Mint Condition? 1983 Renault LeCar

We occasionally see repeat performances with classic cars here at Barn Finds, and that would appear to be the case with this 1983 Renault LeCar. Whether it is because a sale fell through or whether a new owner has decided that their purchase wasn’t the car of their dreams, this one has popped back up on the market about a year after we last saw it. On that occasion, the LeCar was covered by our own Jim ODonnell in this excellent article. Maybe the second time will be a charm, with the owner listing the Renault for sale here on eBay. It is located in Flanders, New Jersey, and the bidding currently sits at $4,500 in this No Reserve auction.

This little Renault is the source of a certain amount of confusion. The previous listing suggested that the vehicle had undergone some form of restoration. The seller now gives the impression that it is a low-mileage survivor. Of course, it is possible that what was initially classed as a restoration may have amounted to little more than a repaint. That would be an interesting question to ask. Regardless of the truth, the LeCar presents quite well. The White paint shines nicely, with no apparent issues. There is no evidence of dings or dents and no visible rust. That is one aspect that is worth considering because corrosion could be the enemy of these little cars. However, the owner supplies a great selection of photos of the car’s underside, and it looks to be clean and sound. It looks like the Renault might have been undercoated at some point, which will have helped its cause. There are no issues with the external trim, while the same seems to be true of the glass.

The owner describes the vehicle as being in mint condition, and it is hard to argue this when you look at the interior. It seems that it has received at least new covers for the seats at some point, which remain in excellent order. The same is true of the remaining upholstery, while the dash appears to be faultless. The LeCar was marketed as an affordable small car, and as such, the interior isn’t loaded with luxury equipment. Apart from cloth seat trim, there is an AM/FM radio. That’s your lot. However, what the Renault lacked in equipment, it more than compensated for with interior space. Maybe it doesn’t offer the rear legroom of a Cadillac, but rear-seat space is impressive for a car of this size.

Under the hood of the LeCar, we find the 1,397cc 4-cylinder engine. This little unit should be producing 51hp, which finds its way to the front wheels via a 4-speed manual transmission. These are not a fast car, with the journey down the ¼ mile taking a leisurely 20.2 seconds. It is incredible to think that at the same time that this car rolled off the production line, Renault was also producing 1.5-liter turbocharged engines for its Formula 1 campaign. Those motoring hand grenades were pumping out an incredible 1,500hp. I guess that you could try to extract the same sort of power from this engine. However, I think that it would only happen for a few moments before the engine became a molten puddle under the front of the car! Anyway, the owner states that the LeCar has a genuine 38,000 miles showing on its odometer. He doesn’t mention whether he holds verifying evidence, but he does say that it runs and drives well, with everything working as it should.

The Renault LeCar wasn’t the marketing success that the company had hoped for. The LeCar was offered in the US between 1976 and 1983, but fewer than 150,000 cars found their way to American homes. They were cheap to buy, and most were treated as disposable items. That means that there isn’t a vast number left on our roads today, and fewer still that are as nice as this one appears to be. Bidding has been pretty intense on this little French classic, which suggests that there are more than a few people out there who like what they see. It will be interesting to see what it eventually sells for.

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Comments

  1. Howard A Member

    These got such a poor rap. Even the least offering from the French was still a good car. Poor timing, as I think these were kind of the 1st “econobox” offered, and Americans didn’t have a clue how to drive or maintain them. These had great success as the Renault 5 in Europe, because, many didn’t drive in salt, and they knew how to drive them. I think there’s plenty of parts overseas, but any that were here, aside from this one, are already turned into toasters, frying pans and such. Cool find, I’d love to have it.

    Like 9
  2. KKW

    We must be getting close to the bottom of the barrel.

    Like 5
  3. Jim in FL

    I think these were overshadowed by the VW Rabbit, which was arguably the better car for the money. A friend had one of these with the canvas sunroof in high school, it was her 16th birthday car. Quirky yes, but pretty fun to a new driver in 1982. Not overpowered, inexpensive. I mean for competition, the chevette was still available in 83. You forget that econoboxes back then we’re way more basic than today.

    When these were introduced, dad was working at a Pontiac dealer that took a Renault franchise. They went all in on the Le Car. Sold a bunch the first year, but dropped off quick.

