Motor Trend CotY Edition: 1983 Renault Alliance

I freely admit to subscribing to Motor Trend for, gulp, almost 40 years – from 1976 to around 2012 or so. I let my long-term subscription lapse a few years ago after realizing that I was saving/hoarding every one, and they were just sitting in boxes in our garage, in closets, anywhere and everywhere. Nobody would take them so off to recycling they went, all 432 of them. I don’t subscribe to any “new car” magazines anymore, I don’t have much interest in the latest $50,000 pickup or $100,000 Porsche 911 that looks like every other one for the last two decades. But, this 1983 Renault Alliance Motor Trend Car of the Year Edition, this thing turns my crank. This rare car is listed on eBay with an unmet opening bid of $2,800 and there are two days left on the auction. This unusual gray ghost is in Buffalo, New York.

With a clearly-visible ding on the side of the LF fender in the opening photo, maybe this would have been a better lead-in image. It’s always nice to see the grille, though. This is a case where rare doesn’t always equate to valuable. This car really belongs in a museum. Hey, maybe the Buffalo Transportation Pierce Arrow Museum would want it.. no, that wouldn’t work.. Other than the ding on the side of the LF fender, this car looks like it’s in fantastic condition. Although, the paint appears to be pretty dull and it looks like the clear coat on the hood is going, or has gone, bad. “The original paint is faded on the hood, roof, bumpers and trunk lid, but otherwise shows well.” The seller also says that there “is zero rust on the car.” That’s about the best possible news to any of us who have grown up in the Midwest or Northeast with rusty car after rusty car in our driveways.

I love this car in that it’s a two-door model. I rarely see these cars at all, and by that I mean the regular Alliance, not a MTCotY edition. Seeing a two-door Alliance is pretty unusual, and a Motor Trend Car of the Year edition is even more unusual. This particular example is “Motor Trend Car of the Year Edition #2699/3000.” I can’t imagine that there are many of them left, there aren’t many Alliances left in regular garb let alone this special edition model. I like it, a lot. Most of you won’t like it, but that’s how I roll. Small and unusual cars turn me on at this point in my life. I still like a few hulking, lumbering, gigantic cars, but for the most part, small and unusual cars are where it’s at in my world.

The interior looks even nicer than the exterior does. I’ve always thought that a tan interior in a gray or silver car was a little unusual, but it’s growing on me. The seats look like they’re in great condition but they don’t have a nice bolstering of my 1987 Renault GTA seats. And, then there’s that badge above the glove box. I have a 1-of-500 Avus Silver over red leather 2002 Audi TT ALMS edition coupe, but I normally don’t have too many limited edition vehicles. I think this MTCotY Alliance would be a hoot at car shows.

This isn’t the 95 hp fuel-injected 2.0L that I have in my ’87 GTA, this is a 64 hp 1.4L carbureted inline-four engine. The seller says that they “purchased this car in New Jersey from the original owner back around 2012. It was garaged for nearly 20 years before I bought it, however was started on a regular basis every few months. In my tenure of ownership, it has been driven in summers only, and has been a true pleasure to drive.” They have done a lot of work to maintain the car, including “new tires, new brakes, all fluids changed (engine oil, gear oil, brake fluid, coolant), as well as a new radiator, new thermostat, and upper/lower coolant hoses, etc. It is completely road-worthy, and I would not hesitate to drive it anywhere.” Have any of you heard of the Motor Trend Car of the Year edition for the Renault Alliance? Let’s have a few Alliance stories; hopefully there are some good experiences to balance out the bad ones!


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    No thanks. Renault is what finally killed AMC.

    • Scotty Gilbertson Staff

      SC/RAMBLER (dream car, by the way), I thought Renault basically was the source of income that was AMC’s only choice in staying alive when nobody else cared, or would help?

      • That AMC Guy

        That is pretty much the case. During the 1970s AMC blew its scarce tooling dollars on the Matador Coupe and Pacer, both of which ultimately failed in the marketplace, rather than updating their core products.

