Tuesday, April 27, 2010

1980 Renault 5 Alpine

Wow. It's so unusual and so cool to see one of these in the US.

In the US the R5 was sold as the Le Car. It was meant to be an an economy car. It got great gas mileage, but offered little in the way of performance. There were never any real performance versions of the R5 / Le car officially offered here. (The "Black Beauty" version had nice wheels and stiffer shocks, but that was it.) Things were different in Europe, though...

In Europe, the R5 was an all purpose car. The range went from incredibly tame (especially when fitted with Renaults 0.8 and 1.1 liter engines) to incredibly insane (the mid-engined R5 Turbo).

This is an Renault 5 Alpine (Or R5 Alpine). The R5 Alpine was a "bridge car". It bridged the gap between the smaller engined cars and the R5 Alpine Turbo (which was different from the mid-engined R5 Turbo). It fit nicely in the middle of the R5 range.

The R5 Alpine came with a 1397cc hemi-head version Renaults "C" engine. (The "C" engine in various sizes powered everything from the R8, R5, R12, Twingo and more, and is the basis for the engine found in the R5 Turbo.) It put out 93 HP and got the car to 60 in 10.5 seconds. Top speed was over 100 MPH. The Alpine also got bigger tires, stiffer suspension and, best of all, a 5 speed transmission. Those numbers seem mild by today's standards, but they were in the same ballpark as the first VW Golf (Rabbit) GTI.

I've always wanted to drive an R5 Alpine. As I wrote in an earlier post, I spent a lot of time behind the wheel of a Le Car. I liked it, except for its lack of power. I can only imagine that an R5 with a little extra grunt must be a blast to drive.
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Some useless trivia:

The Alpine is pronounced Al-peen. It's named after the Société Anonyme des Automobiles Alpine, a company that was to French cars what Abarth was to Italian cars. In the US they are probably best known for their 110 and 310 sports cars. Renault bought the company in 1973. In Great Britain, Chrysler UK owned the rights to the name Alpine, having acquired it when they purchased Rootes. In the UK this car was called the R5 Gordini.

After 1980, the US spec LeCar had a 1397cc "C" engine, but it didn't have the hemi-head. In US trim it put out a meager 51 HP. The 1289cc "C" engine found in the earlier Le Car put out 58 HP.

The R5 Alpine Turbo could have very easily been sold in the US. The engine was used in the Fuego Turbo and was therefore already federalized. The R5 body had already been crash tested. In my opinion the R5 Alpine Turbo could have done for the Le Car what the GTI did for the Rabbit.
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This is one of those cars that if I had the storage space, I'd buy just to own. It's such a cool car.

Located in Lake Helen, FL, click here to see the eBay listing for this car. (I've e-mailed the seller and asked for some more pictures. I'll post them if he responds.)

2 comments:

aaron said...

love this car. It is very fun to drive. I also had a "real" Mini Cooper, and a SAAB Sonett III, but this one will be missed the most. I'm selling everything because I'm moving to Hawaii.

Raso said...

The Alpine was a much better car than the regular 5. They are rare to come by now a days.