Two French Follies: Renault GTA’s

Renault GTAs

I have a typical American trait of rooting for the underdog. Naturally, I liked AMC products growing up, and even got in trouble in elementary school when I drew a poster of the new AMC cars for 1975 when asked to draw a “New Year’s” themed picture. As the Renault/AMC “merger” proceeded, I even tried to like the Alliance/Encore… but I couldn’t. They weren’t ‘sporty’. Then they brought out the GTA and I was in love… and then they were gone. Having driven one since then, I was pleased to find they were really pleasant drivers with a sporty feel. No, not VW GTI levels of performance, but nothing shabby either! And since their value plummeted like a rock immediately after introduction, they were affordable too. 28 years later, they are very affordable. Thanks goes to reader Rich G for finding the convertible for us, which is available here on craigslist in Columbus, Ohio for $550 and if you prefer the hardtop version, there’s one here on craigslist in Roseburg, Oregon for only $300!

Renault GTA Sticks Like Glue
Find this Renault ad here on eBay

 

I don’t know about “sticking like glue,” but the .89g figure wasn’t bad for the day. And it got a larger version of the Alliance engine as well. Sounds like a recipe for a cheap pocket rocket to me as much now as it did then. I really believe that you can have a lot of fun driving a slow car quickly while exploring its limits.

1986 Renault GTA Interior

The Columbus convertible has a tan interior that’s showing some wear commensurate with its 101k miles. It’s hard to tell the condition of the top, but I found new replacements for only $259. It also is said to need a brake line and one of the windows is off its track. There’s also no title, which is certainly a problem…

1987 Renault GTA Hardtop

The hardtop has a sunroof, but doesn’t run. That being said, it’s only $300. If they were geographically close, I’d suggest picking up both so that you had a parts car. Either way, you’d have a very active car club to support your quest to be a little different. I like being different, and I’m okay with putting a little money into a car that I’m not going to get back out. Face it, you’re not going to be able to sell either of these for what you’d need to put into them to make them looking good and reliable. But I don’t think that’s the point. Either of these could become an enjoyable, different car for the right enthusiast. Is that you?

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Comments

  1. tom999p

    I remember when they came out in the 80’s, the rich people in town had them. I bought a base alliance in 1991 for $50, it ran great!

    • phoneman91

      “I remember when they came out in the 80’s, the rich people in town had them.”
      I am trying to understand that statement!
      I didn’t know any rich people that ever drove Renaults–especially one of these.

      I did rent an Alliance back in 1983. I did enjoy the french type long suspension travel and the relative ability to handle rough pavement without readily bottoming out to the bump stops.

      I was looking at a new one back in 1983 and broke off the seat adjustment handle in the show room. I handed the broken handle to the salesman and said that I would have to think about purchasing the Alliance .

  2. Nick G

    Bought one for my wife, it was a DL 4 door De Luxe Silver Gray, the car ran great, but my wife ran it so hard that one day the standard shifter stayed in her hand. That was the end of the Reneault.

  3. Charles Gould

    I realize that people’s interest in a particular car or type of car is deeply rooted in what was popular as they came into the license age years, and what was available and what products were being lusted over at the time that the viewer attained that magical age. However, in my opinion, this particular car (and this entire era of cars) was the epitome of everything that had gone wrong with automotive designs from the late 1970’s through the 1980’s and beyond.
    Horrible rectangular three box body designs which were completely devoid of any sensuous lines, details, features or trim, annointed with rectangular headlights and those stupid Lego rubber bumpers that could sustain the 5 MPH impacts without damage. Ridiculous integrated mirrors and fake plastic wheel covers.
    Bulbous plastic/rubber side ground effects on the lower doors and fenders.
    Horribly cheap, chintzy plastic dashboards, interior door panels and switch gear and controls.
    Repulsive upholstery colors and fabrics reminiscent of leisure suits covered in materials that caused your hair to stick up from static electricity when your head touched those stupid safety headrests. It was like sitting on a pair of corduroy pants which might spontaneously combust from the friction of getting in and out of the seats.
    Flush frameless surface mounted glass panels with matte black mounting edges.
    Plastic grills and bumpers in body colors with no bling or chrome whatsoever.
    Stupid, tiny, interior toggle levers to open the doors and cheap, plastic cranks to open the windows and those lame plastic consoles between the seats.
    Anemic engines choked by emission controls, and stupid fake graphics or badges (either plastic or stickers) to make you feel as though the car actually had some performance ability.
    In my humble opinion, this was a very sad and embarrasing era for automotive design that lasted for two or more decades, and continues to some degree even today.

    • Jamie Palmer Jamie Staff

      Wow, don’t mince words, Charles :-) And no, I’m not offended, each to his/her own. :-) The only thing I will point out is that those are aluminum wheels, not wheel covers. Please understand that I’m chuckling as I type this–all in good fun!

      • Chas

        I do understand Jamie, and I am glad that you are not offended. That is precisely why I prefaced my comments with an acknowledgement that others may appreciate all sorts of cars including these, but that FOR ME, this was the worst period for design and visceral excitement for all of the reasons that I have cited. Just my own personal opinion and preference. Your mileage (and opinion) may differ.
        Chas

      • Jamie Palmer Jamie Staff

        Yup! And I realize that my tastes are a product of my time…you are very correct that what was popular as I was getting close to getting a license influences my tastes today :-) I actually like IMSA-style box flares (have consistently fought a friendly battle with some of my teammates about adding them to the race car), blacked-out trim and even some body cladding (no, the Aztec went too far…).

    • MikeH

      Charles–I agree with you except I think the malaise actually started in ’68 with the first emission controls. Strangled engines in cars designed by the bean counters. It lasted from then up into the 90s as computers gradually took over. There were very few good cars produced then and almost none by the US auto industry.