        AMC had no money left to develop a new, modern platform so by the end of the 1970s was left spinning off endless variations of the Hornet, which itself was not much different under the skin from a 1964+ Rambler American. Without Renault’s investment AMC might well have closed its doors by 1980.

        Renault also funded and provided the technical lead for the development of the groundbreaking Jeep “XJ” Cherokee. So while Renault bungled their involvement with AMC in a number of ways, it was not totally negative.

        The Alliance, of course, did not fare very well and quickly acquired a reputation for being junk. It’s pretty amazing to see a survivor at this late date.

        Like 1
  2. Superdessucke

    I think Motor Trend is a corporate sponsored puff piece, with all due respect to anybody who likes it. The fact that this pile, along with the 1974 Mustang II, 1976 Plymouth Volare, 1980 Chevy Citation, 1981 Dodge Aries, 1988 Grand Prix, 1995 Chrysler Cirrus, 1997 Chevy Malibu, 2001 PT Cruiser and 2002 Ford Thunderbird also won it should tell one all he needs to know about their automotive credibility. It’s probably based on who spends the most on glossy advertising.

    • TriPowerVette

      @Superdessucke – One of the cars you mentioned reminds me of a story. The 1980 Chevy Citation. One day, in the early 1980’s I needed to make a run to the store. It was a beautiful Arizona day, so I decided to take the 1967 XK-E.

      As I parked and got out, I noticed a bookish-looking gentleman getting out of his Citation. He walked over to me and stared admiringly at the Jag. After a longish silence, he finally said, “One of these days, I’d sure like to own one of those, but right now, I need the economy.”

      I was feeling a little bit expansive that morning, so engaged him. I replied, “Well, let’s look at the economics of ownership for the two cars. How much did you pay for your car?” A little taken aback, he replied, “$12,500 and change.”

      I said, “Very well. I paid $6,000 for mine. And what sort of mileage does yours get?” He said, “About 22 M.P.G.”

      “OK”, I continued, “I get about 15. Let’s say we both drive 1000 miles a month. At that rate, you will have bought about 45 gallons of fuel at, say, $2.50 per. I will have bought around 67 gallons. Quick math tells us that your monthly fuel costs will be about $112. Mine will be about $167. The difference will be $55 monthly.

      Repairs will be about equal, since my brakes and tires cost about the same as yours, hoses and belts the same as well. Your engine and transmission cost a lot more to repair than mine, but yours will need fewer repairs (and many will be under warranty), since yours is new, and mine is much older. The result is pretty much a wash as well.”

      After that, it was time to sew it up.

      I said, “Alright, at the end of your purchase contract, how much will your Citation be worth? …About $2500, in 5 years.” It turns out that that number wasn’t correct… you couldn’t give a 5 year old Citation away. $800-$900 tops.

      “You will have lost $10,000 in purchase price, for the 5 year period, I will lose $0.”

      “Let’s assume that my Jag is not going to appreciate at all, but we can agree that it won’t depreciate, either.” (It turned out that I sold the Jag for $10,000 cash and a 1971 Porsche 914 in excellent condition.)

      “You just get better mileage than I do, you don’t get to drive for free.
      60 months X $55 extra monthly fuel costs = -$3,300.
      $6000 – $2500 = +$3500 residual value after 5 years.”

      “The net is +$10,200 for 5 years of Jaguar XK-E ownership, relative to the Chev Citation for the same period.

      “So in the rosiest scenario for your Citation, It costs me about $10,000 less to own my Jag for the 5 year period.” I continued, “One of these days, I’d like to own an economy car, but right now, all I can afford is an XK-E.”

      He looked at me like I was a Martian.

      The math works equally for this POS Alliance, as well as all the other cars mentioned (except the T-Bird).

