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The R5 Turbo

Ever since its launch in 1980, the Renault 5 Turbo and subsequent Turbo 2 has had the ability to turn heads whatever the company it keeps. This little French car, nick-named ‘The Flying Brick’ by a number of journalists, has often been mistaken to be a DIY kit based on a Renault 5 or a GT Turbo on steroids. (Little do they know!).

Originally built as a rally car, Renault only planned to build 400 but they didn’t count on the interest they were to receive. Built in the Alpine factory in Dieppe, it was almost two years after the car was first seen by the world's press at the Paris Motor Show, that the first rolled off the production line, hitting the French roads on 1st July 1980.

Powered by the 1397cc engine out of the Gordini Turbo, modified to produce 160bhp, mounted in the middle for the best weight distribution and driving the rear wheels through a Renault 30 transaxle. The Turbo 1, of which some 1820 were made, had a unique interior, which consisted of an ‘L’ shaped steering wheel, special dashboard and ‘H’ shaped seats with built in head restraints and strobe line cloth panels set into leatherette. The interior is the only obvious difference between the T1 and 2 that can be seen, as the other major differences are to the materials used for the roof, doors and tailgate panels: these were aluminium on the T1 and steel on most of the T2s.

The turbo 2 went into production three years later and used the Gordini Turbo interior to save on the costs. Some 3167 cars rolled out of the alpine factory until production stopped in 1986.

In 1979 the prototype competition car tested at Paul Ricard circuit in France for the first time for competition later in the year but the car did not start a competitive rally until the Tour of France in 1980, retiring with fuel problems. The Monte Carlo rally in 1981 was its first major victory.

In 1985 we saw the wild ‘Maxi’ make its debut, winning the Tour de Course rally with Jean Ragnotti behind the wheel of the 350bhp car. In so doing he beat the likes of the Audi quattro and the Peugeot 205 T16 EVO which both had 4 wheel drive.

Following the death of Joaquim Santo in his Ford RS200 and a number spectators, Group B was banned by the FISA and with it died Renault's participation in the world rally championship with the 5.

Nik Johnson