’t be shy, speak now or forever hold your peace!

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Comments

  1. Ben T. Spanner

    My friend worked at a dealership when these were new. They sat and deteriorated. Very difficult to sell. He stated that some parts were hard to get, and they cannibalized new ones to fix customers cars.

    Renaults were often sold to the credit challanged, so an upmarket Renault was a hard sale.

    4+
    • Dovi65

      I worked for an AMC/Jeep/Renault dealer shortly after Chrysler bought AMC. There were several Renaults in the back lot that were taken in on trade. They were used for parts for other customer vehicles. None of the techs wanted to work on the Renaults

      3+
  2. Dovi65

    1980s Renault?? Fuego?? I think the seller put the decimal in the wrong place. I’m all for the oddballs, & orphans, and this one appears to be in decent shape, but that asking price?? At least the seller has a sense of humor.

    1+
  3. Bruce Best

    I put over 120K on one without any trouble beyond electrical problem which were just bad connectors and easy to cure with an eraser and reassembly. The biggest problem is the fuse box. When that started to give us problems we could not get a replacement and only then did the car become unreliable. We never had any problems with engine, transmission, body or major electrical equipment.

    3+
  4. Howard A Member

    I had a co-worker in the mid-80’s with one, red, only a 5 speed.( I think) I remember, it was a really nice car, plenty of power, very comfortable. Got him to work in the worst weather. We had some nasty weather in the 80’s in the midwest. I couldn’t imagine owning one today.

    1+
  5. JoeM

    In high school the teachers parking lot were full of these things, not sure why. They seemed to disappear after a year or two though.

    1+
    • Pa Tina

      The cars or the teachers?

      0
  6. Rx7turboII

    so wait! Am I understanding the story correctly that the non turbo had more horsepower than the turbo car? Huh?

    1+
    • Scotty Gilbertson Scotty Gilbertson Staff

      Rx7 – initially the 1.6L base model non-turbo version for 1982, the debut of the car in the US market, had about 95 hp, according to Hemmings. Then the turbo made some sense, But, by 1984, Renault introduced a new base model 2.2L with 110 hp which made the turbo version basically senseless, with less power and fewer MPG than the non-turbo. I know, what?!

      1+
    • Bruce Best

      Yes the non turbo was faster but you must also know that the French tax cars according to volume of the engine. The non-turbo models were for export only. They kept on building them for Europe but in countries where you did not have the same tax situation the bigger 2.2 liter motor was used because it had a better torque curve and more torque. Back in the day in France the tax rate between a 1.6 and a 2.2 liter was more than double. That is part of the reason that French cars of the period had such small engines. To a lesser degree that is still the case for much of Europe. That is why in Italy you can purchase a 208 Ferrari as opposed to a 308 that is more typical. Taxes, Taxes, Taxes and that is the rest of the story.

      1+
  7. Sam Sharp

    Fuego means “Few Go” in FrEnglish.

    1+
  8. XMA0891

    Back when I was a lad, and people read magazines, I wrote to Popular Science’s Smokey Yunick with a question on my new acquisition: (a used) AMC.
    I don’t remember what the problem with the car was, but he did return my letter with a hand-written response on the bottom. “No room in the magazine” was what he started with; and while he never did answer my question; I do remember he told me that if I worked hard and saved my money, “I would soon be able to afford a better car.” Gee… Thank’s Smokey.
    A friend in college had a Fuego – It really was in the shop being repaired more than it was on the road running. Maybe Ol’ Smokey was right.

    5+
    • Howard A Member

      That was probably a form letter from his secretary,,,

      1+
      • XMA0891

        Yeah; and thus my precious question remained forever unanswered. It was a long, long time ago.

        2+
  9. Jay Vette

    Fun fact! Renault Fuegos were the first cars with a keyless entry system as an option. http://media.spidersweb.pl/wp-content/uploads/2015/12/renault-fuego.jpg

    3+
    • Pa Tina

      Did you have to break a window?

      0
  10. Pa Tina

    “The French Mistake” Thank you Mel Brooks.

    0
  11. John G.

    Reliable enough to drive it home? Are you talking when it was new or this one? Because I think the answer to that is ‘I doubt it.’ 🙂

    1+
  12. TR

    I had a chance to drive one of these when new, most wallowy suspension of all time. It reminded me of a Shriner Clown Model A I got to ride in as a kid. I had no idea any running examples existed. Fun memories

    1+
  13. Ensign Pulver

    My colleague bought one slightly used back then for a great price. The previous owner (a “large” woman) could no longer stand owning it because it stalled every time it hit a bump….apparently her weight pushed the driver seat onto the harness that caused it to stall. He, being a far slighter Japanese man, never suffered the same fate!