      • Doug

        The Citation was aptly named- it got more fix-it tickets than any prior car !
        They had a nasty habit of spinning out on slippery roads because the genius engineers @ GM didn’t understand front wheel drive in a relatively light car requires a different brake bias than a Nova…. So the front wheels would lock up and put the car into a spin. Front drive is good for going uphill in slippery conditions, but has challenges going downhill, as there is no drag from the drivetrain on the rear of the car when you let off the gas and the front wheels are slowing faster than the rears. One solution that works if you have a handbrake that has a button to release it, and operates on the rear wheels, is to ease off the gas while applying slight pressure to the handbrake – this will produce drag a the rear of the vehicle -the same principle as a sea anchor for any of you that sail…
        Folks thought I was nuts because I had snow tires on the rear of my Honda Civic S back in the day, & all seasons on the front. The reason was so that when forced to chain up the front wheels for Donner Pass, I wouldn’t have hockey pucks on my rear wheels !

        Like 1
      • DweezilAZ

        One would have been hard pressed to put $7000 dollars in options on an 80 Citation.

        The base price was 4500-5500 dollars.

        Like 1
      • TriPowerVette

        @DwezilAZ – A quick look at the history of the Citation shows you to be apparently correct. My only answer, then, is this: My memory of this interchange is very clear. The owner of the car stated that he had $12,500 in it. I have no other to add.

        However; the argument is still only over how much, not whether. If you remove an amount equal to $6,000 from the net, it still cost the Citation owner $4,200 more to own the ‘economy’ car. (In fact, instead of $0, I made $4,000 (+ a Porsche 914, valued at $$3,500 at the time) on the sale).

        During that period of time, buying an economy car made NO sense, relative to other offerings available.

        Today, there is no direct comparison. A really super Mustang Laguna Seca (say), is $50,000. A nice collectible can often exceed that.

        Thank you for engaging. I gave you a thumbs up.

    • DweezilAZ

      Forgot the Ultimate COTY: 71 Chevrolet Vega. But you have an excellent memory.

      I couldn’t have remembered the picks in the 00s.

      Don’t forget “Bumper Of The Year” for 68 with Pontiac’s use of the Endura covered GTO front bumper.

      Still waiting for their 2017 winner of that.

  3. GliveCo

    My dad had one of these as a beater back in the 90s he would drive to work. Used to plug in the block heater over night. We called it the green monster. He was so tired some mornings (or hung over) that sometimes he would drive away with the extension cord still dragging from the grill. I was very young and remember the vinyl seats would burn.

  4. Derek

    I think it was the Renault 9 here – the hatchback was the 11. The special edition thing’s quite nice. Don’t think we had 2-door 9s, just 4. A tad on the dear side, I’d say.

  5. Pa Tina

    The CotY tells you everything you need to know about autos in the 1980’s (Although I am quite proud of the “1984 Car of the Year” sticker on my Corvette) Funny how that works, huh?.

    • Rick Rothermel

      I learned from MT vets at the Petersen magazine factory, that the ‘CAR’ of the year award often went to the ‘ADVERTISER’ of the year. Got worse after Pete sold the company.

      • DweezilAZ

        Rick: Auto Week busted MT in the late 80s when they did an expose of the COTY Award. Pure pay for play.

        I gave up on them about then, but continued on for awhile until the thumb nail pieces were ranked as full “road tests”, they stopped reporting their own mpg numbers and would give only wheelbase and weight in the dimensions information.

        When MT got taken over by the publishers of the snobby and pretentious Automobile, I haven’t bought, subscribed or bothered to read another one.

  6. Blueprint

    As I posted on a previous Alliance posting here, I owned an ’86 DL two-door back in the ’90s as a winter beater. Mine had the larger 1.7 litre four paired with the automatic. Great heat, terrific in the snow, super comfy, cruise at 140 km/h all day, but boy was the AMC-designed 2-door body ever flexy. Every bump would generate wobbling sheetmetal noise!

  7. Mark

    “Belongs in a museum”?????????
    A car with a magazine’s plastic emblem glued to it does not a classic make.
    I’m now on a quest seeking the elusive 89′ Dodge Caravan with a “Good Housekeeping Seal of Approval” dash plaque. If I can’t find one I’m going to slap some Consumer Reports stickers on my wife’s Odyssey and head for Barrett Jackson.
    Sorry, couldn’t resist. As I get older, it seems to me the car hobby market has taken some odd twists and turns. GLWTS

    • Alexander

      Perhaps parked in a museum as a cautionary tale?

