Your Standard Economy Car... Only That It Isn't
You thought the the Golf GTI was hot? I'll give you a second chance to consider your options.
You're a young lad in the 70s. You live in the outskirts of Paris with your 'maman' and 'papa'. You've just turned eighteen and you're hosting a big party to celebrate. All of your relatives are there, laughing, drinking and overall having a good time. As the celebration near its finishing touches, your dad asks if you'd like to help him find a knife to cut the ginormous 3-floor high cake with. Your dad leads you to the garage, opens the door, and what do you see?
A brand-new Renault 5. And it's yours.
Your very own Renault 5 -- in bright blue with black plastic trim running down the sides. Gorgeous.
Your knees starts to buckle. You can't breathe. The sight of your first-ever car beggars belief. You rush towards your dad and hug him, crying of joy and happiness. He gives you a chain of sparkly keys and tells you, with a big wholesome smile, to drive it. Hard.
You can't believe it. You're driving your very first car! The feeling of the steering, the smoothness of each gear change -- it was wonderful.
You grind your car to a stop by a traffic light. You look across all directions. There's nobody around. You're all alone. The temptation of flooring the thing begins to take shape, making it harder and harder for you to resist not to. Your mother had always told you to follow the rules, no matter what.
Red means stop. When turned green, you should gently drive away. Or, that's what you're supposed to do...
The light goes green. The adrenaline forces you to take action and, in the blizt of a second, you force the gas-pedal all the way forward. The car takes off. You're glued to the seat. The sound from the engine almost makes your ears bleed. You've never been more exhilarated and scared all at the same time. You just want more and more.
As the speedometer is clocking 63 mph, you suddenly see a white spec in the rear-view mirror. It's getting bigger and bigger. You hear a sound that's unlike yours. It's high-pitched... like a siren. *GASP* Could it be the police?
Time to run!
You look back. The car is getting closer. In an act of pure desperation, you push the accelerator as hard as you can, milking out every bit of grunt the engine's got. You try to see where this thing might be, and... *VROOOM*... immediately the car roars past you.
A couple of seconds later, the car had disappeared. Vanishing in the haze like there was no tomorrow. The speed was unlike anything you've seen before. It was like a spaceship. Only faster.
WHAT WAS THAT?
Well, my friend, you've just witnessed perhaps one of the coolest, most-badass cars of all time. The Renault 5 Turbo.
The car you just saw roaring past at a gazillion miles an hour was a Renault Turbo 2. Which we'll get to in a minute. But first, this:
You thought your car was fast? Then you haven't seen this thing!
So, with that, let's jump right into the little red and blue cockpit, turn the engine on, and see what's what!
A rather dull-looking Renault 5.
With the release of the Renault 5 in 1972, it sparked a popularization of what would be known as superminis. A car that's bigger than a Mini but smaller then a compact car, like an AMC Gremlin. This made it a perfect fit to your bucket-list of what cars you want to buy. Why? Because in 1973, just one year later, the oil crisis hit. Thus putting an end to big, gasoline-devouring V8s in America, and forcing people to buy european or japanese economy cars instead. And since the release of the Renault 5 was just before this devastating crisis, the supermini sales took off.
During the increasing sales of the R5, Renault also won their very first WRC Constructors' Championship in 1973 with their sporty little Renault A110. Unfortunately however, their celebration was short lived as Lancia came along with their Ferrari-powered Stratos, kicking the A110 out of the water and thrashing the competition for the next 3 seasons.
Although being nothing to be happy about, the A110 had already sung its final verse. Its design was old compared to what else was on the stage at the time and it just didn't pack that much a of punch when putting the hammer down.
An A110 being trade around a bend. Isn't it just gorgeous?
But Renault didn't have anything else to offer against the Stratos. So, what did they do? They continued selling ordinary Renault 5s to ordinary customers. In just there years, over a million Renault 5s had been sold.
With sales going strong, Renault released one of the very first hot hatches in 1976, called the Renault 5 Alpine.
It was fitted with a bigger 1.4 liter engine compared to the tiny little inline-4 engine in the non-Alpine R5, bumbing up the horsepowers to a respectable 93 bhp. A massive increase of 38 horses (!) from the standard car.
The Renault 5 Alpine. Isn't that blue color just amazing?
It didn't take long before Renault saw some serious rally potential in their new baby. It was light, versatile and nimble round corners. Convinced about their baby's potential, Renault homologated it for WRC's Group 2 Class.
