Free Baguettes: $1,500 1980 Renault Le Car

One look at the baked paint tells you that this 1980 Renault Le Car has experienced plenty of UV exposure. That is hardly surprising since it appears that it has spent its life in sunny California. It needs cosmetic restoration, but it seems that it won’t take a lot of work to return it to a roadworthy state. Barn Finder Art spotted the Renault for us, so thank you so much for that, Art. It is located in Berkeley, California, and has been listed for sale here on craigslist for $1,500. If a cheap project car is on your radar, then this might fill the bill.

The Red paint that the Le Car wears has paid the price for UV exposure, which is typical for these little classics. However, where it hasn’t suffered is in the rust department. There appears to be a small spot in the lower section of each front fender, but these could easily be addressed with patches. The owner supplies photos of the Renault’s underside, and it appears to be structurally sound. The panels are generally straight, although a couple of dings in the hood might also account for the missing grille. I suspect that whatever inflicted the dents probably also smashed the grille. The glass appears to be in good condition, but a lot of the exterior plastic is looking quite baked. However, if this restoration is being tackled on a strict budget, some plastic primer and a coat of paint should have most of these parts presenting perfectly once again.

One of the strongest selling points of this Le Car is the inclusion of a factory sunroof. This is an excellent score for a car in a warmer climate, and it is in remarkable condition when compared to the rest of the exterior. The owner supplies no engine photos, but we know that this will not be a ball of fire. What you get for your money is a 1,397cc engine that sends its 54hp to the front wheels via a 4-speed manual transmission. At 1,819lbs, the Le Car is a relative featherweight. That allows it to cover the ¼ mile in 19.6 seconds. That’s hardly headline-making stuff, but these little cars were designed more as commuters vehicles to cope with the cut-and-thrust of city traffic. This is something that they do well. This one doesn’t currently run, but the owner states that it will not take a lot of work to get it back on the road. He believes that flushing the fuel system and replacing the battery should see it on the road once again.

When you consider how baked the exterior is, this little Le Car springs a surprise when you open the doors. I was expecting plenty of crumbling plastic and baked vinyl, but the interior is in remarkable condition. I believe that a weekend in a workshop with some decent cleaning products would have it sparkling once again. The seats are free from splits and cracks, while the dash and carpet present well. The headliner is in good order, and even the lining for the sunroof is free from flaws. The wheel is an aftermarket addition and offers some sporting pretensions. Maybe the owner was imagining that they were driving a Renault 5 Turbo! I would probably swap that item out, although its condition is good enough to justify leaving it. There are very few luxury appointments, with an AM radio being about it.

The Renault Le Car was designed to be a cheap car to buy and a cheap one to own. These little classics could be run on the smell of an oily rag, making them perfect commuter vehicles. This one isn’t perfect, but I would class it as cheap and cheerful. A fresh coat of paint would make a world of difference to this car. If you have a young adult who is getting ready to head off to college, this could be a great project to tackle. They could help with the restoration, and they’d then have a tidy and inexpensive vehicle to get them to classes each day. Cheap project cars are always going to be a compromise, and the fact is that when it is restored, this Renault is not going to threaten a lot of cars in the “potential value” stakes. The seller does claim that people will buy you “beer and coffee and baguettes” when they see the car. Sounds like this little car could provide a lot of enjoyment, and who can put a price on that?

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Comments

  1. CCFisher

    I hope someone buys this, addresses its immediate needs, and enjoys the h-e-double-hockey-sticks out of it.

    Like 3
  2. David

    I remember my mom’s Avon lady and her husband each had one. Black with red graphics (I don’t recall ever seeing the interior) and silver with red graphics. Not sure what dealers carried these as there wasn’t a Renault dealer in the area at the time. This was Worcester, MA, circa 1982 as I can best remember.

    Like 1
  3. Jeffery Cohen

    Back in the late 70’s I worked at an independent dealership that was pretty big for the time. We sold the Renault, the Peugeot 504 and I think 505? And we had fiat x19 ‘s but no other fiats. And last was a Simca sedan. Don’t remember much about the Simca but what amazes me is what a line up. I can’t imagine a dealership nowadays being able to sell a selection of new cars and do really well with just those cars. This was back east in new Jersey, so maybe people there wanted something different

    Like 3
  4. Howard A Member

    Pas d’interet, ooh, la-la, Frenchy,( nah, I looked it up. I took Spanish in HS, and slept through that) Lots of great parts for someone that collects these,,,( crickets), but for any appeal, they have to be better than this. Of the few I saw that didn’t have panels missing, I thought they were good cars, as far as econoboxes went. They laid the groundwork for the highly successful Alliance( more crickets) and these faded pretty quick. Renault’s flash in the pan for America, kind of.