      As in “those who refuse to study the past are condemned to repeat it”??

      I deal with the railroad museum community on a regular (as in, I should have a job with them) basis. One of the running arguments–and I know it’s prevalent in the auto preservation circles, too–is preserving the sexy failures and sexy exotics and superlatives (think DeLorean, Edsel, Rolls-Royce, GT40, Bugatti, etc.) while trying to get people interested enough to care about the humdrum, everyday cars that people actually drove that are more important in the grand scheme of history (Ford Model T and Escort, Chevy Chevette, Honda Civic, Dodge Caravan, etc.).

      • Scotty Gilbertson Staff


  8. elrod

    Try to think of Renaults in terms of “scrap metal per pound” terms. Your life will be much simpler.

  9. el burrito

    Nice write up, Scotty. I love Renaults; had an R 10 and a couple of Dauphines. Still want a 4CV but prices are really getting prohibitive for these puppies.

  10. rick

    I recall some MT aniversery issue where the editor reminisced about past ups and downs of the magazine, and naming the Renault CofTY was one of his top Down moments.

  11. The Chucker

    My older sister purchased one of these new. After the third clutch in 20,000 miles, the dealer finally informed her of a design flaw that when the rear main seal leaked (which was common) it would soak the clutch with oil, necessitating replacement. She traded early.

  12. Rabbit

    “The One to Watch”…..fall apart. These cars were the last nail in AMC’s coffin. Junk. I was at the dealer when they came out. Amazing how many had severe issues right out of the box. Renault almost killed Mack Truck too.

  13. Scott Tait

    Was one of the french renault 11s not in the 1985 BOND movie “a view to a kill” where it got halved in two but still drove as FWD??

    • Rick Rothermel

      That stunt was copied by several movies from Toby Halicki’s JUNKMAN (Chevy Citation).

  14. Rube Goldberg Member

    I agree, MT must have been in cahoots with AMC, or an otherwise pretty slow year. Like the writer says, these cars were very popular in the Midwest. It helped many keep working, for a while, but it was rumored, disgruntled workers, who knew the end was near, sabotaged these cars on assembly. French make great cars, so I wouldn’t blame them, it was the ( crybaby) AMC workers who were making big bucks, and feared their swanky lifestyle was in peril, and it was, if anything. However, many loyal AMC folks bought these, but rarely bought another. My brother had one, it was a good car, from what I remember. The only car I’ve ever seen with an “oil level” gauge. I’d have to think parts for these are non-existent. Who would keep a front strut in stock for an ’83 Alliance?

    • Scotty Gilbertson Staff

      Ha, I could use an oil level gauge for a couple of my beaters! The only saving grace on parts may be the European version and/or market, but those can be tricky to find and buy.


    Thanks Rabbit. The story I heard was a heater core recall. Even Renault cars in junkyard had to be hunted down and a replacement heater core left on the front seat to settle a class action lawsuit filed against AMC and Renault. That was the proverbial nail in the coffin for AMC. It WAS NOT because of crybaby AMC workers. Somebody (RUBE) just doesn’t appreciate the struggles of and independent auto maker. Look at Deloren, Tesla, and others struggling today.

  16. Alan (Michigan) Member

    Not a GTA?
    No reason to want to drive it all, if there is any alternative.

  17. rapple

    Scotty, I can understand your attraction to this car and forgive you for any personal shortcomings that may be implied from that attraction by those less charitable than myself. However, maintaining a subscription to MT for the better part of four decades suggests some very serious “issues”. Fortunately, you have stopped the subscriptions, disposed of the worthless backlog of material and, most importantly, come out here and discussed your problem, a major step toward what is hopefully a permanent recovery.

  18. Doug

    The Renault Appliance….. Worked about as well as a Lucas Refrigerator….
    No style, no substance either. These should be parked with Yugos – at the back of the scrapyard. They are rare because virtually no one wanted to keep one.