Despite battling against much faster Group 4 cars, the little Alpine went ahead to win 3 podium finishes with Jen Ragnotti and Guy Frequelin behind the wheel. Sweet!
But Renault had more to give. Because during the time the Alpine was being victorious on the rally stage Renaults VP of production, Jean Terramorsi, had plans for something much more... EXTRA.
Renault 5 Alpine Rally Car '1977 -79. Who would've thought a small economy car could become something this cool? And that's not even it's final form!
He wanted a Group 4 rally car that could annihilate the competition but be based on an existing Renault platform in order to keep costs down. So, he asked Bertone designer Marc Deschamps to come up with something that fitted his credentials. When finished, Marc came to his office and caused the room's atmosphere to, let's just say, shout craziness.
Marc had actually envisioned a mid-engine, rear-wheel drive rally car from the utalitarian R5. The idea might've been a bit extreme for Terramosi, but it was just too good to sign off on anyway. And thus, the project 822 was on.
From your grandmothers daily driver to an unhinged monster.
Sadly, Terramorsi passed away later that year, thus sealing the death of the project completely.
Or did it?
Because when Terrarmorsis' successor Henry Lherm (try pronouncing it) took over he became so utterly excited about the project that he wanted to do literally anything in his power to make sure it happened.
However, due to most of Renaults racing division being busy with Formula 1, only four engineers were assigned to work on the new rally 822 prototype. And when they were inside the Alpine factory to start building the thing, some major problems started to occur. Chief among which being the low budget.
Originally, the engineers had planned to build a whole new space-frame chassis for the new car. But it was deemed way too expensive. But, these enginners were smart, and came up with a cunning solution.
What they did was take a regular Renault 5, cut a hole in the rear floor pan, and built a tubular frame around it to cradle the engine and 5-speed transmission. But which engine would it be? To achieve more power, they considered everything from an inline 2 liter, a 2.6 V6 and a more humble but angry 1.6 liter turbo.
But unfortunately, neither of them was a good fit as they were either too heavy or expensive to make. So, to compensate for this, the engineers took the 1.4 liter engine from the R5 Alpine and fitted it with a Garrett G3 turbo the size of a barrel instead. This meant the car wasn't buffed into a higher class due to its unchanged engine displacement, and was therefore in a more competitive position against its rivals. With such a simple solution the engineers proceeded to give it an equally simplistic name.
The Renault 5 Turbo.
Here it is. The legend itself -- The Renault 5 Turbo 1.
With the engine and transmission resolved, it was now time to fit them where the back seats once was. They soon found out however that the engine wouldn't fit inside the narrow space. So to fix this, the engineers had to expand the R5s rear track by a whopping 10 inches!
What once was a thin, dull little hatchback was now beginning to look like a thick, untamed werewolf rabbit!
With the power-plant all set and done, it was time to tackle the suspension. The stock torsion bar springs were replaced with double wishbones and coil springs. Nice! An air-to-air intercooler was mounted next to the headlights which gave way for distinctive new fender flares -- the car's party piece regarding its visual aesthetics. Great!
But what wasn't a particularly good 'improvement' was the Bosch K-Jetronic Mechanical Fuel Injection replacing the Alpine models carburetor. Something that resulted in the engine only having two valves per cylinder and no overhead cams. Still, the compression had dropped so it could now run 13 pounds of boost!
Bertone designer Marcello Gandini, the same guy who designed the Stratos and the Miura, drew the R5 Turbos final design. Quite a fitting end to the creation of a true icon, I'd say!
A true genius.
After fixing the turbos kinks for two long years, the car went on sale in the summer of 1980. Due to all the signinifacnt changes being made to this car, the weight was increased. A lot. But no worries, because the Renault 5 Turbo had... wait for it... a TURBO!
When on full boost, the road cars would produce a whopping 161 bhp! Making it the most powerful French car in production at the time! 0-60 took 7 seconds and the top speed was 125 miles an hour. In short, the car had performance that could fit its crazy visuals.
It was ready to race!
It's ready to race!
After tweaking the turbo to make more boost coupled with some weight-saving measures being made, the rally versions were putting out around 250 bhp on full boost. This made these light and nimble cars one hell of an experience to drive when the turbo kicked in! The mid-engine layout would also result in the back-end to kick right out from the corners like a Porsche 911, and the WRC drivers had to be on their toes if they would ever manage to use its ultra fast steering to keep the car under control.
