Track Day Potential: Renault Spec Racers

This seller has a total of three Renault spec racers to choose from, all hiding out in what looks like a fairly idyllic shop setting north of Boston. The listing provides photos of vintage spec race cars in differing grades of completion, from one that looks ready to roll, another that is intact but tired, and a third that is just a naked frame at the moment (but it looks like the bodywork is included). These were a big deal when introduced, as Renault partnered directly with the SCCA to provide an affordable, turnkey race car for track day enthusiasts. Find the trio here on craigslist, with the best car listed for $7,899.

The idea of a spec racer package has long found favor with enthusiasts who have enough cash to go racing on the weekends, but have to rely on their own ingenuity to build a proper track car. An article from the early 1980s cites the rising cost of racing, so it’s clearly been a problem for some time – at least at that point, however, manufacturers like Renault were still willing to provide a turnkey car, complete with engine and transmission, to the would-be racer for $10,000. Try doing that today; you can’t. Still, using an inflation calculator, it shows us that the Renault would cost $25,000 to buy in 2021, which is still a decent chunk of change for someone whose professional calling isn’t becoming the next Niki Lauda.

This is the most complete of the three cars offered, and the one with the $7,899 asking price. The white car above, which looks pretty complete to me, is likely what the price of $6,745 is in reference to at the top of the listing. The white car also has emblems on the sides and the back indicating its driver trained at the Hawaii International Racing School, which is yet another reminder I should have become a stock broker and/or lawyer, instead of pushing words for a living. Anyway, no word on the actual racing history of these spec racers, but given the proximity Haverhill, Mass. has to both Lime Rock and NHIS, I’m sure someone enjoyed these turnkey track cars on New England’s best road courses.

This, I’m guessing, is the neediest of the three, and while there is some loose bodywork included in the photos, it looks like it belongs to the $6,745 car. Regardless, the seller doesn’t include any pricing for this one, or what its status is in terms of running gear. The listing mentions there’s an extra Renault engine and some parts included, which seems to suggest these never lost their Renault-sourced running gear, amounting to a 1.7L inline four making 85 b.h.p. and 108 lb-ft of torque in a car that weighed 1,300 lbs. with driver and fuel. Your opinions of what sufficient horsepower looks like notwithstanding, I would love to participate in a spec racing series someday, but make mine an ACR-equipped Dodge Neon.

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Comments

  1. DayDreamBeliever Member

    The Renault drivelines have been updated to Ford power.

    https://scca-e.com/spec-racer-ford/

    How much would have to be expended to bring even the best of the three to current spec would be a challenge to determine, unless someone happens to be extremely familiar with these cars.

    There may be a way to race one without updating the driveline, even as a vintage racer?

    Like 2
    • Steve R

      It could also be run at open track days, such as NASA, which is popular in the west coast. That organizations like that were created to help keep costs in check. Since the majority of cars in any class aren’t competitive, the ability to access track time at a reasonable cost is appealing to many.

      Steve R

      Like 4
      • Mark Member

        I started out in G and H production in a Spitfire, progressed past FF and finished up in Skip Barber. It was fun, affordable and a reasonable way to spend your bucks. Then it became insane and only dudes and dudettes with bucks can afford to really race. The Vintage series is fun and it is close to reasonable. I wonder if even these would be reasonable to run today?

        Like 1
  2. healeydays

    Would make for a fun little weekend toy. If talking about local tracks to the cars check out Club Motorsports in Tamworth NH. https://clubmotorsports.com/

    Like 2
  3. George

    I loved my ACR Neon. Although I never had a chance to drive it on a track, it was a blast on back roads.

    Like 2
  4. piston poney

    love the Niki Lauda reference, rip Niki Lauda.

    Like 1
  5. djjerme

    The Hawaiian tag on the back makes me think these came over after the track on Oahu closed up.

    Trying to convince a friend who has a couple R5 Turbo’s to pick these up. If we could get two up and running, it be fun to chase each other during instructor lunch session on coaching days.

    Like 2
  6. Steve

    Nothing to do with the cars, but I briefly lived in Haverhill and given how people in Massachusetts pronounce words, it’s pronounced Havrill.

    Like 4
  7. AMCFAN

    I like the idea of a spec racer. In Canada they started the Micra Cup series and now have the Nissan Sentra one make Championship series race that Nissan will sell you in full trim. The car costs $39,999. It is ready to go. Hagerty did an article Jan 8th. So impressed I saved it. We as Americans can’t have that here which is amazing I would be in no questions asked.

    For the want to be racer there should be a series specific to the lowly Mitsubishi Mirage. Here me out.

