Stored 37 Years: 1978 Renault Le Car GTL

The seller calls this 1978 Renault Le Car a “barn find”, saying that it has been stored since 1984. This car isn’t much bigger than a couple of motorcycles that I’ve had in storage almost that long. They have this project Le Car listed here on eBay in Suncook, New Hampshire. The current bid price is $535 and there is no reserve so it’s going to the high bidder. Thanks to Matt F. for sending in this tip!

Having been stored for over three decades, there isn’t much rust on this example, but there is some on the rear hatch. If that’s the extent of it, and it sounds like it is, that shouldn’t be too hard to deal with. The seller says that there is “no rot” anywhere and the only surface rust is shown on the rear hatch, that’s a good sign. Well, I’m guessing surface rust on the body of the car as the wheels are showing some surface rust but that’s an easy weekend project.

The Le Car was sold in North America starting for the 1976 model year and 1983 would be its last year here, at least in the US, replaced by the Renault Alliance built in Kenosha, Wisconsin. They were sold in Canada until 1985. This appears to be a GTL model which was reportedly the top trim level and the seller touts the rare fabric sunroof. Unfortunately, as with almost everything else, the top needs work.

The interior looks good for the most part. Actually, it looks great, just a bit dirty. I don’t see a flaw anywhere inside other than a missing radio in the center console. They do say that one of the rear wheels is locked, so add that to the list, but at least the next owner won’t be spending a lot of time on interior restoration.

The back seat is a little wet which is scary, hopefully it hasn’t been parked outside for too long if that fabric sunroof is letting water inside the car. Of course, it could also be from the rear side windows not being installed! They’re both there, however. Sadly, this car has to be trailered because the engine has been partially disassembled and they say that parts are missing, that is not good news. It would have been Renault’s 1.4L inline-four and there are no photos of it, of course. Can this Le Car be saved?

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Comments

  1. Ken Member

    April fools, right?

    Like 8
  2. flmikey

    When these came out, I tried to buy one new, but the salesman would not budge on the price, so I went down the street and bought a new Toyota Celica GT liftback…at a nice discount…loved the Celica…and I thank that saleman for saving me from the disaster the Le Car was…

    Like 21
  3. Howard A Member

    This era produced some lame “econoboxes”, all pretty generic, except the LeCar. A “GTL”( whistles) who was sportin’ that kind of cash? I remember when these hit Milwaukee, we laughed, and had no idea it was a harbinger of things to come. They were sold in the most unlikely places. A very prominent Pontiac dealer, Phil Tolkan, sold these as a sideline, since actual AMC dealers were fading left and right. People coming in for TransAms weren’t interested in some French roller skate, with a silly name. “LeCar”, ooh, la,la,, These began rusting the day they came off the truck, and didn’t help AMC one bit with the up and coming Alliance. I’m sure it was parked 37 years ago because of a failure and never fixed, for whatever reason. I thought they were pretty good cars.

    Like 9
  4. Steve Clinton

    LeCrap.

    Like 10
    • That AMC Guy

      Back in the day I saw one with the custom license plate “LE JUNK”.

      Like 7
  5. Bo

    I remember riding in these when they were just cheap used cars. They were exotic, especially with the full length sunroof. My memory is they had a really soft ride and were really fun to throw around. I love the styling. Like most cars of that era rust killed them within 7 years in the north east.
    Cold War Motors on youtube just did a rebuild of what looked like a long parked one as a winter beater. The process of bringing it back to life looked complicated. I’m not sure I’d touch one that was not already running and driving.

    Like 8
  6. Mark

    With the head removed its an SOB to get tight. It’s a wet sleeved engine, while a good design isn’t the easier to repair. The rebuild kit came with 3 paper gaskets of different thicknesses. You had to use a dial indicator to confirm you had the right gaskets. If the head wasn’t tight, the cooling system wouldn’t work right as it was a pressurized system. It was always a challenge to get the air bleed out and resealed.

    The body couldn’t handle the Salt used on US roads either. At the end mine was developing a horizontal crack in the post behind the driver as the body was rusting through and that post was what was keeping the car together.

    I did drive mine to the junkyard in 1985 with 140,000 so I did get my money’s worth.

    Like 10
    • Rant Winters

      You ain’t blowing smoke about the gasket. Could take an expert up to a week to do a fix

      Like 1
  7. Howard Kerr

    This, or a vaguely similar looking Ford Fiesta? Yeah, I went with the Fiesta.

    Like 7
    • Tiberius1701

      “This, or a vaguely similar looking Ford Fiesta?”
      If you squinted real hard….

