Return of the Adobe: 1984 Renault LeCar

The French, despite being our longest running allies, are too often the target of jokes told by silly Americans.  Who here among us hasn’t imitated a snooty Parisian waiter or enjoyed laughing at movies that ridicule their eccentric Gallic ways?  Well, the differences that make the French who they are carried over into their vehicle designs.  Take for example this 1984 Renault LeCar being sold on eBay by a rather indifferent fellow in San Jose, California.  With one bid at $1,000, it seems that nobody has a clue what to do with a non-running Renault.  I, however, have conjured up the perfect use for it.  You could win the next Concours d’ LeMons in Monterey hands down by using this car as the basis for an Adobe replica!

Never heard of an Adobe?  Take a look at this hilarious Saturday Night Live commercial where they are selling the cheapest car being sold in America.  Cheaper than even the Hyundai or the Yugo!  The car was supposedly made in Mexico with German engineering, and had a body made out of light brown clay.  If you had a wreck, you just molded the clay back into shape!

The gag got a lot of mileage, and the car loving kids I hung out with at the time yelled out “Adobe!” every time one a LeCar was spotted.  Granted it didn’t happen a lot because Americans have never really warmed up to French cars.  Things that are different are often ridiculed, and covering a LeCar with clay took the ridicule up a notch.  How Renault got people into showrooms after the commercial aired, I’ll never know.

Evidently somebody bought one.  This LeCar is currently being sold by an individual in San Jose that had dreams of restoring it at one time.  The current seller purchased it from someone who had the car in storage but knew little about it.  What is known is that it has a salvage title for some reason.  The seller can’t see where any damage was on the car to warrant the salvage title.  Maybe California made all French car owners accept the moniker to save on the inevitable paperwork when they got tired of fixing them.

As far as the condition goes, this one is not that bad.  The seller tells us that the only rust in the body is surface rust, and that it has the usual small dents and fading you would expect from a car of this age.  One unique fixture is the pull back top.  Not quite a convertible, this feature would make the car great for parades.  That is, if it could finish one without breaking down.  I am sure this feature got a lot of use after the air conditioning quit working three days after making it home from the dealership.

The seller also tells us that the interior is complete.  Other pictures in the ad show the vinyl seats separating at the threaded seams in places.  However, the spartan interior appears to be in very good condition.  Breaking down a lot has its good points as well.  We can also see that the seller has left the keys dangling from the wiper switch arm in case anybody wants it more than they do.  Evidently, there have been no takers.

The picture above is the best look we get at the engine compartment in the ad.  There is some rust damage in the battery tray and on some brackets.  Other than that, everything looks dusty and basically untouched from the factory.  The seller does say that the engine runs but doesn’t idle properly.  The thought is that the idle circuit is somehow plugged up.  Perhaps a faithful reader can tell us how to find parts for a LeCar without waiting for months as the wrong part makes its way across the Atlantic.

When you compare the LeCar to other cars in its price range, you can see that it wasn’t all that bad.  Americans are just wary of things that are “different.”  It didn’t help that Renault had a poor reputation for reliability either.  It is neat to see one of these after all these years.  However, I still think covering it with clay to make an Adobe out of it is the best plan looking forward.  I’ve always wanted to have a concours winning car.

What would you do with this funky Renault?



  1. Clayton

    Definitely worth the money. I’m in Pennsylvania, so I won’t be a bidder on this one, but I certainly hope it ends up in worthy and capable hands. There are still parts around for most of what this car may need. I have a large collection of LeCars, both running and project/parts cars, and parts (new and used) to keep my fleet going and also help others who need things for their LeCars.

    Like 5
    • Mikey Mo

      Always wanted one but there isn’t any in eastern PA

    • Gary

      Longest running ALIES ?
      American war of independence from the UK in 1776 ? Doesn’t that subject otherwise ?

      • rustylink

        The French were the US allies against the British in the Revolutionary War that ended in 1783.

        Like 1
      • Nevadahalfrack Nevadahalfrack Member

        Uh, Gary, the French were our ALLIES when we told England to go pound sand in 1776-their “loaned” ships, guns, training, tacticians and spycraft helped us tremendously.
        And again in 1812, but who’s counting?

