Although it first appeared over 30 years ago, and the last ones rolled off the production line in 1991, the lightweight Renault 5 Turbo is still popular today, and has gone down in tuning history as one of the best, and wildest, hot hatches ever made.
In a complete reversal of most car’s histories, it actually began with the wildest version of them all, simply called the Renault 5 Turbo. This had a 160bhp 1.4ltr turbocharged engine like the models we know and love, but was a mid-engine, RWD fuel injected car with huge wheel arches and lightweight aluminium panels. This model was built purely for rallying homologation purposes, with just 400 made, but due to its popularity and success rallying against the wild Grp. B rally cars, Renault released the Turbo 2.
The Turbo 2 had the same basic design as the original version, but was made of all steel panels, and shared a few parts with the normal FWD 5’s of the era, dropping prices a little. These mini RWD supercars sold well, with serious performance and tunability; the Maxi rally versions having up to 350bhp from the little four cylinder engine.
As wild as the mid-engine 5 Turbos were, they were exclusive and expensive beasts that most couldn’t afford, but thankfully Renault knew that and in the early ’80s brought out a FWD version, known as the Gordini Turbo. Based on the normal Mk1 R5 body shell, this used a similar engine, but was fuelled rather crudely with a carburettor mounted on the turbo inlet, and produced 110bhp as standard.
In the mid-’80s, the Renault 5 GT Turbo appeared. Based on the then new Mk2 Renault 5, it was again a FWD 1.4ltr carb-fed turbo car, but this time with the carb mounted on the engine, which instantly opened up a whole world of tuning opportunities, and combined with the cool and aggressive bodywork, sparked a huge tuning scene.
Despite a reputation for being unreliable, which usually stems from poor maintenance and bad tuning, the Renault 5 Turbo engine has always been hugely strong, with over 250bhp possible on standard bottom end, and over 350bhp capable in extreme versions; pretty amazing for an 8-valve pushrod 1.4ltr lump!
The car was huge in the tuning scene in the late ’90s and early 2000s, and was known as the fastest FWD car for drag racing. Unfortunately a lot were also dressed up in dodgy bodykits – Ali G spec.
These days there aren’t anywhere near as many 5 Turbos about, but they still remain one of the most fun little cars ever made.
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