A symbol of Renault’s penchant for sportiness, the R5 Turbo has fired the dreams of several generations of motorsport lovers. Made famous by the exploits of Jean Ragnotti, it has left its mark thanks to its performances and unique character. We put the spotlight on a legendary car.
The birth of a legend
It is 1976, and two members of the Renault-Alpine team are on the road between Dieppe and Boulogne-Billancourt, discussing a project that is a little bit out of the ordinary: a Renault 5 fitted with a turbocharger.
The two men are Jean Terramorsi and his assistant Henry Lherm, and the crazy idea they hatched on that drive led to the creation of one of Renault Sport’s most illustrious models.
Sadly, Jean died that same year and never saw the product of his imagination come to fruition. It was left to Gérard Larousse, the then director of Renault Sport, to pick up the project, in collaboration with a team that comprised the engineers Michel Tétu and Bernard Dudot.
A small, ground-breaking, low-consumption urban car, the R5 had proved a spectacular success on its launch in 1972, and the introduction of a new turbo version seemed an effective way of further enhancing its popularity. Capable of being mass produced, it was also designed to compete in rallies and the like.
The turbocharger was also a piece of technology familiar to Renault, who became the first stable to use it in Formula One in 1977.
The project was an ambitious one, given the sheer scale of the transformation needed to turn the cute-looking R5 into a sports car.
One of the many modifications involved the replacement of its classic engine with the Cléon-Fonte 1.4L inline-four engine used in the R5 Alpine, which was fitted with a Garett T3 turbocharger with an air-to-air exchanger, enabling it to express all its power and responsiveness. Positioned in the centre rear of the car, it delivers a maximum 160 bhp, a 70-percent increase on the engine it developed, as well a maximum torque of 206 Nm at 3,250 rpm.
Unlike the R5, the Turbo version is a rear-wheel drive and boasts a five-speed gearbox taken from the Renault 30 TX.
Fitted with aluminium doors and roof and polyester wings and hood, the new design was lighter too, weighing in at 970 kg.
The first tests were more than convincing. Still known under its code name “Projet 822”, the R5 Turbo topped 200 km/h and covered the 1,000m standing start in 28.4 seconds, enough to convince the powers-that-be, who decided to launch it on the market.
A first prototype was unveiled in 1978 at the Paris Motor Show, with the definitive version appearing in Brussels in 1980 and the production car then being launched.
A style all of its own
The R5 Turbo’s eyecatching look, which has proved irresistible to many a car lover, is another reason why it has become the legend that it is today.
The first thing that catches the eye are its souped-up wings, which make it instantly recognisable. There are two paint options, Pomegranate Red or Olympic Blue, while its whole look - far more aggressive than the original model – quickly endeared it to its fans.
Designed by Bertone, the interior is a combination of both the unique and the outlandish. Behind the two-spoke steering wheel lie a host of gauges and dials. The orange bucket seats boast fine blue trim, while the colour of the passenger compartment is determined by that of the bodywork: blue on the outside means red on the inside, and vice versa. Finally, the engine, positioned behind the two seats, is concealed by nothing more than a rear shelf, putting the driver within full earshot of the amazing sound both it and the turbo generate.
The R5 Turbo epitomises the boldness that has always been part of Renault’s psyche, the boldness in taking a respectable city car and turning it into a spiky bundle of fun with the power to amaze. That boldness is an integral part of Renault Sport’s DNA and continues to guide us in each and every one of our projects.
|Engine||1.4L, inline-four (positioned centre rear)|
|Maximum power||160 bhp|
|Maximum torque||206 Nm at 3,250 rpm|
|Top speed||200 km/h|
|0-100 km/h||6.4 secs|
|1,000m standing start||28.4 secs|