    • Rabbit

      Why do the British drink warm beer? Because Lucas makes refrigerators too.

  19. Keith

    I was an AMC mechanic in ’83 (and a Renault “speciaist”). There are very few bigger POS in the automotive world than the Alliance (or Encore). On the plus side, there was always plenty of work!

    • Rabbit

      I was just the lowly ‘utility guy’, & did everything from oil changes & tires, to detailing to clearing snow off the lot cars in the winter. From the time these came out, they were bad news. We’d get (I’d say) 3 Alliance/Encore for every Spirit or Jeep. Brand-new cars blowing things like shift modules…. My boss threw in the towel & shuttered the business shortly thereafter (Early ’85?). In all fairness? The car was full of good ideas, but the execution was awful.

    • Fred Frost

      Thirty five years later still having nightmares about this car. Had an ’83 manual two door, red. Oh my. What was I thinking? Blew clutches like crazy, and in 2 years a deafening rear rattle and clunk was louder than the radio could play. What was the rattle?? Took it to the dealer and they just shook their heads. Said “we would have to tear out the back seat to even expose the problem. Brand new, pedal to the floor, went 58 mph, and went into the high 40’s on a grade. Repair shops wouldn’t even agree to put it on the lift. I left the keys in the ignition and the doors unlocked for 2 years in downtown Chicago and no one would steal it. Sold it for $1K in 1988, and felt bad for the guy that bought it.

      • Tim Rusling

        Our two ’83s were super little cars. Nothing wrong, loved them.

  20. charlie Member

    1. My 1939 MG SA had an oil level gauge, and my 2002 Audi has a low oil level light when it is down a quart and a half.
    2. I live in the High Sierra with steep hills and snow. Deep tread snow tires and 4 WD or AWD will get you up the hills, but not a lot of help on the way down. Back in 1956 my father taught me to put the automatic transmission in neutral when coming to a stop so, in those days, the rear wheels were not trying to turn while the front wheels locked. I still do it with the AWD (two Audi’s) and 4 WD car (Toyota 4Runner) and it helps a lot. And, when the snow is fierce, as it was last winter, I put cable chains on the rear wheels of the Audi’s and the 4 Runner so they will stop. And the French built cars with flair, but Renaults are still lacking in quality – rented one a few summers ago, it was new, driver’s door was in process of falling off after a week, when I returned it the Dutch Hertz rental agent said, “Ah the French, they have style, but are not good mechanics.”

  21. John

    I bought this exact Renault Alliance new (same color) and as a sales rep covering 5 states, drove the wheels off of it until the head gasket blew after 6 years. Could park it anywhere, great in snow, killer sound system, banked $$ from the tiny amount of fuel it used. Could not believe it when an Indiana State Trooper wrote me for speeding ! Thank god I never hit anything or vise-versa.

    • Brakeservo

      That’s the biggest damn Renault I’ve ever seen that you’re standing next to in the photo. And I thought the Russians were bad when they copied a Packard to make the Chaika, who knew that Renault did it too!

      • Pa Tina

        I’ll assume he also questioned the gas mileage figures.

  22. DanH

    I can’t think of a worse car to buy. Actually, I would buy it if I could have the pleasure of watching the windows pop as the crusher seals its fate once and for all.

  23. Tim Rusling

    Wow, does this look familiar, esp. the interior. We had two ’83s, both manual trans. and they were great. Not a lick of trouble in either one. I wish some of the comment contributors could exercise some civility in your expressed thoughts . . .the nastiness overcomes objectivity. Car people are supposed to be better than that.

  24. KKW

    Many of the comments here imply Renault as the cause of AMC’s demise. Actually, it’s more like the other way around. Renault built some great cars before they crawled in the sack with AMC. My father owned two R16s back in the late 60s, and my sister owned an R10. Excellent cars. Building junk is what killed AMC.

  25. ACZ

    To call this a dog would be unfair to canines.

