1985 Renault R5 Turbo II Is Our Bring a Trailer Auction Pick of the Day

  • A homologation purpose-built for rallying, Renault’s R5 Turbo is a wide-body, mid-engine, turbocharged dose of madness.
  • This example comes from the collection at the Lane Motor Museum and is serviced and ready for its next driver.
  • With five days to go, the bidding is at $75,000.
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Launched in January 1972, the original Renault 5 was a smartly designed and stylish little compact, and it sold by the thousands. Or at least in Europe. Renault has her Five across the Atlantic as the Le Car, to which the American buying public responded about Re-no-thanks. Perhaps as punishment, Renault refused to officially bring over its craziest version. As with their wine, the French kept the best to themselves—though this R5 Turbo II isn’t so much a Beaujolais as it is a Molotov cocktail.

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Today’s auction pick from Bring a Trailer, part of Hearst Autos along with Car and Driver, is a 1985 Renault R5 Turbo II, and it’s absolutely bonkers. Built for homologation in Group B rallying, the R5 Turbo offers an expert-only driving experience unlike anything else. If the Citroën DS is the essence of effortless Gallic cool, then the R5 Turbo is Napoleon Bonaparte on bath salts. It’s fantastic.

The standard R5 made around 50bhp, although every Parisian whipped them around the Arc de Triomphe as if they were René Arnoux setting an F1 qualifying lap. Renault tripled the power with a turbocharged 1.4-liter four-cylinder engine, stuffed the powerplant where the rear seats used to be, and then hired the guy who designed the Lamborghini Miura to give this mutant creation hips like one of the moms in ‘ a Pixar Movie.

As the most powerful French production car of its time, the Renault R5 Turbo could beat six-cylinder BMWs all day long. But, with turbo lag being what it was in the 1980s, make a mistake behind the wheel and the R5 Turbo will fire you into a ditch without so much as a “Dsorry.” It was based on an economy car, but it had the haughty attitude of a Porsche 930.

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On screen, this made it the perfect car of choice for villain Fatima Blush in the 1983 James Bond film Never say never again. Sean Connery’s motorcycle was no match for a crimson R5 Turbo’s speed and agility.

This Turbo II is one of the later models, which was slightly cheaper, thanks to fewer aluminum components used in construction. It has 43,000 miles on the odometer and a set of custom HRE wheels, and was formerly part of the collection at the Lane Motor Museum in Tennessee. If you haven’t been, the Lane Museum boasts a treasure trove of motor vehicles like this delightfully confused Renault.

Furthermore, the Lane Museum is the kind of place that expects its cars to be functional rather than mere displays. This example has had some recent service and is ready to go – although the horn is listed as non-functional, which probably needs addressing. No self-respecting French driver can go more than 12 seconds without honking at someone perceived to be in their way.

With five days to go, bidding reached $75,000, which is no small amount for a car that started out as a French economy car. Ah, but a Renault R5 Turbo II is the type of car in which emotion trumps rational thought. What could be more French than that?

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Contributing Editor

Brendan McAleer is a freelance writer and photographer based in North Vancouver, BC, Canada. He grew up with his knuckles on British cars, came of age in the golden age of Japanese sport-compact performance, and started writing about cars and people in 2008. His particular interest is the intersection between humanity and machinery, be it the races. career of Walter Cronkite or the Japanese animator Hayao Miyazaki’s half-century obsession with the Citroën 2CV. He taught both of his young daughters how to shift a manual transmission and is grateful for the excuse they provide to constantly buy Hot Wheels.