        Like 1
  2. Ralph

    I think those keys are actually in the ignition…..

    Like 1
  3. Alex

    I bought a new R5 in 1983. The first 6 months were pure misery, as it spent most of them back a the dealership sorting out a myriad of problems. When I requested that they reimburse my money and complained to headquarters they finally resolved every issue. After that I never had any problems with it. Ever. Drove it well over 100k miles without an issue. Loved that car! Incredibly soft suspension really comfortable seats, tiny size so finding a parking spot was never a problem. I have great memories of that car!

    Like 6
  4. That AMC Guy

    Two things stick in my memory about these cars from many years ago. I once saw one on the road sporting a vanity license plate that read “LE JUNK”. The other was seeing a LeCar stretch limo – definitely some serious dementia! :)

    Like 1
    • Don Foote

      I test drive one in maybe 1980 just after I got out of college. Bought a new 79 Triumph T140 instead, still the only new vehicle I ever bought. Wish I had kept the bike. That LeCar was the only Renault I ever sat in or drove.

      Like 1
  5. Nevadahalfrack Nevadahalfrack Member

    Replicate the 1986 WRC Turbo….!!
    800HP, wasn’t it?!??

    Like 1
  6. Rube Goldberg Member

    I’m not sure how to take the authors write up, for one of the 1st econoboxes, I thought the LeCar was a pretty decent car. Fact is, I think all French cars are good cars. For WW2 reasons, they were the only foreign cars my old man ever had( 2 Dauphines, a Caravelle and a 403 Poo-joe) The LeCar was actually quite popular, I remember a well known Pontiac dealer in Milwaukee, Phil Tolkan sold them. They were kind of a precursor to the Alliance, and I believe were sold next to the Alliance for a spell. The biggest downfall was, they rusted terribly, some within only a few years and many were simply thrown away. It’s great to see one again. I doubt you’ll find many parts at your local “Autoplace”, but the internet turned up a slew of people that have obscure Renault parts, especially LeCar stuff. Great find, I think.

    Like 4
  7. RayT Member

    As a Multiple Owner — I had four before disappearing dealers and unobtainable parts drove me away — I’ve always felt R5s were underrated. No small car rode as well, and few were any more fun to drive (except maybe the Golf GTI, but those weren’t available here in 1976). Quality-wise, they were better than most, and my new one was quite reliable. The used ones I bought later were more problematic, but nothing I couldn’t fix. Said “fixes” were easy to do, mostly with the “do-it-yourself” book dealers sold, though I bought shop and Haynes manuals as well.

    All mine were West Coast cars, and didn’t suffer from rust. In fact, the biggest drawback — aside from the dealers who, in my experience were, with one exception, abysmally bad — was the smog devices the factory grafted on. My ’76 actually passed the emissions check with all that stuff disabled, as did another into which a friend had installed a Euro-spec Alpine engine. Almost doubling the horsepower was exactly what the R5 needed!

    In short, except for the parts supply and dealers, I would probably still have at least one….

    Like 2
    • Mattprops

      I was given one in High School by an awful excuse for a step-mom. It was a green 4-door that featured this flip-back style top. The top was slashed when I received it, so my best friend and I fashioned a top from plexiglass and 1×3’s; that’s right, we made it into essentially a terrarium, Houston humidity and everything.

      My smartest move was scouring local junkyards until I found another. I made the proprietor a deal: “$100 and the car is mine, but it stays right where it is”. I’d go get parts as needed, and he was happy because I had the only driving example for a few hundred miles. Mine was abandoned in a move sometime before I left for the Navy, they met the minimum threshold for being listed in the Bluebook back then… $300. Good times.

      Like 1
  8. JohnInFla Member

    I had 2 of them! Great little economy cars, comfortable seats, quicker than many other econo-boxes of the day, and better riding than any others. Pretty easy to work on , the only drawback was rust issues. They are few and far in between these days. As are most economy cars from that era due to the throw away factor in the U.S., too bad I wouldn’t mind having one again.

