I know, I know, a French car. Better brace up, because there’s going to be a lot of those around! Despite the generally shoddy build quality and sub-par workmanship, the French actually make nice cars, often ground-breaking in their individual fields. They are also quite good at thinking up and designing high-performance vehicles. Case in point: the 1983 Renault 5 Turbo 2.
If you guys don’t remember, the Renault 5 was the Hyundai Accent of the early 80s. They were cheap, they were everywhere and they soon rusted away to nothing, which is why it’s so difficult to find one in good shape these days (at least in my area). They were also surprisingly energetic and fun to drive.
Some engineers at Renault decided that entering the ‘5’ in international Rallying competition was a good idea, which required a production run of a minimum of 400 vehicles (at the time). Aussitot dit, aussitot fait, as the French say, and the Renault 5 Turbo 2 was born.
The Renault 5 Turbo 2 was graced with a turbocharged, 160 horsepower 4-cylinder, 1.4 liter engine. Some were even produced with an aluminum body and 240 horsepower. The performance was impressive: top speed of 126 mph (204 km/h) and a 0-60 time of 7.3 seconds, for the 160 hp model.
Where this car shone was in its agility on the track; it handled like it was on rails, thanks to its double-wishbone suspension and extra-fat tires.
The French engineers did not do things half-way with this car; they moved the engine from the front to the back, which I don’t need to tell you, requires a complete re-engineering of the vehicle, and moved the gas tank under the seats for better balance. Doesn’t feel safe, but it handled well!
This little car was a great success: over 3,500 of them were built, well over the requirements of International Rallying. I still remember the awe and excitement at seeing those cars on the road. Loud, throaty and aggressive, they looked as if their namesakes, with whom they shared little more than a name and a silhouette had gone to the gym for a year and took a bunch of steroids. I think the last time I saw one on the road was in 1996 or 1997. Bright yellow.