  4. Rick

    Junk. Junk then, junk now.

  5. jim s

    looks like more then the asking prices in parts. might be able to make at least one pocket rocket out of them. these were fun to drive when new. nice finds

  6. JW454

    In 1995 a friend gave me an ’87 Encore 2 door. His wife had ignored the mandatory timing belt change at 90K miles and it had bent 2 exhaust valves when the belt broke. I pulled the head, replaced them and installed new gaskets from the head up. I gave it to my sister once I had it running again. That was the last maintenance it needed for the next 50K miles. It was sold in 1999 still running good, when their ever growing family could no longer fit in it. Great little cars.

  7. Larry

    When I met my wife 26 years ago, she was driving a base trim, refrigerator white, 2-door Renault Alliance sedan (henceforth nicknamed “Renault Appliance” despite being utterly unreliable). Beige vinyl seats, no A/C, and a power-sapping automatic connected to an anemic little 4-cylinder that couldn’t really afford to have any of it’s meager power sapped. Sometimes it would even choose to start before AAA arrived. I held none of this against her and married her anyway.

    • Jamie Palmer Jamie Staff

      Love the last sentence, Larry! Sounds like you did the right thing!

  8. Grr

    I love French cars, but I have to agree with the comments on the aesthetics of this model. Shame that Renault couldn’t sustain itself in the market long enough to figure it out, and for the better models to arrive. This probably has much to do with the fact that it was state-owned. Once the company was privatized in the mid-90s, it found its feet. De Gaulle should have been pilloried for essentially stealing the company from Louis Renault after slandering and imprisoning him. He died in jail before he could defend himself in court. Sad story, like the car presented here.

    • Jamie Palmer Jamie Staff

      Grr, I hadn’t known this until your comments. Thanks for bringing it to my attention–I like to read about the history surrounding the auto industry and had missed this.

    • Rick W.

      Hardly as simple as being state owned. Renault was not a bad company prior to this, they saved AMC who in turn saved Chrysler IMO. Renault only sold AMC because their chairman was assassinated by a terrorist group and they decided to focus on their own market. Chrysler was stagnating with the tired K-Car, and got handed a state of the art factory, a new Cherokee design that almost single-handedly started the SUV craze, and a design team and platform from AMC that brought them decades ahead. That was all due to the development effort put in by Renault before selling off AMC.
      As for this car, I’ve owned two and no doubt they are built to a price point and the interiors don’t age well, but they put the GTI of the day to shame at 2/3 the cost. I still have a white convertible and I still enjoy it.

  9. krash

    gee Charles Gould, you seem like your on the fence about the 80’s auto design….couldn’t really tell from your brief analysis whether you were a fan or not…(lol)…

    I (for one) think you’re spot on…

    • Chas

      Ha!
      I should have made my position more clear.
      If you wish, I could try to be a bit more specific about my opinions!

  10. Jamie Palmer Jamie Staff

    You guys are making me laugh again…it’s nice that we can agree to disagree politely on this site; lots of the internet isn’t like that nowadays.

  11. fred

    While I don’t think it will be the case here, there are a lot of instances where “junk” suddenly comes into favor (or at least gets a git more desirable). I could have bought station wagons for a song right up until the mid 2000’s. I remember in the early ’90s watching a near mint ’59 Rambler American go through an auto auction and bring a whopping $300. Only reason I didn’t bite is I was never an AMC fan. The day that Alliances, Yugos, Chevettes and Vegas suddenly bring big money is the day I’ll unsubscribe to Hemmings.

  12. John

    I had actually forgotten these cars. Pity to have been reminded.

    I spent an evening in below 0 temperature coaxing one of these to start so that a co-worker could get home. I called it names that would have gotten my mouth washed out with soap.

    It deserved every name I called it.

  13. Mark E

    Wow, in just one post you managed to make those two incomplete Citroen SMs seem desirable! ^_^

  14. alan

    I had a GTA for several years that I got with 10 k miles on it. It was a superb car though not fully refined in the engine compartment having only a mono-injector where multipoint injection should have been.

  15. AMCFAN

    Had Renault brought this model to the table much earlier 1983-84 most would have a different opinion on Renault in general today. You can’t judge a book by the cover. The GTA is a one year only made in 1987. It was a seperate model and not considered an Alliance although shared the same body. It is a limited production vehicle. A half of year build due to the Chrysler buyout. New 2.0 engine (based on the 1.7) and only came with a 5 spd manual.It had special interior exclusive to the GTA package. Fuel mileage was great and the GTA would handle .It felt like a performance car. There were issues with the earlier Alliances (1.4) but the problems the earlier models had dissappeared by the time the 87’s came out. Main issue with the Alliance in general was the fact very few took the time to read the owners manual. They also failed to do routine maintenance. The Alliance was an entry level car meaning someone who could barely afford a car with credit could get in one. Then bitch about the car when they didn’t maintain it. It gave the later models 85-86 a bad name. The owners manual was like a mini service manual in the fact that on every other page it didn’t advise to stop and rush the car into the dealer. It told you when to service and how to do it. It even showed how to drain and refill the transaxle. Biggest issue with the Alliance 1.7 and 2.0 GTA was the failure to change the timing belt. These two cars are smoking deals. The ragtop is rare in the GTA package. These only came in three specific colors. Red White and Black. Silver was an option and a special order. I think adding a turbo one would have alot of fun on the cheap. Sadly the the end was at the begining for the poor GTA. Gas prices were again cheap and the market for V8 power was back. When Chrysler bought AMC the Renault series ended.

    • alan

      @AMCFAN

      Mine was silver. I did not have it long enough to need the timing belt but often see it represents a great value in the used fun car market. I have a real GTA now with the engine where it was meant to be, in the rear.

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