      Like 1
  8. Rant Winters

    Le run,run, run. Renaults of this age are rust disasters. Even in a dry ass climate like Australia, ours died of the dreaded tin worm and “surface rust” on these things tended to be less surface, and more indicating a panel so rotten a 4 year old child (me) could accidentally put a foot through a door panel. I am putting on my honest doubt face at the seller’s rust claims, as any seal or sunroof failure has undoubtedly caused this thing to become as rotten as a 30 year old corpse. And that’s before we get to the engine. Oh god. The engine. You’ll get better value for money going down to your local junkyard and buying $500 of crushed cube cars. At best guess, you’re looking at a new hatch, pillars, roof, and god alone knows how much mildew in the vinal. I mean.. if you need doors, maybe those are good (but I would guess otherwise) the gauge cluster liked to short and blow too, so do not count on that working without a new (painfully expensive) analogue electronics blister (and it’s ludicrously loud and mechanically prone to failure sealed indicator realy) I wouldn’t take it if you paid me.

    Like 3
    • Matt

      The Le car enthusiast went and looked in the car and said it is absolutely solid all over!

      Like 1
  9. Terry

    I owned not one, but two, of these. They were cheap, fun to drive and really went through the Northern Wisconsin snow. I can’t remember many mechanical issues. But, as mentioned, the rust.

    Like 4
  10. PRA4SNW PRA4SNW Member

    I live in the wrong area of the country.

    Every car that is listed and really close to me are cars that I have 0 interest in.

    Like 3
  11. Nash Bridges

    Zees ees an outrage !

    Like 5
  12. Gator Member

    Bought a 1980 Turbo. Worst piece of scrap metal ever produced up until the Yugo.

    Like 1
  13. Vance

    I am sorry, the French have made some of the ugliest, poorly designed, junk automobiles of all time. Everyone is allowed to make a mistake now and then, but the French never learn. Can’t build cars, can’t fight the Germans. America saved your bacon in 2 world wars, and the motorized vehicles that we used should have been a good blueprint for success. 2 words for this., Le Anchor.

    Like 5
    • BobinBexley Bob in Bexley Member

      The French helped us LARGE during the Revolutionary War. You wanna re-read history.

      Like 12
    • James HGF

      The Siege of Yorktown (1781) wikipedia page provides a succinct overview of the naval battle at Yorktown Bay and the ground siege of Yorktown:

      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Siege_of_Yorktown_(1781)

      In 1931 a US Postage stamp was issued commemorating the 150th anniversary of victory at Yorktown,1781. The images are of Comte De (General) Rochambeau, General Washington, Comte De (Admiral) Grasse.

      Without financial and military support from France, it’s doubtful America could have won. Revolutionary War history cannot be written without acknowledging French support from covert (though writ large) in 1776 to formal alliance written LARGE per Bob in Bexley.

      Like 4
  14. Nash Bridges

    Zee world owes a debt to France for zee French Fries !

    Like 3
  15. Jay Bree

    El Junque.

  16. Tiberius1701

    Exquisitely junk in a French way…

    Like 1
  17. MitchRoss Member

    Only new car I ever bought. 1981 Best steering feel of any car ever Blew head gaskets left and right Rusted in a desert (Israel) but sure was fun to drive

    Like 4
  18. Dave

    These ranked with Yugos in quality.

    Like 1
  19. Michael Dietx

    I was working for Chevrolet when these came out we had our nicknames for the competition, for example the Ford grenade instead of Grenada, the xploder instead of Explorer, and for this one it was l e Heap its successor was not much better they called it the Renault Alliance we called it the Renault Appliance, because it was basically a cheap toaster

    Like 1
  20. Bob19006

    I had a 1976 R-5 (LeCar) 2 door with the full rubber roof and a 1982 4 door LeCar with the rubber roof. They were fun to drive, easy to park, great on gas but neither engine made it to 100K. Most rear seat room of any econobox because of longer wheelbase with rear wheels back at the bumper. My previous car, a 1971 Gremlin not near as good on gas but overall a better value as the engines were durable.

    Like 4
  21. Paul

    My first car was a Renault 5, first cars are always going to leave an impression – mine is good, economical and fun to drive (no frame of reference to judge) however it did eventually fall victim to rust.

    Like 2
  22. CCFisher

    Which vehicles used by the US in WWII would you have them use for blueprints? A Willys MB? An M3 tank? An M2 half-track car? No, wait, that one was based on a French design.

    We’re 20 years into the 21st century. It might be time to stop judging people by things their ancestors may or may not have done over 70 years ago, and time to stop judging car companies by what they did 50 years ago. Modern Renaults, Peugeots, and Citroens are thoroughly competent vehicles. Besides… the Chevrolet Vega was introduced at about the same time as the Renault R5, so maybe US-built cars wouldn’t make such a good template, after all.

    Like 5
  23. Justin Pettit

    One of the best cars ever. My dad had an 82 le car. Great memories riding in it.

    Like 2
  24. Mark

    Coldwarmotors could have this as a parts car for his R5 !

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