Oddball Racer: 1983 Renault R5

While almost any car can become a track car, some candidates seem more unlikely than others. Certainly, a Renault R5 would fall into this category, as despite its rally heritage and impressive performance credentials when found in turbocharged form with box flares and Group B DNA, the standard model was about as basic as you could get, seemingly only fit for commuters and those enthusiasts who march to the beat of their own drummer. This R5 has been modified extensively for greater performance and better handling, but it does seem to leave more questions than it answers. Find this curious R5 listed here on eBay with bids to $1,800 and the reserve unmet.

As someone who used to autocross quite a bit and read Grassroots Motorsports regularly, there’s certainly grounds for buying a car like an R5 and doing what you can to enhance its performance. And, with the rise of LeMons races and other series focused on the cheap and cheerful, the R5 is essentially a darling of the low-buck racing crowd. But this one is caught somewhere in between, as those events have a cost limit and it doesn’t seem like the owner under-spent on the work done to make the R5 handle better and accelerate faster – it’s not someone’s idea of a joke, it’s a serious project. Check out the two-piece three lug wheels – how hard must those have been to find?

The interior has been gutted and fitted with harnesses and a full cage. The Renault sports a short shifter and aftermarket steering wheel, but also has a canvas sunroof and upgraded stereo – two features you don’t associate with dedicated track cars. The work done to make it safe in competitive driving events is to be commended, but I don’t see other logical upgrades like a fuel cell or fire suppression system. It’s a mixed bag for sure, and I’d love to know more about the inspiration behind this project. The bodywork looks to be in good shape, and aside from the missing seats and trim, the interior is in good order. Oh, and did we mention it’s a four door?

Engine-wise, the seller notes it comes with the “larger” 1.4L mill, and that the owner has upgraded it with an aftermarket camshaft, ignition system, air intake, and distributor. The engine was also completely rebuilt 5,000 miles ago, and “enlarged,” which we can only interpret to mean it benefits from a port and polish and bigger pistons. Who knows – the ad isn’t exactly clear on the work that was done, and whether a professional engine builder did the work or it was done in the garage after business hours. Other new parts include a water pump, thermostat and hoses, brake master cylinder, rebuilt rear brake drums, and more. Would you take this Renault racing?


  1. K

    “I tore out the interior, put in a roll bar and painted my LeCar flat black with a paint brush.” I don’t get the “larger” 1.4L engine reference, it came with a 1397 cc inline four-cylinder engine.

    Like 8
    • Steve R

      At my home track the tech inspectors would instantly fail the car the second they saw how the battery was mounted.

      Steve R

      Like 5
  2. sir_mike

    Not a full cage…just a roll bar.Kind of like the 4dr look and they are usually stronger body’s then 2dr’s.Should be a fun car.

    Like 3
  3. Al

    When my wife bought her R5, the dealer wanted to put the “Le Car” decal on it. My wife then asked for a $500 discount on the vehicle if she was going to advertise Renault. The dealer would not drop the price so no decal was applied.

    Like 5
  4. gentooq

    unless and until the seller discloses precisely what was done to the engine, i am unlikely to move beyond pshaw. i love my current R5 and i have had two others previously.

    i am currently looking to move my current R5 into the turbo realm by implementing the improvements renault made in their production cars. the goal is to go from 56 bhp to 110 bhp, which will give it the same power to weight ratio as my daily driver 2003 TT.

    as a final note, whenever i see R5s that come to market with modifications, particularly ones that seem to have surely been done to increase the quirkiness, and thereby potentially enhance desirability, i always start with a basic VIN search. searching this VIN produces several listings, including one out of south carolina that seems to match this car in everything except pictures . . . and it has some 1,000 miles less on the odometer.

    anyone who *might* be thinking of purchasing this car should have some serious face time in its presence, and some serious pre-offer run time on the road. something just seems a bit off with this car.

    Like 4
  5. Spud

    I see an 83 LeCar that someone has brush-painted black. Yes, this actually IS someone’s idea of a joke.

    Like 4
  6. Keith Johnson

    Seems like this car is on some sale site every year.

    Like 1

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