    4+
  14. Will Owen

    When I was scouting for spare cars with my new fiancée, we bumped into one of these. I’d wanted to drive one anyway, and I figured as she is basically French (born here to French mom, speaks it at home, went to school there etcetera) she’d go for it. Well, I thought it was okay, but she hated it … and after she’d driven me a few times in her nice BMW 2002 I could see why. She might be nuts for French food, but cushy cars ain’t her style. Nor mine, really.

    Aside from personal preferences, though, I don’t think the asking is terribly out of line. The car’s condition appears to be remarkably good, and its recent history of road trips is encouraging. The real problem, increasingly so on any similarly rare car of this or later vintage, is electronics – instruments and switch gear. With the trouble I have finding window and ignition switches for my ’87 Alfa, I can imagine what a nightmare this could be.

    0
  15. Wayne

    I worked for a short time for a Jeep, AMC, Nissan store. (parts manager) We had several on the lot that just rotted there. The flooring bank insisted that they be paid off. As no one in their right mind would buy one. And the bank would get stuck with it. They got one running (the battery was dead) one day. So I offered to drive it for a few days to get the battery fully charged and to get some of the lubricants moving again. I had not driven a Renault since my 4CV when I was 12. (We lived out in the woods. So my Dad gave me a car to play around in out on the fire roads. Until I rolled it on two different occasions.) The Fuego ran real smooth. But so slow. That I was convinced that the cat converter was partially plugged. It was. But my instructions were to drive the daylights out of it to clean it out. It eventually did gets less low. But corning on the outside rocker panels was just too sloppy of feeling to me. All the new Fuegos ended up going to the crusher. As the tax guy said that the dealership was better off financially to do that.

    0
  16. Tiki Vegas

    The engine and car were good. Problem was the techs were incompetent working on a Renault.
    The parts? Still, most are easy to get and super, super cheap because most are close out. Go to rockauto and see for yourself. But you are right, some are only available in Europe.

    1+
  17. 2ManyCars1

    I kept a 1983 1.6 litre with a five speed through college and early marriage till we traded it in for a 1990 Jeep Cherokee (two wheel drive no less!) I knew she was the right woman for me when she helped push start the stupid thing one night! Comfortable seats, decent gas mileage around town (averaged 21, saw 36 on the few times I took it out of town) unique styling for the time(looked better once I painted the whole thing red including the black ribbed trim!) and an exceptionally marginal electrical system. Five alternators in seven years which I am sure was longer than most people kept them. Amazingly (Stupidly?) enough I have a 1985 2.2 litre five speed sitting in the backyard waiting for a new lease on life but it’s looking less probable every year.

    0
    • Wayne

      Did that use the same style engine and gearbox S an Alliance? (F3N/F3R). In other words will that 2.2 out of 2ManyCars1 fit into an Alliance?

      0
  18. alan

    Had many of these back in the day with the ’84 and ’85 having the most refined interiors and instrumentation. They all ran great and for many miles.Taillight wiring was not great eventhough they were made by Hella of Germany. The contact pressure on the lamps was insufficient and generated heat causing the socket to deform slightly. A shim was the factory service repair recommendation.

    This particular car has the euro market diesel engine hood. I have only seen one other car with it in the USA. It is possible that the factory stuck these on because of low standard hood inventory or they were provided as replacement hoods through the dealer network for a similar reason.

    0
  19. Flash

    I had one also, plenty of power , drove nice but dam the electrical issues(fusebox) they made Lucas electrics seam NASA grade. Quit driving it and left it parked trying to decide whether to junk it or fix it. When a neighbor kid wanted to buy it, I told him “No” he didn’t want to buy it but he insisted and brought his dad back with him to beg some more. Against my better judgment I sell it to him for $500. basically junk yard price, Needless to say, to this day his dad still doesn’t make eye contact with me ,(it has been 25 years)

    0
  20. Dennis M

    Thanks for the clarification on the hood Alan! I thought that one looked a little strange, but could not put my finger one it.

    Biggest issue with Renault’s of this era was the French insistence on turning accessories on and off by breaking the ground instead of shutting off the power. This resulted in live, but non-functioning, circuits which were prone to shorts.

    0
  21. Simon

    I traded my 2.2 liter Fuego in 1994 on a 1992 Mustang GT. It had a 149K miles on it. it was the same interior and exterior colors as this one. It was great when it went and still to this day one of the most comfortable cars I have ever ridden in. They gave me $250 for it!!

    0

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