    Like 2
  9. Steve

    Had a four door version in the 80s. It was so anemic that when the A/C kicked in it felt like you lost half the horsepower!

    Like 1
    • Steve D

      I had a 2 door with A/C. You’d have to make sure you were buckled in when you turned it on other wise you might hit your head on the windshield. In the day a great little car for the Zooport Beach. Sunroofs are awesome.

      • Jim kelley

        Loved mine 1976 Reno 45 fast fun and cheep to run ! I have a parts car and most mec stuff is 4 sale body rusted fenders 2 good bumpers front end ect engine all with trans axles and rear suspension parts some other time ect all good parts 4 sale! Jim k.

        Like 1
  10. Drew

    I bought my new R5/LeCar (black with gold trim and wheels) in L.A. in 1977. In 1980 I drove it across the desert to New Orleans in the summer fully loaded with all my worldly possessions. After four years driving around the Big Easy I drove it up to Washington DC (again fully loaded with everything I owned). Two years later I shipped it to Dallas as a gift to my 16 year old nephew who drove it into the ground after a few years of hard driving and zero common sense maintenance.It was a sad day when he told me had to junk it.
    That car never gave me one minute of trouble and was great great fun.
    I still miss it.

    Like 2
  11. Sandy

    If I didn’t have 3 Renaults at the moment, I’d buy it in heartbeat! Great car. Good price!

  12. abikepeddler

    My love of these R5’s began in high school when my buddy had one that was remarkably capable of absorbing incredible punishment. All these years later I was finally in the position to add a 83′ Renault 5 Turbo 2 to the herd which is so much fun to drive it’s hard to put into words. Whether front/front or mid/rear drive, these cars are super chic, very French and very fun!

    Like 1
  13. Pyrobill

    When these were new we had a small town about 25 miles S of Portland that used these for COP CARS for a while. I think I got pulled over by one. This town used to be a notorious speed trap.

  14. gentoo

    looks like the auction is going to net the seller some extra cash. the current high bidder must be a serious lover of Le Car. the few things i noticed in looking at the pictures are a missing air cleaner and a missing fuel filler cap. the purchaser should definitely have a serious conversation with clayton. he saved me on the fuel filler cap front.

    there have been a total of three Le Car in my life to date. two were back in the mid-80s to early-90s, a gold three-door and a silver five-door. they were both a hoot to drive. i once startled a teenage kid, who was driving an early 80s mustang, by squealing the front wheels while taking off at a light.

    the first Le Car got lifted off of the road by a large ball of ice that fell from the mudflap of a tractor trailer, late at night, during a freak one-day snowstorm in virginia beach. with only the two rear wheels and the snowball on the ground, the car slid into a bridge abutment and the impact cracked the transmission. i took it to a yard and sold it to them for $300 as scrap.

    while selling it was sad, i came out of the front gate to get in my friends car and yard owner had a silver five-door with a for sale sign on it. i gave him his $300 back and was back on the road . . . Le Car style. that one lasted until the head gasket parted and dumped all of the coolant into the #2 cylinder, which was promptly vaporized into a massive steam cloud behind me. i didn’t have the means to do major restoration work in those days, so off to the junker it too went.

    fast forward 25 years and i find a nice red five door out of rochester, ny . . . without a title . . . for $1200. an $1100 cross-country trip on a car hauler, a bunch of diy repairs to various lights and trim, a $3500 trip to a body shop to repair damage done by the former owner to spite his ex-wife and respray it NA 705 (rally red) later . . . and almost three years to convince california to give me a title . . . and i am back to cruising Le Car style.

    the next project is an Alpine/Gordini turbo and an HA1 five-speed transmission, which will endow it with a power to weight ratio that matches that of my 2003 TT. i will be able to cut down the 0-60 time from 14.3 seconds to 8.7 seconds. now, that’ll be a REAL hoot.

    • Miguel

      gentoo, if you want another one, there are still quite a few nice ones in Mexico.

      Let me know if you are in the market. I can point you in the right direction.

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