  26. Daymo

    There are ‘lots’ of both R9s and 11s (the 11 being the hatch version) here in the UK and Europe so parts supply shouldn’t be too difficult.
    The 9 could only be had here with 4 doors whilst the 11 was offered with a choice of 3 or 5.
    This looks like a mix of the 2 with an 11 front end and a 2dr 9 shell.
    I had an 11 for three years and the only time it let me down was by running out of fuel after the sender unit died!

  27. Cary Dice

    Recall these had pedestal front seats so rear passengers could have more room for their feet. Seemed like a good idea.

  28. Tim Rusling

    You’re right as to the front seats. Both our Alliances were first year cars and they didn’t disappoint us in the slightest. Never had a lick of trouble. . .a gold 2 door and a silver 4 door, both manual transmissions.

  29. Elwood

    It became apparent to me decades ago that when Motor Trend heaped praise on any car, the best thing to do was turn around and run in the opposite direction. Their record on Car of the Year winners is embarrassing. Much like some of the other commentators, I don’t even acknowledge Motor Trend as a credible publication. Like most politicians, Motor Trend comes across as “bought and paid for influence-peddling”. JD Power ranks cars on initial customer satisfaction, and that too puzzles me. I have had many cars that I liked FOR A WHILE when I first bought them. But a good number of those turned out to be staggering disappointments and money pits within a year or two, and left a bad taste in my mouth. Why the heck would I give a spit about initial satisfaction, when I should be more interested in long term value? For that reason, I ignore J D Power as well, and find them to be a waste of my time.

    • KKW

      Bravo!!! Well said!!!

  30. AmericanMotorist90

    Everyone wants to dog the hell out of American Motors for having the Alliance and Encore and talk about how garbage of a car it was… So garbage that they sold 600,000 of them, and people who still own them, drive them daily. I have owned 2 of them. Yes, they’re econoboxes but so was everything built in the early 80s. An 87 Alliance or GTA is just as good as any other 80s built POS econobox. But hey nobody here is badmouthing the Chevette cause it has a bowtie on it.

    • KKW

      Well, didn’t you know? Filing bankruptcy is how you get to be popular in the automotive world, just ask JD Powers. We all know who they give their phoney awards to, anything with a bowtie on it! Lol!

  31. AmericanMotorist90

    As for the “Renault killed AMC” trash… Yes it was Renault who sold to Chrysler but Georges Besse being murdered was what killed AMC. Besse was the chief at Renault, was investing Renault money into the US market into Jeep and Renault under the AMC flag just as Rambler and Kelvinator had been under the AMC flag 25 years before… As he took jobs out of France and built new AMC plants in Canada, the Frenchys got jealous, especially after he made AMC profitable again. Yes, AMC was turning a profit again over the last year he was alive. As AMC became more successful and Renault workers were being laid off in France, Besse was murdered one night after coming home from work, on his own front door step, by French extremists. 6 months before his death, Besse told Iacocca to piss off as Iacocca wanted Jeep. After Besse’s death, Renault executives fearing for their own lives like the typical French cowards they were, called Iacocca and made a deal to sell American Motors for pennies on the dollar, destroying everything Besse had worked so hard for and successfully built. If he had lived, Renault and AMC would still exist here in the USA, and there would be Renault/Jeep dealers. Who knows what would have happened to Nissan.

    Though it was Renault who sold AMC,
    It was Georges Besse’s murderers who murdered American Motors Corporation.

    • Porter92

      Yeah there was a lot of development going on at AMC/Jeep in the 80s that wouldn’t have happened without the Renault partnership. Anyone ever heard of the Grand Cherokee? The development of that platform was done under the AMC/Renault flag, not Chrysler

  32. AmericanMotorist90

    By the way, author…. No Alliance or Encore was ever built without fuel injection. Idk where you got that carb stuff from.

  33. Richard

    I had a silver 1986 2 door, base model. 1.4 engine, 4 speed transmission. Very comfortable, good ride, great handling with light manual steering, amazing visibility, 38 mpg over an average full tank of gas. I didn’t have any trouble with it for three years of ownership. Sold it in fear of its reputation rather than for anything that had actually happened.

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