    Like 3
    • Paul R.

      I had a Volkswagen Rabbit, great little car.
      Always wanted to put a bumper sticker on the back —-
      “BUG’s BUNNY”

      Like 2
      • TouringFordor

        There was a white Rabbit with the following vanity plate:

        ML8

  4. Jim

    That hood scoop doesn’t look right. Did someone add that at some point or did I just never notice them on LeCars before?

    • RayT Member

      I believe the scoop was an accessory, available from the dealer. Sat right over the intake for the heater, IIRC.

      I knew a couple of people whose R5s had them. Mine didn’t. The heater was way down on the list of things I wanted better performance from.

      These were easy, if somewhat pricey, to hop up. Renault’s racing division sold lots of goodies, from wheels to antiroll bars to complete suspension kits, with five-speed transaxles and 93-horsepower “Alpine” engines if you really wanted to get serious….

      Like 3
      • XMA0891

        I drove what must’ve been a “loaded” (it had A/C) ’84 four door for years with zero problems. The only aspect of the car I was not a fan of were the rear brakes, which needed to be manually adjusted by means of eccentric cams, and were almost-always in need of an adjustment. I was told at the time that Renault made both a “standard” drum, and disk conversion kit for them – If true it would’ve been well-spent money. Strangely, that Le Car is one of the only cars I’ve owned that I wished I’d never let go of.

        Like 4
  5. Jason

    It definitely seems like these just weren’t well suited for American roads and/or customers, as I remember seeing tons of them in the early days, but just a few years later they were practically extinct.

    Like 2
  6. Marko

    These were great economy cars for the money, Mpg’s in mid thirties to mid forties in my experience. Rode well, handled well, 60 felt like 75, go cart excitement. Not made or rustproofed for the rust belt. (What cars were?) Disposable as stated. As a previous owner of an aspire, XA and Aveo, respectable, best milage of them all and very good interior space for its small presence. if they were durable as todays cars, would buy new one in a second!

    Like 2
  7. MarveH

    I have never understood the hate in America for small cars. Curious among the appliance users but unforgivable among enthusiasts. Small cars are light, fun to drive, and require skill to get the best out of them.
    Whenever a small car is presented there is inevitably someone who says it’s junk, and mainly because they think it’s ugly. My vacuum cleaner isn’t what I’d call pretty either but it serves me well.
    We Americans also tend to abuse small cars and only maintain them begrudgingly. I refer to it as destructive optimism, I know I’ll be able to afford a more expensive car someday so I’ll destroy this one.
    I’d love to have this R5 they have been on my radar recently. Vintage economy cars can still do today what they did back in the proverbial day: get you A-B economically and reliably and have fun doing it.

    Like 11
  8. Lc

    IT looks similar to this 90 FORD Fiesta for Sale in my area. Same color and with a stick shift for a cheaper asking price of 3K.

    Like 1
    • Lc

      I was looking up 91 Ford Fiesta in Nadaguides, and it only shows Festiva so it looks like the guy has it listed wrong.

      • Jalopy

        Ford Fiesta was an English Ford, Festiva was Asian. The Fiesta was a great little car.

      • Solosolo Solosolo UK Member

        @Jalopy. The Ford Fiesta is still UK’s top selling car and has been for the past 10 years or more.

  9. Matt

    I have a round headlight 78…ultra rare!

    Like 1
  10. daniel wright

    I don’t think I have seen a Le Car since the 90’s. I remember one abandoned in my ghetto apartment parking lot. It never moved the entire time I lived there., it was sitting with the frame on the ground with no wheels or tires.

  11. ADM

    I had a boss that had a ’78 Black Beauty, with the canvas slider. I had a ’78 Ford Fiesta, that ran real well, with all the emission hardware removed. Anyway, his Le Car sometimes not start on it’s own, so after work he’d say ” I need your Ford Fiasco to push The French Wreck.” I also had cousins who owned one, that I drove. Very unique, and rode easy, with a Citroen-like feel feel to it.

