Homologation Specials: 1980 Renault 5 Turbo. The creation of the Renault 5 Turbo is one of our favorite stories of automotive augmentation, at once unique and stereotypical; it’s another somewhat odd-looking French car, another rally icon with econobox heritage. But the “R5 Turbo” was also an iconoclastic machine that diverged from its humble origins to a degree that was arguably unmatched until the infamous Group B cars that arrived in the World Rally Championship (WRC) years later.
After winning its debut at the 1981 Rallye Monte-Carlo on the eve of that new era, the rear-wheel drive R5 Turbo went on to perform admirably against the onslaught of all-wheel drive cars in the mid 1980s—especially so on tarmac-heavy rally stages, but its origins are rooted in the 1970s, when the then freshly christened WRC was being handily commanded by the French manufacturer’s Italian rival. Renault’s answer to the dominant Lancia Stratos was to transform its perfectly fine but homely hatchback into a wide-bodied rally fighter.
Bertone was tasked with designing the bodywork, the monocoque was modified to hold a turbocharged engine where the groceries used to go in the car’s front-engine, front-wheel drive relative, lightweight alloys replaced much of the steel shell, and production of the road-going homologation versions was underway at the turn of the decade. More than 40 years later, the rally and road versions of the R5 Turbo are rightfully regarded as part of the rallying canon.
In this week’s film featuring a beautiful first model-year example, our host Sam Hancock pilots the wonderfully pugnacious little monster through the winding roads of Biella, Italy, talking about the car’s origins and its lasting impact.
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