Le magnifique Renault 5 Turbo is 40 years young this year and the illustrious French sprinter is still one of the most revered pocket rockets to grace tarmac or track.
Most of these firecrackers have witnessed the wrong side of a ditch or two but where did the brainwave come from? Well actually, the idea originated from a Renault 16 and was even assembled in three separate plants.
Fans of the steroid injected Renault 5 Turbo will, of course, remember it as the yellow thing that terrorised Group B as it thrashed around gravel infested corners and forests, but in reality, the classic ‘Le Car’ wasn’t only limited to rallying – it was and still is emblematic of the French marque.
Presented at the Paris Motor Show in October 1978, the ‘UFO’ like static prototype immediately gained rapturous attention from its enthusiastic onlookers, which in turn cemented the platform for the outlandish classic to launch from.
Celebrating 40 years, the model revolutionised motorsport, influencing a generation that not only witnessed its birth but was also fueled by the dream of owning and piloting it – albeit by only the fortunate minority.
Renault 5 Turbo Beginnings
Yes, the Renault 5 Turbo was born from a Renault 16! Well, perhaps the phrase is somewhat exaggerated, but the truth is that the genesis of Renault’s small-big sports car started to take shape in a Renault 16, on a night trip between Dieppe and Billancourt.
In 1973, Jean Terramorsi, product director and responsible for the development of a limited series of Renault models and his deputy, Henri Lherm were driving home in the comfort of their R16 when the topic of conversation swiftly moved to the car that would become famous. The Renault 5 would be equipped with a turbocharger; the first French car to be equipped, originally, with this advanced technology.
Nobody knew better than Terramorsi about the efforts made by Renault to be competitive in Formula 1 and in the “24 Hours of Le Mans” and how the then-innovative turbo technology could influence major success.
The idea of creating a Renault 5 Turbo was beginning to take shape and it would soon be presented to management hierarchy, namely Bernard Hanon, then Renault’s chief executive officer, and Gérard Larousse, Renault Sport director. From the approval of the idea to the start of production, this was to be a small secret…
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Between 1976 and the 1978 Paris Motor Show, Michel Têtu and his team of engineers in Berex, Dieppe (France), were called upon to address the development of the chassis and mechanics of the planned Renault 5 Turbo.
Working in close synergy at the Renault Style Center in Rueil-Malmaison, Alpine factory in Dieppe and at Heuliez in Cerizay, all efforts were also being concentrated day and night. Italian stylist Bertone was also given free rein on Project No.822.
Revealed to the media at the Lédenon track, November 1978, driver Guy Fréquelin was behind the wheel of the tenacious looking black project – a month after the launch of the prototype it was displayed at the Paris Motor Show.
Quickly followed by projects 822-01, 822-02 and 822-03, the latter would end up making its debut in the 1979 Tour of Italy, with the same Guy Fréquelin at the wheel. Despite withdrawal due to engine problems, the project was deemed ready to face competition, spectators and journalists.
Today, the spirited Renault 5 Turbo is both idolised and highly desirable with prices reaching the dizzy heights of £230,000 in some extreme cases.
Renault 5 Turbo (R 8220) Technical Data Sheet:
Engine: 4 cylinders straight
Location: central longitudinal
Displacement: 1397 cm3
Diameter x stroke: 76 x 77 mm
Compression Ratio: 7:1
Maximum power: 160 hp at 6,000rpm
Maximum torque: 214 Nm at 3,250rpm
Distribution: Side camshaft
Power: Electronic injection Bosch K-Jetronic.
Supercharging: Turbo Garrett T3
Transmission: Rear-wheel drive, with 5-speed gearbox + MA
Body: Steel monocoque, 2 seats
Suspension: Overlapping front and rear triangles, torsion bars, anti-approach bars and telescopic dampers
Brakes: Front and rear ventilated discs
Direction: From Rack
Tyres: 190 / 55HR 340 at the front and 220/55 VR 365 at the rear
Weight: 970 kg
Maximum Speed: 200 km / h
Acceleration 0-400 Meters: 15.15s
Acceleration 0-1000 Meters: 28.4s