    Like 1
  12. ADM

    I had a boss that had a ’78 Black Beauty, with the canvas slider. I had a ’78 Ford Fiesta, that ran real well, with all the emission hardware removed. Anyway, his Le Car sometimes not start on it’s own, so after work he’d say ” I need your Ford Fiasco to push The French Wreck.” I also had cousins who owned one, that I drove. Very unique, and rode easy, with a Citroen-like feel to it.

  13. Steve Clinton

    Le Crap.

    Like 2
    • daniel wright

      Le Vroom, Le Rust, Le Junk, Le Please drop me off a block from school so the kids don’t see me…

  14. Kevin Shutt

    Owned a 1983 as well. It was the GT edition. Midnight blue with ” LeCar ” on it.
    This one was fast. Unfortunately it was always in the shop with some issue. The exhaust had to be replaced every couple years as the one piece was cold rolled steel and couldn’t handle the salty Canadian winters

    Like 1
  15. Solosolo ken tilly UK Member

    A lady friend of mine in Durban, South Africa, bought one directly from the factory but 3 months later the window lifter had stopped working and she asked me to see if I could fix it. I removed the door card and the first thing I noticed was a bunch of white “Things” at the bottom of the door. They turned out to be sunlight! Rusted right through in 3 months! I fixed the lifter and she traded it in on a Jaguar XJ6. Great little car but they weren’t rust proofed at the factory as that was an after market job.

  16. Bob19006

    I had all AMC cars from 1967 to 1995 except 1979-1989 when I had 2 LeCars, a 1976 R5 and a 1982 4 door, both with the full rubber roof that almost made it a convertible. I loved driving the car, fun, easy parking, great gas mileage, largest back seat room of any car that length as the wheels were both at the far ends. I could push a 28 foot extension ladder (14 feet long) in the hatch and up through the roof with 1 short rope keeping it from sliding down. Could carry a full sized string bass with the rear seat folded down and the neck up between the front seats. The rubber roofs split on both cars and silicone rubber did not stick well. With 1 big exception, the car car held up well, interior, seat, body, trans were all great. Both cars had engine problems with less than 100,000 miles. So different from all my AMC’s with big cast iron straight 6 engines that ran forever.

    Like 1
    • Lc

      That’s funny because I hauled my full size upright bass guitar the same way back in the early 90s in my 81 Mercury Capri to my music lessons.

      • Lc

        Well, I take that back. With the rear seat folded down, I would put the neck under the small of the rear of the hatch back, and the main body of the instrument would be against the passenger seat from what I recall.

  17. Rod305

    I have been watching out for a Le Car for sale since I moved to the USA from my native Ireland,(@ $4,500 over budget for me!) I had a 1980 R5, one family owned from new, it was never over 60 mph , well until I got it,lol it was the 1.1 L engine with 47hp , doesn’t sound much but the car is so light it was nippy and returned 39-41 mpg constantly. Handling takes some getting used to though, lots of body roll, but glued to the road, personally I think they were a decent car, French engineering is quirky at best , rust is a big thing and even finding brake pads in Ireland was tricky , there were 7 different kinds!

    Like 1
  18. DLegeai

    Three of us, coworkers back in the early ‘80s had a Le Car in the Chicago area; all 3 had the same issues: anti pollution US model only hardware went kaput, rear flip windows fell off as the hinges were glued to the glass, winter temps did the job. Took weeks for the dealer to get parts…..things like that will kill any potential share of market. Fun car to drive though.

  19. Jrteock

    I think the reason it didn’t sell well was it only available with a 4 speed trans. No automatic which cut the market in half.

  20. MitchRoss Member

    The only brans new car I have ever owned. 1980 with the big sunroof. Rode like no other car. Steering that was impeccable and with the optional Formuling France steering wheel it felt perfect. I added BWA wheels and wider tires and an Ansa dual outlet exhaust. What a blast. Unfortunately , blew 2 head gaskets in the first couple of years because the temp sensor that tells the fan to come on and the overheat light to also come on were the same thing and prone to failure. once the light comes on, it’s too late. Was rusting out he rear wheel arches after 2 years. Too bad AMC and Renault didn’t mitigate each others shortcomings, they could have built some wonderful cars

    • Steve Clinton

      IMO when Renault bought AMC the death knell sounded for poor American Motors.

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