The car made its rally debut at the WRC Tour De Corse in the fall of 1980, and in 1981 they took home the WRC season opener in Monte-Carlo, where the stage was tarmac and the roads were small and tight -- perfectly suited for the little rabbit. The car won again in 1982 at the Tour De Corse, but there were clear signs that the car needed to be improved upon if it would ever have a chance against the Audi Quattro and the rest of the already stiffening competition.
In the same time, Renault had sold a total of 1820 R5 Turbos for the general public and was set to revise a couple of things in the pursuit of making the production cars cheaper. So, in 1982, the Renault R5 Turbo 2 showed up.
Gone was the crazy red and blue interior and in its place was a more subtle beige paint-scheme instead. The aluminum panels were replaced by ones made in steel, which didn't affect its performance but greatly increased its weight. The car also came in more paint colors.
Renault ended up selling 3167 Turbo 2s to the public which made them really, really rare -- and ever more so today. But due to the first Turbo being produced in lower numbers and having to carry less weight than the Turbo 2 ultimately resulted in it being the most desirable version of the R5.
But anyway, as Group B rolled out with its loose rules, and with previous attempts of winning being deemed unsuccessful, Renault were quick to debunk for the 1985 season with the craziest Renault 5 Turbo for rallying ever -- The Maxi Turbo.
Nothing can really top something that spits flames. Nothing.
With a more responsive 1.5 liter engine making 350 bhp right behind the front seats, coupled with an aluminuim roof, more suspension travel, and even bigger hips to cover fatter 16-inch tires, the car won the 1985 season after having debunked at the Tour De Corsa -- its predecorssors favorite ground for dominance. And as a result, the driver Jean Ragnotti gave Renault their first WRC win in three years.
However, due to no plans of a four-wheel drive R5 Turbo being taken into consideration for the upcoming season, Renault decided to pull the plug on WRC efforts completely. And in 1986, they stopped making the mid-engined hot hatch altogether.
During its short life-span of only six years, the Renault 5 Turbo had managed to completely change the cource of people's imagination of what a hot hatch could be. It made the economy car fun and exciting. And although it was now dead, it didn't stop people from driving the nuts off them, regardless of surface. Examples of this included the future WRC champion Carlos Sainz, who was making a name for himself on the streets behind the wheel of a Maxi Turbo. And Erik Comas, who would later become a successful F1 driver, won the 1987 European Super Production Touring Car Championship in one as well.
Besides a having a massive racing pedigree ranging everywhere from the 1981 IMSA Series GTU Class to smaller events in 1984, the car also became a massive pop-culture icon with its bonkers aesthetics and big-booty hips.
A heavily modified Renault Le Car Turbo -- in 1981 it competed in the IMSA series with Patrick Jacquemart behind the wheel. But sadly, he died in a crash while testing the car. But his accident directly led to the development of head neck support devices (Hans Devices) -- a mandatory safety equipment in racing today.
The car got to enjoy many hot cameos as well. Arguably the most famous one being in the 1983 James Bond movie Never Say Never Again as the female villain drove a bright red Renault 5 Turbo. And considering that a Renault (!) was featured as one of the main cars in a James Bond movie, that's when you know it's something rather special.
You get out of your Renault 5. You're still shocked of what you witnessed on the motorway earlier. You hear laughter and talking. The party's still on. You see your dad walk towards you, smiling. You tell him what you just saw, the car blasting past at a speed unlike anything else. He nods, and guides you to the gigantic table where all the guests are waiting for you. They've all brought presents with them, eagarlessly waiting for you to open each and every one of them. As you were about to sit down, you spot a well-dressed man wearing a bright red tie closing in from the garage. He walks towards you. You see his big, blacked-out beard and a well-proprotioned face. Everybody's looking at him. He puts his hand in his pocket. A thin red envelope with a golden rose on top comes out. He gives you the envelope, closes your hand, and says:
"This is for you."
He then walks away, never giving a glimpse back at you. You look around, everybody's making the same face expression. They're just as surprised as you are. You cut the thing open, put your fingers in it, and pull out a letter.
"Keep your current car or consider giving it back, thus be granted the satisfaction of replacing that car with something of your own personal choice. You decide. Call this number when you've made up your mind: 047 675 47 32"
From what you've just read, what's it going to be?