    The cars are the least expensive car you can purchase in America. Even cheaper used. You can still get a manual. Wheel pattern is a common 4X100. Godspeed makes adj. suspension. There is a huge aftermarket albeit in Puerto Rico. There is a super charger kit. Its fun going fast in a slow car. These have built to Auto Cross. I have a 2015 stick and it is modified which is one of my drivers. I enjoy it. People do a double take seeing it slammed and stanced on crazy wide wheels.

    I have a NYG ACR Neon in my collection. They ruled the track until the Mazda Miata took over which still seems to be the answer to every question.

    Like 1
  8. Steven J Kramer

    I raced Spec Racers for 25 years and just got out last year. All the info is here: http://www.specracer.com/ and at https://scca-e.com/
    Great cars, great people.

  9. Doyler

    Anyone know if these would be any good for hillclimb?

  10. Hemidavey

    Wow, haven’t seen one of these in a Long time. I worked on them at the plant in Livonia Mi where they were designed / assembled. Cool little cars too bad they went obsolete. We called them Oh So Slow Sports Renault. My team also built sedans for the Archer brothers and two off road Jeeps for Paris To Dakar Rally. Fun times! We had two euro spec R5 Turbos in the garage and my boss sold one for $6000 while I was on vacation…I’m still crying about that

    Like 1
  11. vfc

    If you ever drove one of these, in anger, you’d forget the Neon, forever!

  12. Bryan Cohn

    The old Hawaii Sports Renaults! I can’t believe someone shipped three of them over from Oahu after the track closed but obviously someone did so.

    Ready for the story behind these cars?
    They are copies, not actual Sports Renaults! The frames, body work, aluminum panels, and all kinds of bits and bobs are copied parts. When the folks in Hawaii wanted to open a school and needed cars a couple people I know bid on the project to supply cars. However SCCA controlled (and still controls) the parts market for the Spec Racers. The rules do not allow for use of aftermarket body parts or suspension parts or anything. It all has to be bought through SCCA. As it was thought these cars would never return to the mainland to race in Sports Renault or the later Spec Racer class with Ford engines, and because it was WAY cheaper to make knock off parts, that is what they did. Key to their being able to pull this off was there were already some bootleg parts out there that made this an easier task than you’d think. Also, today parts have RFDI tags, in the 80’s they had bar codes that were easy to duplicate.
    The logbooks are nother story, my understanding is they are duplicates of existing cars in the USA or were reused logbook numbers from written off Sports Renaults (there were a few by1985).

    What does all this mean today? Zip. Nadda. Nothing. The Renault powered cars are not SCCA legal. They could be updated to current safety specs and raced in NASA and many other racing organizations. They’d make great hillclimb, rallycross, autocross, even street car conversions! There are still a few shops around that know how to rebuild the engines and gearboxes, the rest is pretty standard Spec Racer stuff parts wise.

    The cars could be bought and updated to current SCCA Spec Racer spec with the Ford engine.

    Overall the cars look cheap enough that one could buy, rebuild and have a really fun car for track, racing, street, whatever.

    PS: I know all of this as I am a retired exec from SCCA, NASA and AMA. The above was told to me by one of the gents who bid on and won the contract to supply the cars to Hawaii.

    Like 4
  13. bobhess bobhess Member

    Bryan covered it. The latest generations are on the tracks today and it’s still an inexpensive way to go racing. We have a race car with a crack in the fiberglass from a spec racer on a test day. The rent-a-racers can’t be trusted but there isn’t one of them that’s not having fun.

    Like 1
  14. Wayne

    My race partner and I have had 2 Renault Spec racers. (sold one to a guy who is upgrading it to Gen III specs) We have used it in track events for over 6 years. We recently upgraded to the Alliance GTA engine (2.0 liter) and gearbox (5 speed close ratio and a higher ratio final gear) Now that we have finally dialed in the Weber carb. We are looking to have even more fun.
    (I would appreciate the contact info for a guy who can rebuild a Renault transaxle. allentires@att.net) These make fun track cars, even though they are “slow” by todays standards, you always seen to catch the fast guys just as you get to the long straight! So it teaches you the fastest way to get around the track. I would post a couple of pictures if I could figure out how to do it.

  15. hemidavey

    Hey I probably have some parts for these cars. When the program ended and our plant was closing everyone was taking parts out of the dumpsters and taking them home. Yes we were instructed to throw them away! Let me know if you need anything. I may only have hardware pieces.

    Like 1
    • Wayne

      hemidavey, thanks for the offer! If you could make a list that would be great! However, we have quite a pile of spare/used parts to work from. A GTA gearbox would be wonderful to have! allentires@att.net

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