    Like 2
    • 370zpp

      “The highly successful Alliance”? Really? I think not.

      Like 1
      • nlpnt

        They were everywhere, and then sometime in the very early ’90s they were all gone.

      • Howard A Member

        Hey, 370, apparently you don’t get my N. Wis. sense of humor. Say what you will, they did sell 623,573 Alliances, which made it kinda successful. Most of those buyers were steadfast AMC buyers that refused to believe the end was near, and bought them out of pity. My brother had one, the only car I saw with an “oil level” gauge, but it served him well for several years, and that was their intent. It’s why you never see one today, they were throw away cars. I remember, just about any dealer could sell these. A well known Pontiac dealer in Milwaukee, Phil Tolkan, took Renault on as a side line because there were so few AMC dealers left.

  5. Jim

    Why is it we never see a restored example of the LeCar? These were such unique vehicles, I can’t imagine why they aren’t more popular.

    Like 2
    • Alexander

      You see, that’s the problem.

      This IS a restored example.

      [rimshot]

      Like 6
    • Josh

      The same reason we don’t see restored Yugos.

      Like 2
      • Jim

        Take either a Yugo or a LeCar to any car show…..I guarantee you’ll attract a crowd.

        Like 4
    • karl

      attract a crowd – like a train wreck !

      Like 2
  6. Mark

    I owned a 1976. Two issues with them.
    1) The Unibody doesn’t like salt. Eventually it rots out and you’ll see horizontal cracks start to appear on the doorpost behind the driver. Another tell is the door won’t close properly as the opening is no longer square.
    2) It has a wet sleeve engine. Great design when it’s tight but an SOB to get resealed and the get the cooling system working properly as it’s a pressurized system.

    Like 1
  7. Dennis

    I bought a LeCar in 1978 (much to my father’s chagrin)Because I needed an inexpensive to drive car that had sufficient room for my two growing children.

    Despite dad’s (and just about everyone else’s opinion) it proved to be inexpensive to commute in, unbelievably dependable and a lot of fun to throw around the back roads.

    In the 3 plus years I owned it, it NEVER let me down.

    After finishing school and getting more gainfully employed, I used it as a trade-in for a diesel Peugeot, and it was fantastic as well.

    Like 6
    • Grid63

      Dennis, that is the perfect example of what these cars were designed for! It was a humble, reliable and economical car that was a nice entry level new car for a small family.

      Like 1
    • Howard A Member

      It was the 4th year when they went haywire,, :)

      • 370zpp

        My apologies, Howard, I missed that one – your N. Wis. sense of humor.
        I tend to be passionate about Alliances and Encores, as I once worked at a Volvo dealership in the 80s that also sold them. The ongoing feedback from the mechanics alone was enough to convince me of the overall quality(?) of these cars. The guys would practically run in the other direction when they came in.

  8. Sandy

    The Renault Club of North America (ROCNA) has a strong, diverse, following. This would be a prime car for someone interested in getting into the French Revolution. I wish it were in the Northeast, where I KNOW a number of people would be interested in restoring it!

    Like 1
  9. bone

    In the North East these rotted out terribly . Some of the yard guys in our junkyard used to use them for yard cars. This was in the early 1980s. They came in to the place in droves (no pun intended ! )

  10. Klfulop

    Already gone …

    This posting deleted by author

  11. Bob19006

    I was the owner of a 1976 R-5 and a 1982 4 door LeCar both with the rubber roof. Loved the cars, especially the gas mileage and fun to drive and the large rubber roof made the car more like a convertible than a sunroof! . I used to carry a 28 foot extension ladder (14 feet long) by sliding it in the hatch and out the roof. Also carried a full size string bass, in the hatch, rear seat folded down and the neck between the 2 front seats. Both cars had crappy engines, with major failures before ever hitting 100,000 miles. Body and paint and interiors were excellent at age 10, but the rubber roof got small splits on both. I’m surprised that paint is cooked but the rubber roof has no splits. Maybe it was replaced?

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