Friday, March 29, 2019

A Little Rebel: Renault 5 Alpine Turbo Coupe

Project 122: At the end of the 1960's, Renault is breathing in the air of change, lurking the desire to renew the range seeking the blend of brilliance and low running costs. The young designer Michel Boué finds the perfect moment by presenting the design of a compact and at the same time pleasing car: the project 122 turns into the Renault 5. A small utilitarian able to accommodate four passengers, if needed, and aimed at rather young customers.

The years go by, and the energy crisis strikes the motoring world: the price of fuel increases and the bigger and more expensive cars are still getting dust in the showrooms. Meanwhile, Renault is looking around in search for the heirs of the R8 and R12 Gordini, the protagonists of the Renault Trophy: the solution is called Renault 5 Alpine and debuted in March 1976, being produced as a naturally aspirated version until 1981.

Renault fits to every sport model the limited series production Coupe version for taking part in the Trophy series. If Alpine is synonymous with rally and sportiness, the Coupe is translated into the specs for Renault races. The 5 Alpine Coupe is sold to the Renault Trophy members – a rare car, very rare if you think of the Turbo version of 1981 and produced in just 500 specimens. One of these specimens has been the protagonist of the exclusive Vitadistile article we present this month.

The 5 Alpine Turbo Coupe has its natural habitat on the track: it was born to race and to make battle with the other drivers. From its lines emerged a rebellion of the past, a detach from the lines of the R12 and R8 that had lived right before it. The 3.5 meters long feature a rebellious soul capable of adapting to urban and suburban roads – just where it challenged the Golf GTI in the late seventies.

The Alpine Turbo Coupe finds itself together with the beautiful Maura in a location with strong industrial tones, in those streets where "nobody passes" and where "you can pull the gears". In the shadow of the power station of Piacenza, the classic air from industrial periphery is easily breathable: the same air that emerges from many 80's music videos set in factories and dismantled warehouses. In the same year of production of the Alpine Turbo Coupe, in 1983, many bands are able to emerge with loud sounds that are made more lively thanks to the use of synthesizers. Even the Alpine Turbo Coupe breaks up the scenes: it is the first small sports car with a turbocharged engine.

Alpine Turbo or Alpine Turbo Coupe? The difference is not just in the name. As mentioned, the first Alpine version with aspirated engine debut in March 1976, replacing the LS and TS models, set up with a kit provided directly by Renault. It is distinguished from the outside for the decorative threads with the "A" of Alpine on the sides, the nose and the tail. The larger tires are mounted on steel sheet wheels picked up by the R12 Gordini, while the front bumper features a built-in spoiler. Underneath the bonnet is a 93hp 1.4lt engine capable of reaching 180 kph. The Alpine Turbo version reaches the market in 1982 with a turbocharger and its powerful 110 horses, thus comparing with the rival Golf GTI. The highest power is held by four disc brakes, ventilated on the front wheels.

The car of the article is one of the few Alpine Turbo Coupe still circulating in Italy: the owner estimates the presence of only 25 units in the National territory. The most substantial changes compared to the Alpine Turbo are the lower trim and the more rigid chassis. The shock absorbers are Bilstein with higher torsion bars while the Fergat wheels are mounted on 185/60/13 tires – The 1.4lt engine is the same as the Alpine Turbo version. In order to achieve better performance, the Coupe version is fitted with free exhausts and increased turbo pressure and carburetor jets. The engine mounts are rigid while the brake pump is increased. At the time of purchase, Renault provided a kit of accessories for competitions: we are talking about the rollar and the Devil side exhaust, little recommended for road traffic due to the powerful and aggressive sound.

The red contrasting interior is characterized by the anatomic seat of the driver (original) and the Jaeger instrumentation, including speedometer, tachometer, water thermometer and petrol indicator – particular is the car radio housing. The Alpine Turbo Coupe career ended in 1985 with the advent of the "Supercinque" and the R5 GT Turbo. In 1991, the same R5 retired to let the new Clio enter racing into the Renault Trophy with the 16 Valves 1.8lt versions. The charm of this little rebel is still unchanged and fully reflected even with the engine off: the owner, Moreno, devoted great attention to the mechanical component without forgetting the care of the interior, just perfect.

The R5 Alpine Turbo Coupe is a car that faithfully reflects the spirit of the 80's and exudes the desire to go fast from every inch of its body, from every detail of its line. A piece of sports cars history still aesthetically pleasing and especially fun to drive. R5 Alpine Turbo Coupe: in three words, a little rebel.

Words: Nicolò Premoli // Photography: Federico Vandone dell’Acqua // Edited by Vita di Stile